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.
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.
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.