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Anthem

Ayn Rand

Chapters X–XI

Chapter IX

Chapter XII

Summary: Chapter X

Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One climb up into the mountains so that no one can follow them. They have hiked for several days when they see what they believe to be a fire but in actuality is the sun reflecting off the windows of an abandoned house. It is a two-story house with huge windows. Equality 7-2521 wonders how the house remains standing with so little wall to hold it up. They determine that it must be a house from the Unmentionable Times that was protected from the weather and time by trees. Equality 7-2521 asks the Golden One whether she is afraid, but she tells him she is not.

Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One enter the house, and they are amazed at the house and its technology. They are astounded by the idea that a house could be so small, such that it obviously housed no more than a dozen people. They are amazed by the colors in the house, as well, and are shocked to learn that houses could be a color other than white, brown, or gray. They discover mirrors and lightbulbs. They then find the bedroom and discover that it contains only two beds and they conclude that only two people lived there, and they are amazed by the privacy.

In the closet, Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One find clothes, and the Golden One is amazed at the sight of so many colors. Many of the clothes have turned to dust, but many survive. Equality 7-2521 also finds a library with shelves of books, and he is amazed that there are not manuscripts. He looks through some of the books and discovers that he knows the language but that there are many words he does not know. Equality 7-2521 tells the Golden One that they will move into the house and never leave it. They will not share it but will live there together until they die. The Golden One answers, “Your will be done.”

Equality 7-2521 goes out into the forest around the house, gathers wood and water, and kills a mountain goat to cook for dinner. The Golden One does not help him because she cannot be torn away from the mirror, where she stands staring at her own body. After sunset, the Golden One falls asleep in front of the mirror amid the finery she has discovered in the house, and Equality 7-2521 carries her to bed. He then lights a candle and returns to the library to read through the night, too excited to sleep.

As he stares out on the night below him and the sky above, he meditates on his new commandment to live and speak and give meaning to the world. He seeks guidance in his heart, and stares at his hands where he sees the history of centuries, both good and evil, and he is filled with reverence and pity. He wonders what the secret is that his heart is begging to tell him.

Summary: Chapter XI

“I am. I think. I will.”

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Equality 7-2521 realizes the meaning of the word “I” and realizes what has been missing from his world. He writes about standing at the summit of a mountain and concludes that he has reached the end of his quest to find the meaning of things because he is the meaning of things. His eyes’ seeing makes the earth beautiful, and his ears’ hearing makes the earth sing. His mind’s searching gives the earth truth. His will is the only command he respects or should respect. In his new view, the only three holy words are “I will it!”

Equality 7-2521 realizes that the goal of his existence, no matter what may come of the earth, is his personal happiness. He is not a means to an end, and he is not a servant of his brothers. His miracles are his and his alone, and he will protect them from others at all costs. He says that his treasures are his thoughts, his will, and his freedom, and the greatest of these is freedom. He owes nothing to his brothers. They owe him nothing, and he wants nothing from them. Those of his brothers who earn his honor will have it, but they will not have it just by virtue of being fellow men. He chooses his friends and he chooses when to join with them and when not to. He neither commands nor obeys.

In Equality 7-2521’s newfound view, the word “we” must always be a second thought to men, after the word “I.” When it is allowed to become a primary thought, it is the root of all evil and becomes a great lie. The word “we” enables the weak to steal from the strong and becomes a stone that crushes all those beneath it. Equality 7-2521 vows that he is finished with the old society and collectivism. He has seen the face of god, and he will raise it above the earth so that everyone may worship at its altar. His new god is “I.”

Analysis: Chapters X–XI

Equality 7-2521’s switch from the use of the word “we” to the use of the word “I” to mean himself signals the internal resolution of Anthem. Chapter XI is the culmination of all that Equality 7-2521 has learned about the evils of collectivism is the first time he sees clearly. In the sense that the novella is really about a man’s internal battle with himself to discover individualism, Chapter XI could be considered the resolution of the story’s conflict. Rand herself considered Chapters XI and XII to be the most important in the story. They are the place where she lays out in plain language the meaning of objectivism, egoism, and individualism. These philosophies place the individual above all else, and they savor freedom over the goods of society. Rand suggests that society should be sought out only when a person chooses it, as a second thought to what the individual wants, and that it should be only with those people whom the individual chooses. In Rand’s view, any other kind of life, in which another person is more important than or as important as the self, is a lie that ultimately brings about great evil.

Critics of Rand are repulsed by the blatant selfishness she professes. They argue that humankind comes together into society in order to provide and be provided for, and that in the company of others, humans gain as much from their peers as they give to them. Religious critics and others also argue that the individual has a moral obligation to care for those less fortunate than him- or herself. Rand directly engages these critics by mocking well-known passages of the New Testament. In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes that the three things that endure are faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. He says that love endures beyond even the end of the world, when faith and hope are no longer necessary virtues. Rand is deliberately offering a different triptych with her lofty estimation of thought, will, and freedom. She suggests, by implication, that of these, freedom is the cornerstone of all life and that without it nothing else endures. Moreover, Rand often announced that she was writing directly against those who believed that selfishness was a vice. She was offering an entirely new way of living, and she believed that it was the only way to live.

The language and imagery of Anthem, in addition to being laden with religious and philosophic references, is extraordinarily heavy-handed. In his moment of triumph, Equality 7-2521 stands on a mountain top at dawn—quite a melodramatic image. In his lowest moments, he suffers at the hands of men less worthy than he in a dungeon at the Palace of Corrective Detention. In this way, Rand offers a philosophy that is very easy to navigate. When she wants to mark a character as good, she makes him or her beautiful and strong. When she wants to mark a character as evil, on the other hand, she makes him or her ugly and weak. The most obvious example of this dichotomy comes in the form of the Golden One, whose physical beauty is unsurpassed, and who is, as her name suggests, blonde. By contrast, the council members are shapeless and frightened. This same kind of opposition appears in the explanation of Rand’s philosophy: collectivism is like stone, crushing those beneath it, while freedom is a treasure, and the sense of self is a god to be exalted and worshipped. Rand wants us to read Anthem seriously, in a straightforward manner. The imagery is meant to guide us directly to the right answer, the right philosophy, with a minimum of guessing and side-tracking.

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