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Anthem

Ayn Rand

Chapters III–IV

Chapter II

Chapters V–VI

Summary: Chapter III

While dissecting a frog hanging on a copper wire, Equality 7-2521 discovers the power of electricity, which he explores in his tunnel underground. In his journal, he recounts his experiments: he makes a magnet move using electricity and creates a lighting rod outside the tunnel. He explores his tunnel to look for technology, and he discovers unidentified boxes with wires and switches and lightbulbs, although he does not yet know how to use them. He worries that he is the only person in the world with this knowledge because he has been taught that the Council of Scholars knows everything and that all men share all collective knowledge. Along these lines of thinking, anything known by only one person cannot be true by virtue of the fact that not everyone knows it.

At first Equality 7-2521 says that he has discovered a new power that was previously unknown to any man. This power frightens him even though he believes it is a very important and potent force. Later, Equality 7-2521 concludes that electricity is the power of the sky, and that men in the Unmentionable Times had harnessed the power of the sky. He becomes an avid scientist, exploring the power of electricity, and in his quest he realizes how much he does not know and how much of his previous learning had been mistaken. Equality 7-2521 announces in his journal that he knows more than the Council of Scholars, something which his society believes is impossible.

Summary: Chapter IV

Many days after his first conversation with the Golden One, Equality 7-2521 speaks to her again by the hedges along the road he sweeps. She is waiting for him there when he arrives one afternoon, and he sees that she will obey him, despite her scorn for the rest of the world. He tells her that he has renamed her “the Golden One,” and she tells him that she has renamed him “the Unconquered.” He warns her that such thoughts are not permitted, and she responds that he thinks them anyway and wants her to think them. He agrees, but, calling her “dearest one,” warns her not to obey him. He believes he is the first man ever to call a woman “dearest one.” She offers her body to him in submission by gesturing that she belongs to him.

The Golden One urges Equality 7-2521 to come into the field where it is cooler, but he refuses to cross the hedge, so she brings him water to drink. She holds the water in her hands and holds her hands to his lips, and they stand that way for several moments after he has finished drinking. Even though their conversation remains undiscovered by the others in the field, they each back away, confused by their intimate gesture.

Analysis: Chapters III–IV

Equality 7-2521’s break with society manifests itself in both explicit and more subtle, structural ways. With the discovery of electricity, Equality 7-2521 moves away from his musings on the state of his society and less frequently exhorts the Councils to forgive him. Instead, he writes with newfound fervor for his scientific exploration. This shift signifies his increasing independence from the society around him because it shows him finding truth in the external world rather than in the opinions of others. Nevertheless, at this point in the novella, Equality 7-2521 still worries about the conventions of society, especially about the fact that his discoveries are his alone. Later, he breaks entirely with such conventions, but here he still doubts what he thinks he knows about himself and the world around him. Such doubts allow us to witness the slow and gradual process of his leaving society.

The content of the conversations that Equality 7-2521 has with others constitutes important markers of his progress toward an eventual break from his society. Because these conversations are rare—Anthem consists almost entirely of musings about the state of the natural and human world and thus often bears resemblance to a scientific journal or a religious meditation—they gain even greater significance in their function as expressions of individual will. Equality 7-2521’s conversation with International 4-8818 in Chapter I demonstrates Equality 7-2521’s willingness to break the law in pursuit of truth. His conversation with the Golden One here builds upon his growing desire for freedom from the society that constrains him. His calling her “dearest one,” which evidences his increasing attraction to her, demonstrates his willingness to break the law in the pursuit of love.

The conversation between the Golden One and Equality 7-2521 is rife with biblical imagery, both in their naming of each other and her giving him water to cool him. Naming, the original power of man in Genesis, makes the Golden One and Equality 7-2521 more intimate with each other and establishes their possession of each other. Interestingly, though Liberty 5-3000 is referred to throughout Anthem as “the Golden One,” the name Equality 7-2521 assigns to her, her name for him does not appear again in the text. Feminists argue that this disparity marks the fundamental inequality in Rand’s view of men and women, though Rand might say that the issue is entirely stylistic: after all, Equality 7-2521 is writing the text, and it would be hard to incorporate the Golden One’s name for him into the text in a meaningful way.

The offering of water is important both because it represents the Golden One’s assumption of the role of caretaker and also because it is laden with biblical imagery. In offering water to Equality 7-2521, the Golden One adopts a role as caretaker and comfort-giver—a role feminists might argue Rand prescribes for her out of a heightened sense of the traditional roles of women. The offering of water is significant also, however, because it is an image very common in the Judeo-Christian Bible. According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ often asked and received water from townspeople he met in his travels, and the sharing of water is considered to be a virtue, as it represents the giving of life-sustaining respite from the heat and weariness of travel. Notably, Christ usually made followers of those who gave him water to drink. In this case, the Golden One’s giving water to Equality 7-2521 accompanies her conversion into obedience of him, represents her comforting of him, and is also shot through with sexual overtones. As she nurtures Equality 7-2521, he desires her and she desires him shamelessly for the first time in the novella. Rand seems to be conjoining the conversion experience and the sexual experience into one baffling moment of ecstasy.

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