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Anthem | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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Anthem | Chapter 2 | Summary



Equality 7-2521 has taken notice of a woman called Liberty 5-3000. She is a worker of the soil, and Equality 7-2521 sees her while sweeping the road at the northern edge of the city. Unlike the other women, her eyes are "dark and hard and glowing." Equality 7-2521 has several close encounters with her that lead to their greeting each other each day with a hand signal. Equality 7-2521 thinks of her as "the Golden One" because of her hair color. One day he finally speaks to her and tells her she is beautiful. They have a conversation in which she asks his name and tells him his eyes are different "of any among men." Equality 7-2521 is relieved that she is only 17 and thus has not yet been to the Palace of Mating.

After his encounter with Liberty 5-3000, Equality 7-2521 is filled with such joy that he sings at supper. This causes the Council of the Home to look upon him with suspicion. Equality 7-2521 thinks about all that has been lost since the Unmentionable Times and wonders what words were lost. He recalls seeing the Saint of the Pyre being burned alive in the square of the city for saying the Unspeakable Word. His tongue had been cut out, but he seemed to speak to Equality 7-2521 with his eyes, "begging" him to "gather that word and not to let it go." Equality 7-2521 longs to know the word, no matter what.


In Liberty 5-3000, Equality 7-2521 feels he has found someone who might understand him. As she does with Equality 7-2521, Rand imbues Liberty 5-3000 with physical beauty and natural curiosity to underscore her superiority. Liberty 5-3000's eyes have "no fear in them" in a society where mankind is ruled by fear, and this draws Equality 7-2521 in. When Equality 7-2521 thinks of her, he feels "the earth is good and that it is not a burden to live." That night, in the great hall with his brothers, Equality 7-2521 notes the contrast between Liberty 5-3000 and others. Where she stood "straight and thin," they walk with bowed heads and hunched shoulders. "Fear walks through the City," he thinks. "Fear without name, without shape." Under the thin veneer of "happiness" in the brotherhood of a collective society, each individual is unhappy and dares not speak out about it. The closest they come is in their dreams. Equality 7-2521 points out that Solidarity 9-6347 screams in his sleep, "Help us!" in a voice that chills the bones.

It is in this atmosphere of fear that Equality 7-2521 recalls the man who dared say the Unspeakable Word and thinks of him as a saint. The Saint of the Pyre is an important symbolic figure because he passes down his spirit and his mission to Equality 7-2521 when Equality 7-2521 is a 10-year-old boy. This Saint might have found the Unspeakable Word on a scrap of old manuscript or "cut into the fragments of ancient stones" from before. Like Equality 7-2521 the Saint of the Pyre is tall and blessed with physical beauty. Even while being punished for his sin, the Saint's face was the "calmest and happiest" of the crowd. As he burned, "there was no pain" in his eyes, "only joy in them, and pride"; silently he "begged" Equality 7-2521 to "gather" the Unspeakable Word. Because of this encounter, Equality 7-2521 feels his purpose in life is to gain knowledge of the Unspeakable Word, and he desires to know it even if he has "to burn for it."

Fire is an important symbol throughout Anthem, and in this chapter the rulers use it to destroy knowledge. Years before, they burned all the scripts made by the previous culture in "the fire which is called the Dawn of the Great Rebirth"—so many scripts it took three months of "great mountains of flame" to burn it all. The rulers also use it to destroy anyone who learns the knowledge of the past, such as the Saint of the Pyre.

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