Anthem Summary and Analysis
by Ayn Rand
Equality 7-2521 greatly enjoys his first day in the forest. He awakens from a ray of sunlight rather than from a bell, and he resists the urge to jump to his feet as he would have as a Street Sweeper. Instead, he continues to lie down and relaxes as he views the sky and the leaves.
He laughs as he realizes that he can either stay lying down or rise and do whatever he wishes. He thinks he is not making any sense, but his body rises and spins around until his hands swing him into a tree, as he celebrates his own strength. When the branch snaps, he falls back onto the moss, and he begins to roll in the moss and laugh.
He takes his glass box and goes into the forest, feeling as though he is swimming through the leaves. The trees seems to part for him in welcoming, and he joyously continues until he becomes hungry. He throws a stone and kills a bird before making a fire and cooking the bird in a delicious meal, thinking that it is so filling because he is proud of his own accomplishment.
Walking onward, he reaches a stream and, kneeling to drink, he sees his face for the first time in the reflection. He sees that his body is beautiful and trustworthy because his face is not pitiful like those of others. He continues walking until the sun sets, and he finds a hollow among some tree roots in which to sleep. Only now remembering that he is Damned, he laughs. He continues writing in his journal with paper he had hidden in his clothing, as he never gave the journal to the World Council of Scholars, but he does not understand enough of what he thinks to express it on paper.
After the resigned despair at the end of the previous chapter, Equality 7-2521 writes his next journal entry in an entirely different tone. His first day in the Uncharted Forest teaches him that his society's teachings about "the corruption to be found in solitude" are fabrications, and he barely thinks of his separation from the community as he explores the forest. As he journeys deeper into the wilderness, he is both physically and spiritually walking away from collectivism and the City. In Anthem, the only true restraint on man is other men, and the real corruption comes from the opposite of solitude. Although Equality 7-2521 does not yet have the vocabulary or the organization in his thoughts necessary to express what he has learned, his subconscious immediately recognizes and understands his new position.
The dystopian setting of the novel has certain advantages for the message Rand tries to convey. By taking collectivist ideas to their logical, if extreme conclusion, Rand offered a rebuttal to contemporary philosophers who believed that collectivism could be positive if humans did not try to take advantage of the system. Furthermore, the author chooses to explore the negative aspects of a collectivist society first so that Equality 7-2521 can recognize the full spectrum of suffering caused by collectivism before he sees the other side of the coin. The day after he leaves the City is his first experience of freedom, and he feels it more intensely because he has been deprived of it for twenty-one years. The text has thus far hinted that the end of the Unmentionable Times occurred because humanity did not appreciate what it had gained in its knowledge and principles, but Equality 7-2521 will never make the same mistake.
Despite a life in the City and no experience in the wilderness, Equality 7-2521 adopts the ways of nature with surprising facility. He has an innate connection with nature, as shown by his unconscious decision to run to the Uncharted Forest after his disastrous appearance at the World Council of Scholars. His entry into the forest purifies him, and his killing of the bird reflects his capability and his will to live, as well as his physical superiority. In Rand's narrative, he kills the bird on the first attempt, in spite of the unlikeliness of the scenario, because he is the representative man who embodies the best of human potential.
To Equality 7-2521, the needs of the body are incidental to his ability to satisfy them, and after he eats the bird, he wishes to be hungry again so that he can again feel pride in his accomplishments. His revived interest in his body recurs throughout the day. As he sees the stream of water and observes his reflection for the first time, he reverses the Greek myth of Narcissus. Whereas Narcissus saw himself and became so enamored of his image that he wasted away by the river, Equality 7-2521 sees vitality in his appearance. Rand does not describe him in detail, giving him a universal, representative quality, but he sees a beautiful, proud body just as he had previously expected. The characteristics he admires are the same that he sees in the Transgressor at the stake and the Golden One, and they in turn have recognized him for the integrity of his appearance, while the Councils also see his body and understands that they are afraid.
By entering the Uncharted Forest, Equality 7-2521 continues his transformation into the prototypical man. Unlike Adam of Genesis, however, he does not fall from the Garden of Eden by following Eve and consuming an apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Instead, Equality 7-2521 is able to enter the forest precisely because he has begun to learn the truth of what is good and what is evil. His time in the Uncharted Forest cements his will to learn, although he still does not quite know what answer he seeks, and he characterizes his experience through laughter. The Council of Vocations sent International 4-8818 to the Home of the Street Sweepers because he liked to laugh, but Equality 7-2521 has regained happiness because he can laugh and sing without consequence.
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