Anthem and the Common Core

Using Rand’s novella and teaching Common Core standards

Whether you love or loathe Rand’s themes, there can be no doubt that she develops literary elements powerfully.  Rand’s, craft, structure, point of view, and theme development make it effective to pair Anthem and the Common Core standards.

Of course, any text can be used to address Common Core standards, but Anthem is especially appropriate in exploring symbolism (theme development), point of view, and allusion (word choice).

anthem unit plan

Anthem and the Common Core: Reading Literature

RL2: Key Ideas and Details (theme development)

The themes of Anthem regarding individuality, personal freedom, truth, and equality are glaring and interconnected.  Students should use textual evidence to analyze how Rand heavy-handedly offers her manifesto for humanity.

This aspect of pairing Anthem and the Common Core standards requires that students explore symbolism. The novella is riddled with symbolic elements: the tunnel, light, the fields, the forest, the sky, the saint, and so on.

Many of these symbolic elements allude to religious, mythological, and philosophical constructs.  For example, the tunnel symbolizes individualism as a means of seeking truth. It is a sanctuary where Equality is free reach his enlightenment. Rand has inverted Plato’s allegory of the cave as the tunnel exposes rather than obscures truth.  Equality’s truth can only be found within.

Similarly, the symbol of the Uncharted Forest represents the natural, individualistic state of humanity:

“We awoke when a ray of sunlight fell across our face.  We wanted to leap to our feet, as we have had to leap every morning of our life, but we remembered suddenly that no bell had rung and that there was not bell to ring anywhere.  We lay on our back, we threw our arms out, and we looked up at the sky.  The leaves had edges of silver that trembled and rippled like a river of green and fire flowing high above us.” (78)

Equality has overcome his fears and entered the Uncharted Forest and discovers his Garden of Eden. He has entered a state of freedom where the light of his individuality might shine.

anthem and the common core forest

Related link: Teaching Anthem by Ayn Rand

RL3 Key Ideas and Details (interacting elements)

Equality’s character traits, motivation, point of view, and internal conflict intensify and precipitate the external conflict, climax, and resolution.  Students must analyze how these elements interact in order to serve Rand’s purpose.

RL4: Craft and Structure (word choice)

In teaching Anthem and the Common Core standards, students should recognize that Rand is anything but subtle in her word choice.  She takes a reverent and even religious tone and repeatedly alludes to mythology and the Bible. Students must analyze the cumulative effect of the figures and connotations.

“And now we look upon the earth and sky.  This spread of naked rock and peaks and moonlight is like a world ready to be born, a word that waits.  It seems to us it ask a sign from us, a spark, a first commandment.  We cannot know what word we are to give, nor what great deed this earth expects to witness.” (93)

In her allusions Rand compares Equality to Cain (fighting with his brothers), Adam (entering the garden of Eden of his own will), Moses (planning to lead the society from bondage), Prometheus (giving light to humanity), Jesus (Liberty is his first disciple), and even God in the final chapters. By the end the novella, his will is all.

Rand’s word choice (especially her allusions) sanctify humanity generally and Equality specifically as the highest power.  Individuality is divinity.  She inverts the connotations and meanings of traditional motifs for her new religion.  The absolutism of her phrasing adds to the effect.

RL5 Craft and Structure (plot structure)

This element is fairly straightforward in terms of teaching Anthem and the Common Core standards.  Anthem includes some flashbacks, but there are no significant parallel plots.  Equality’s internal conflict manifests in the external conflict as he changes his point of view.  The ultimate resolution comes from breaking with society and establishing a new world view.

“All the heads of the Council turned to us as we entered.  These great and wise of the earth did not know what to think of us, and they looked upon us with wonder and curiosity, as if we were a miracle.” (68-69)

RL6 Craft and Structure (point of view)

Equality’s point of view basically progresses through three main stages: He struggles to conform with the society; He seeks reconciliation with the society; He decides to oppose the society.

Students should use textual evidence to trace this development and its conclusion as Equality adopts the use of a singular, personal point of view.  In his ultimate point of view, he is Alpha and Omega.

“I AM. I THINK. I WILL.” (94)

RL9 Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (source material)

To address Anthem and the common core, students must recognize both Rand’s use of Biblical allusions (although she herself was an atheist) and mythological allusions.  Encourage students to explore the sources of her motifs and analyze how she manipulates their meanings.

The Greek myth of Narcissus is turned on its head as Equality’s admiration of his physical self in the water is his enlightenment rather than his undoing.

“Our body was not like the bodies of our brothers, for our limbs were straight and thin and hard and strong.  And we thought that we could trust this being who looked upon us from the stream, and that we had nothing to fear with this being. (80)

Equality sees his reflection for the first time.  He finds himself to be strong and beautiful. It is notable that he uses a stream (nature) and not a piece of glass or metal. In Rand’s version of the Narcissus myth, the subject is empowered rather than destroyed by vanity.

After reading books from the Unmentionable Times, Equality renames himself Prometheus and renames Liberty Gaia. He will bring light to humanity and she will be the mother of titans.

Students should explore how Rand manipulates and exploits these allusions as they address Anthem and the Common Core standards.

Anthem and the Common Core: Writing

Utilizing Anthem and the Common Core presents wonderful opportunities for writing arguments on Rand’s themes and informative essays on Anthem‘s historical context, but the most exciting opportunities relate to writing narrative.

anthem and the common core writing

W3 Text Types and Purposes (narrative)

The dystopia concept generally and Anthem specifically create interesting writing opportunities for students.  Challenge them to develop their own dystopia concept or a narrative connected to Anthem.

Point of View Shift

Have the students rewrite one chapter in Anthem from a different point of view.  They may may choose a different first-person narrator, or a third-person narrator.  Have them preface your narrative with a brief paragraph identifying the narration (e.g. a report from the World Council about the fight with Equality) and explaining the point of view and tone. 

Utopia / Dystopia

Have the students write a short story around the concept of utopia / dystopia.  Have them considers how a society seeking perfection in one aspect could go terribly wrong.  For example, imagine a society that decided that the real problem was that people were not brave enough.  What extreme measures might the society take? How might the extreme measures make things worse? 

Anthem II: The World Council Strikes Back

Ask students to imagine that they have been hired by the Ayn Rand Institute to write a short sequel for Anthem.  They might start the narrative right after the last chapter, skip ahead generations, or even write a prequel.  

Related post: Anthem Unit Plan

Anthem and the Common Core: Speaking and Listening

Anthem and the Common Core gives students the chance to address speaking and listening standards by arguing philosophical differences and presenting literary expertise.

SL1-3 Comprehension and Collaboration

Students should collaborate in almost every lesson as they analyze citations to meet the lesson objectives.  Whether the lesson is focused on Equality’s point of view, allusions, word choice, or symbolism, student collaboration is key for both engagement and making meaning.

To address Anthem and the Common Core, this collaboration must be structured in a way that forces students to think about and reflect on their collaboration.  The teacher should establish ongoing expectations for collaboration and task specific expectations.  Having students establish group roles, document the collaborative process, deliver specific outcomes, and reflect on the results formalize daily collaboration.

SL4-6 Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

Anthem and the Common Core standards for presentation requires that students present in a form that is more rigorous than simply sharing their groups discussion with the class.

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grades 9-10 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)

Students should essentially be delivering an informative essay in the form of a presentation. This well-structured information should incorporate visuals and an appropriate and engaging speaking style.

By the end of the unit, I like to have students select one symbolic element of the novella and present on its development.  For example, students might analyze Rand’s development of the tunnel as a symbol and how it relates to and impacts other literary elements in Anthem.

Related post: Activities for Teaching Anthem by Ayn Rand

Related post: Ready-to-Print Anthem Unit Test

Anthem and the Common Core conclusion

Any text can be used to address common core standards, but there are specific elements of Anthem that pair nicely with specific standards.  Anthem is especially appropriate in exploring symbolism (theme development), point of view, and allusion (word choice).

If you have found this information regarding Anthem and the Common Core helpful, consider using my complete Anthem unit and teacher guide.

teachers pay teachers banner link