Anthem | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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Anthem | Symbols



Rand uses light to symbolize knowledge and the imperishability of the individual human spirit. Equality 7-2521 grows up in his oppressive society with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a desire to make his own choices. It is no accident that Equality 7-2521 develops a new, superior source of light to replace the antiquated candle. This future society is a return to the dark ages, and Equality 7-2521 is a savior who declares: "Let us flood our cities with light. Let us bring new light to men!" Equality 7-2521's electric light symbolizes not only external knowledge (such as the Science of Things) but also internal self-knowledge (the "spark" inside). Equality 7-2521's goal becomes helping people discover their individual self beyond the collective, as he has done.

Liberty 5-3000 is Equality 7-2521's helpmate in this regard, and in Chapter 2 he recognizes and is attracted to the "glowing" light in her eyes. Later, in Chapter 9, Equality 7-2521 describes Liberty 5-3000 as "white and glowing" and says it is "as if the light fell not from above, but rose from under [her] skin." Already only a short time after escaping her oppressive regime, Liberty 5-3000's self-knowledge and individual spirit has grown and flourished.


Fire is an important symbol throughout Anthem, and it is used in the service of both good and evil. In Chapter 2 Equality 7-2521 points out how the rulers used fire to destroy all the words written by those in the Unmentionable Times. This massive fire was the Dawn of the Great Rebirth and took three months to burn out. The rulers also use fire to punish those who dare find knowledge from the past, such as the Saint of the Pyre, by attempting to burn this knowledge out of them.

However, Rand seems to prove the old adage "you can't fight fire with fire," by proposing that the individual spirit is like a flame that cannot die, even in the darkest times. Liberty 5-3000 notes this flame in Equality 7-2521's eyes in Chapter 9. This flame is the fire of hope, and Equality 7-2521 believes he was born with it. Thanks to his encounter with the Saint of the Pyre, who impressed upon Equality 7-2521 to keep the saint's mission alive, the collective was never able to kill his hope. Instead, Equality 7-2521 was able to fan his flame into a roaring fire that can light the way as an example for all mankind.

The Color White

White represents a world devoid of personality and individual choice. The rulers of Equality 7-2521's society seek to suppress all forms of individual expression in order to keep everyone conforming to the collective. Everyone wears white. There are 100 identical beds in white rooms for men and women to sleep in. No one is allowed to have personal possessions. This absence of individual choice leads to surrender of individual thought. If no one questions the absurd logic of the leaders, then they can continue to rule, no matter how evil or inept they become.

The absence of color is one of the reasons Equality 7-2521 is so attracted to Liberty 5-3000. She not only has "glowing" eyes, but her hair is so golden that Equality 7-2521 begins to call her "the Golden One." When Liberty 5-3000 joins him during his escape in the Uncharted Forest, this only confirms his high estimation of her. In the house they find from the Unmentionable Times, the closet is full of clothes in all colors and styles that represent a future in which they can claim their full rights as individuals and express themselves freely.

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