Ayn Rand’s Anthem shows that every society and person needs some selfishness. It is a part of human nature to be selfish. Without selfishness, society is just plain and not that interesting. Yet in Anthem, it is a crime to be selfish that is even punishable by death! Prometheus believes that not all men can see the secrets of the earth, but then takes the box to the Council of Scholars in order to gain a spot in the House of Scholars, and proves that he is somewhat egotistical and egoistical through out the entire novella with his comments, thoughts, and actions.
Prometheus states, “The secrets of this earth are not for all men to see, but only for those who will seek them.” He does not think that all men are capable of seeing the secrets of the earth. In his opinion, the people who will seek the secrets are those that must want to learn, have curiosity, and be some of the most intelligent people on the earth. These are the only men who may know, see, and understand the secrets of the earth. All others do not have the will, the conviction, or the intelligence to devote their lives to venturing the earth for its secrets. In the society which Prometheus lives, searching for the secrets of the earth is nearly impossible for it is a crime, unless one is a scholar, to want to learn. Basically, Prometheus is saying that he is very intelligent and is one of few men who are actually capable of seeing the secrets of the earth. This shows how high of an opinion he has of himself.
When one thinks that he is doing something for the greater good of society, the people, etc., one occasionally confuses helping for the greater good with selfishness. One may also say he is doing it for the greater good, but he may only be disguising his own selfishness. to the Council of Scholars. Disregarding his entire theory that not all men can see the secrets of the earth, Prometheus decides to bring his invention, the “glass box” to the Council of Scholars. Prometheus’s reasoning behind his decision to bring the box to the Council of Scholars is that when the Council sees the box and Prometheus confesses to them what he has been doing in the tunnel, the Council will acquit him of all the forbidden crimes that he has committed because of how great his invention is and of all the great things that it will do for society once it is introduced to society.
Prometheus believes that “our gift is greater than our transgressions”. He thinks that the Council of Scholars will tell the Council of Vocations all about Prometheus’s invention, and in turn, causing the Council of Vocations to rethink their decision of making him a Street sweeper and then change his status to a scholar. Yet, Prometheus also says that he has created the glass box for the greater good of his brothers. Prometheus is clearly disguising his own selfishness with helping for the greater good of his brothers. The Council of Scholars refuses do anything with the box and tells Prometheus that he will be burned at the stake. He then jumps out of a window and runs all the way to the Uncharted Forest, without knowing where he is going. While in the forest, the truth suddenly becomes clear to him. Prometheus did not manufacture the box for his brothers; he manufactured it just to save his own skin!
The novella, Anthem, written by Ayn Rand, has two main themes- egoism and egotism. These two theories are similar and yet different at the same time; they both have to do with selfishness, but they both have different meanings. Egoism is trying to achieve recognition for something that you have done, while egotism is having a very high opinion of yourself. When creating, talking about, and presenting the glass box to the Council of Scholars, Prometheus exhibits some egoism and egotism. During the discovery of the tunnel, Prometheus forces his friend, International 4-8818, to come with him down into the tunnel even when International 4-8818 tells him that it is forbidden and Prometheus knows it is as well. During his first couple of trips down the tunnel, he comments that the only reason he is going into the tunnel is because he just wants to fulfill his curiosity. After the completion of the creation of the “glass box”, Prometheus proudly exclaims that it was he who reinvented the great product of the Unmentionable Times. When he decides to take the box to the Council of Scholars, he thinks the Council of Scholars will recognize that he created the box, a great invention that will help society tremendously, and to make him a scholar, this is an exhibition of egoism. Prometheus even says that he possesses greater wisdom than the Council of Scholars! Towards the end of the book while Prometheus is in the Uncharted Forest, he realizes that the only reason why he brings the “glass box” to the Council of Scholars is to gain recognition for himself and become a scholar leaving all of his crimes forgotten to the law.
This novella is a great example of how society needs some egoism and egotism, but not too much, otherwise without egoism and egotism society is just a boring place to live. Anthem’s society has no egoism or egotism. It is forbidden to be egoistic or egotistic. The only citizens that do have egoism or egotism are either buried in the ground, on death row, or possibly some are egoistic and egotistic in secret. In today’s society, people, mainly celebrities, have turned today’s society into a society full of egotism and egoism. They even get paid to act egoistic and egotistic. This is an example of how society has way too much egoism and egotism. A good amount of egoism and egotism in a society would be in between the amount in Anthem’s society and the amount in today’s society.
Ayn Rand. Anthem