Study Guide

Anthem Society and Class

By Ayn Rand

Society and Class

We strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike. (1.7)

According to Equality 7-2521's society, everyone must be just like everyone else. The society's commitment to Equality 7-2521 ultimately means a commitment to sameness: if individuals aren't like everyone else, they threaten to distinguish themselves from others and possibly be superior to others.

"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." (1.20)

Equality 7-2521 is reporting what his teachers told him while he was a student. Apparently, in his society no one is allowed to choose what they do with their lives, or even to think about what they want to do with their lives. That would make individuals capable of distinguishing and separating themselves from the Collective 0-0009, which is a big no-no.

This was the only thing which moved, for the lips of the oldest did not move as they said: "Street Sweeper." (1.29)

The Council of Vocations punishes Equality 7-2521 for being "different," which in his case means being intelligent and loving science. Instead of being made a Scholar, which is what he desperately wants, Equality 7-2521 is made a Street Sweeper. The ironic thing about this is that Equality 7-2521 could serve his society much better as a Scholar, because of his great gifts. The Council is so concerned with eliminating any sign of distinction that it acts against the greater good, which is what it's supposed to be promoting in the first place.

When we sing hymns, the Hymn of Brotherhood, and the Hymn of Equality 7-2521, and the Hymn of the Collective 0-0009 Spirit. The sky is a soggy purple when we return to the Home. Then the bell rings and we walk in a straight column to the City Theatre for three hours of Social Recreation. There a play is shown upon the stage, with two great choruses from the Home of the Actors, which speak and answer all together, in two great voices. The plays are about toil and how good it is. Then we walk back to the Home in a straight column. (1.33)

"Recreation" and social gatherings in Equality 7-2521's society are an opportunity for indoctrination, for forcing into everyone's minds the values of the society. It's the same thing every day – everyone is just reminded over and over again of how noble it is to work for their fellow men. It's as if society worries that people wouldn't naturally believe this if it weren't the only thing they heard.

Thus must all men live until they are forty. At forty, they are worn out. At forty, they are sent to the Home of the Useless, where the Old Ones live. (1.34)

People in Equality 7-2521's society don't live very long at all. Why is that? Answering this question involves some speculation. Is that because they have primitive medical technology? Is it because they're worked too hard? Or is it because they're unhappy?

And each of the men have one of the women assigned to them by the Council of Eugenics. Children are born each winter, but women never see their children and children never know their parents. (2.13)

Equality 7-2521's society controls sex. People only have sex once a year, with a stranger assigned to them by the Council of Eugenics, and then they never see their kids. No families here; "society" raises the children. What's unclear is whether the Council of Eugenics puts people together because it tries to breed the best genetic results (which is what eugenics means). It's hard to imagine the society has the technology to do that. You also might wonder if having exceptional individuals is a good or bad thing?

There is fear hanging in the air of the sleeping halls, and in the air of the streets. Fear walks through the City, fear without name, without shape. All men feel it and none dare to speak. (2.43)

Everyone in Equality 7-2521's society is afraid. In spite of the society's attempts to convince its members that toiling makes them happy and that they're held together by love for each other, what really keeps the whole show going is fear. The question is, is there anybody actually at the top who terrorizes the rest to keep them in line? Or does literally everybody in society feel afraid of everyone else?

Take our brother Equality 7-2521 to the Palace of Corrective Detention. Lash them until they tell." (6.7)

At the end of the day, Equality 7-2521's society depends upon the threat of violence to keep its members honest and in line. As the guy on the Council of the Home says, they're literally going to beat Equality 7-2521 into submission.

There were men whose famous names we knew, and others from distant lands whose names we had not heard. (7.3)

Equality 7-2521 tells us here that there are famous Scholars present at the meeting of the Council of Scholars. Isn't that strange, given how collectivistic the society is supposed to be? How is it possible – or allowed – for anyone to distinguish themselves or get famous?

Yes," said Collective 0-0009, "we have much to say to a wretch who have broken all the laws and who boast of their infamy! How dared you think that your mind held greater wisdom than the minds of your brothers? And if the Councils had decreed that you should be a Street Sweeper, how dared you think that you could be of greater use to men than in sweeping the streets?" (7.25)

Jut like it did when it made Equality 7-2521 a Street Sweeper, Equality 7-2521's society (spoken for here by Collective 0-0009) acts in its own worst interest. It rejects Equality 7-2521's gift – electric light – even though this could make the quality of life of its own members much better and lead to all kinds of new discoveries. They're too outraged by the fact that Equality 7-2521 has distinguished himself and broken the laws to accept something in their own best interest. It's a powerful illustration of how the society is held together by hatred and envy of the strong, rather than love or genuine concern for the greater good.