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Anthem | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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Anthem | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Prisoner of the Collective

Equality 7-2521 writes in a journal by candlelight while he is alone in his hiding place. He found this place—an abandoned subway tunnel from the Unmentionable Times—two springs before while doing his job as a Street Sweeper. In addition to writing, he works on experiments he performs with items he steals. He has three hours here every day during the time when he is supposed to be at the Theatre watching plays. But even though he breaks many of his collective society's rules, Equality 7-2521 feels at peace about it, because he knows he is different from his fellows.

Equality 7-2521 notices a worker of the soil. Liberty 5-3000 is unlike the other women and more like him. He decides to call her "the Golden One." When he finally speaks to her, he tells her she is beautiful. She accepts this and declares he is not like other men. This fills him with such joy that he sings at supper. The Council of the Home looks upon him with suspicion, for no one is to be too joyful. When Equality 7-2521 thinks about all that has been lost since the Unmentionable Times, he recalls witnessing the Saint of the Pyre being burned alive as punishment for saying the Unspeakable Word. While burning, the saint seemed to "beg" him to "gather that word and not to let it go." Equality 7-2521 takes on the mission.

In his tunnel Equality 7-2521 has a breakthrough. He makes the discovery that metal "draws the power of the sky" and "can be made to give it forth." Days later, Equality 7-2521 meets up with Liberty 5-3000 again. He confesses that he thinks of her as "the Golden One." She tells him she thinks of him as "the Unconquered." They know such thoughts are not allowed by their society.

A Plan to Bring Light

Equality 7-2521 builds a box with wires that lights up. He decides he must go to the World Council of Scholars, which will occur in a month. He believes the council will forgive his transgressions because of the great value of his gift to mankind. But that very night Equality 7-2521 loses track of time and refuses to reveal where he has been to the Council of the Home. He is sent to the Palace of Corrective Detention, where he is repeatedly whipped. Equality 7-2521 thinks of the importance of his invention, however, and cannot be broken. On the night before the World Council of Scholars, Equality 7-2521 breaks the lock on his cell and escapes. He returns to his hiding place to retrieve his invention.

At the World Council of Scholars, the scholars are dumbfounded to see him there. He tells them he holds "the future of mankind" in his hands and lights up his wire. The Scholars are at first afraid, but soon they are damning him for breaking the law and of thinking of himself as above his fellows. The Scholars decide to destroy this dangerous invention, but Equality 7-2521 calls them "fools" and escapes with his box into the Uncharted Forest.

A Free Individual

When he wakes up in the Uncharted Forest, Equality 7-2521 realizes he is free to do whatever he wants. He also is able to look at his reflection in a stream and discovers his beauty. The only time he remembers he is "damned" is when he is falling asleep, but he decides he does not care. The next day, Liberty 5-3000 appears and pledges herself to him. She reports that the whole city is talking about his escape. They kiss, and he is happy. That night they consummate their love.

After days of walking, the new couple comes upon an abandoned house from the Unmentionable Times. They claim the house as their own. While Liberty 5-3000 stands in front of the mirror for hours looking at her reflection, Equality 7-2521 hunts for them. He later stays awake while she sleeps and contemplates his purpose. Equality 7-2521 begins to read the books in the house and finds the word "I." He stands on the summit of the mountain and creates an anthem to "I." He will not be anyone's slave, and he is "done with the monster of 'We.'" He finally understands that his lifelong "curse" was a blessing.

Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 take new names, Prometheus and Gaea. She is pregnant and will be the mother of his free children. He plans to spread his message of the individual to his friends in the city and to all the enslaved cities on the Earth. He will fight for the individual rights of man against the evil of the collective. For he knows the sacred word now: ego.

Anthem Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Equality 7-2521 finds a secret tunnel and begins a journal.

Rising Action

2 While working, Equality 7-2521 meets Liberty 5-3000.

3 Equality 7-2521 "invents" electric light.

4 Caught after hours, Equality 7-2521 is imprisoned.

5 Equality 7-2521 presents his light to the Council of Scholars.

6 On the run, Equality 7-2521 is joined by Liberty 5-3000.


7 The couple finds a house and speaks the word "I."

Falling Action

8 The couple renames themselves Prometheus and Gaea.


9 Prometheus declares his intentions to save mankind.

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