Anthem, a book about self-discovery and enlightenment, has many significant scenes that help push the story forward and create the intended mood. One of the most momentous scenes is between pages 51 and 53 when Equality 7-2521 sees the man burning on the pyre for speaking the unspeakable word of the unmentionable times. As Equality watches the man burn, their eyes lock and this changes Equality’s life forever. The unspeakable word, which turns out to be “P”, is discovered by Equality towards the end of the book, after he escapes into the woods. But had it not been for the man on the pyre, Equality may not have been as determined to learn and discover new things. This scene gives his life new meaning.
Equality gets the sensation that the Transgressor is looking8 directly at him and begging him to keep the word alive. He feels that this man somehow chose him out of the crowd, and ultimately chose him to rescue civilization. In a way, Equality inherited the guardianship of the unspeakable word and that is what subconsciously drove him towards discovering it and breaking free of the civilization he was raised in. It has a deep impact on Equality’s future because every time he does something secretly in sin, he remembers in the back of his mind the Transgressor and continues his studies in hopes of discovering the word, and gaining new knowledge.
Furthermore, this is the first time that Equality truly feels the distinction between himself and his fellow men. Up to this point, although Equality always had a curious mind, he stayed true to the law and believed that the way things currently run was the proper way. He never imagined living a life any different then the life he currently lives, but this man on the pyre reached out to him. Equality felt some sort of connection to the man, something he had never felt before.
As he watches the man burn, he begins to wonder what the unspeakable word could possibly be, and this scares him because he knows that even thinking about the word is a mortal sin. It does not stop him, however, from differentiating between himself and his fellow men in his community. Although it is not until years later that Equality actually beings to study and eventually escapes, it is this image of the man engulfed by flames, staring at him, that really stays burnt in his mind and implants the thoughts of the unmentionable times in his head.