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Ayn Rand’s philosophy suggested that people should work hard to achieve a life of purpose and productiveness, but she also wrote that genuine self esteem is earned by pursuing happiness as a person’s primary goal. She also said that our purpose is not to take care of others, but it is to take care of our own happiness. Her philosophy could be understood as “don’t try to be your brother’s keeper or to force him to be yours” ( This essay will show that Rand’s Novella Anthem addresses this idea by creating a world which is in direct opposition to her philosophy, in other words, a world where the brother’s keeper is a punishing force.

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The society in Anthem is completely focused on the collective group. The individual has become irrelevant and unimportant. This means that there is no individual choices or opportunities. A real world example of the collective being superior to the individual was seen in January 2011, when Balpreet Singh and Harminder Kaur were trying to enter Quebec’s provincial legislature. They were stopped from entering because they were wearing kirpans as part of their religious dress. The two men did not agree with the legislature’s ban on them entering with their religious object, and decided to go to court to win the right to wear their article of faith inside government buildings.

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A second real world event that relates to the theme of collective versus individual choice in Rand’s Anthem is an historical one. China has been a communist state since 1949, and as a communist country, the state slowly took privately owned land away from its owners to become state-owned land. China removed the individual from owning land. Similarly in Anthem, Equality had very little power and was restricted from owning land or his own home, but instead endured communal living in state owned barracks. In China, life has been hard because it’s individual citizens did not have earning potential when they were not allowed to own land.

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Another example of how Anthem relates to the real world is seen in an event in Sri Lanka. In 1983, in north and east Sri Lanka, Sinhalese people attacked the minority Tamil people, killing many thousands of them. Sri Lanka’s president reacted in support of the Sinhalese and did not apologize for the massacre on the Tamil people, or respond to treat all citizens with respect of their safely and security. Similarly, in Anthem, Equality was being oppressed by his government leadership. Each day, for instance, Equality was required to say, “We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace of our brothers we are allowed our lives. We exist through by and for our brothers who are at the state. Amen”( 4). This example of the Sri Lankan oppression is consistent with the sense of individual worthlessness that Equality and his fellow citizens faced.


Rand’s philosophy has much value as seen in this novella; that the rights of all individuals are more important than an extreme commitment to a group, especially when it results in state terror and abuse of its citizens. The real life example of a government denying individual rights with the kipan wearing supports Rand’s philosophy that when the power of a group denies individuals their rights and freedoms, the individual’s sense of value and worth is diminished. The real life example of China disallowing property ownership supports Rand’s philosophy that collectivism blocks an individual from living a good life. The real life example of the Sri Lankan government denying safety to its minority citizens supports Rand’s view that comfort can not be found when one is oppressed. Ayn Rand, by creating a world that is directly opposed to her philosophy, was able to powerfully show how a life of happiness and meaning is not achieved. By the end of the book, when Equality has escaped, he is able to find happiness by respecting his individual being rather than solely respecting a collective.

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