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The Annotated Anthem

by Ayn Rand
with Notes & Commentary by R. Scot Johns

Published: February 2017
122 Pages / 577 Endnotes


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  • Overview
  • Preface

"It is a sin to write this..."

Ayn Rand's seminal 1937 dystopian fiction novella Anthem, presented in its 1946 revised edition, complete with 577 interlinear, hyperlinked endnotes and running commentary covering:

  • analysis of plot details and structure
  • character traits and motivations
  • detailed breakdown of socio-political structure
  • population count based on numbers given
  • Homes, Departments and Councils evaluated
  • technologies present or inferred in the City, as well as what is absent
  • inconsistencies and contradictions in the narrative or details
  • aspects of Objectivist philosophy considered in context
  • differences between the 1938 and 1946 editions, along with selected quotes of deleted passages
Compiled from extensive research notes created during the development and writing of "I", R. Scot Johns' thrilling continuation of the saga of Equality 7-2521.

The footnotes and commentary presented here comprise a selection of assorted notes and questions scribbled in book margins and on notepads across several dozen readings of Anthem throughout the years. Much of this was later compiled using Scrivener’s outline and notecard features during the development and writing of I, my sequel to Ayn Rand’s seminal 1937 dystopian novella [2017, Fantasy Castle Books, Boise].

While Anthem presents a fictionalized future world with a fairly well developed socio-political system that details what Ms. Rand conceived as the inevitable result of collectivism, a great many of its details are given only in broad strokes, the specifics of which are left rather sketchy. Thus, trying to piece together a working version of the society into which Equality 7-2521 is born—in order to extrapolate what course of action might occur as a result of his actions, or merely to better understand the world of Anthem itself—requires a close and careful reading, and a thoughtful analysis, of the details provided by Ms. Rand. That is the purpose of this annotated edition.

One such aspect, for example, is a look at all specific numbers given, such as 100 children born each year, 100 beds in the sleeping halls and 100 place settings in the dining halls. This, coupled with the strict life development plan (5 years childhood, 10 years education, 25 years of work) and firmly established useful life expectancy of 40, nets a total City population of 4000 with 100 Life Mandates allotted each year among the several Homes and Councils. Looking further at every mentioned Home or Vocation, along with all implied Life Mandates required to produce the myriad crafts and technologies available to the City (i.e. sailing ships, lanterns, flints, wagons, bows and arrows, etc.), produces a bare minimum of 25 Homes, of which only ten are actually named in Anthem. How the Teachers, Scholars, Leaders and Council members are selected is another matter.

More important, however, is internal story cohesion, and thus coherence. Ayn Rand is at several points inconsistent in the details given, and a number of contradictions and obscure points are present (gender division among the various Homes and Councils, for example), most of which are fairly minor, but become of much greater importance when attempting to develop the story further, beyond the end to which Ms. Rand took it. The text of Anthem employed here is the 1946 revised edition—now in the public domain in the United States—originally published by Pamphleteers, Inc., and printed in hard cover by The Caxton Printers, Ltd., of Caldwell, Idaho, just 25 miles from my home. My first and primary copy has long been a 1963 Fourth Printing of the Signet paperback.

For an extensive look at the writing and publication history of Anthem — including a detailed comparison of the 1938 and 1946 editions — along with a wide range of evaluative analyses, please see Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem, edited by Robert Mayhew [2005, Lexington Books, Oxford].

For additional notes and resources for both Anthem and I, including indexes of Character and Place Names, State Entities, and Crimes of State, be sure to visit the hidden Archives at Fantasy Castle Books, and browse the secret bookshelves.

— R. Scot Johns
    Boise, Idaho
    February 2017

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