“It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down on paper no others are to see. It is base and evil. It is as if we are speaking alone to no ears but our own” (1). In Ayn Rand’s Anthem, all men are known as the great WE. They live in a collectivist society in which individualism, along with other Transgressions, are sins and are punishable. Equality 7-2521 is born into this society, and was taught that being different is a crime, and he shall be as all men are.
He tries to understand and accept this, but he is born with intelligence that sets him apart from his brothers and society in which all men and women are equal to one another. Equality as if what he was doing was a sin, because he was going against everything the Council had taught to him and his brothers. But as Equality’s character develops throughout the book, he realises that he is breaking away from the controlling collectivist society and being individual, which is not a sin, but a right all men should have.
Individuals cannot be happy living in a society that doesn’t take notice of individuals and even punishes them for being any kind of different. Equality’s brothers aren’t alright, and it is plain to see that they are not actually happy with their life. “All is not well with our brothers. There are Fraternity 2-5503, a quiet boy with wise, kind eyes, who cry suddenly, without reason, in the midst of day or night, and their body shakes with sobs so they cannot explain.
There are Solidarity 9-6347, who are a bright youth, without fear in the day; but they scream in their sleep, and they scream ‘Help us! Help us! Help us! ” into the night, in a voice which chills our bones, but the Doctors cannot cure Solidarity 9-6347″ (43). This shows that people in this society are not happy with it, but are in fear of speaking out or doing something about it. This is how the people are controlled. When fear is the only emotion these people are living with their whole life, it doesn’t make for happiness. By forcing people to be in groups all the time, they are taking away their personal space. By taking away the right for parents to see their children and naming them individually, they are taking away each person’s individuality.
The names given to babies born each year have no personality. Each person could not choose their job, and were assigned what they would do for the rest of their life by the Council of Vocations. Going against what the Council says is a sin and everyone must obey the laws. This constant motive of striking fear into everyone has controlled them to the point of everyone being the same, and being different was foreign and evil to them. And yet, Equality 7-2521 is very different from his brothers, physically, intellectually, and psychologically.
He is tall, and since he was a child he was smarter than was acceptable. “We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in those years in the Home of the Students. It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was that the learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a head which is too quick” (15). Equality felt shame for his being different, as “It is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them” (15). He tried to fit in so he would not be “evil” in the eyes of the Council and Teachers, “so we fought against this curse” (15).
He felt as if his incredible gift of intelligence was a curse that separated him from his brothers with whom he was supposed to be equal to. He hadn’t yet realized that being different is what was going to get him so much more than just fitting in. After Equality meets Liberty 5-3000, he tells her he has a name for her, the Golden One. He is in love with her, and when he leaves his society to go to the Uncharted forest alone, she heard of it and went after him. They were both in the forbidden and much feared Uncharted Forest together, but they were happy because they were together.
Liberty tries to express her love for Equality, but she has trouble finding the right words. “Today, the Golden One stopped suddenly and said: ‘ We love you,’ But then they frowned and shook their head and looked at us helplessly. ‘No,’ they whispered, ‘that is not what we wished to say. ‘ They were silent, then they spoke slowly, and their words were halting, like the words of a child learning to speak for the first time. We are one … alone … and only … and we love you who are one … alone… and only.
We looked into each other’s eyes and we knew that the breathe of a miracle had touched us, and fled, and left us groping vainly. And we felt torn, torn for some word we could not find” (86-87). They could not express themselves as individuals without knowing or using the word “I”. Taking away their individuality and telling them that it was an Unmentionable Word was like putting shackles and chains around everyone’s ankles. They all had the key to free themselves, but that society was too good at brainwashing them that being different was evil. So they were afraid of the freedom they should have had.
After looking through books and house they found from the Unmentionable Times, Equality discovered the word “l”. As soon as he told of his discovery to the Golden One, the first thing she said was “I love you”. Living collectively, it was impossible to express oneself as an individual. Only after the discovery of the Sacred Word, Ego, could Equality and Liberty and the rest of the individuals they plan to take with them to their new house be truly individual and full break away from the controlling collectivist society and the Great WE that took away their rights as an independent person.
Since everyone living in this society was controlled by fear, is was easy for them to, over time, lose all individuality and grown up with the sense that “We are nothing. Mankind is all” (21). Only by going against probably all of Transgressions was Equality able to break away from the society that wanted him to feel like what he was doing is truly wrong, when really he was one of the few that knew that the rest of the society was wrong. He was being individual and in the end, that matters more to one person than a collective does.