Anthem

by: Ayn Rand

Chapter VII

Equality 7-2521’s conflict with the World Council of Scholars forms the central event of Anthem and comes closest to being the climax of the story, because it is the point at which there is no turning back for Equality 7-2521. His smaller transgressions—preferring International 4-8818, falling in love with the Golden One and speaking to her as a lover, seeking the solitude of the tunnel, and creating the lightbulb—could potentially be forgiven and have not cut Equality 7-2521 off irreparably from his society. Once the World Council rejects the lightbulb, however, all hope of reconciliation vanishes, and Equality 7-2521’s path clears. Even though Equality 7-2521 himself does not see the path before him, it is inevitable that he break with society and seek his own way in the Uncharted Forest.

Rand claims that Anthem does not have traditional structure and that it does not have a meaningful plot. For her, the novella revolves entirely around the internal conflict inside Equality 7-2521’s mind. This conflict resolves itself in the final chapters of the novella and provides the jumping-off point for the most philosophical part of the story, the actual anthem of the title. Here, however, despite Rand’s claims about the novella’s lack of formal structure, it is possible to identify a likely candidate for the climax of the story. The conflict with the World Council becomes inevitable in this chapter, and this conflict, and the resulting exile of Equality 7-2521, helps cause Equality 7-2521’s crucial realization that he is an individual and that his individuality is more important than his place in society.

Equality 7-2521’s realization that he actually created light for his own good and for its own sake conflicts with his earlier belief that he should present the lightbulb for the good of his brothers. Rand wants us to see this changed point of view as a kind of self-actualization. She believes that Equality 7-2521 has been deluding himself about his motivations and that he can realize his true feelings only now that he is free of social constraints and returned to a state of nature. This contention is troublesome, however, for it threatens the infallibility of the individual, whom Rand cherishes so much. Her statement that Equality 7-2521 has always known the truth but has not realized this truth is tantamount to second-guessing him, which is in tension with her belief that what the individual thinks and believes is sacred and should be followed at all costs.