When working with the Street Sweepers in a road north of the city, Equality 7-2521 sees Liberty 5-3000, a woman from the Home of the Peasants, and he is instantly attracted to her tall, blonde beauty and her fearless, guiltless expression. He learns her name as she is called back to the fields by the others, and he begins to look forward to seeing her every day, although he knows that he is forbidden to express preference for one woman. One day, Liberty 5-3000 also turns to look at him with her taut, severe face before walking away. The next day, Liberty 5-3000 smiles at him, and they begin to greet each other every morning at the hedge between the road and the fields. They do so silently, with a subtle salute, because neither of them is allowed to communicate with those of other vocations.
Equality 7-2521 knows that, for the second time in his life, he is guilty of expressing a preference. Nevertheless, he feels better in Liberty 5-3000's presence. He names her the Golden One because she is not like the others, although it is a sin to bear a unique name, and he also ignores the prohibition against thinking of members of the opposite gender outside of the Time of Mating. For two years, he has been sent once per year to the City Palace of Mating, as have all men over twenty and women over eighteen, but the process of mating with a woman assigned by the Council of Eugenics is shameful, and the parents never see their children.
Eventually, Equality 7-2521 speaks to the Golden One on a day when the other Peasants and Street Sweepers are far away. She rises from kneeling at the moat and walks to the hedge, and, because Equality 7-2521 decides that International 4-8818 will not betray him and that Union 5-3992 will not understand the significance of their conversation, he tells her that she is beautiful. She does not move but reveals a triumphant expression before asking his name.
Liberty 5-3000 then tells Equality 7-2521 that she does not wish him to be her brother, and he says she is not his sister, and although they do not have the vocabulary to explain their attraction, they both understand the meaning of their conversation. She asks if he would look for her even among a multitude of women, and he says he would. He tells her that his brigade of Street Sweepers always works in the same place, and she tells him that his eyes are different from those of others. Liberty 5-3000 tells Equality 7-2521 that she is seventeen, which relieves him, because she has therefore not yet been to the Palace of Mating. He decides to prevent her from being sent to the palace, although he is not sure why this desire is so important to him. She sees his sudden hatred for other men and smiles sadly before she walks away to join three of her sister Peasants. He sees that her hand is trembling as she scatters the seeds.
Equality 7-2521 walks happily back to the Home of the Street Sweepers and is reprimanded for absent-mindedly singing without reason in the dining hall. The member of the Home Council doing the scolding tells Equality 7-2521 that he is right to be happy because he is living for his brothers; Equality 7-2521, however, privately realizes that although the people of his society are not allowed to be unhappy, they are never truly happy, but rather just afraid. He is also afraid when among the Street Sweepers, but in his tunnel, where no other men are around, he loses his fear and finds enough strength to seemingly last him the rest of his life. The Council of the Home is suspicious of his joy, but he decides that he is glad to be alive, although he sees Fraternity 2-5503, who cries without reason, and Solidarity 9-6347, who screams in his sleep. No one dares to say what they think as they go to bed, lest their thoughts be too original, but Equality 7-2521 still sees peace and dignity in the sky.
He often thinks about the Uncharted Forest beyond the plains outside the city. He has heard about the occasional man who runs into the Uncharted Forest and never returns, dying of hunger or from wild animals, although the Councils claim this story to be a legend. The Uncharted Forests are said to have grown over the ruins of the Unmentionable Times, and he wonders about the legends of fighting that occurred, when the Evil Ones were conquered and their written words burned in the Script Fire at the Dawn of the Great Rebirth. He wonders what words have been lost with the Unmentionable Times, although he knows it is a sin to wish to know the answer.
In particular, he knows of an Unspeakable Word, and he knows that to speak it is the only crime with a death penalty. At the age of ten, he saw a man burned alive in public for saying the word. The Transgressor's tongue was cut out, but he was young and tall and walked proudly to the stake, smiling as he died. Equality 7-2521 had thought that he was a Saint, and he saw the Transgressor's eyes looking directly at him, begging him to regain the Unspeakable Word. Now, years later, Equality 7-2521 wishes he knew the Word, even if it means death.
Whereas Rand's antagonists are indistinct committee members without a prominent physical presence, she characterizes her protagonists by a distinctly noticeable physical perfection as well as mental superiority. Like Equality 7-2521 and, to a lesser extent, International 4-8818, Liberty 5-3000 is tall and strong, reflecting her fearless stoicism and implying her heroism. Although the Council of Vocations has assigned her a position as a Peasant for the same reasons that they gave the job of Street Sweeper to Equality 7-2521 and International 4-8818, she defies her environment by her stance and mere existence. Through her depiction of Liberty 5-3000, Rand again reverses conventional ideas of what is good by rejecting collectivism as too soft and tame while praising individualism as prideful and hard.
Liberty 5-3000 is Rand's archetypal woman and acts as the female foil to Equality 7-2521 in her strength and integrity. She righteously scorns all that does not deserve her but needs only minimal conversation to intuitively recognize Equality 7-2521's worthiness. Liberty 5-3000 comes to him "as if they [Liberty 5-3000] had heard a command in our [Equality 7-2521's] eyes," suggesting that Rand's ideal of femininity also contains an element of obedience, albeit only to a worthy man. Rand's depiction of the relationship between the dominant male and the ideal but appropriately submissive woman also appears in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and has led to disapproval from some feminists, particularly since this idealized woman is a heroic but two-dimensional character when compared to the fully fleshed description of, say, Equality 7-2521's psyche.
Equality 7-2521 renames Liberty 5-3000 "the Golden One," which both sets her apart as an individual and implicitly critiques the slogan-like numerical designations of their society. Whereas "the Golden One" is a sincere, unique appellation, the numbers in "Liberty 5-3000" and "Equality 7-2521" have a collectivist meaning, where each person is merely one replaceable digit out of many. While in many cases the first word of the collectivist names have a positive connotation, the names are also ironic. Equality 7-2521 is actually more than equal to his peers and is consequently forcibly made equal by the law; Liberty 5-3000, likewise, is not as free as her proud demeanor or name suggest.
As indicated by the Home Council's reprimanding of Equality 7-2521 when he sings, the society of Anthem exerts an iron control over the voices of its people. Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One are unable to talk at length, and when they attempt to express their mutual attraction, they do not have the vocabulary to say more than that they do not wish to be siblings. Nevertheless, Equality 7-2521 understands that the freedom of choice is integral to true happiness, while the absence of freedom is fear. He abhors his time in the Palace of Mating because there he has an assigned partner; as a result, he also does not know the concept of jealousy, which is why he finds it difficult to explain to himself why he cares about the Golden One's presence in the Palace of Mating. Simultaneously, when the Council of the Home tells him that he must be happy, he recognizes that because his brothers have no choice in the matter, they are instead afraid and dissatisfied.
Foreshadowing Equality 7-2521's future break with his society are his twin obsessions with the Unmentionable Times and the Unspeakable Word. His assertion that the Council of Scholars had invented the candle one hundred years ago suggests that collectivism has reigned over a long period of stagnation, but the Old Ones as mentioned in the beginning of the novel seem to have some recollection of cars and skyscrapers, and the society's relatively short expected life-span -- forty to fifty years -- suggests that the Great Rebirth was a relatively recent occurrence. Equality 7-2521 feels guilty about wanting to know more about the Evil One's society, but he continues to wonder about the Unspeakable Word, for which the Transgressor, or Saint of the pyre, became a martyr. The Saint's pride and happiness suggest that he had found freedom in the Unspeakable Word, and, via his gaze, he seemed to recognize Equality 7-2521's inherent worth with the same instinctive accuracy as displayed by the Golden One.