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Anthem

Ayn Rand

Chapter II

Chapter I

Chapters III–IV

There was no pain in their eyes and no knowledge of the agony of their body. There was only joy in them, and pride, a pride holier than it is fit for human pride to be.

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Summary

Equality 7-2521 meets Liberty 5-3000, a worker in the Home of the Peasants. She is working in the fields near the road he is sweeping when he sees her and falls in love with her. She is physically beautiful, tall, and blonde with a hard face and an unafraid expression. She sees him on the road, and the next day, she comes over to the hedges where he is working. They do not speak to each other but gesture so each recognizes the other. He comes to name Liberty 5-3000 the Golden One.

Several days later, Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One speak for the first time. He tells her that she is beautiful, and she remains stoic upon receiving the compliment. She tells him she does not want him to be her brother, and he tells her that he does not want her to be his sister. On the second day, while they are looking at each other, Equality 7-2521 thinks of the City Palace of Mating, a place where all the physically mature men and women of the city are sent each year and assigned to have sex with another person. Equality 7-2521 does not understand why he thinks of the City Palace of Mating while he is looking at the Golden One, but he does not want to see her there. Fortunately, the Golden One is only seventeen, not old enough to be sent to the City Palace of Mating. Nevertheless, the thought makes Equality 7-2521 very angry, and the Golden One sees his anger and smiles. In “the wisdom of women” she understands more than Equality 7-2521.

At dinner, Equality 7-2521 is reprimanded for singing out of joy. He tells the reprimanding Council Member that he is happy and that is why he sings, and the Council Member tells him that he should be happy since he lives among his brothers. In the tunnel, Equality 7-2521 meditates on the meaning of happiness and the fact that it is forbidden to be unhappy. He concludes that his brothers are not happy because they are afraid. Equality 7-2521 is not afraid when he is in his tunnel, and he concludes that he wishes not to be afraid, that he is glad to live, even though his lack of fear arouses suspicion in his brothers. He notices Fraternity 2-5503, who sobs and cries without explanation, and Solidarity 9-6347, who has screaming fits in the middle of the night.

Equality 7-2521 begins to dream of the Unmentionable Times and the Uncharted Forest, which has overgrown the cities of that time. He begins to wonder what the Evil Ones, those who lived in the Unmentionable Times, thought and wrote, about whom only those in the Home of the Useless still have any memory. He wonders about the Unspeakable Word, which used to be present in the language of men but is not anymore. Speaking the Unspeakable Word is the only crime punishable by death. He recalls seeing the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word burned alive in the town square for speaking the Unspeakable Word, and he remembers that there was no pain in his face, only joy. As he died, the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word stared at Equality 7-2521, and Equality 7-2521 thought he looked like a saint.

Analysis

In the Golden One, Equality 7-2521 finds a match for his physical perfection and stoic self-righteousness. Though she later bows to Equality 7-2521 as her master, Rand introduces the Golden One here as the pinnacle of feminine power and wisdom. The Golden One takes Equality 7-2521’s affection for her as a personal triumph, and she is hard and unafraid like him. He worships her and thinks of her constantly as a goal to be achieved and an object to be admired. Even once they meet, their encounters are discreet, and he comes to her as an admirer, while she in turn accepts his admiration as the natural conclusion of her perfection. Feminists criticize Rand’s view of women, arguing that it idealizes and dehumanizes them and ultimately subjugates them to the will of men. Rand, however, believes that the success of women is in their innate wisdom—an unspoken, intuitive kind of knowledge—and in their physical beauty. As with all her characters, Rand idealizes physical beauty, which sets her heroes apart from her villains.

Sex and the relationship between men and women play an important role in Rand’s works, including Anthem, in which she presents the City Palace of Mating as the ultimate evil in sexual relations because is allows for sex without choice. Notably, Equality 7-2521 does not even recognize the connection between his love for the Golden One and his physical lust, and he feels shame at the idea that he could be forced to have sex with the Golden One or to witness her be forced to have sex with someone else. For Rand, sex is not sex without choice, and so there is no connection at all between the City Palace of Mating and the pure love felt by Equality 7-2521 for the Golden One.

Equality 7-2521’s meditations on happiness involve fear and freedom, a contrast that runs throughout Anthem. For Rand, happiness is possible only with absolute freedom, and freedom erases all possibility of fear. Fear accompanies the introduction of arbitrary power into human existence, epitomized by the forcing of individuals to work for the good of others. The Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word is another example of the impossibility of fear in the face of freedom. Though he is burned on the pyre, he is unafraid of death or torture because he has learned to speak of himself as “I.” Rand does not explicitly say why the Transgressor is not afraid, but his bravery can be explained by the fact that Rand’s philosophy holds that individualism brings great happiness and that it is worth dying to experience one’s own sense of self. Though the Transgressor’s death, of course, mirrors the tales of Judeo-Christian saints and martyrs, the nature of his martyrdom contrasts with the nature of theirs. In Christian stories, the saints suffer on earth, even as they die, in the knowledge that they will be rewarded for their suffering with heaven. They firmly hold the ideal for which they are martyred, but the martyrdom itself is torturous. For Rand, by contrast, true happiness and ideals are possible on earth, and so death in the name of an ideal is its own reward. Her characters do not suffer for their faith; rather, their faith provides their happiness.

The discussion of the Unmentionable Times alerts us to the fact that this is not a society that has failed to achieve greatness but rather one that has forgotten that which made it great. This -difference is important, as the existence of this past provides Equality 7-2521 WITH A GLIMPSE OF AN alternative MODEL FOR SOCIETy and for his own existence. Rand does not specify how long before Equality 7-2521’s time this fall from greatness occurred, but it occurred recently enough that the people in the Home of the Useless still recall the old times and that Equality 7-2521 knows that the Uncharted Forest was not always there—that it sprung up over the old cities. The knowledge of this past gives Equality 7-2521 something to aspire to, and his growing obsession with the Unmentionable Times foreshadows his eventual break from the society that constrains him.

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