Equality 7-2521 is now in the Uncharted Forest. He will live there until he is ripped apart by the forest beasts. He describes appearing before the World Council of Scholars that morning and greeting them. The luminaries are aghast to find that a Street Sweeper has dared to present himself before them. Equality 7-2521 tells the Scholars that he holds “the future of mankind” in his hands, and proceeds to demonstrate his light bulb. Once the device begins to work, the Scholars react in fear and cower against one another. Equality 7-2521 tries to win them over with encouraging words about the light bulb’s usefulness, but one of the Scholars, Collective 0-0009, condemns him for being audacious enough to create something on his own. The other members of the Council contemplate horrible punishments that Equality 7-2521 deserves, and decide that he will be placed before the World Council to be disciplined.
This encounter signifies Equality 7-2521’s ultimate disenchantment with the collectivist establishment. His presentation of the light bulb should represent a triumph of the individual inventive spirit and a boon to his society as a whole, but his collectivist overlords are so backwards that they reject his monumentally useful achievement out of fear and jealousy. Notable here are the parallels to the Prometheus myth, referenced later in the book—however, instead of accepting Equality 7-2521’s life-changing gift of light and power, as the ancient humans did with Prometheus’s gift of fire, the Council of Scholars is so detached from its own self-interest that it rejects the light bulb outright.
The Scholars tell Equality 7-2521 that his invention—and his presumption that it will help empower mankind—go against the principles of equality. “What is not done collectively cannot be good,” says one. The Scholars then conclude that the device must be destroyed. Dismayed, Equality 7-2521 snatches his invention and escapes by jumping out of a window. He runs into the Uncharted Forest with the box cradled in his arms.
The Council’s slogans are so blindly and unthinkingly collectivist that they become a parody of their ideals. Rand uses this backwards caricature of collectivism to exaggerate the negative aspects of the movement, and by contrast, highlight egotism as an empowering, progressive, and moral way of life.
As he wanders the forest, Equality 7-2521 concludes that he is “doomed.” He finds solace in his invention, which he crafted in the spirit of discovery. He resigns himself to an imminent death. Finally, he comes to the painful realization that he will never see the Golden One again. Equality 7-2521 is distressed by this thought, but concludes that it will be for the best for the Golden One to forget about him.
At this point, it seems as though Equality 7-2521 will be martyred in the name of individualistic achievement, much like the Transgressor of the Unspoken Word. Interestingly, he appears not to be entirely self-sufficient; rather, his concern for the Golden One makes him feel some remorse for disappearing completely.