Imagine if there was no electricity, no computers, no cars, no smart phones. What if there was no “I” or “you,” or anything that allowed people to stand out from one another? In the novel Anthem, Ayn Rand creates a dystopia that is true of all those things, but still proves that liberation and hope can be found among the suffering and despair.
She is able to do this through the actions and thoughts of the main character, Equality 7-2521, when he finally realizes society is not what it seems to be and manages to escape; when he thinks that he is lost forever but is able to learn about the things that he has been missing out on, and when he leaves the audience with a glimmer of hope because he makes them aware of his plans to return and save society before it really is too late. Equality 7-2521 is not like the rest of his “brothers”—he is smarter, taller, and better looking? hich the other boys, teachers, even authorities did not like. When Equality 7-2521 finds an abandoned tunnel with his friend International 4-8818, Equality ignores the fact that exploring and keeping the tunnel a secret is forbidden, and it becomes a place where he sneaks off to often. During the time that he is in the tunnel, he discovers the power of electricity and how to make a light bulb work, and writes in his journal that he is in fact smarter than the Council of Scholars, something which is “impossible” in this society.
When the World Council of Scholars meeting is set to be held in Equality’s city, he decides that he is going to go before the Council and show them his invention, expecting praise and to be admitted to the Home of the Scholars. Instead he is bashed and threatened because the World Council says that things have to be achieved collectively to be considered good, and something not thought by all men cannot be true. He then grabs his invention, realizing that he can never win in this society, and starts running as fast as his legs will carry him. As he is running out of the room, Equality yells, “You fools! You fools! You thrice-damned fools! ” showing no fear of the members on the World Council (Rand 75). After escaping from the city and into the Unchartered Forest, Equality 7-2521 is tired and does not have much faith of a bright future when he writes, “We are doomed. Whatever days are left to us, we shall spend them alone…and there is no road back for us, and no redemption” (Rand 76). Despite his feeling of depression at the time, he learns and discovers countless things and ideas that he has never been exposed to before. The first thing Equality realizes is that he has freedom o sleep wherever and however long he wants. And he can laugh, spin and twirl, and for the first time see his reflection. He doubts the laws of society, and questions how everything they said was evil is everything that is giving him joy (e. g. , the light bulb, Liberty 5000 or the Golden One, and the forest). Equality and Liberty stumble upon a house and find glass, mirrors, light bulbs, multicolored clothes, and shelves upon shelves of books filled with language foreign to him. After studying the books, Equality discovers the word “I” and begins to use it in every sentence he can, finally finding individuality.
The novel ends with society still the same way that it was when the story began, and Equality and Liberty are still living together in the house they found from the Unmentionable Times. At first it seems as though there is no ‘happy ending,’ but Equality gives us his plans for the future that leaves a trace of hope for what is to come. When he writes, “I shall rebuild the achievements of the past…for their minds are shackled to the weakest and dullest ones among them,” it tells the reader that Equality is planning to someday use what he has learned on his own to help his brothers still stuck in society (Rand 99).
This message from Equality is mentioned again when he writes, “…I shall steal one day, for the last time, into the cursed City of my birth…I and they, my chosen friends, my fellow-builders, shall write the first chapter in the new history of man,” showing the reader that he is really serious about saving his city and starting over in a brand new and improved society (Rand 101).
There is no doubt that Anthem has a lot of despair and hopelessness throughout the story, but the message of hope and liberation is enough to overcome that. From the time Equality 7-2521 struggles in the city, to his new-found freedom in the wilderness, the reader is able to see how much he grows as a character, and learn about his future plans to save the rest of his people.