Ayn Rand’s novella “Anthem” opens by foregrounding the triumph of the collective through the narrator’s struggle to express and justify his thoughts. In this world, there is no “I,” only the collective “we,” which has become synonymous with good. The novel opens,
“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. . . . And well we know that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone.”
Only the “Council of Vocations” can approve such writing. The narrator, Equality 7-2521, struggles to conform even as he defies such rules: “We strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike.” But he is not.
At six feet, Equality 7-2521 towers over other boys. His teacher warns, “There is evil in your bones.” In school, he is unhappy because “learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a head which is too quick.” How does he know? “The teachers told us so.”
Eventually, Equality 7-2521 tries to imitate the slow learners. But the teachers know, “and we were lashed more often than all the other children.” And when he turns fifteen, the Council of Vocations places him in the Home of the Street Sweepers, where he will have no more opportunities to display his “quick” mind. Equity achieved. [Source: Foundation for Economic Education]
Michael J. Hurd, Daily Dose of Reason