Anthem Summary and Analysis
by Ayn Rand
Equality 7-2521 begins his next journal entry sitting at a table with paper that is thousands of years old. He cannot see the Golden One sleeping on the bed in the dim light. They find the house earlier in the morning after crossing a mountain chain that has been protected by the Uncharted Forest from discovery by the Cities. Their path through the mountains is dangerous, but they know this way that no one can follow them.
At sunrise, they see what they think is a fire but actually turns out upon further investigation to be the reflection of the sun on the glass of a house's windows. The house has two stories, a flat roof, and many windows, and it is made of the same hard substance as his secret tunnel. They realize without speaking that the house must be a remnant from the Unmentionable Times, hidden by the trees from time, weather, and man.
Neither Equality 7-2521 nor the Golden One are afraid, so they enter the house of the Unmentionable Times and explore the house. The rooms are small, suggesting that only a few people lived in the house, although they find it hard to imagine that men were allowed to live in such small groups. The rooms are full of light and color, and the glass on the walls reflect instead of being transparent.
The house holds many strange objects, including globes of glass that contain metal strands such as those in Equality 7-2521's tunnel. The sleeping hall is small, with only two beds, and they are surprised that the men of the Unmentionable Times were allowed to live in groups of two. The clothes in the house are colorful, unlike the City's plain white togas and tunics, and some of the less fragile clothes still feel soft and new.
One of the rooms is full of shelves holding many manuscripts which are bound with hard leather and cloth rather than curled into rolls. They are fascinated by the small letters on the page and by some of the words which are in their language but unfamiliar, and they decide to begin reading tomorrow. After seeing all the rooms, he decides to claim the house as their own, and she agrees.
He gathers wood for the fireplace and water from the nearby stream, and he kills a goat, which he cooks in a copper pot they find in the strange cooking room. Meanwhile, the Golden One continues to stare at her reflection in the mirror. When she falls asleep on the floor after dark, he carries her to a bed and lights a candle before bringing paper from the manuscript room and sitting sleeplessly by the window.
Equality 7-2521 looks outside at the mountains and moonlight, which seem to hint at the renewal of the world. He feels that the world is waiting for his words, but he does not know what he must say. On his hands, he sees the residue of centuries which hides many secrets, and he feels both pity and respect as he ponders what his heart wishes to reveal to him.
The house from the Unmentionable Times connects Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One with the achievements of the past, and they feel an instinctive kinship with the house so that they feel no fear upon discovery of the building. The house is a feat of engineering, made of concrete and exhibiting the large glass windows that characterizes much modern architecture and echoes the design principles of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. The light and colors throughout the house contrast the whiteness of the Home of the Students and indicate that the end of the protagonist's search for the solution to collectivism approaches, since the text often equates light with his journey toward the Unspeakable Word. He emerges from the forest and ceases to run away from the City, sensing an impending solution.
Of all the wonders in the house, the idea that only two people lived in the house surprises Equality 7-2521 the most. He originally estimates that the building must have provided the living space for no more than twelve people, a number that is astonishing to a reader from America or Western Europe, where almost everyone lives in much smaller units. In addition, his first conclusion hints at how tightly the dormitories of the City pack all of the City's citizens in the attempt to prevent anyone from ever being alone. Finally, he realizes that the house must have only provided for two people, and he is astonished and intensely curious about the Unmentionable Times.
If the discovery of the low population density of the house most astonishes Equality 7-2521, then he is most interested in the library, which he decides he will explore. He hopes that the manuscripts, which are really books, will resolve the instinctive knowledge of his body with the questions of his mind. He cannot sleep because he feels that nature is willing him to give it a sign so that he can dominate nature as man ought to do, and he suspects that the vocabulary of the books will give him the answer. He mentions that he does not recognize some of the words from the scripts, but Rand clearly indicates with his words that once he determines their meaning, he will find his own meaning.
The Golden One continues to show her physical courage as well as her submissiveness to the dominant male, as when he announces that they will live in the house, and she responds, "Your will be done." Her answer has a distinctly Biblical phrasing, again recalling comparisons to Adam and Eve and other religious or mythological first couples. Nevertheless, she displays the stereotypically female trait of vanity, choosing to stare at herself in a mirror rather than helping the narrator cook dinner. While he shares her fascination with the human body, but he chooses to act rather than merely revel in observation.
The seclusion of the house in the mountains beyond the Uncharted Forest lead to questions about how far-reaching the World Council really is. Although Rand gave the World Council a universally oppressive feel, the belief of the Scholars that the world is flat suggests that the extent of the society's influence is more limited than the authorities suggest. The limited technology of Equality 7-2521's society would also restrict the ability of the regime to maintain world-wide communication, and the mountains are not marked on the City maps, indicating that the World Council may actually control a fairly small area bordered by natural obstacles such as the Uncharted Forest. This supposition leads in turn to the question of why the society would not know about bordering civilizations. Lack of curiosity may have stifled exploration, or perhaps the wars at the end of the Unmentionable Times depopulated nearby regions. Questions of the World Council's reach do not matter greatly to a reading of Anthem as a parable, but they do further undermine the image of a monolithic collectivist society presented initially presented in the novel.
Anthem Essays and Related Content
- Anthem: Major Themes
- Anthem: Questions
- Anthem: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Ayn Rand: Biography
- Anthem Summary
- About Anthem
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter One
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Two
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Three
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Four
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Five
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Six
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Seven
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Eight
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Nine
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Ten
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Eleven
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Twelve
- The Case Against Objectivism
- Related Links on Anthem
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources