Literary Visions of the Future
Summarise the main features of the society presented in the extract.
Analyse the means used to illustrate the underlying vision depicted in this excerpt.
Comment / Creative Writing
Discuss whether the idea of total equality is utopian or dystopian. Refer to both the excerpt and your coursework.
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Imagine you are Equality 7-2521. You meet Liberty 5-3000, a worker in the Home of Students. When you realize that you are slowly falling in love with her and that she feels the same about you, you begin to dream of living in another world. You ask Liberty 5-3000 how she feels about breaking free.
Write a dialogue between you and your girlfriend, in which you discuss reasons for staying or leaving your society.
This is an excerpt from Ayn Rand's novel Anthem, written in 1937 and first published in 1938. It takes place at some unspecified future date when mankind has entered yet another dark age.
It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base and evil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own. And we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone. We have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not write unless the Council of Vocations
bid them so. […]
It is dark here. The flame of the candle stands still in the air. Nothing moves in this tunnel save our hand on the paper. We are alone here under the earth. It is a fearful word, alone. The laws say that none among men may be alone, ever and at any time, for this is the great transgression and the root of all evil. But we have broken many laws. And now there is nothing here save our one body, and it is strange to see only two legs stretched on the ground, and on the wall before us the shadow of our one head. […]
Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is written on the iron bracelet which all men wear on their left wrists with their names upon it. We are twenty-one years old. We are six feet tall, and this is a burden, for there are not many men who are six feet tall. Ever have the Teachers and the Leaders pointed to us and frowned and said:
"There is evil in your bones, Equality 7-2521, for your body has grown beyond the bodies of your brothers."
But we cannot change our bones nor our body. We were born with a curse. It has always driven us to thoughts which are forbidden. It has always given us wishes which men may not wish. We know that we are evil, but there is no will in us and no power to resist it. This is our wonder and our secret fear, that we know and do not resist.
We strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike. Over the portals of the Palace of the
World Council, there are words cut in the marble, which we repeat to ourselves whenever we are tempted:
"We are one in all and all in one.
There are no men but only the great WE,
One, indivisible and forever."
[…] We remember the Home of the Infants where we lived till we were five years old, together with all the
children of the City who had been born in the same year. The sleeping halls there were white and clean and bare of all things save one hundred beds. We were just like all our brothers then, save for the one transgression: we fought with our brothers. There are few offenses blacker than to fight with our brothers, at any age and for any cause whatsoever. The Council of the Home told us so, and of all the children of that year, we were locked in the cellar most often.
When we were five years old, we were sent to the Home of the Students, where there are ten wards, for our ten years of learning. Men must learn till they reach their fifteenth year. Then they go to work. In the Home of the Students we arose when the big bell rang in the tower and we went to our beds when it rang again. Before we removed our garments, we stood in the great sleeping hall, and we raised our right arms, and we said all together with the three Teachers at the head:
"We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace of our brothers are we allowed our lives. We exist through, by and for our brothers who are the State. Amen."
Then we slept. The sleeping halls were white and clean and bare of all things save one hundred beds.
We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in those years in the Home of the Students. It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was that the learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a
head which is too quick. It is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers told us so, and they frowned when they looked upon us.
So we fought against this curse. We tried to forget our lessons, but we always remembered. We tried not to understand what the Teachers taught, but we always understood it before the Teachers had spoken. We looked upon Union 5-3992, who were a pale boy with only half a brain, and we tried to say and do as they
did, that we might be like them, like Union 5-3992, but somehow the Teachers knew that we were not. […] The Teachers had said to us all:
"Dare not choose in your minds the work you would like to do when you leave the Home of the Students. You shall do that which the Council of Vocations shall prescribe for you. For the Council of Vocations knows in its great wisdom where you are needed by your brother men, better than you can know it in your
unworthy little minds. And if you are not needed by your brother man, there is no reason for you to burden the earth with your bodies."
Rand, Ayn (1938). Anthem, London, Prologue
 Council of Vocations: group of rulers whose specific function is to decide an individual's occupation