Large Print Edition
By Ayn Rand
Waking Lion Press, 2006, 84 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - January 18, 2010
This book is a parable, similar to Plato's parable of the cave and Maimonides' parable of the ladder, but with a different ending.
The Anthem captures Rand's basic philosophy: People must learn to use their intelligence, be self-reliant, do productive work to sustain themselves and give them self esteem, and free themselves from traditions and faith, for these do not improve people, they stifle the mind.
The book depicts a future society where people are told what to think, what to do and how and when to do it. Books are prohibited. So, too, are relations between the sexes, except when the relationship is performed as prescribed, for sexual relations are for having children, nothing more.
The protagonist in the parable stumbles upon a cave. He enters and finds items from a prior free society. He studies his finds for years and experiments on his own. Like Prometheus, in the ancient Greek myth, he tries to bring the scholars of his world the gift of fire, specifically electricity. They reject his gift and flog him. He escapes to a forest and begins a new society.
The ancient Greek Plato (about 428 to about 348 BCE) told a similar parable. Humans were chained in a dark cave and one man escapes into sun light. The story symbolizes individuals who are able to attain wisdom, like the protagonist in Rand's tale.
The Jew Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) used the biblical story of Jacob's ladder – a ladder with feet upon the earth that soured heavenward - for his tale. People, he said climb the ladder to attain wisdom.
The difference between Rand's parable and those of her predecessors is that Plato has his hero return to the cave to teach those who are still chained in the dark and Maimonides has his hero descend from the ladder after attaining wisdom to teach others.
Rand rejects this ending. She rejects altruism. Her ideal person seeks a rational selfishness, improving oneself, not others.
Despite this, the story is well written and interesting, and it provokes people to think.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.