Controlling One's Moral Compass in Ayn Rand's Anthem

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Imagine having all freedoms in a person's life quarantined, people not allowed to have any free thoughts or actions, in the novel, Anthem, by Ayn Rand a collectivist society is portrayed in which people have no individuality in order for society to live in fair community. Personal names have been removed, and life is extremely regulated to make sure that no one thinks they are different or superior.. However, the main character, Equality 7-2521, always feels different and struggles to fit in with the rest of society. He breaks laws trying to learn things that he thinks will help his community. Eventually, his transgressions are discovered by the leaders, and he is cast out from his community. Finally he finds peace in himself without having to please others. Equality’s conflict with his community is shown with his repeated transgressions of preference, Ayn Rand uses his transgressions to show how people should not let others control their moral compass, thoughts, or actions.

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The main character, Equality has many transgressions, he breaks laws many times but the transgression he is most guilty of is the great transgression of preference. Equality is looking back at his school years and he remembers what they said to him, “‘Dare not choose in your minds the work you would like to do’”, now sitting in his hole he confesses his great transgression, “We were guilty of the great transgression of preference. We preferred some work and some lessons to others. We did not listen well to the history of all the councils… but we loved the science of things.” (Rand 22-23). During school, Equality breaks another law by preferring to learn about science over history. He had no interest in the history of his society but he was very curious about the science of things. Ayn Rand includes this passage to show how Equality is different from the other people in his society and how he broke a law at a young age. Equality is in conflict with himself because he loves to learn about science but he does not want to seem different from his brothers. He tries to act like his brothers, but he cannot help but be more curious about science over other subjects. Equality feels guilty because he does not want people to notice him as different. In the world people try to fit in with the most popular people or do the things that seem cool when in actuality they like other things or activities but are just doing what society makes them think is in style. Equality loves science but he does not want to stand out amongst his brothers. He is in conflict with his moral compass because he does not want to be different from his brothers but he cannot help his love for science.
Throughout the novel, collectivism is shown in society but Equality often times breaks free from what society wants him to do. International 4-8818 and Equality are friends but “ This is an evil thing to say, for it is a transgression, the great Transgression of Preference, to love any among men better than the others” because, “we must love all men and all men are our friends” (Rand 33). In this society men cannot like anyone more than others, for this is a transgression of preference. This society focuses on collectivism and not individuality that people cannot be themselves, have their own thoughts, or personality. Equality does not think much of this transgression because he thinks it is okay to be friends with someone as long as neither speaks of it. He is slowly becoming more free in his thoughts. Ayn Rand wanted readers to understand that people are not meant to be put in a collectivist society because everybody will eventually have their own thoughts and ideas.

Equality struggles with his moral compass frequently, as he tries to not stray far from what society wants him to do but he cannot help but have his own feelings. The women who have been assigned to work the soil, work next to where Equality sweeps the streets. Equality has been “[thinking] of one among women, they whose name is Liberty 5-3000, and [he] thinks of no others” (Rand 47). Equality is guilty of the transgression of preference once again because he has been putting Liberty above other women in the society. He is viewing Liberty with more eagerness than he should be. Men cannot think of women in this society and Equality is doing exactly that. Equality knows that he should not be thinking about Liberty but he cannot control himself from his own thoughts. He cannot stop his desire to want to talk to Liberty. At this point he does not care if he is transgressing because he has come to control his moral compass. In the modern world, there are times when people say one should not have a relationship with another person but sometimes people cannot help themselves from wanting it. Ayn Rand is trying to have readers understand that you should not let other people control who you can or cannot have a relationship with.

Equality could not be one with his society because he has his own thoughts and ideas for his community. Equality took control of his moral compass and made decisions on his own. Equality breaks the shackles that are holding him down to this society and would not allow him to learn and better himself. He realizes that what he is doing is for himself and not for the society that holds him back. He breaks free from his collectivist society and is able to be his own person.

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Controlling One’s Moral Compass in Ayn Rand’s Anthem. (2020, November 11). WritingBros. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from
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