Why does the Council of Vocations assign Equality the job of the street sweeper? Is it due to error, incompetence or a more sinister motivation?

In the front of the book


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Equality 7-2521 does not enjoy his schooling because he is too intelligent for the subject matter and thus stands out from his classmates. He tries unsuccessfully to act like the slow-witted Union 5-3992 and is often punished for his differences. However, he believes in the Teachers because they have been appointed by the just and powerful Council, and he feels guilty because he wants a specific job after the end of his schooling, although he should accept the wisdom of the Council of Vocations.

He has always preferred science and, to the Teachers' dismay, asks too many questions about the subject. The Council of Scholars states that the world is flat and at the center of the galaxy, and the schools teach how to bleed men to cure them; Equality 7-2521 wants to know more and dares to wish for a work assignment to the Home of the Scholars. The Home of the Scholars is the source of all inventions, such as glass and the candle, the latter of which had only been discovered a hundred years ago, and Equality 7-2521 wants to join their investigations. When the Council of Vocations announces their assigned vocations, Equality 7-2521 hopes to be made a Scholar even more than a Leader, an honorable profession which leads to election to the City, State, and World Councils. Instead, he is given the profession of Street Sweeper, and he decides to atone for his sin of desire by proudly working his new job.


Although Equality 7-2521 himself expresses guilt rather than awareness of the injustices of his government, he consistently receives punishment from his society for his exceptional qualities, which range from his above-average height of six feet to his intelligence and curiosity regarding the sciences. Because he cannot conform and because he dares to think as an individual rather than as one of the crowd, the Council of Vocations takes away his freedom of choice and makes him a Street Sweeper rather than a Scholar (or, for that matter, any position in which he might make full use of his abilities). The House of Street Sweepers appears to act as a repository for two categories of men -- those such as Union 5-3992 who are too weak or dull for any other job, and those such as Equality 7-2521 and International 4-8818 who are too talented to risk having a more powerful niche in society.