Thursday, October 30, 2014

Literary Analysis Question(s) - Thiago Rossi

  1. Image representing selfishness
    What theme or themes does the author explore in the novel?  Which passages in the text connect to theme?

As I was reading these last two sections of the book, the main themes that stood out for me were mainly ego, individuality, communism (once again), and restriction. Now that I've read to this point of the novel, I can say currently with absolute certainty that Anthem is a novel that has a Marxist government, without a droplet of doubt. My conclusions for this section of reading was mostly taken from the part of which Equality invades the Counsel of Scholars and proposes a new idea to them. Evidently, they absolutely hated the concept that Equality developed an idea on his own. In chapter 7, there is a passage that says the following: "'How dared you think that your mind held greater wisdom than the minds of your brothers? And if the Councils had decreed that you should be a Street Sweeper, how dared you think that you could be of greater use to men than in sweeping the streets?'
'How dared you, gutter cleaner,' spoke Fraternity 9-3452, 'to hold yourself as one alone and with the thoughts of the one and not of the many?'"
Clearly, after reading this passage I could really come up with this idea, as communism prioritizes the common good instead of the individual benefit. As I see it, this system is a complete disaster. The human being, because of its own nature, has its own sense of individual pride and ego, together with the selfishness that comes with it, and, I cannot deny it, the human being is indeed very egoist in its nature. For instance, you wouldn't sacrifice your well-being for the sake of the society and the group, would you? Now, imagine an entire population thinking this own way of the priority of a group. For apparent reasons, such people would be very easily manipulated by rising government officials, as they would have absolutely zero voice in the world, as it is a restriction to express personal ideas like Equality did. Anyway, people's minds would essentially function in this philosophy: "just do what they say and we'll be fine". Yes, that is basically all there is to it. In order for a perfect communist society to exist, everyone needs to be "brainwashed", functioning like machines and not expressing even one single bit of voice, emotion, and opinion, as all would need to have the same behavior whatsoever. In other words, communism allows the people in control of the government to shape people's minds to their own personal affairs and what they think is the "correct" way of living, which can lead to some considerably terrifying situations such as murder of those who don't consent with the government and torture to the same. Now, I ask you, think of the core "logic" of Marx: everyone in society needs to be, essentially, the same in order for society to be in a stable state at all times, expressing the same feelings, emotion, spirit, and ways of thinking. However, this term does not apply to government officials. If the people inside a "perfect" communist society were to be easily manipulated, then don't you think they are now being forced to face the Marxist philosophy put into practice. Isn't that thinking as an individual on behalf of government leaders? As I've looked at it, not even one country that lived under this type of regime was not a dictatorship, which is basically one person controlling a whole nation, bending the people's will to serve theirs. Actually, what happens is that the government does what they intend to with the people's lives and minds, making as many restrictions as they would want to make their lives easier. What I am trying to say here is that there is no basic logic to communism. Nevertheless, I would like to tie this up with our current essential question that we are studying closely in Humanities, which asks: "why do the structure and characteristics of a population change over time?". As we've studied previously in Humanities, the world has changed drastically since the beginning of the human race, sometimes having its downfalls and its rises in progression. Nonetheless, why do is the world dynamic regarding how people think, act, and live? Is it by the ideas generated by society as a group? No! In reality, what creates this transformation over time in history is the ideas generated by INDIVIDUALS, not a group. The humans cannot think as a group overall. We have individual minds that are free to their own opinions on their own, as I am giving my personal opinion and beliefs on this short essay. May the ideas generated be good or bad, it is these concepts that forever change our behavior and how these interpretations are put into practice in the real world. Of course, in Karl Marx's own individual mind, communist would be the ideal way of government. Yet, people still struggle to now the difference between imagination and real world. This design of communism is just not possible to be achieved within the human capabilities -- and I am not talking about something good that is beyond human limitations. Let's think of this once again, if in Marx's mind the world is so dynamic because of the view of the group over how things should function, isn't communism an concept generated by him alone? I am very sure this theory he created would be applied to all people, except for him, as I am certain that he would not want to live in such a place. Speaking of which, people in past (or current)  communist countries live(d) under a tremendous amount of restrictions in their daily lives and that is the main reason why this does not work. People want to be able to progress in life, to have a voice of change, to live life the way they want to, and this is what motivates a person into creating a better environment for herself and for the people around them. If communism is the better way of government, then why are there Cubans running away to the U.S. and no American citizens escaping to Cuba? By taking away these rights I listed, people essentially become unhappy and with poor living conditions. Communist countries today and in the past, killed or still kill their own people for them to keep the order of equality among all men, which resulted in millions of deaths around the world. Last but not least, these ideals make humanity stay the same, letting no new thoughts or points of view to be expressed within the people and to be executed in the world. As I said before, concepts expressed by individuals is what shapes society over time. In plain English, progression in humanity is next to zero. To break this all down, I would just like to say that in order to be able to severely end with this rather utopian (or dystopian) viewpoint is just for the people to reflect upon the benefits they would get with this, which is mostly none. As for the dictators and political leaders, it is important for them to feel empathy towards the citizens and in what ways communism could affect the people's life. Wrapping up, with all the negative aspects this philosophy brings in to society, the only way I could think of why someone would be in favor to this would be if they wanted to be an actual politician of a communist country, as they are the sole type of person that gets any benefit with this.
Image representing the manipulation of people's minds

  1. How does the protagonist change from the beginning to the end of the novel?  What does this character learn about himself (or herself) and about how the world works?
  2. Describe a choice made by a character in the novel.  Why did the character make this choice?  Was his or her action justified?

One of the things I think this book does extraordinarily well is the setting of the stage. I particularly like this dystopian type of communist "ideal society" people are living inside Anthem. Equality, who is one of the civilians, tries to break free of these restrictions and have this sense of individuality every human supposedly has as part of its own nature. One thing I found interesting about this is how the author was able to depict this "perfect" Marxist community and, even though the people were basically brainwashed, the qualities of the individuals and humans speak louder than all they were forced to believe in as a truth. For instance, not to manifest any ideas from their heads to one another, not to have pride in yourself, and work for the benefit of the group and not of yourself. Even though Equality thinks and acts in ways influenced by personal opinion, he was able to live in this restricted society until he decided to break free. An example is his love towards the Golden One, of which he is prohibited to share, but still has this sense of affection in his head. What is most interesting about this all is how the author was able to reflect on the communist philosophy at the period of time she lived in, which was after the Russian Revolution. She brought in ideas which even somehow "predicted" what would happen in the future: the failed attempts to imply the communist regime in the Soviet Union. I mean, it was eventually implemented but it did not last long due to how the people suffered in comparison to the way it was before, a suffering and restriction such as those Equality was feeling in the book. Also, interestingly enough the scenery of the book connects in some way with Plato's Cave as well. The government is trying to make the people believe in what they think is the correct way of living, when there is actually a whole other different reality beyond the people's perception, which is eventually where Equality is being able to reach. Anyway, over time, the protagonist ends up "inventing" electricity and finally presented his discovery to the scholars, which hated the way he thought that his mind was greater than those of the rest of the group. This choice for me at the start was a bit confusing for me. Answer such as "why would he do such a thing?" came to my mind. Well, the answer is quite simple though after I put some thought into it. In reality, he didn't realize the gravity of presenting a new idea in the society he lived in, as no one has ever done it before and it was probably not within the restrictions, as it was though that the sense of individuality was already erased from existence. Another reason why he might have chosen to do this would be because he couldn't stand being restricted to manifest his ideas anymore and really needed to finally have a voice, as it is natural of the humans to want to do so. Therefore, he went directly to the Counsel of the Scholars and presented it to them as a sign of wanting to rebel against them and their ideals. After all this, Equality enters the Uncharted Forest and hunts down a bird to eat and cook it, which was the first thing he did as an individual person. He then saw his first reflection as well, and he even developed some sort of pride because of how well he was able to shoot down the bird with a stone, bringing in the ego of the human being, as seen from the quote in chapter 8 that says: "We made a fire, we cooked the bird, and we ate it, and no meal had ever tasted better to us. And we thought suddenly that there was a great satisfaction to be found in the food which we need and obtain by our own hand. And we wished to be hungry again and soon, that we might know again this strange new pride in eating.". From this point on, considering that I am not done reading this book yet, I infer that Equality will bring back emotions, thoughts, ideas, and other things to the society he lives in, which would help the author transmit the apparent message behind the book, which says why communism is not possible within human limitations, treating the novel as if it was a "simulation" of a totally imaginary world that wouldn't be quite possible to be created in the real world.

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