Ayn Rand rejected the common notion that collectivism is noble in theory yet somehow leads to oppression and bloodshed in practice. In We the Living, she shows why it is the theory of collectivism that is evil — and why its brutal practices necessarily flow from its evil moral ideals. In this lesson — the first of two lessons analyzing themes of We the Living — we invite you to explore the novel’s central theme: The supreme value of a human life. What does it mean to truly value one’s own life? What does that require of a person? And how does the collectivist state systematically destroy every one of these requirements?

Spoiler alert: This lesson assumes that students have read We the Living.