Anthem vs. Romeo and Juliet

Staff Writer

Unlike some classes, lite  rature is one that continues teaching and building despite summer breaks. From year to year, students Anthem ES 3Anthem ES 1will read stories with ideas and morals they will carry with them forever; two of these classics are Romeo and Juliet, a play written by Shakespeare, and Anthem, a novella written by Ayn Rand. These two tales are taught in ninth and tenth grade and build upon each other nicely. They represent two completely different perspectives and philosophies on the idea of true love, making the stories extremely appealing to the adolescent masses. Unlike some of the other drier narratives students are assigned to read, Anthem and Romeo and Juliet provide two compelling stories that are guaranteed to get students thinking.

Believing in the idea that love is something two people must earn, Rand had a very different philosophy than that of Shakespeare. This viewpoint shines through her work beautifully as the main characters in Anthem work for each other’s love and the freedom to protest it. Equality 7-2521 is living in a backwards utopian society when he meets Liberty 5-3000, a beautiful woman living in the same society, who he is forbidden to speak to. As readers quickly realize, Equality is not like his brethren. Through acts of bravery and brilliance, Equality is able to break free from the chains of the society and becomes worthy of the love Liberty is able to provide him with. However, Liberty has to earn the right to profess her love towards Equality as well; she must run away from her home into a forbidden forest in order to claim her love. Of course, Equality and Liberty are not literally earning the right to be in love, but in Rand’s eyes, they are, for she portrays the idea that in order for two people to truly be in love, they must first earn the right to be in love through becoming a complete, independent individual first.

Contrary to these beliefs, Shakespeare (while not as open about his philosophical thoughts) appears to believe quite the opposite. Popular to Shakespeare’s time was the idea of true love and love at first sight, a notion that anyone could fall in love with anyone no matter what the consequences. This incredibly romantic view on life shines through almost every page of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; however, the book does not go completely against Rand’s philosophy. If one takes the time to put aside the ceaseless whining from both Romeo and Juliet, readers realize that the two did do quite a bit to earn the ability to be with each other. Romeo and Juliet both risked so much, and in the end gave their lives so that they could be together. On the other hand, neither Romeo nor Juliet had done anything special prior to their initial meeting, where they instantly claimed to be irrevocably and madly in love. Can the death of two whiny teenagers be considered the equivalent of the banishment of two brilliant and honest adults?

While Shakespeare most likely was not writing to make a point about society, as Rand was, the two stories go hand in hand. Students get to observe the evolution of the philosophy on ideas, such as love, over the course of history. Apart from the deep underlying meaning in Anthem, the novella is incredibly entertaining and gets the wheels turning. Readers cannot put the book down once they start reading about Equality’s supposed lifestyle and the eventual downfall of his society.  “I was up all night reading it. I seriously couldn’t put it down,” says sophomore Madeeha Ahmad. The same goes for Romeo and Juliet, originally written to entertain everyone from nobility to peasants, as the play has a general gripping quality to it that leaves readers constantly wanting more. The traditional Shakespearian language sends readers back 500 years and allows them to escape into a mystical and romantic world.

These two works of literature are must-reads for students preparing for the rest of their lives through high school. Romeo and Juliet and Anthem send readers on a journey to find love and independence, which students will not soon forget.

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