In many real and fictionalized totalitarian societies, children live apart from their families. Why
would dictatorial leaders enforce this living arrangement?
I am. I think. I will,” (Rand, 1946, p. 94) writes Equality 7-2521, the protagonist in Ayn
Rand’s novel, Anthem. He says this once he discovers the meaning of the word “I.” Up until this
point, he had always used the word “we” to refer to himself. This is because Equality 7-2521
lives in a society that rejects individualism, in favor of collectivism. Anthem is set in the distant
future, where collectivism has taken over and any sign of individualism is banned.
Collectivism is very similar to totalitarianism, which is used by dictatorial leaders that
commonly choose to separate children from their families. The main reason for this is to prohibit
the children from feeling any sort of individualism, supporting the choice of the word “I” as the
Unspeakable Word in Anthem. Additionally, this is done in order to allow the leaders to raise the
children according to their principles, instead of allowing the parents to raise them freely. Doing
this allows the control of the child’s education, too. When the children are away from their
family, they can be taught what the leaders want them to know.
Totalitarianism can be defined as, “a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute
dictator,” according to Princeton University’s WordNet (2010). This means that totalitarian
societies control every aspect of man. If parents were allowed to raise their children in their own
way, the totalitarian rulers would not have any control over how the children act and what they
become when they grow up to be adults. This is why, in a totalitarian society, children are taken
away from their families and are raised and taught by state-sponsored teachers. Additionally, this
allows the totalitarian leaders to choose what kind of job the children will be doing when they
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become adults. In the end, all people will be raised to do a certain job, and the leaders will
control all aspects of human life.
Separation of children and family allows for the leaders to teach the children what they
want them to know. This differs from leaving the children with their family because doing so
allows for them to be taught information that the leaders do not want or need them to know.
When the leaders control the children’s educations, they can decide, more importantly, what not
to teach them. Generally, in a totalitarian society, it is important to hide certain information from
children during their early ages. According to peteyeo, an author on WordPress, Education has
been a device of totalitarian regimes since the first millennium” (2012). This can be related to the
methods used in Anthem to make it so nobody, except the Scholars, had any knowledge of the
word “I.” The Scholars simply did not teach anybody what that word meant, or the fact that it
was the Unspeakable Word.
The key point of both collectivism, in Any Rand’s Anthem; and totalitarianism, in
dictatorships today; is the rejection of individualism. Individualism can be defined as, “a belief in
the importance of the individual and the virtue of self-reliance and personal independence,”
according to Princeton University’s WordNet (2010). Dictatorial leaders’ choices to separate
children from their families take away their personal independence, therefore removing the
ability for them to be individualistic. Equality 7-2521 says, “We are nothing. Mankind is all. By
the grace of our brothers are we allowed our lives. We exist through, by and for our brothers who
are the State” (Rand, 1946, p. 21). This clearly represents the lack of individualism in Anthem,
because not a single person, save the Scholars, shows any sign of personal independence.
There are three main reasons why dictatorial leaders choose to remove children from
their families: to control their future, to control their education, and to remove any ability for
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them to feel individualistic. The former two of these simply allow the leaders to control the
children, aiding to the collectivist feeling. The latter of these, the lack of individualism, is the
most important factor in collectivistic societies, such as in Anthem; and in totalitarianism, such as
in a dictatorship.
Justin Mariner
1/14/14 4B
peteyeo. (2012, November 10). Education: A totalitarian device. [Blog post]. Retrieved from
Princeton University. (2010). WordNet Search Individualism. Retrieved from
Princeton University. (2010). WordNet Search Totalitarianism. Retrieved from
Rand, A. (1946). Anthem. New York, NY: Signet