Individualism in Literature

Categories: Anthem By Ayn Rand

Individualism is one of the most wondrous themes of literature because of its contribution to the pursuit of human dignity. Individualism is a moral stance and a philosophical concept which puts emphasis on the moral worth and the supreme and intrinsic value of human beings (Lukes 51). Literature has proved to be an outlet for an artist's own definition of individualism. Due to the fact that such philosophical concept is associated with so many aspects of life including society and culture and art, authors have devoted ample time in using individualism creatively while demonstrating social awareness and way of life.

Among the authors who explore the concept of individualism are Ayn Rand, Charlotte Gilman and Margaret Atwood. The characters in the literary works of such authors reflect how the pursuit for individualism can be disturbed ans stunted with the occurrence of love. Rand's dystopian book called Anthem explores the turbulent period in which mankind is forced to live with the harsh setbacks of irrationality and collectivism, and the failures of socialistic upbringing and economics.

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In Anthem, a youth named Equality 7-2521 finds himself in a hidden tunnel, isolating himself from an anti-individualistic society and realizinng how much solace and solitude suit him. But his search for individualism is being disrupted by the Golden One, a beautiful peasant girl whom he considers as a valuable element in his eyes (Rand 19). In Gilman's novel titled Herland, three adventurous friends journey into an all-female land called Herland and its women deprived of social realities of the modern world and the contribution of masculinity to their maternal well-being (Gilman 95).

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Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale presents to readers the search for individualism in a Puritan society established using ruins of war. Atwood explores how love can redefine and inflluence a person's search for human dignity in The Republic of Gilead that discourages the pursuit for individualism and legalizes slavery (Atwood 8). Individualism in Herland Herland is a novel that sees women in an isolated land become fascinated with the beauty and mystery of the real world where there is a sense of conformity and recognition for femininity and masculinity.

One of the characters in book, Moadine, affirms such fascination to the societal settings of the real world by declaring how wonderful and supremely beautiful man's civilization must be due to the countless contribution of science and technology (Gilman 96). It is clearly manifested that Moadine, being one of older women who teaches the three men in the way of life of Herland, has fallen into the conundrum of the Utopian society of the modern world. Moadine's curiosity on the civilized ways of man which women in Herland are being deprived with becomes an avenue for them to enter in the mysterious homeland of the three men.

Moadine is in charged in guarding one of the three male captives, Terry, a classic male chauvinist attempts to fascinate Moadine with his knowledge and control over the female mind (Gilman 37). Terry is a portrait of individualist kind of male who only recognizes the strength of the males and perceives women to be as secondary beings. Terry deeply resents women in Herland who can exist without the help of men and dares to call them sexless, epicene, and undeveloped neuters (Gilman 157).

But the bitterness of Terry and his negative attitude towards the women are set aside upon his realization that he is madly in love with Alima (Gilman 157). Alima is one of the girls of Herland and embodies the attitudes and non-conformist traditions of the land. She is a tall long-limbed lady, well-knit and strong and agile (Gilman 18). The personality and upbringing of Alima voices out female superiority over men and her individualist character is deeply rooted out from her self-confidence and belief that women should never consent to an unequal relationship with the opposite sex.

Alima's eyes are full of splendor and mirrors out her wide, fearless and reluctance to pain and losing which is indicative of her interest as more that of an intent male playing in the field than of a female lured by ornaments and gentleness of romance (Gilman 19). Knowing that women love to mastered, Terry is convinced to woe Alima using sheer brute force, pride and passion of his strong masculine side (Gilman 146). Alima eventually fall in love with Terry and eventually marries him. Their love confirms the failure of individualism as they both try to live in the Utopian society as husband and wife.

Another character in the story who reflects the failure of individualism is Jeff, one of the three explorers who found out about Herland. Jeff is the complete opposite of Terry and is strongly challenged by the independent and athletic girls of the isolated land. Jeff's individualist attitude is seen upon his involvement with the almost natural advantages of Herland and its people (Gilman 137). Jeff becomes confounded with Herland's way of living and declares his personal love for the land (Gilman 138).

Prior to the discovery of the land, it is known that Jeff is so much absorbed with the realities of the Earth but maintains a priestly and angelic approach to masculinity and womanhood. But his individualist view of the modern world is changed upon the discovery of Herland that makes him realize that there is a better world than the real one. His profound appreciation for the Herlandian culture is evident in the way he treats it women and Jeff has refined conception about the women in Herland and deep thoughts about the idealized femininity.

Jeff is strongly in love with Celis, showers her with a mystique kind of romance, and keeps on insisting that he take care of her rather than doing the typical thing of treating her as his equal better half. Jeff worships Celis and the ideals which she presented (Gilman 137). Celis's mild-mannered attitude and vulnerability force Jeff to think that twice of going back to the real world together with Celis (Gilman 149). Van, one of the explorers and also the narrator in the novel, thinks of Herland critically and philosophically.

Van has always stood at the middle ground, thinking of the Herlandian culture using science and used to argue about the physiological limitations of sex (Gilman 11). As the girls of Herland think that sex is just for procreation, both Van and Jeff have learned to overcome difficulties concerning sex. Van used to declare the discovery the land is aiming at friendship, a civilized attitude on both sides (Gilman 24). Both Jeff and Van do not want to leave the different kind of utopian society which Herland has for their own patriarchal and male-dominated world.

In this notion, it is evident that Van falls in love with the perfection of Herlandian culture and the ways of its women. It is seen in the attitude of Van that he is no longer interested with the pursuit of individualism as he is so much swept off by the beauty and perfection of Herland. Van's wife Ellador is equally intelligent as Van and is being motivated by her curiosity of the utopian modern society of her husband as well as her love for Van. Ellador explains things sweetly and kindly and thinks of Van as a wise man with no foolishness (Gilman 117).

Such concept of him makes Van reluctant to rejoin the realities of his world and present to Ellador the harshness and stupidities of the Earth (Gilman 117). Individualism in Anthem The story of Anthem revolves around its protagonist, the youth named Equality 7-2521. Equality 7-2521 finds himself in an unspecified date in which mankind is forced to negate all the concepts of individuality and conform to the productive and capitalist values which technological advancement brings.

It is clearly manifested in the novel that the author tries to eliminate the philosophical idea of individualism by eliminating the pronoun "I" and replacing it with "We" and "our" and other plural pronouns which are all indicative of conformity. Being the protagonist in the story, Equality 7-2521 struggles between individualism and collectivism. In the beginning part of the story, it is already given that the protagonist fears to be alone and dreads the consequences of having one head and one body (Rand 1). The protagonist is caught up in a world that views individualism as an illegal act, great transgression and source of all evil (Rand 1).

Equality 7-2521 is a street sweeper who believes in the concept of individualism and discourages the collectivist society which the Council has established. He can be described as vain and self-centered, brave and intelligent. His curiousity and desire for freedom are what makes him fearless of the society of brainless drones who surround him. The protagonist is a symbol of superiority of a singular intellectual being to the homogeneity of the whole society which does not have the courage to think for themselves and is indistinguishable from each other.

In order to hide from the evils of the Palace of the Great Council, Equality 7-2521 hides in an underground tunnel where he is alone and fulfils his longing for solitude (Rand 23). He describes the feeling hiding inside an abandoned tunnel and writing about his sentiments on the world which has gone wrong as a liberating experience. According to the protagonist, the air is pure and odorless in the tunnel which gives him enough strength to survive underground (Rand 23).

One of the sentiments of Equality 7-2521 is that there is no solidarity among the brotherhood because almost everyone seem to have their own personal problems, ideal and aspirations. Fraternity 2-5503 is described by the protagonist as a quiet boy with gentle eyes who suddenly cries without reason and whose body shakes at night with unexplainable sobs (Rand 24). Solidarity 9-6347 also belongs to the brotherhood and is described by Equality 7-2521 as an intelligent and bright youth, sometimes fearless, and screams in his sleep at night (Rand 24).

These observations instigate an idea that the protagonist may be different from those around him and realizes how disturbing and troubling it is to be different. Such realization makes him regret his differences and attempts to bring himself into conformity which the Council continuously promotes. The friendship of Equality 7-2521 and International 4-8818 is said to be an evil thing as they both exist in a time of great Transgression of Preference that declares loving someone better than the others in the brotherhood as illegal as it is written that they should love all men and make friends with all of them (Rand 11).

The friendship of Equality 7-2521 and International 4-8818 is suggestive of the protagonist's half-hearted attempts to erase all of his preferences for individual people, to help and care for each person equally, and to be identical to his fellow brothers. International 4-8818 considers the protagonist as a prophet. When he and Equality 7-2521 found out about the tunnel, he is torn between loyalty to his friend and to the Council. He represents an individual who secretly search for his own meaning but is disrupted in his pursuit because of the fear of breaking the law of the Council.

Another character from the story is The Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word. The protagonist describes the Transgressor as young and tall and has hair of gold and blue eyes (Rand 26). The Transgressor suffers no pain as he is burned alive and his tongue had been torn out so that he can no longer speak of the true essence and meaning of individualism (Rand 26). It is said that the Transgressor has an honorable death as there was no pain in his eyes and no hints of agony in his body (Rand 26).

It is said that there was only joy and pride, a pride holier than what is fit for the human pride (Rand 26). The Transgressor’s fate is reflective of the Council’s resentment of the word “individualism” which The Transgressor had been longing to proclaim. Collective 0-0009 is the leader of the World Council of Scholars. Equality 7-2521 considers Collective as the oldest yet the wisest of the Council who hates and fears him (Rand 42). Collective 0-0009 questions the superiority and the intelligence of the protagonist and accuses him of breaking the laws of the Council and boasting infamy (Rand 44).

The individualistic view of Collective 0-0009 is seen through his appreciation of the Council as the sole brain of the society (Rand 44). Collective 0-0009 symbolizes the thinking force behind the evils of the collectivism in the society. Though he resents Equality 7-2521, the Collective 0-0009 is shapeless and cowardly and deeply reliant on the Council. When Equality 7-2521 meets the Golden One, his search for individualism is destroyed because he enters into a new phase in his life in which there is more to life than battling collectivism.

He ventures into perfection and utopia that love insinuates as he no longer desires to deny that he prefers some of his fellows over the others. The Golden One is the name given to Liberty 5-3000 (Rand 19). Because the protagonist thinks about her all the time and his desire for love is overwhelming, he gives himself to the illegal deed. In so doing, he no longer presents to readers an individualistic Equality 7-2521, but shows to them that he is swept off by the utopia which love brings.

Moreover, the Golden One gives the protagonist the privilege of having a meaningful relationship with another human being. According to Equality 7-2521, he feels all of a sudden that the Earth is good and that it is not a burden to live (Rand 19). It is evident from the beginning that the Golden One tends to be haughty and proud and does not recognize all of the constituents of the society except for Equality 7-2521. The Golden One strongly adores the protagonist because he is the bravest and the sharpest among the brotherhood.

Such qualities of the protagonist make her subservient to him almost instantly as she initiates to take care of him as early as the third time they meet. When she follows him to the Uncharted Forest, she becomes the possession of Equality 7-2521 totally and she remains in that manner until the end. Individualism in The Handmaid’s Tale Atwood's novel explores the theme of female subjugation set in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic country that has replaced the United States of America in the map (Foster 6). The story is being narrated by Offred, one of the handmaids in the state.

It is noted that the handmaids in the country are assigned to bear children for rich couples that have trouble conceiving. The country is founded by a male chauvinist, theocratic-organized military coup as a radical response to the pervasive social, moral and ecological degradation of the country. At the first chapter, the narrator briefly describes the differences between the social setting of the country prior to the establishment of the new republic and the present time in which women are seen as objects whose value depends on their ability to give birth (Atwood 9).

The novel presents to readers an individualistic view of women as utilities for childbirth. Offred, the narrator, considers herself as a walking womb because of her duty as a handmaid whose only duty is to help maintain the declining white population (Foster 6). In the newly established country, women are stripped off of their economic and social opportunities and privileges and are recognized for their role of giving birth.

The wife of the Commander, Serena Joy, fails is ashamed of herself because of her inability to conceive and somewhat envies Offred for her reproductive capacity (Atwood 20). Offred is a patronymic slave name that refers to the Commander which she serves, such as Fred. Offred is the protagonist in the story who reflects the failure to possess an individualistic attitude by engaging in an affectionate affair. Following a continuous prodding by the Commander’s wife, Offred succumbs to an illegal affair with Nick to save herself from the uncertainties which lay ahead (Atwood 226).

The individual and disability

Outcome 1 Understand the importance of differentiating between the individual and disability Explain why it is important to recognise and value an individual as a person It is important because they deserve as much value and respect as anyone else just because they have disabilities doesn’t mean they should treated as an outsider. If you don’t value them you risk the individual becoming redrawn, lacking confidence and upset.

Describe the importance of recognising an individual’s strengths and abilities. It’s important because it able you to promote their independence and gives them confidence, also where to use the strengths to help build and gain new strengths and abilities. Helps to recognise what methods or ways are best suited to help that person.

Describe how to work in a person centred way that fully involves the individual Making sure you involve the individual in everything you do for the person ensuring the work you do bests suits the individual. Finding out likes, dislikes, finding out about their past history, so you able to make a care plan which suits the individual best.

Outcome 2 Understand the concept of physical disability

Describe what is meant by physical disability
Physical disability is an impairment/ amputation of any limbs, also physical disability include impairments which function facets daily living.

Describe what a congenital disability is
A congenital disability is present at birth, but may get more recognisable when the child gets older. Congenital disability could also get passed down the gens.

Give examples of congenital disability and their causes.
Spina Bifida- caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube. A lack of foltic acid in a diet can cause cellular neural tube deformities.

Brain damage- If the mother is a heavy drinker can cause the unborn brain damage.

Describe what a progressive disability is
A progressive disability is expected to worsen over time, it could also cause other problems down the line is well, also could affect other body parts.

Give examples of progressive disabilities and their causes
Multiple sclerosis- the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a wide range of signs and symptoms.

Muscular Dystrophy- group of muscle diseases that weaken the musculoskeletal system and hamper locomotion, Muscular dystrophies are characterized by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins, and the death of muscle cells and tissue

Outcome 3
Understand how the challenges of living with a physical disability can be addressed

Identify social and physical barriers that can have a disabling effect on an individual People with disabilities are often dismissed as incapable of accomplishing a task without the opportunity to display their skills. Because a person may be impaired in one of life's major functions, some people believe that individual is a "second-class citizen."

Identify positive and negative attitudes towards individuals with a disability Negative: some people believe it to be punishment from God for sin in their past life. They are also viewed as a burden on their families and on society. Positive: promoting independence, offering choses to the individual.

Describe steps that can be taken to challenge and change discriminatory attitudes Challenge the people why they think the way they do, then explain to them why they are wrong to think like that, then explain why they should have a positive view on discriminatory.

Describe the impact of disability legislation on community attitudes and practices There is an increasing recognition of the value of activity involving people with disabilities in planning and implanting community based rehabilitation programs

Describe the effects that having a physical disability can have on a person’s day to day life The effects include having difficulties in, washing themselves, getting dressed, cooking, getting out and about, difficulty walking might have to use a walking stick or even a wheel chair. Could need careers to help them with tasks such as washing, dressing making food and drinks, shopping.

Identify the importance for the individual of positive risk taking Positive risk taking you could find a new skill or activity the individual is good at or enjoys doing, giving the individual a sense of achievement.

Outcome 4 Understand the importance of independence and inclusion for the individual with physical disability

Describe how the individual can be in control of their care needs and provision of social care services They can be in control by being involved in their care plans, expressing their likes/ dislikes, being given choses in what they would like to do and eat. Individual is given some money to purchase services to meet their own needs as opposed to services being planned for them.

Describe the importance of supporting independence and inclusion within the community It is importance as it gives the individual a chance to meet new people, make new friends. It will make the individual more confident, and gives them enjoyment they might not have had otherwise.

Describe how to assist with independence and inclusion within the community Talk to them. Listen to what they want and what they think their needs are, then assist them accordingly. As some people want as much independence as possible, others are happy to rely on others, which is not very good for them or the support worker. It is important to encourage them to do things for themselves before they lose the ability.

The “right to be forgotten”

The “right to be forgotten” from Internet searches ought to be a civil right. Civil rights are purposed to protect freedom and equality among citizens. They are to protect individuality against society, which, by promoting self-development and self-identity—albeit ironic—ultimately leads to a collective progress. However, a society void of personality is also void of freedom—i.e. a state of being able to make decisions without external control. Individual dignity and integrity are driving forces of self-determination and form the basis of trust and societal intelligence—i.e. ability to evaluate itself and to improve.

Personal autonomy and independence constitute the premise of civil rights because civil rights promote individuals. When a society lacks personality and freedom there are no civil rights, no individuals, no humanity; there is only society, a cold mechanism of functions and persistence. This is because lack of personality indicates lack of personal identity, which is a premise of the need for civil rights. Inviolate personality is essential to a society where true civil rights can exist.

By adopting the “right to be forgotten” from Internet searches as a civil right, the government is rightfully protecting the citizens’ dignity, integrity, autonomy, and independence as an individual.

Free and equal citizenship comprises equal voice and equal vote of a citizen, and “moral independence,” i.e. ability to decide for oneself what gives meaning and value to one’s life and to take responsibility for living in conformity with one’s values. These two components stem from the “two moral powers” of personhood: the capacity for a sense of justice and the capacity for the conception of a good. To be a free and equal citizen is, in part, to have those legal guarantees that are essential to fully adequate participation in public discussion and decision-making. A citizen has a right to an equal voice and an equal vote. In addition, she has the rights needed to protect her “moral independence,” that is, her ability to decide for herself what gives meaning and value to her life and to take responsibility for living in conformity with her values (Dworkin, 1995: 25).

Accordingly, equal citizenship has two main dimensions: “public autonomy,” i.e., the individual's freedom to participate in the formation of public opinion and society's collective decisions; and “private autonomy,” i.e., the individual's freedom to decide what way of life is most worth pursuing (Habermas: 1996). The importance of these two dimensions of citizenship stem from what Rawls calls the “two moral powers” of personhood: the capacity for a sense of justice and the capacity for a conception of the good (1995: 164; 2001: 18). A person stands as an equal citizen when society and its political system give equal and due weight to the interest each citizen has in the development and exercise of those capacities.

Permanent records and inability to properly reflect relevant identity of an individual hinder the individual’s public autonomy, moral independence, and function as a member of the society. This restricts an individual’s inviolate personality. Right to privacy includes control of personal information whereby an individual keeps autonomy in the Internet database that impacts the individual’s public and private autonomy. The premise and object of privacy is inviolate personality. Therefore, without privacy there cannot be free and equal citizenship. Narrow views of privacy focusing on control over information about oneself that were defended by Warren and Brandeis and by William Prosser are also endorsed by more recent commentators including Fried (1970) and Parent (1983). In addition, Alan Westin describes privacy as the ability to determine for ourselves when, how, and to what extent information about us is communicated to others (Westin, 1967). Perhaps the best example of a contemporary defense of this view is put forth by William Parent. Parent explains that he proposes to defend a view of privacy that is consistent with ordinary language and does not overlap or confuse the basic meanings of other fundamental terms.

He defines privacy as the condition of not having undocumented personal information known or possessed by others. Parent stresses that he is defining the condition of privacy, as a moral value for people who prize individuality and freedom, and not a moral or legal right to privacy. Personal information is characterized by Parent as factual (otherwise it would be covered by libel, slander or defamation), and these are facts that most persons choose not to reveal about themselves, such as facts about health, salary, weight, sexual orientation, etc. Personal information is documented, on Parent's view, only when it belongs to the public record, that is, in newspapers, court records, or other public documents. Thus, once information becomes part of a public record, there is no privacy invasion in future releases of the information, even years later or to a wide audience,nor does snooping or surveillance intrude on privacy if no undocumented information is gained. In cases where no new information is acquired, Parent views the intrusion as irrelevant to privacy, and better understood as an abridgment of anonymity, trespass, or harassment.

Furthermore, what has been described above as the constitutional right to privacy, is viewed by Parent as better understood as an interest in liberty, not privacy. In sum, there is a loss of privacy on Parent's view, only when others acquire undocumented personal information about an individual. DeCew (1997) gives a detailed critique of Parent's position. –Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered confidential. Documented personal information is a part of the public records. However, when the individual decides to categorize his personal information as confidential, then it is thrown out of the public record, into private record.

Not granting individuals the right to remove such private personal information from Internet searches is abridgement of the right to privacy, which is essential to autonomy that forms the premise of civil rights. Information available in the Internet search database is an extension of an individual. Without the “right to be forgotten” from Internet searches, the individual cannot exercise autonomy over his own personal sphere due to lack of privacy and intimacy. Intimacy is essential to social and moral functions. Internet searches reveal not only public but also personal information whose confidentiality must remain flexible to properly reflect an individual’s sphere of privacy.

Updated: Nov 21, 2022
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Individualism in Literature. (2016, Sep 25). Retrieved from

Individualism in Literature essay
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