Anthem: The Process of Liberation Many years ago, I read my first book by Ayn Rand, Anthem. I completed the book in about four hours. At the time, I was not mature enough to fully appreciate Anthem’s powerful symbolism.
My attitude as I read the beginning of the book was one of indifference and confusion, maturing only later into concern and vigorous interest. This experience began a new phase in my intellectual development that soon led me to read Atlas Shrugged. I then started on Ayn Rand’s non-fictional works. My understanding of Rand’s philosophical system, however, came piece by piece. There was no one instant of recognition, no single “aha.” Until recently, I was not fully aware that I had been affected so deeply. My progress was step-by-step and I had never looked all the way back.
As I began to read Anthem for a second time, I found myself in acute pain, even at the first paragraph. I continued to read it feeling much as a person would when touring a concentration camp, for, in effect, that was exactly what I was doing. There was not one hint of levity in my mood; I do not even recall breathing. I was truly looking all the way back. At the end of chapter nine, when Equality 7-2521 is alone, in the most profound sense of the word, with his Golden One, she says slowly, “We are one .
.. alone .
.. and only ..
. and we love you who are one …
alone … and only,” I feared I could tolerate the book no longer. I had finally understood that profound sense of loneliness and despair a person can feel when they want to say “I love you,” but cannot say “I”. I could not understand how my previous reading could have seemed so easy. I proceeded, at a forced march, all the way to chapter eleven. I had never experienced the concept of labored reading before.
When I read the words, “I am,” I realized that I had become Equality 7-2521 and that his liberation was my liberation. At that instant, I first became aware of air rushing into my lungs, and I felt free. My grim task was over. I read the rest of the book in a state of heightened self-awareness.
I felt intensely every move of my eyes, every shift of my hands, every thought and every word. Anthem enslaved me and then liberated me unfortunately, most people dont even know the difference.