Anthem Summary and Analysis
by Ayn Rand
Equality 7-2521's next journal entry comes from the dark forest, where he waits while sleeping on the moss for the beasts. He feels old and futureless, although earlier in the morning he feels young as he carries his box to the World Council of Scholars. No one from the Palace of Corrective Detention sees him, and no one else stops him, so he enters the great hall, where he sees the blue sky through the windows and a painting of the twenty men who invented the candle. The Scholars are sitting at a long table, and they stare at the ragged intruder with surprise, but Equality 7-2521 greets them.
The oldest member of the Council, Collective 0-0009, asks for his identity, and he responds with his name and his profession. The Scholars are angry and frightened because he has broken the law, but he says that his crimes do not matter when compared to the whole of humanity. He claims that he is nothing but that he brings a gift that holds the future of mankind. He shows them the glass box and explains about his tunnel and his escape from the Palace of Corrective Detention, and they all watch his demonstration.
When the wire begins to glow red, the terrified men of the Council run to the opposite wall. Equality 7-2521 tries to reassure them, telling them that he has tamed the power and offers it to them, but they do not move. He asks them to help him use the power to benefit humanity and bring light to their cities, but their small eyes regard him with sinister intent, and Equality 7-2521 becomes afraid.
Collective 0-0009 moves to the table, leading the other scholars, and he speaks to Equality 7-2521, condemning him for breaking the law and daring to believe that a Street Sweeper could be wiser than his brothers and that he could be most useful outside of his assigned profession. Fraternity 9-3452 berates him for thinking as one person rather than with everyone else, Democracy 4-6998 sentences him to burning at the stake, and Unanimity 7-3304 wishes to lash him to death. Collective 0-0009 disagrees and says that none but the World Council has the authority to pass judgment.
Equality 7-2521 says he does not care about his own punishment but wishes to know about the fate of the light. Collective 0-0009 smiles and points out that all his brothers do not agree that he has found a new power and that if everyone does not believe it, then it is not true. International 1-5537 notes that he has worked on his invention alone and that anything not created collectively cannot be good. Solidarity 8-1164 explains that Scholars have had new ideas before but did not follow through because the other Scholars voted against them.
More members of the council speak up, with Alliance 6-7349 believing that the box is useless and Harmony 9-2642 suggesting that the box would ruin the Department of Candles, which has been approved by the multitude and cannot be destroyed by one man's work. Unanimity 2-9913 says that the box would hurt the Plans of the World Council, which are in control of the sun's rising. The World Council had recently taken fifty years to alter the Plans to accommodate the Councils for the Candle and will not do so again for some time. Similarity 5-0306 claims that the box is evil because by making life easier, it will take away from the purpose of men, which is to work for other men.
Collective 0-0009 concludes the discussion by declaring that the box must be destroyed, and the Council agrees. Furious, Equality 7-2521 calls them fools and breaks the glass of the window in order to escape. Grasping the box, he runs blindly and trips as he arrives at the edge of the Uncharted Forest. At first, he lays still, but he eventually takes the box into the forest, feeling no fear and knowing that the other men will leave him to his fate. He knows he is doomed and that he will be corrupted by solitude, but he is tired and does not care. He realizes that he built the box for himself and not for others as he had told himself, and he regrets nothing except for the fact that he will never see the Golden One again. However, he hopes that she will forget him.
Despite Equality 7-2521's optimism and belief that the World Council of Scholars will reward him for his invention of the glass box, his meeting with the Scholars forms the climax of the novel, after which he is irreparably cut off from his society. The Scholars' dismissal of his invention breaks his last emotional connection to the ideals of collectivism and ends the section of the story that features a conflict between man and society. After this point, the development of Equality 7-2521's understanding of ego continues, but the collectivist community is no longer a looming presence and constrictor of the protagonist's actions. The end of Chapter Seven marks the nadir of Equality 7-2521's emotions, but he enters the Uncharted Forest with no more illusions about his society.
Prior to his entry to the World Council of Scholars, Equality 7-2521 still expects that those as wise as the Scholars would be inclined to rationality over fear. Since he was young, he has identified himself in spirit with the Scholars and believes that, like him, they weigh human life and happiness over the law of the state. However, he finally learns that he has been wrong and that the entire collectivist system is flawed rather than merely some of its members. The confrontation leads him to escape from the city's confines into the Uncharted Forest, which associates nature with true knowledge and which represents his now inevitable radicalization. He ceases to justify his protection of the glass box as a benefit for humanity and accepts his true motivation as the wish to create for the sake of creation.
Rand's depiction of the Home of the Scholars contrasts the reality of the Council of Scholars with the ironic mention of "famous names" and the "illustrious men who had invented the candle." The idea of fame suggests a certain level of separation from the common man that seems more individualist than collectivist, and accordingly the concept of invention is associated with fame and achievement. However, the candle came long before the Great Rebirth, and the members of the Council are huddled "as shapeless clouds," again emphasizing the bodiless nature of collectivism. They are confused by the presence of an intruder, for just as no one had ever thought to escape the Palace of Corrective Detention, no one has thought to interrupt the World Council, and they are particularly shocked by his low status.
The behavior of the Council of Scholars suggest that any group is ineffective and that the ills of Soviet Russia were not simply the result of faulty execution. Their insistence that all must agree in order for something to be true makes knowledge subjective, in contrast to Equality 7-2521's Objectivist ideas, and it causes stagnation as the weakest and most frightened sectors of society slow progress. They cannot agree on how to use new technology and rank obedience above prosperity or learning. Even the de facto spokesperson who has some mild claim to individualism, Collective 0-0009, rejects him. Significantly, the suggestions of Democracy 4-6698 and Unanimity 7-3304 equate Equality 7-2521's sin of individual thought to the only crime officially punishable by death, the speaking of the Unspeakable Word.
As Equality 7-2521 noted in the other Street Sweepers, collectivism's tenants engender fear instead of happiness as the main emotion, but while his coworkers fear the state, the Council of the Scholars are near the top of the hierarchy and fear nothing more than an active individual. They make a multitude of excuses to reject the glass box, but they recognize its efficacy and more importantly recognize the danger to their society in the possibility of rewarding Equality 7-2521. In their view, they cannot be seen to encourage free thought. At the same time, by rebuffing him, they miss a crucial opportunity to assimilate a potential radical, and Equality 7-2521 consequently sunders his remaining ties to the City.
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