Ayn Rand’s novelette Anthem (1938) tells the story of one man’s rebellion against a totalitarian society. When the novel’s hero, Equality 7-2521, commits the unpardonable crime—independent thought—he sets himself in conflict with the moral strictures of his world—a world in which all expressions of individualism have been suppressed, where the very word “I” has been banished from the language—a world of joyless, selfless men permitted to exist only for the sake of serving the group.
Written in 1937, as “a kind of a rest” from work on her novel The Fountainhead, Anthem anticipates some of that novel’s themes. Anthem’s theme is meaning and glory of man’s ego. Its style is unique among Ayn Rand’s works in that it is written in the form of a prose poem—an anthem to the ego.
Initially refused publication in America (one publisher rejected it on the grounds that “the author does not understand socialism”), Anthem was first published in England. An American edition appeared in 1946 and the novel remains in print to this day, widely used in classrooms across the U.S.