Anthem Summary and Analysis
by Ayn Rand
Equality 7-2521 figures out that "I" is the word he seeks when he reads one of the books in the house. When he sees the word, he understands and weeps in pity for man, knowing why he had never felt guilt for his sins and that centuries of repression will not destroy man's spirit. He reads for days and tells the Golden One about what he learns. In answer, she looks at him and says, "I love you."
He decides that they must choose their own names that distinguish them from others as names used to do in the Unmentionable Times. He chooses Prometheus, after the ancient man who brought light from god to man and was punished for his kindness. For the Golden One, he chooses Gaea, after the earth goddess who was the mother of all other gods.
Prometheus now sees his future clearly. He recalls the Saint of the pyre, who chose Prometheus as his heir when Prometheus was only ten years old. Prometheus is now the heir of those who died for the cause of the word "I." He plans to live in his house and survive on the products of his own hands while learning more from his books.
Prometheus hopes to rebuild what the present has lost and go even further, while others with his skill continue to be held back by the weak and the dull-witted. He learns that in the past, men called his power of the sky Electricity and that electricity had been the source of many of their inventions. He decides to repair the motor that provides electricity to the house and bring light to his house. He will also use wires to create a barrier separating his property from other men because although they have the advantage of numbers, they do not have his mind.
Gaea is pregnant, and Prometheus plans to raise their son as a man who understands the concept of "I" and takes pride in his own spirit. After he learns as much as he can from his new home, he also hopes to return to the City and retrieve his friend International 4-8818, as well as those such as Fraternity 2-5503 and Solidarity 9-6347 who feel their servitude and the loss of their individuality. He plans to lead them to his home and "write the first chapter in the new history of man."
Looking on the history of men, he wonders how man had abandoned his spirit for so long when all he had to do was remain free of other men after freeing himself from gods, kings, and birthrights and declaring himself to hold inalienable rights. He gave up his freedom for the word "We" and lost everything he had made, and anyone who sought as Prometheus had to regain it was punished. He asks why men had not anticipated their fall and suggests that a few men might have foreseen it but went unheeded.
Prometheus wishes that he could tell the men who failed to stop the decay that hope still exists because "man will go on. Man, not men." He and his friends will rebuild against the decrees of other men and of the Councils, and one day he will free the cities from enslavement. To signify his fight for freedom, he will carve the immortal word "ego" into the stone of his home.
Following Equality 7-2521's discovery of the word "I" comes the falling action and resolution of the novel. Armed with the correct word, the Golden One is finally able to complete the sentence which had so frustrated them twice before and tell him, "I love you." Equality 7-2521 then chooses new names for both of them, taking "Prometheus" for himself because in Greek mythology, Prometheus brought fire to man and thus "taught men to be gods" and giving the Golden One the name of "Gaea," the ancient Greek name for Mother Earth. Prometheus and Gaea also have parallels to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in that they plan to raise "a new kind of gods," although Prometheus' patriarchal renaming of Gaea and her humble acquiescence can be viewed as problematic.
Prometheus' ceremonial changing of names is a natural corollary to his celebration of "ego," the word that ends his narrative. By discarding their assigned names, they engage in a final rejection of collectivism and of the numerical designations that made each man a disposable part rather than a viable individual. By ridding himself of the misuse of Equality in his name, the protagonist makes a statement against the idea of compulsory equality, where equality means slavery and forcibly making everyone average rather than simply allowing to men to reach their full potential without legal restrictions. Liberty 5-3000, meanwhile, changes her name to Gaea and thus causes the idea of liberty to lose its ironic meaning. Additionally, by dispensing with the appellation "the Golden One," she shows that they do not need to describe her individual characteristics to establish her overall individuality.
After the renamings, Prometheus muses on the past and connects it to the future. He has presumably learned about the progress of the Western Enlightenment that he has unwittingly paralleled in his journal entries. He recounts the history of man as a dialectic of triumph, where man freed himself from everything that had enslaved him until the rise of socialism and other collectivist doctrines in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when short-sighted men willingly threw away their freedom. Rand clearly refers to the contemporary international context of the rise of Communism in the Soviet Union, which quickly turned into totalitarianism. Having completed his split from his birth society, Prometheus now sees the full dangers of collectivism and of "the worship of the word 'We,'" and he wonders how man turned away from freedom when he himself suffered so much for the cause.
Prometheus' study of the past and present causes him to decide that he will not allow the future of man to slip away in the same manner as previous history. Most of man's history has been one of progress led by the human mind, and he remains confident that the human spirit will ultimately win over oppression as long as men intuitively celebrate their own minds. Like Prometheus, he plans to bring light and knowledge to his people, but he does so through the heralding of freedom in a despairing society. As he mentally reassures the men of the past who lost the battle, Rand speaks to us both in reassurance and in warning. Prometheus and Gaea will join the lessons and successes of the past to the hope of the future, and they will raise their son at the top of the symbolic and literal mountains in the knowledge that the child is a free individual.
In addition to his plans for his own family, Prometheus expects to use his force of mind and will to save others, beginning with his loyal friend International 4-8818 and the other Street Sweepers who are closest to the instinctive feeling of loss that results from their servitude. He has learned many things about science and especially electricity as a preface to his actions of liberation because he feels confident that his knowledge will protect the free and oppose the numbers of the weak and enslaved. A naturally optimistic person, he believes in the power of individualism to overcome collectivism, and he expects that his chosen friends will be worthy of his trust. After a long, introspective journey of the mind, he is ready to reengage in the conflict of the individualists against a flawed society.
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
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