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Summary of Anthem

On this page: Brief Overall Summary  Character List  Chapter Summaries

For more information on Anthem, including links to complete texts, other summaries and study guides, visit the Anthem page.

Brief Overall Summary

Anthem is written as the diary of Equality 7-2521, a young man living in a future in which people have lost all knowledge of individualism, to the point of not even knowing words like 'I' or 'mine.' Everyone lives and works in collective groups, with all aspects of daily life dictated by councils -- the Council of Vocations, the Council of Scholars, etc. When he is assigned to a menial job cleaning the streets, Equality 7-2521 rebels against collectivism by conducting secret scientific research, which eventually leads him to re-create electric light. When he presents his discovery to the Council of Scholars, they condemn him for daring to act as an individual and threaten to destroy his creation. He flees into the Uncharted Forest. He is joined there by his love, a girl called Liberty 5-3000. They come across an ancient house, a relic of the Unmentionable Times before collectivism. There they rediscover the lost language of the self. They rename themselves Prometheus and Gaea (after the ancient Greek myths), and Prometheus vows to use his new knowledge to build a society based on individual freedom.

A summary of each chapter is provided below.

Character List

Anthem is a relatively short work with few characters. The following lists are comprehensive.

Individual Characters

The following individual characters are named:

Collective Characters

Because Anthem depicts a collectivist society, some characters appear only as anonymous collectives. These are typically the "councils" that make dictate the behavior of everyone in the society. The following collective characters are part of the story:

Chapter Summaries

Anthem is written in the first person. Each chapter of Anthem is an entry into the journal of the narrator, Equality 7-2521.

Chapter One

Equality 7-2521 describes the events of his life up to the point he began his journal. Until the age of five, he lived in the Home of the Infants, where he was often punished for fighting. From the age of five to 15, he lived in the Home of the Students. He was a quicker study than his fellow students, and although he tried to hide his intelligence, he was punished more often than anyone else. He secretly longed to become a Scholar, so he could study the Science of Things. But the Council of Vocations assigned him to be a Street Sweeper.

Two springs ago, while working as a Street Sweeper, Equality 7-2521 and his friend International 4-8818 accidentally discovered a hole leading to an ancient tunnel. The tunnel contains metal tracks and other relics of the Unmentionable Times. Rather than report their find as they are required to, Equality 7-2521 insists that they keep the tunnel a secret. Now he sneaks out every night to the tunnel, where he performs scientific experiments and reads manuscripts he has stolen from the Home of the Scholars. It is in the tunnel that he has begun writing his journal.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Two

While working as a Street Sweeper, Equality 7-2521 has seen a young woman called Liberty 5-3000. She is a Peasant who works in the fields. Although it is forbidden for men and women to take notice of one another, he is attracted to her, and she to him. In his mind, he has renamed her "The Golden One." Eventually, he breaks the law and speaks to the Golden One, telling her that she is beautiful. They talk with one another briefly before her fellow Peasants approach, forcing them to end their forbidden conversation.

After his encounter with the Golden One, Equality 7-2521 ponders how he is different from his fellow workers, and thinks about the legends of the Uncharted Forest and the Unmentionable Times. During the Dawn of the Great Rebirth, the books of the Evil Ones were burned, destroying the secrets of the Unmentionable Times. He wonders what those secrets might have been. He knows that there is a lost word, which people are forbidden to speak. Once during his youth, a man discovered it and was burned alive as punishment. Equality 7-2521 recounts the fate of this "Saint of the pyre," and wishes that he knew -- even if he had to burn like the Saint -- what the Unspeakable Word was.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Three

While performing experiments in the underground tunnel, Equality 7-2521 has discovered the power of electricity. He first stumbled on it accidentally two years ago, while using copper wires from the tunnel to hang up frogs for biology experiments. He has now made it the main object of his experiments. The knowledge he has learned frightens him because he could be punished for discovering secrets unknown to the Council of Scholars. From things he has found in the tunnel, he suspects that the people of the Unmentionable Times must have also had knowledge of this strange power. He looks forward to learning more.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Four

Equality 7-2521 speaks with Liberty 5-3000 again, and tells her that in his thoughts he has named her "The Golden One." She in turn says that she thinks of him as "The Unconquered." He is thirsty, and she brings him water to drink from her hands.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Five

Using materials from the Unmentionable Times, Equality 7-2521 has created an electric light. He thinks about the possible uses of his discovery, and decides that he must present his light to the World Council of Scholars. They will be meeting in his city in a month. He vows to guard his secret with extra care until then. His is proud of his invention, and of his hands that made it.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Six

On the night of his previous journal entry, Equality 7-2521 is caught. He forgets to watch the time and returns late to the Home of the Street Sweepers. He refuses to tell the Council of the Home where he has been. They send him to the Palace of Corrective Detention to be lashed. He is whipped until he is unconscious, but still refuses to say where he has been. On the night before the World Council of Scholars is to meet, he escapes and returns to his secret tunnel. Tomorrow, he will present his invention to them.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Seven

It is the night after the end of the previous chapter, and Equality 7-2521 is in the Uncharted Forest. That morning, he had taken his invention before the World Council of Scholars. They were astonished to be addressed by a Street Sweeper, and frightened at the sight of the light he had invented. Once they regained their composure, they condemned him as a lawbreaker and dismissed the value of his light. They declared that Equality 7-2521 was to be punished, and his invention destroyed. He seized the light and fled into the forest. He now expects to die, alone in the Uncharted Forest, but he does not care. His only real pain is that he will never see the Golden One again.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Eight

The next morning, Equality 7-2521 awakes and enjoys his newfound freedom in the forest. He kills a bird for food and makes a fire to cook it. Then he sees his own reflection for the first time, as he is drinking from a stream. He is pleased by his own appearance. As he prepares for sleep that night, he remembers that he is now "the Damned." He laughs.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Nine

It has been many days since Equality 7-2521 last wrote. The Golden One had followed him into the Uncharted Forest. She prefers being alone with him to being with her "brothers." They embrace, and he tells her not to be afraid. That evening, they make love.

Although he still believes that being alone, without the collective, is evil and corrupt, Equality 7-2521 enjoys his new life in the forest. He has begun to doubt the collectivist beliefs that he has been taught. One day, the Golden One attempts to tell him that she loves him, but she does not have the words to express individual love. They both feel a need for the forgotten words that they do not know.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Ten

After hiking deep into a mountain range, Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One discover a house, left over from the Unmentionable Times. It seems exceptionally small to them, and when they find the bedroom, they realize that only two people lived there. They are amazed that two people would live by themselves. They claim the house as their own. Tomorrow, Equality 7-2521 will begin to read the strange books from the house's library.

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Eleven

Equality 7-2521 has rediscovered the word 'I' and the idea of individualism. He announces his new creed: "I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I covet no man's soul, nor is my soul theirs to covet."

[Read this chapter online.]

Chapter Twelve

Having rediscovered individualism, Equality 7-2521 decides that he and the Golden One should have individual names. They will call themselves Prometheus and Gaea, after the characters of ancient Greek legends. After he has absorbed the knowledge of the old books and built his own life in the Uncharted Forest, Prometheus will return to the city of his birth to bring back International 4-8818 and others who can join him in a society based on individual freedom. And one day, they will fight to free all those enslaved by collectivism.

[Read this chapter online.]

Additional keywords: Ann Rand, Anne Rand, Ayn Rad, Ayn Ran, Any Rand, Anthem by Ann Rand, Antem, synopsis, overview, summery

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