Religious Parallels in Ayn Rand ’s " Anthem "

Ayn Rand’s Anthem utilized religious symbolism to emphasize the work’s humanistic message. As in the Bible’s account of creation, man is expelled from paradise for his transgressions and the sin leads to self awareness. In both stories light represents understanding and truth, and the “Word” is a god given to mankind. Rand also makes use of a narrative style reminiscent of Biblical narrative. The very name “Anthem” has religious implications. But in spite of all these parallels, Anthem is not a religious story, but a glorification of man’s humanistic potential.
Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One show similarities to the Bible’s story of Adam and Eve.

Where in the Biblical account transgression lead to mankind’s self awareness, Equality 7-2521’s transgressions lead him down a path which ultimately provided awareness of individuality and ego. Where Biblical man is expelled from a Utopian garden for his sin, Equality 7-7521 flees and is left to wander The Uncharted Forest. As Adam was given the task of naming woman and his surroundings, Equality 7-2521 names himself, the woman who has come after him, and presumably will name their children. In Biblical tradition Adam and Eve were the mother and father of mankind, in a like fashion Equality 7-2521 and The Golden One will give birth to a new society. When Equality 7-2521 chooses a name for The Golden One, he names her Gaea, “who was the mother of the earth and of all the gods” (99).The use of light draws another parallel between the Bible and Rand’s Anthem. Biblical narrative describes the entrance of a light into the world. This light was to be the delivering light of men, but man in his ignorance rejected it. Equality 7-2521 brought light to his “brothers” but they did not understand the light, rejected it, and persecuted him. Rand went as far as recreating the lashing tradition ascribes to Jesus.

Although it was rejected by men, the light in Rand’s story brought the deliverance of man from the darkness and led him to establish a new society; this parallels the Bible’s prophesy that the light will lead to the establishment of a new heaven and a new earth. When Equality 7-2521 chooses a name for himself, he chooses the name of Prometheus who “took the light of the gods and he brought it to men, and he taught men to be gods. And he suffered for his deed as all bearers of light must suffer.” (99)

A parallel can also be drawn from the Biblical concept of the “Word” being given to mankind, the Word which leads to the fulfillment of man’s potential. In Rand’s story, the word “I” is given to man and it is called a god (97). It “can never die on this earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning and the glory” (105). This word leads to man’s realization of the “self”.

A less direct religious reference in Anthem is Rand’s use of a semi-archaic narrative style. It’s formality is reminiscent of Biblical narrative. Since an anthem is “a piece of sacred vocal music, usually with words taken from the scriptures” (from the book’s introduction by Leonard Peikoff), use of a style which imitates scripture seems appropriate. In a letter written by Rand, she notes that the actual anthem is the book’s final two chapters. However, the preceding ten chapters does much to establish the mood and effectiveness of the final two chapters, the anthem.

Again, in spite of the religious parallels Rand employed, her ultimate purposes for writing Anthem were not religious. Rand has stated, “Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.” (http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_intro) This statement is echoed in “My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose” as well as “neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish” (95).

I wouldn’t say this book borrows any authority by imitating its religious counterparts, but is meant to stand alone, drawing parallels to other truths, but standing independently as a truth in its self.

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