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Anthem | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Equality 7-2521 is now an exile in the Uncharted Forest. He writes of his experience in the morning with the World Council of Scholars. He tells of how he carried his invention through the streets to the Home of the Scholars. There, the scholars are meeting at their long table. When they see him, they stare at him "with wonder." Collective 0-0009 asks who he is, and Equality 7-2521 introduces himself as a Street Sweeper who does not matter. He tells them he holds "the future of mankind" in his hands.

When Equality 7-2521 lights up the wire, the Scholars run from it and huddle in fear. Equality 7-2521 tells them not to be afraid, that the "power is tamed." He tells them he wishes to "bring a new light to men." The council is not pleased. Collective 0-0009 admonishes him for breaking the law. The council members suggest various punishments, but Equality 7-2521 only wants to know what will be done with his invention. International 1-5537 tells him it is not good because it does not come from the collective. Harmony 9-2642 is against it because it might "bring ruin to the Department of Candles." The council decrees the invention should be destroyed.

Equality 7-2521 picks up his box and makes a run for it. He calls the council "fools" and then leaps out a window. He keeps going until he reaches the forest. He realizes that he made the box not for his brothers, but for himself. He feels a stab of pain when he thinks he might not see Liberty 5-3000 again.

Analysis

In this chapter Equality 7-2521 finally realizes the depth of the ineptitude in his society. The Council of Scholars admits they can act only as a collective and everyone must be in agreement. This mind-set has stifled innovation, resulting in most ideas being abandoned. The council also worries about the work involved in implementing a new technology and the destruction of an infrastructure set up for candles. Naturally, Equality 7-2521 finds these concerns to be petty. Equality 7-2521 describes the inept scholars in poetic terms: "they were as shapeless clouds huddled at the rise of a great sky." His metaphor is apt: because they lack individuality, they lack definition and vision. They simply blend into one another in one blurry, inept huddle, ignorant of the vast knowledge contained in the "great sky." Equality 7-2521's description could even be considered reverse personification, instead of giving an inanimate object human characteristics, he is giving humans inanimate characteristics.

But the Council of Scholars is more than just inept. Equality 7-2521 becomes afraid when he notices their eyes are "still, and small, and evil" after his declaration, "Let us flood our cities with light." Equality 7-2521 declares to them. "Let us bring a new light to men!" Rand uses Equality 7-2521's electric light as a symbol for knowledge—not only external knowledge (such as the Science of Things) but also self-knowledge. Equality 7-2521 wants all men to discover their individual self beyond the collective, as he has done. Naturally, the council is against other men having knowledge because it would interfere with the status quo of their collective society.

"What is not done collectively cannot be good," International 1-5537 says, but what he really means is that it is not good for the collective. It cannot be, because it encourages individual thought. Individual thought leads to the acceptance of individual identity and rebellion against ineptitude. Equality 7-2521 is a prime example of what they fear, and so in their evil they wish to destroy him and his possible influence. Of course, the irony is that they show the ultimate ineptitude by allowing him to escape with his literal light and his metaphorical light.

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