Imagine a world where the individual has been repressed to the point that theword “I” no longer exists. Now, as hellish as that sounds, imagine that youare the only one who has the capability to break free from the iron fists thatare choking you and your brothers. This is the life of Equality 7-2521, theprincipal character and narrator of Ayn Rand’s Anthem.
Anthem takes place inthe dark ages of the future, in a totally collectivized world. This culture hasregressed to conditions reminiscent of Ancient Greece and the European DarkAges. In the midst of fear and subordination, one man stands alone. Equality7-2521 is not like his brothers.
He is able think, create and defy. This makeshim extremely dangerous. He holds the threat of change in his hands and hisgovernment will stop at nothing to take it from him. Equality’s societyrepresses him because they are afraid of those that threaten the establishedorder. One major catalyst for change is intelligence.
Equality displays evidenceof genius at a young age. “We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy. . . in theHome of the Students.
It was not that the learning was too hard for us. Itwas. . .
too easy” (Rand 16). In Equality’s society, it is evil to be differentfrom ones brothers, let alone to be better than they are. He is taught at anearly age to be ashamed of his intellectual superiority. “This is a sin, to beborn with a head which is too quick” (Rand 16).
This device of suppression bymeans of shame was used in an attempt to stifle geniuses and, hence, pacify hissociety’s fear of change. As Equality grew, he confirmed their fears. Duringhis lifetime he made many revelations and discoveries. His most profoundbreakthrough was his re-invention of electricity. “We, Equality 7-2521, havediscovered a new power of nature. ” (Rand 54).
He produced a primitive lightbulb. He wanted to use his invention to better his world. To the misfortune ofhis society, they loathed this new power. If they had accepted his ideasEquality would have been “. .
. the literal and figurative bringer of light” (Gladstein43). Unfortunately for Equality, as well as his society, his discovery metviolent opposition and his brothers were not able to benefit from hisintelligence. Genius has historically been repressed.
Geniuses of our past havebeen ostracized, punished, and martyred for presenting ideas that eventuallybettered their societies. Equality is no different. “Equality 7-2521 is acreator and inventor in the tradition of Galileo, Edison, and Einstein” (Gladstein27). These real-life geniuses dared to violate their society’s norms andeventually their ideas were accepted.
Like in Equality’s fictional culture,real-life societies have tended to ignore the ideas of solitary geniuses(McDonald 2). His ideas were swept aside violently, and his society remainedunchanged. Self-interest leads to the defiance of unjust restrictions. Equality’s government prohibits individual action.
No one is allowed to doanything on their own. “. . . There is no transgression blacker than to think ordo alone”(Rand 11). Equality’s defiance of his government’s laws set himapart from his brothers.
The condition of the Palace of Corrective Detention isdemonstrative of the unquestioning obedience of his brothers. “It is easy toescape. . . there are no guards. .
. There is no reason to have guards, for men havenever defied the Councils so far as to escape from whatever place they wereordered to be” (Rand 73). Unlike his brothers, Equality had the individualstrength to disobey the laws of his government. By questioning authority he tookan interest in himself and was liberated. “The noblest human purpose is topursue enlightened self-interest and only those the follow that course canemerge as.
. . champions. . .
” (McDonald 2). Equality’s government had tried tocontain him from day one. Authorities cannot control him because he has anindependent mind. “.
. . This totally collectivized society has no power. . . the individual.
. . “(Branden 112). His self-interest allows him to actas independently as his surroundings would permit.
Although he is enlightened byhis self-interest, he is never free from the shackles of guilt his society hasplaced upon him. No matter how freethinking Equality is, his nature is stillshaped by his society (Kelly 1). However this guilt did not stop him from actingindependently and constantly challenging the laws of his culture. Creativity isa main staple needed in order for change to take place. Equality has somehowbeen able to escape the suppression of creativity that is so deeply ingrained inhis culture. Equality is not the only person who is able to transgress in orderto create.
One of his brothers, International 4-8818, is a natural artist and ispunished in an attempt to stifle his talents. “They were not liked becausethey. . . drew pictures. .
. and they. . .
made men laugh” (Rand 27). Their governmentstrictly prohibits this sort of creativity. “. .
. It is only our brothers in theHome of the Artists who are permitted to draw pictures. . .
“(Rand 27). Eventhough both men, Equality and International, are very talented and intelligent,they are both assigned to be street sweepers among “pale boy with half abrain”(Rand 17). These men were kept from sharing their gifts with theirsociety. Their society feels that those talents need to be suppressed in orderto preserve the established state of their society. They are correct in thatassumption.
Creativity and individualism inevitably lead to change. “Individualism was the creative power revolutionizing the world” (Branden12). Repression of creativity and individualism are a perfect way to inhibitsocial change. Without creativity Equality’s society will not be improvedbecause only the self-creative can enrich society (Kavanagh 1).
A collectivizedsociety cannot benefit “. . . from that which only the independent mind cancreate.
. . ” (Branden 112). Unless a society can accept and embrace creativity,it will remain unchanged. Equality’s society is extremely afraid of inquiry. They are petrified of anyone that is able to question and challenge what theyare taught.
“Equality 7-2521 is perceived as a threat to the establishedorder” (Gladstein 35). Equality was ostracized, punished, and nearly killedfor presenting an idea to the Council of Scholars. His interest in thescientific world had led him to a monumental discovery: electricity. He wasable, through experimentation, to understand this new force, and he eventuallyconstructed a primitive light bulb. Equality had convinced himself that hisdiscovery was so great that if he were to present it to the Council of Scholars,all his transgressions would be forgiven and his invention would be embraced. Hepresents it to the council only to arouse fear and hatred in the hearts of thescholars.
“. . . The wire glowed.
But terror struck the men of theCouncil”(Rand 78). This intense fear of new ideas had led the Council ofScholars to take measures to prevent these types of discoveries to be made bythe common man. Children were taught at a young age not to question theirsurroundings. “. . .
The Council of Scholars has said that there are nomysteries”(Rand 18-19). This type of repression causes the society to avoidthe reality of their situation (O’Neill 85). Contrary to his upbringing andthe laws of his government, Equality is able to question. He is able to thinkwith some degree of freedom. “He is able to move beyond the shackles of hislimited education”(Gladstein 27).
Because he was born with superiorintelligence, he was able to break free and be his own man. In conclusion,Equality 7-2521 is feared because he has the capability to make major socialchange. This ability lies in his supreme intelligence, self-interest, defiance,and the ability to question. Fear is the underlying cause of all of Equality’shardships. His society is afraid of change and they know that he is capable ofrevolutionizing their world as they know it. This results in Equality beingfeared and perceived as a threat.
Their fear evolves into hate and they want toshut Equality down. Their intense fear of Equality nearly leads to his death. However, Equality also had the strength to break free from the chains that hadbound him his whole life. He risked his dignity, his safety, and his life andwas rewarded with freedom. “Many words have been granted to me, and some arewise, and some are false, but only three are holy: ?I will it!'”(Rand109).
BibliographyBranden, Nathaniel. Who is Ayn Rand: An Analysis of the Novels of Ayn Rand. New York: Random House, 1962. Gladstein, Mimi Reisel. The Ayn Rand Companion. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984.
Kavanaugh, John F. “The Triumph of AynRand. ” America 3-10 July 1999:1-2. Kelly, David. “Capitalism: The UnknownIdeal. ” Reason December 1993: 1.
McDonald, Marci. “Fighting Over Ayn Rand: ARadical Individualist’s Followers Can’t Get Along. ” U. S. News and WorldReport 9 March 1998: 1-5.
O’Neill, William F. With Charity Towards None: AnAnalysis of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams & Co. ,1977. Rand, Ayn.
Anthem. New York: Signet, 1946. Works Consulted Branden,Nathaniel. Who is Ayn Rand: An Analysis of the Novels of Ayn Rand. New York:Random House, 1962.
Gladstein, Mimi Reisel. The Ayn Rand Companion. Westport,CT: Greenwood Press, 1984. Kavanaugh, John F.
“The Triumph of Ayn Rand. “America 3-10 July 1999: 1-2. Kelly, David. “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. “Reason December 1993: 1. McDonald, Marci.
“Fighting Over Any Rand: A RadicalIndividualist’s Followers Can’t Get Along. ” U. S. News and World Report 9March 1998: 1-5. O’Neill, William F.
With Charity Towards None: An Analysis ofAyn Rand’s Philosophy. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams & Co. , 1977. Rand,Ayn.
Anthem. New York: Signet, 1946.