Anthem

by: Ayn Rand

Chapter II

Summary Chapter II

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.