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Anthem | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

Equality 7-2521 experiences his first day in the Uncharted Forest. He realizes he now has the freedom to do whatever he pleases, whenever he wants. He stretches out his arms and swings on the branches of trees just to enjoy his own strength. He continues walking through the forest until he is hungry. He kills a bird, cooks it, and eats it. When he later comes to a stream, he pauses to peer at his own reflection for the first time. He discovers he is beautiful. As he is falling asleep, he remembers he is "damned," but he merely laughs.

Analysis

Away from the collective, Equality 7-2521 can exercise his free will with no constraints for the first time in his life, and he loves it. He does not have to leap up to go to his meaningless street-sweeping job but can lie on his back as long as he wants to. When he realizes his complete freedom from his oppressive society, he laughs with joy and cannot stop laughing. The power to decide rests with him alone.

It is significant that he wakes "when a ray of sunlight fell across [his] face." Rand uses light as a symbol for knowledge, and this natural light is awakening him to his new era of self-knowledge and self-reliance. It is only when the sun sets, and "shadows gathered among the trees" that he remembers his society considers him "damned." But where once this thought would have distressed him, now he laughs it off. He no longer cares what they think of him.

Equality 7-2521's moment at the stream is a pivotal moment in his attainment of individual identity. He finally sees his own image, and he confirms that he is unlike his brothers. Where they are pitiful and hunched, Equality 7-2521 is proud and strong. He feels he can trust "this being who looked upon [him] from the stream" and that he has nothing to fear from him. His free will has led him to self-determination, and he is pleased.

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