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Anthem

Ayn Rand

Chapter XII

Chapters X–XI

Important Quotations Explained

But I still wonder how it was possible, in those graceless years of transition, long ago, that men did not see whither they were going, and went on, in blindness and cowardice, to their fate.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Summary

Equality 7-2521 tells us that he has discovered the word “I” while reading the books in his library. The discovery moves him to tremendous elation and pity for mankind. After he has read for some time, he calls the Golden One to him and tells her about what he has found. She listens and then tells him she loves him. He then decides that they each need a new name. He names himself Prometheus, and he names her Gaea. She accepts her name without comment.

Equality 7-2521 concludes that the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word, whom he saw burned at the stake in his youth, chose him as his heir to carry on his crusade after he was gone. He resolves to live in his new home and kill and raise his own food and learn the secrets of the Unmentionable Times from the books in the house. He will rebuild the world that has disintegrated at the hands of the collectivists because he is not shackled to the weakest of his society. He will build a fence of wires around his house so that no one from his old city can come onto his property unless he chooses to allow them.

The Golden One becomes pregnant, and Equality 7-2521 resolves that his son will be raised as a real man who takes pride in his own existence. He will work to get his house into working order and his land planted, and when he has succeeded in renovating and restoring his home, he will go back to the city and gather the few people, including his friend International 4-8818, whose spirits have not been broken by society. He will bring them up to his home to begin a new race.

Equality 7-2521 meditates on human history. He says that man was first enslaved by the gods, but that he broke free from the gods. Man was then enslaved by kings, but he revolted from the kings. He was then enslaved by his birth, kin, and race, and he broke free from all these things. He declared himself to have naturally endowed rights of which he could not be deprived.

Equality 7-2521 wonders about everything that men have lost in the name of collectivism and why men could not see their demise coming. He concludes that there must have been some men who did see it coming and suffered great agonies during the fall, and he wishes he had a way to tell them across time that their hope is not forever lost. He concludes that man’s spirit will always prevail over the evils of collectivism, though it may take time. He resolves that he will bring back the lost world for the sake of man’s freedom, rights, life, and honor. Even if his new race fails, its members’ sense of individualism will never die because these members are united under the most important word in human history: “ego.”

Analysis

The renaming of the Golden One and Equality 7-2521 signals their complete transformation from the social creatures they are early on in Anthem into the free individuals they now are. Prometheus, the name Equality 7-2521 chooses for himself, was a Greek man who crept up to Olympus, the home of the gods, and stole fire from them. He brought the fire back down to humans, enabling them to cook and have light at nighttime. Equality 7-2521 chooses the name Prometheus for himself in part as a reference to his inventing the lightbulb and in part because he believes he will bring a new philosophy of individualism to the earth. Gaea, whose name Equality 7-2521 gives to the Golden One, was the Greek mother earth, who gave birth to the other gods and goddesses as well as to the sky and the sea. He chooses this name for her because she will, in his belief, give birth to a race of gods to rule the earth. Feminists object to the naming of the Golden One, who has now been named twice by her mate, and who apparently has no independent sense of self-worth. Moreover, the name Gaea promotes her as the mother of the new race but essentially makes of her nothing more than a vessel for Equality 7-2521’s offspring. Rand might argue, however, that the Golden One is an active participant in the new world and that her part is to make the world beautiful and to endow her children with a sense of individualism. The characters’ assumption of new names signifies that their break with society, which begins with the presentation of the lightbulb to the World Council of Scholars, is now complete and final.

Critics of Rand’s philosophy take issue with Equality 7-2521’s winner-takes-all attitude and apparent dreams of world domination. They take issue with the fact that he co-opts the home in the forest without knowing to whom it belongs and then immediately cordons it off as his own. Furthermore, they say, Rand’s championing of a new race of man has particularly sinister connotations given that Anthem was published in the United States on the heels of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s defeat during World War II. Given that Hitler too advocated the founding of a superior race of men, specifically by killing off those he believed were weighing society down, Anthem’s appearance was particularly ill-timed. Rand’s advocates, however, would point out that she is declaring the supremacy of human rights and that she believes each man is endowed with them. They would argue further that Rand stands in direct opposition to the kind of authoritarian oppression manifest in Hitler’s Nazi regime because it deprives men of the chance to participate in the world as human beings with natural rights and a sense of their own worth. No one, they would say, should be deprived of his or her rights or life in the name of the collective society.

Rand sends a message to her contemporaries fighting for individualism with Equality 7-2521’s remarks that he wishes he could carry a message to those past generations that suffered during the transition period. Since Rand sees her own time as the transition from the glory of individualism, represented by the United States in the 1890s and 1920s, to the age of collectivism, represented by Russia starting around 1917, she wants both to warn those who believe in collectivism about its dangers and to bolster those who are still holding up the resistance in the name of the individual. For this reason, her hero speaks directly to those crusaders for the ego and tells them that no matter how bleak things may look, the individual will survive, and with him, the possibility of rebirth. The political nature of Anthem comes through most clearly in this last section too in which Rand lays out her plan to bring back the individual and encourages those who are helping her do so. In this way, she herself is acting as a sort of political prophet, ushering in the new age that she describes through Equality 7-2521’s vision, and this prophesying proves the driving force of the whole novella.

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