Russian American citizen Immigrated in 1946
Ayn Rand Novelist Philosopher Playwright Screenwriter Russian
Equality 7-2521, writing in a tunnel under the earth, explains his background, the society around him, and his emigration. His exclusive use of plural pronouns (we, our, they) to refer to himself and others is immediately obvious. The idea of the World Council was to eliminate all individualist ideas. It was so stressed, that people were burned at the stake for saying an Unspeakable Word (I, Me, Myself, and Egos). He recounts his early life. He was raised, like all children in the world of Anthem, away from his parents in the Home of the Infants, then transferred to the Home of the Students, where he began his schooling. Later, he realized that he was born with a "curse": He is eager to think and question, and unwilling to give up himself for others, which violates the principles upon which Anthem's society is founded. He excelled in math and science, and dreamed of becoming a Scholar. However, a Council of Vocations assigned all people to their jobs, and he was assigned to the Home of the Street Sweepers.
Equality accepts his profession willingly in order to repent for his transgression (his desire to learn). He works with International 4-8818 and Union 5-3992. International is exceptionally tall, a great artist (which is his transgression, as only people chosen to be artists may draw), and Equality's only friend (having a friend also being a crime because, in Anthem's society, one is not supposed to prefer one of one's brothers over the rest). Union, "they of the half-brain," suffers from epilepsy.However, Equality remains curious. One day, he finds the entrance to a subway tunnel in his assigned work area and explores it, despite International 4-8818's protests that an action unauthorized by a Council is forbidden. Equality realizes that the tunnel is left over from the Unmentionable Times, before the creation of Anthem's society, and is curious about it. During the daily three hour-long play, he leaves the rest of the community at the theater and enters the tunnel and undertakes scientific experiments.
Working outside the City one day, by a field, Equality meets and falls in love with a woman, Liberty 5-3000, whom he names "The Golden One." Also, Liberty 5-3000 names Equality "The Unconquered."Continuing his scientific work, he rediscovers electricity (which he, until the book nears its conclusion, calls the "power of the sky") and the light bulb. He decides to take his inventions to the World Council of Scholars, so that they will recognize his talent and allow him to work with them. He is still motivated by a socially instilled need to aid his fellow citizens. However, one night he spends too much time in the underground tunnel and his absence from the Home of the Street Sweepers is noticed, and he is arrested and then sent to the Palace of Corrective Detention, from which he easily escapes after being tortured.
The day after his escape, he walks in on the World Council of Scholars and presents his work to them. Horrified, they reject it because it was not authorized by a Council and threatens to upset the equilibrium of their world. When they try to destroy his invention, he takes it and flees into the forest (called the Uncharted Forest) outside the City.Upon entering the Uncharted Forest, Equality begins to realize that he is free, that he no longer must wake up every morning with his brothers to sweep the streets. (It's important to note that it was illegal for men of the City to enter or even think of the Forest, therefore he was not pursued once he crossed its threshold). He can "rise, or run, or leap, or fall down again." Now that he sees this, he is not stricken with the sense that he will die at the fangs of the beasts of the forest as a result of his transgressions. He develops a new understanding of the world and his place in it.
On his second day of living in the forest, Equality stumbles upon the Golden One, Liberty 5-3000, who has followed him from the City. They embrace, struggling to express their feelings for each other as they do not know how to think of themselves as individuals. They find and enter a house from the Unmentionable Times in the mountains, perfectly preserved for hundreds of years by thick overgrowth, and decide to live in it.While reading books from the house's library, Equality and Liberty discover that the Unspeakable Word, the one that carries the penalty of death, is "EGO." Recognizing its sacred value and the individuality it expresses, they give themselves new names from the books: Equality becomes 'Prometheus', and Liberty becomes 'Gaea'. As the book closes, Prometheus talks about the past, wonders how men could give up their individuality, and charts a future in which they will regain it.
The last word of the book, 'EGO', is inscribed by Prometheus on a rock and hung over his front door.