by: Ayn Rand

Equality 7-2521

All men are good and wise. It is only we, Equality 7-2521, we alone who were born with a curse. For we are not like our brothers.

Equality 7-2521 introduces himself as “cursed” at the beginning of the novella. Not only does Equality 7-2521 stand taller than those around him, but he prefers the company of certain people, and preference is not allowed. Equality 7-2521 considers himself cursed because he clearly doesn’t fit in with the rest of the men in his society.

We know not why our curse makes us seek we know not what, ever and ever. But we cannot resist it.

At the beginning of the novella, Equality 7-2521 describes how he made a concerted effort to diminish his differences and conform to his society. Before he broke free, Equality 7-2521 truly believed that his curiosity and driving desire “to know” were sins and things to be stifled. Later, Equality 7-2521 will reflect on his gratefulness for not being able to resist his innate desires.

We said: “The Council does not know of this hole, so it cannot be forbidden.”

Equality 7-2521’s discovery of the tunnel and view of such a discovery mark his first real break from society. His friend, International 4-8818, seems hesitant to go down the tunnel because he assumes the Council would forbid him from doing so. Yet here Equality 7-2521 cleverly rationalizes that the Council can’t forbid what it doesn’t know exists. Equality 7-2521’s curiosity and intelligence lead him to his act of defiance.

This place belongs to us, Equality 7-2521, and to no other men on earth. And if ever we surrender it, we shall surrender our life with it also.

Equality 7-2521 tells International 4-8818 that the tunnel is theirs and theirs alone, and he makes International 4-8818 swear his life to protect their secret discovery. This bold claim stuns International 4-8818, who finds himself torn between protecting his friend and remaining free of sin. The fervor with which Equality 7-2521 states his claim to the tunnel signifies his strengthening pull toward his individuality.

Each night, for three hours, we are under the earth, alone.

After they discover the tunnel, Equality 7-2521 explains how he and International 4-8818 sneak away to spend time there alone at night. During these stolen hours, Equality 7-2521 experiences a level of solitude and distance from society that he has not experienced before. His time in the tunnel allows Equality 7-2521 to nurture his growing individuality.

You are beautiful, Liberty 5-3000.

When Equality 7-2521 sees Liberty 5-3000, a woman he later refers to as the Golden One, he becomes overcome by her presence and tells her she is beautiful, an act forbidden by his society. Her height, piercing eyes, and prideful manner draw him in. While he tried to overcome his preference for his friend International 4-8818, he cannot—and does not want to—overcome his preference for Liberty 5-3000. Equality 7-2521’s discovery of Liberty 5-3000 and his stated preference for her mark an even deeper break from his society.

And it seemed as if these eyes were trying to tell us something through the flames, to send into our eyes some word without sound.

Equality 7-2521 recounts his experience watching the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word’s public punishment for uttering the word I, a word strictly forbidden by their society. Here he recounts a moment when his and the Transgressor’s eyes lock, which Equality 7-2521 takes as a sign for something he can’t yet figure out. Symbolically this meeting marks the moment that Equality 7-2521 takes on the Transgressor’s mantle to become the next defector.

Our discovery is too great for us to waste our time in sweeping the streets.

When Equality 7-2521 discovers the lightbulb, he has now found a reason to rebel completely from his society. Equality 7-2521 says in light of such an incredible discovery, he now views his assigned role in society to be a waste of time. The discovery of the lightbulb gives Equality 7-2521’s life purpose, and his new mission is to ensure that he shares this newfound light with his brothers. Readers may infer here that light from the lightbulb symbolizes knowledge and curiosity, two mental qualities his society has tried to suppress for so long.

We both knew it without words: this house was left from the Unmentionable Times.

Equality 7-2521 comments on the house he and Liberty 5-3000— the Golden One—find in the Unchartered Forest. Such a discovery marks a time when Equality 7-2521 can begin to provide for himself. As a couple, he and Liberty 5-3000 can now settle into a life in the forest together. They also find books in the house, which leads to their discovery of the word I and their complete break from society.

He will be taught to say “I” and to bear the pride of it.

Equality 7-2521 declares that he will raise his children to learn and use the word I, the very word forbidden by his cursed city of birth, a word for which he watched the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word be burned alive. Equality 7-2521 has finally completely broken free from his society and has fathered a new race, symbolically represented by his adopted new name, Prometheus.