Vol. 64 No. 2 (2016)

Ayn Rand’s Anthem: Self-Naming, Individualism, and Anonymity

Published 2016-04-02


  • Margaret Atwood,
  • satire,
  • brand names,
  • literature,
  • consumerism


Ayn Rand’s dystopian novella Anthem is set in an unspecified future, physically and spiritually desolate, with enforced uniformity and a language bereft of all singular pronouns. Anthem, moreover, is profoundly deficient regarding onomastics in general. The society assigns personal names at birth using a fixed pattern: an abstract word, a single-digit number, a hyphen, and four additional digits. This system befits a society in which one can be condemned for committing the “Sin of Preference,” concerning professions, privacy, or partners. In a world from which most names (for cities, buildings, streets, institutions etc.) have disappeared, the system of assigned anthroponyms is not the source of a problem or the epitome of a problem, but rather, the final downward step of an increasingly nameless culture. The two main characters, in successive episodes of purposeful self-naming, subvert the discourse of the decline and thus reclaim individualism and volition.


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