Author: Ayn Rand
Genre: Fiction/Dystopian Society
Theme: Indiviualism, the importance of the individual
Setting: Post-Apocalyptic, Sometime in the Future
Anthem-a song of praise and patriotism
apocalypse-universal destruction or disaster
post-apocalyptic-civilization where a disaster ruins the world
council-a group of people who come together to consult, deliberate, or make decisions
dystopian-a society that is frightening, "not-good place", antonym of utopia
eugenics-social movement claims to improve the genetic human populations through selective breeding and sterilization
individual individualism-a social theory favoring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control
pledge-a solemn promise or undertaking
preference-a greater liking for one over another or others
scholars-specialist in a particular branch of study
transgression transgressor-an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense
uncharted-unexplored, undiscovered, unknown
utopian-a community or society possessing highly desirable or near perfect qualities
vocation-employment, occupation or profession
The main character, Equality 7-2521 describes the society of Anthem. Equality has discovered an old subway tunnel from the Unmentionable Times. Equality keeps the tunnel a secret. He visits the tunnel to conduct scientific experiments and to write only for himself.
Main Character and Narrator
- Equality 7-2521
- 21 years old
- Evil burden-he is tall, over 6 feet tall and different
- Cursed-with curiosity and intelligence
- “the learning was too easy” (page 21)
- “we loved the Science of Things” (page 23)
- “we fought with our brothers”
- “of all the children of that year, we were locked in the cellar most often.” (page 20)
- all men (all the citizens) wear an iron bracelet with their name on their left wrist
The Unmentionable Times
- The past
- Technology existed
- “farther back than that no memory can reach” (page 19)
The Great Re-Birth
Beginning of the Anthem Society
The World Council
“the body of all truth” (page 19)
Palace of Corrective Detention
Jail or Prison
The Old Ones
the older citizens who have some knowledge of life before the Great Re-Birth
“when a miracle happens and some live to be forty-five, they are the ancient Ones and children stare at them.” (page 28)
Home of the Infants (Page 20)
- “where we all lived till we were 5 years old, together with tall the children of the City who had been born in the same year.”
- Sleeping hall
- 100 beds
- No parents
Home of the Students (Page 20)
- Sent here when 5 years old
- 10 wards for 10 years of learning (Age 15)
The Pledge (Page 21)
- Recited in school every day-like the Pledge of Allegiance
- We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace of our brothers are we allowed our lives. We exist through, by and for our brothers who are the State. Amen.” (page 21)
Home of the Useless-(Page 28)
- “where the Old Ones live”
- “soon to die”
- “At 40 they are worn out”
- Do not work
- “they sit in the Sun in the summer and they sit by the fie in winter”
- “They do not speak often, for they are weary.”
Council of Vocation (Page 22)
- Chooses the job you will have for the rest of your life
- “The Council of Vocations shall prescribe for you…Knows in its great wisdom where you are needed by your brother me, better than you know it.” (Page 22)
Transgression of Preference
- Preferring a person, thing or subject is WRONG, a great sin
- Having a favorite class
Council of the Scholars (page 23)
- “no mysteries to discover”
- “the Council of Scholars knows all things.”
- “all the great modern inventions come from the Home of the Scholars”
- The Earth is Flat
- Sun revolves around the Earth
- Bleed men when they are ill
- Candle--The greatest invention of the last 100 years
The Social Meeting (Page 27)
- Nightly meeting
- All about your duty to work
The City Theatre (Page 28)
- 3 hours of mandatory “Social Recreation”, Plays that are about hard work
Chapter II (2)
- Equality 7-2521 is working as a street sweeper on a road outside the City. He sees a woman planting seeds in a field and falls in Love.
“We wish to write this name. We wish to speak it, but we dare not speak it above a whisper. For men are forbidden to take notice of women, and women are forbidden to take notice of men. But we think of one among women, they whose name is Liberty 5-3000, and we think of no others”.
- This is a Transgression of Preference.
“Every morning thereafter, we greeted each other with our eyes. We dared not speak. It is a transgression to speak to men of other Trades, save in groups at the Social Meetings”.
- The woman’s name is Liberty 5-3000.
- Equality 7-2521 calls her the Golden One.
- They look at each other every day and signal to each other. It is a transgression to speak to others except in Social Meetings.
“We do not think of them as Liberty 5-3000 any longer. We have given them a name in our thoughts. We call them the Golden One. But it is a sin to give men names which distinguish them from other men”.
- Equality 7-2521 is worried because he knows Liberty 5-3000 will soon be sent to the City Palace of Mating to have sex with a man chosen by the Council of Eugenics.
And suddenly, without cause for the thought which came to us, we felt cold, cold to our stomach.
"How old are you?" we asked.
They understood our thought, for they lowered their eyes for the first time.
"Seventeen," they whispered.
And we sighed, as if a burden had been taken from us, for we had been thinking without reason of the Palace of Mating. And we thought that we would not let the Golden One be sent to the Palace.
- Equality 7-2521 gets is trouble at the Home of the Street Sweepers because he is happy and singing because he is in Love.
Yet as we walked back to the Home of the Street Sweepers, we felt that we wanted to sing, without reason. So we were reprimanded tonight, in the dining hall, for without knowing it we had begun to sing aloud some tune we had never heard. But it is not proper to sing without reason, save at the Social Meetings.
- Equality 7-2521 notices that everyone is supposed to be happy, but no one is truly happy.
- Equality 7-2521 notes that everyone is afraid.
And now, sitting here in our tunnel, we wonder about these words. It is forbidden, not to be happy. For, as it has been explained to us, men are free and the earth belongs to them; and all things on earth belong to all men; and the will of all men together is good for all; and so all men must be happy.
Yet as we stand at night in the great hall, removing our garments for sleep, we look upon our brothers and we wonder. The heads of our brothers are bowed. The eyes of our brothers are dull, and never do they look one another in the eyes. The shoulders of our brothers are hunched, and their muscles are drawn, as if their bodies were shrinking and wished to shrink out of sight. And a word steals into our mind, as we look upon our brothers, and that word is fear.
- Equality 7-2521 begins to think about what life is like away from the City in the Uncharted Forest.
“ beyond the City there lies the plain, and beyond the plain, black upon the black sky, there lies the Uncharted Forest".
We do not wish to look upon the Uncharted Forest. We do not wish to think of it. But ever do our eyes return to that black patch upon the sky. Men never enter the Uncharted Forest, for there is no power to explore it and no path to lead among its ancient trees which stand as guards of fearful secrets. It is whispered that once or twice in a hundred years, one among the men of the City escape alone and run to the Uncharted Forest, without call or reason. These men do not return. They perish from hunger and from the claws of the wild beasts which roam the Forest. But our Councils say that this is only a legend”.
- Equality 7-2521 begins to think about what words have been lost from the Unmentionable Times. He knows there is one single word that men cannot hear or speak.
There is some word, one single word which is not in the language of men, but which had been. And this is the Unspeakable Word, which no men may speak nor hear. But sometimes, and it is rare, sometimes, somewhere, one among men find that word. They find it upon scraps of old manuscripts or cut into the fragments of ancient stones. But when they speak it they are put to death. There is no crime punished by death in this world, save this one crime of speaking the Unspeakable Word.
- Equality 7-2521 remembers an execution that he witnessed when he was about 10 years old. The man said the Unspeakable Word. The man, called the Transgressor seems happy and proud to die. Equality 7-2521 thinks the Transgressor was looking right at him and trying to tell him the Unspeakable Word.
They brought the Transgressor out into the square and they led them to the pyre. They had torn out the tongue of the Transgressor, so that they could speak no longer. The Transgressor were young and tall. They had hair of gold and eyes blue as morning. They walked to the pyre, and their step did not falter… theirs was the calmest and the happiest face.
There was a thin thread of blood running from the corner of their mouth, but their lips were smiling…the likeness of a Saint was the face we saw before us in the flames, the face of the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word.
the eyes of the Transgressor had chosen us from the crowd and were looking straight upon us. There was no pain in their eyes..There was only joy in them, and pride, a pride holier than it is fit for human pride to be. And it seemed as if these eyes were trying to tell us something through the flames…we could not guess the word. . . .
What -- even if we have to burn for it like the Saint of the pyre -- what is the Unspeakable Word?
Chapter III (3)
- Equality has been working for over 2 years alone in the subway tunnel conducting scientific experiments.
- He has discovered electricity
"In thunder storms we raised a tall rod of iron by the side of our hole, and we watched it from below. We have seen the lightning...now we know that metal draws the power of the sky" 53.
- Equality gathered strange "things" from inside the subway tunnel and realizes that men during The Unmentionable Times had already discovered the power.
- Equality realizes he has more knowledge than even the Scholars and that this is wrong.
- Equality knows he has much more to learn and is willing to do it all by himself.
Chapter IV (4)
- After many days Equality sees Liberty working in the fields.
- Equality and Liberty speak to each other.
- Equality tells Liberty he has given her a special name "The Golden One"
- Liberty tells Equlaity she has also given him a name, "The Unconquered"
- The name Unconquered shows that Liberty is aware that Equality is an individual who does not follow the rules of Anthem's society.
- It is forbidden to "perfer" another person and to give them special names.
- While the Golden One gives Equlaity a drink of water from her cupped hands, he touches her and kisses her hands.
Chapter V (5)
- Equality has perfected the power of electricity and built a box of glass, a lightbulb.
- He is very proud of himself and gift he has discovered to help mankind.
- Equality wants to bring his great invention to the Home of the Scholars and the World Council of Scholars.
- Equlaity believes his gift to society is greater than the transgression of being alone and experimenting.
- Equality thinks the Scholars will be pleased and happy with his discovery.
- At the end of the chapter Equality wishes he could see his own face and body. He is proud of his achievment and even though he knows "it is evil to have concern for their own faces or bodies" he wishes he could see his own face.