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EE: Individualism and Collectivism in "Anthem" and "We"

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EXTENDED ESSAY - ENGLISH A1 A Soulless State How are individualism and collectivism presented in Ayn Rand's "Anthem" and Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We"? Student Name: Gary Kong Candidate Number: 001163- Supervisor: Jessica Evelyn Wilkins School: Sekolah Pelita Harapan Word Count: 3995 words ABSTRACT Early twentieth century literature saw the invention of the dystopian literature genre, which is characterized by a society that has become dysfunctional due to a particular philosophical flaw, in this case, altruism and collectivism. This essay investigates how the themes of individualism and collectivism are portrayed in two early twentieth century works: Yevgeny Zamyatin's We and Ayn Rand's Anthem. We was selected as the subject of investigation due to its originality - Zamyatin was considered the inventor of the modern dystopia. Anthem's selection was due to its common themes with We, but naturally different treatment of the themes. Specifically, the essay addresses how the treatment of these themes fit in context with the writers' backgrounds and then-current societal trends, how the settings are structured such that individualism is oppressed, the flaws of these settings, as well as how dormant individualism is reestablished in plot and characterization. The investigation concludes with the evaluation that the treatment of individualism and collectivism differs in setting but is similar in characterization and plot, both showing how such societies are dysfunctional in that pure collectivism and altruism are values that are incompatible with the human soul. It also raises questions concerning Zamyatin's influence on Rand and the converse ethicality of the works. Word count: 206 words CONTENTS ESSAY Introduction 1 Context 1 Oppression of the Soul and Ego 3 Futility of Progress and Symbolism of Time 6 Disintegration of Altruistic Attitudes 8 Conclusion 10 BIBLIOGRAPHY 11 A SOULLESS STATE INDIVIDUALISM VS. COLLECTIVISM IN RAND'S "ANTHEM" AND ZAMYATIN'S "WE" INTRODUCTION It is almost universally true that in every major culture or religion, selfishness is regarded as a trait undesirable and immoral in its very core. ...read more.


The sacred word: EGO (Rand 105). Imagination and innovation, which are incompatible with these societies, are suppressed in both We and Anthem through indoctrination. Imagination, which is equated to a soul, is deemed an illness in OneState, and Prometheus' "selfish" desire to innovate in Anthem is considered a sin. Absoluteness is equated to happiness in OneState, and D-503 ultimately rejects this idea. Equality is equated to happiness in Anthem, and Prometheus similarly rejects this idea when he disobeys the Council's schedules to pursue his own intellectual ventures. Imagination and innovation are shown to be instinctive, becoming catalysts for conflict in both works. This again places emphasis on how much innate human behavior must be suppressed for collective societies to 'function,' and how even so, this suppression is not sustainable. Although intellect is related to imagination, there is a significant difference between the two. While mathematical intellect is absolute and clearly defined, imagination lacks the absoluteness that is crucial for OneState to function. This absoluteness is reflected in the aforementioned description of the non-free dance. Both settings are strictly planned to ensure the predictability that is necessary for every member of society to be as one. OneState's residents, for example, begin and end their days at the same time, march in complete unison each day, following the plans set for them by the Table of Hours, similar to how Anthem's residents also follow schedules set by the Councils. The system of regimented living is, however, flawed, shown when MEPHI revolutions occur in OneState. Systematic predictability conflicts with the unpredictability and spontaneity that are characteristic of humans. When the march during the typically unanimous reelection of the Benefactor is disturbed, chaos occurs in OneState. Slight discrepancies are amplified in an environment ill suited for impulsiveness. The guardians exist to reinforce regimentation, but they cannot with ease. This chaos shows how individualism cannot exist in a collective state, as collectivism necessitates everything's sameness, despite how different people really are. ...read more.


Contrariwise, I-330 represents the antithesis. Her association with the MEPHI, and her 'irrational' nonconformist spirit of self-awareness, independence, and unrestraint - expressed in her smoking and drinking, things deemed forbidden by OneState - contradicts OneState's ideals. For this very reason, D-503 initially disdains her. However, as their relationship matures, D-503 does not change I-330's personality. Instead, the contrary occurs. This indicates that I-330's nature is more in line with human nature. She sees nothing in his nature that evokes a desire for self-reform, but he sees something in her that he comes to desire. Zamyatin shows that the dominant trait is the more human one, suggesting that the characters of individualism and independence are more human than selflessness and conformism. CONCLUSION The popularity of dystopian literature in the early twentieth century indicates a worldwide panic of totalitarian states, in which individual freedom is seized that even the freedom to be human is lost to the state. Without doubt, this panic is a sensible one. The societies depicted in the dystopian novels, Anthem and We, where collectivity is rampant, and humans are without their souls and egos, are the quintessence of a repressive Hades. What's striking is that aside from slight dissimilarities of style, setting, and circumstance surrounding 'enlightenment,' both works use similar narration and plot based on the reestablishment of the soul and ego through love, imagination, and innovation, as well as use of females as catalysts for 'enlightenment.' For one, these similarities indicate universality on the authors' perspectives concerning human nature and the inevitability of individualism. Secondly, they raise the question of whether or not We may have, in fact, influenced Anthem, a possibility that warrants further investigation. As said, nothing is entirely black and white. By nature, humans are double-faceted. They are both individualistic and altruistic, and neither trait can be suppressed. D-503's patriotism and nationalism does dehumanize him, but his lack of individualism does. Prometheus' innovation is based on both the altruistic desire to contribute to his society, and the need for self-recognition. The extreme collectivism in these works leads to profound introspection of the other end of the spectrum. ...read more.

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