Anthem

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Equality 7-2521 Character Analysis

The strong, intelligent, and creative protagonist of Anthem. Despite his exceptional talents and interest in science, Equality 7-2521’s collectivist society forces him to work as a Street Sweeper and encourages him to feel ashamed of his individualism and self-motivation. Equality 7-2521 indulges his creativity by spending years working clandestinely to invent a light bulb, but when he triumphantly presents this invention to the World Council of Scholars, they call him a selfish heretic. This incident prompts him to flee his City, and over time, Equality 7-2521 learns to defy societal proscriptions against egocentrism and value his own happiness above all else. At the book’s conclusion, he renames himself Prometheus, makes a home deep in the Uncharted Forest with his beloved, The Golden One, and plans to start a new civilization of egotists.

Equality 7-2521 Quotes in Anthem

The Anthem quotes below are all either spoken by Equality 7-2521 or refer to Equality 7-2521. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Individualism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Anthem published in 2014.
Chapter 1 Quotes

It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base and evil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own. And we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone. We have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not write unless the Council of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Related Symbols: “We”
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Anthem begins with the main character, Equality 7-2521, claiming that it's sinful for him to be writing his own story. In Equality's society, individuality of any kind is seen as a hideous crime against humanity; therefore, writing something like a diary--something designed to be written and read by one person and only one person--is truly a sin.

Right away, then, Rand shows us that Equality is living in a dystopian society, one in which the freedom to think, to write, and to be alone are all under constant attack. Notice Equality's careful use of pronouns--even when he's talking about himself (one person) he uses the word "we," suggesting that Equality is so used to thinking in terms of the group that the notion of being an individual is utterly foreign to him.

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We were born with a curse. It has always driven us to thoughts which are forbidden. It has always given us wishes which men may not wish. We know that we are evil, but there is no will in us and no power to resist it. This is our wonder and our secret fear, that we know and do not resist.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Related Symbols: “We”
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Rand poses a natural question: in a collectivist society, how does she choose a narrator? In other words, what makes Equality different from the people around him--why is he especially suited to write a book or be a hero of individuality? Rand answers her own question by showing that Equality is a naturally curious and adventurous person. Like so many other literary heroes, he feels a constant stirring to go out and explore the world. The difference between Equality and most other heroes of literature, however, is that Equality lives in a world where his curiosity is forbidden.

And questions give us no rest. We know not why our curse makes us seek we know not what, ever and ever. But we cannot resist it. It whispers to us that there are great things on this earth of ours, and that we can know them if we try, and that we must know them. We ask, why must we know, but it has no answer to give us. We must know that we may know.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Related Symbols: “We”
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Equality tries to describe the unique feeling of curiosity and individualism within himself. He tries to describe the feeling in many different ways--he compares it to a whispering voice, a curse, etc.

From our perspective, Equality's instinct is perfectly comprehensible--Equality is just a particularly adventurous, curious person. But because Equality lives in a collectivist society, he literally cannot find the words to describe his own state of mind. As in another famous dystopian novel, 1984 (see Background Info), Equality's world has rewritten the very rules of language to make it impossible for people to describe their sense of freedom and individualism. Quite literally, there is no "I," only "We."

International 4-8818 and we are friends. This is an evil thing to say, for it is a transgression, the great Transgression of Preference, to love any among men better than the others, since we must love all men and all men are our friends. So International 4-8818 and we have never spoken of it. But we know. We know, when we look into each other's eyes. And when we look thus without words, we both know other things also, strange things for which there are no words, and these things frighten us.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker), International 4-8818
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

As a young man, Equality befriends a man named International 4-8818. In Equality's society, friendship of any kind is a sin, because it violates the principles of collectivism: to be friends with somebody is to prefer them to other people, and therefore to disrespect the basic rules of collectivism.

In general, the passage paints a picture of the contrast between individualism and collectivism. In spite of the fact that Equality's society strives to wipe out all traces of individuality by rewriting the rules of language itself, Equality continues to feel individualistic inclinations. Even if there's no word for the bond between himself and International, both he and International feel the bond. Society may try to wipe out individual thought and love, but in the end, Equality's individualism wins out.

And yet there is no shame in us and no regret. We say to ourselves that we are a wretch and a traitor. But we feel no burden upon our spirit and no fear in our heart. And it seems to us that our spirit is clear as a lake troubled by no eyes save those of the sun. And in our heart -- strange are the ways of evil! -- in our heart there is the first peace we have known in twenty years.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Together, Equality and International discover a secret tunnel. They agree to keep all information about the tunnel to themselves, despite the fact that keeping secrets of any kind is a sin--a violation of collectivism. Henceforth, Equality sneaks into the tunnel and spends time alone. Although Equality feels that he is disobeying the rules of society, he's exhilarated nonetheless.

In one sense, it's clear that Equality's shame at keeping a secret from his society is absurd; Equality has been conditioned to believe in a botched morality, in which individualism of any kind is condemned. In a more general sense, the passage shows Rand's belief that personal morality is the only true morality. Equality has been brought up to believe in a certain set of rules of right and wrong--rules that are simply not true, he finds. Rand celebrates Equality for ignoring society's rules and listening to his own instincts, no matter what.

Chapter 5 Quotes

We stretch out our arms. For the first time do we know how strong our arms are. And a strange thought comes to us: we wonder, for the first time in our life, what we look like. Men never see their own faces and never ask their brothers about it, for it is evil to have concern for their own faces or bodies. But tonight, for a reason we cannot fathom, we wish it were possible to us to know the likeness of our own person.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Page Number: 45-46
Explanation and Analysis:

Equality feels a strong desire to know what he looks like. In spite of the fact that he lives in a society where individualism of any kind is despised, Equality is becoming increasingly aware of his self; i.e., he's becoming conscious that he is a unique person, distinct from the society in which he lives.

It's crucial to note that Equality first becomes curious about what he looks like after he invents the light bulb. Equality feels a sense of pride in his scientific accomplishments, and even more importantly, he becomes aware that someone created the lightbulb--Equality himself. In short, Rand defines individualism in terms of intellectual action. A true individual is someone like Equality, who uses his mind to create something new. As Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." Equality creates the lightbulb; therefore he is an individual.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Tomorrow, in the full light of day, we shall take our box, and leave our tunnel open, and walk through the streets to the Home of the Scholars. We shall put before them the greatest gift ever offered to men. We shall tell them the truth. We shall hand to them, as our confession, these pages we have written. We shall join our hands to theirs, and we shall work together, with the power of the sky, for the glory of mankind.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Related Symbols: “We”, Light and the Light Bulb
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Equality--armed with the knowledge of how to build a light bulb--prepares to go before the Home of the Scholars and present his findings. Equality is confident that the Scholars will recognize the obvious superiority of his light bulb over the humble candle.

Notice that Equality frames his expectations for the meeting with the Scholars in terms of "the glory of mankind." Even though Equality is in the process of discovering his own individuality, he's still acting out of a sincere desire to help other people. Rand uses this passage is disprove the notion that individualism is incompatible with generosity. Evidently, it's possible to be an individual and to help other people.

Chapter 7 Quotes

"A Street Sweeper! A Street Sweeper walking in upon the World Council of Scholars! It is not to be believed! It is against all the rules and all the laws!"

Related Characters: The World Council of Scholars (speaker), Equality 7-2521
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Equality presents his light bulb before the Home of the Scholars, but to his amazement, the Scholars don't celebrate Equality's invention; on the contrary, they consider it dangerous and pointless. Here, the Scholars condemn Equality for daring to appear before the Scholars--Equality is just a humble Street Sweeper, who should know his place.

Up to this point, it was possible to believe that Equality's society was sincerely committed to the principles of equality and cooperation. Here, however, it becomes clear that the opposite is true. Whatever lip-service Equality's society pays to equality, it's obvious that the Scholars look down on certain people in society for being inferior. Equality's society is hypocritical: it claims to treat all people equally, and yet clearly doesn't.

The irony of the scene is that Equality is "more Catholic than the Pope"--in other words, he's more committed to helping other people than the Scholars themselves. Equality wants to use his lightbulb for the betterment of mankind--something the Scholars angrily forbid. Ultimately, Rand uses this passage to illustrate the contradictions of a collectivist society: the only society that can truly use its power to help its own people is a society that celebrates individual achievement.

Chapter 8 Quotes

We sat still and we held our breath. For our face and our body were beautiful. Our face was not like the faces of our brothers, for we felt no pity when looking upon it. Our body was not like the bodies of our brothers, for our limbs were straight and thin and hard and strong. And we thought that we could trust this being who looked upon us from the stream, and that we had nothing to fear with this being.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

Equality--newly escaped from his society--walks through the forest and stumbles upon a stream. In the stream, Equality sees his own reflection--it's the first time he's ever seen what he looks like. To Equality's delight, he is strong and handsome.

While Equality's behavior might seem vain (indeed, it's the very definition of "narcissism," as it echoes the Greek myth of Narcissus falling in love with his reflection), Rand is trying to make a different point. Equality has been living in a collectivist society for so long that any love for his own body, his own intelligence, and his own talent was forbidden. Therefore, it's crucial for Equality to recognize his own worth: as the passage makes very clear, he's no longer playing by his society's rules.

Indeed, Rand celebrates Equality's egotism and arrogance, and suggests that if we want to criticize him as vain then we are thinking collectively. As Rand was fond of saying, the modern world discourages people from taking pride in their own abilities--a slippery slope that, she claimed, will end in a totally collectivist society, of the kind on view in Anthem. (This doesn't speak to those who aren't naturally beautiful, strong, brilliant, and curious, however.)

Chapter 9 Quotes

We shall follow you wherever you go. If danger threatens you, we shall face it also. If it be death, we shall die with you. You are damned, and we wish to share your damnation.

Related Characters: The Golden One (speaker), Equality 7-2521
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Equality reunites with The Golden One, the love of his life. Equality, who'd feared that he'd never see The Golden One again, is overjoyed to be with his love. In this scene, The Golden One tells Equality that she'll be with him forever--even if staying with him endangers her own life. In short, Equality and the Golden One love each other--they're willing to sacrifice their own happiness for each other's sake.

The passage is crucial because it responds to the most common criticism of Rand's style of individualism--that such individualism is incompatible with love and cooperation. As Rand argues here, true love is only possible with Randian individualism. It's perfectly possible to be a rugged individualist and also love someone completely. Indeed, love becomes more valuable when it's reserved for a handful of other people, rather than being doled out to everyone. In short, Rand implies, the man who loves people in general loves no one in particular.

We have broken the law, but we have never doubted it. Yet now, as we walk through the forest, we are learning to doubt.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Page Number: 69-70
Explanation and Analysis:

Equality, now escaped from collectivist society for good, begins to think critically about the rules he's grown up with. Since he was a baby, Equality has been taught to think in terms of the group--to distrust any kind of selfishness or self-interest. Although we've seen Equality disobey the laws of his society, Equality has still always thought of these laws as being correct. Now that he's abandoned society altogether, Equality begins to realize that his former society's laws were never right--individuality and curiosity aren't sins at all.

The passage establishes doubt as one of the most important weapons for individualism. Nobody in Equality's society questioned society's rules, precisely because everyone believed in these rules. Rand advocates the practice of systematic doubt--the constant questioning of the ideas people are supposed to take for granted. As Equality begins to question the philosophy of collectivism and groupthink, he sees it for what it is: a pack of lies.

We looked into each other's eyes and we knew that the breath 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.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker), The Golden One
Related Symbols: “We”
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Equality and The Golden One confess their love for one another--they say, "We love you," but notice that their words sound wrong. Equality and the Golden One feel that they have yet to become true individuals--they're still thinking in terms of the group, as evidenced by their use of the word "we."

In spite of the fact that Equality and The Golden One aren't yet complete individuals, the passage gives a vivid, almost religious account of the "miracle" of individualism. As Rand sees it, Equality has been blessed with an incredible gift--the gift to think for himself and pursue his own interests. Equality's story is a coming-of-age tale, in which he discovers his gift (the gift of individualism) and then proceeds to develop his gift to the point where he can utter the "sacred word" ("I") and become a true individual.

Chapter 10 Quotes

And now we look upon the earth and sky. This spread of naked rock and peaks and moonlight is like a world ready to be born, a world that waits. It seems to us it asks a sign from us, a spark, a first commandment. We cannot know what word we are to give, nor what great deed this earth expects to witness. We know it waits. It seems to say it has great gifts to lay before us, but it wishes a greater gift from us. We are to speak. We are to give its goal, its highest meaning to all this glowing space of rock and sky.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Page Number: 76-77
Explanation and Analysis:

Equality and his companion, The Golden One, look out into the wilderness and feel a sense of deep excitement. As Equality sees it, the natural world (the rocks, the moonlight, etc.) belongs to him and The Golden One--it's crying out to be "dominated" by human beings. Rand even suggests that the very "meaning" of the world is to be run by the human race.

Throughout the novel, Rand has argued that human beings own themselves and their ideas. Here, Rand offers an interesting corollary to her own theory of individualism: human beings own the world as well as themselves. Humans have been blessed with the gifts of self-consciousness and intellectual freedom--they must use their unique gifts to explore the natural world and place it under their control.

Chapter 11 Quotes

Many words have been granted me, and some are wise, and some are false, but only three are holy: "I will it!"

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Page Number: 78-79
Explanation and Analysis:

In this dramatic passage, Equality claims that the only sacred words are "I will it." Equality's claim is interesting for a number of reasons.

1) The passage represents one of the first times in the novel that Equality uses the word "I." Up until now, Equality has thought in terms of the group. Here, though, he's beginning to stretc" his individualist muscles, thinking of himself as a unique, independent being--and he has finally learned the forbidden word and begun to apply it to himself.

2) The passage also reinforces the importance of freedom ("will"). It is not enough for human beings to be individuals; they must use their individuality to achieve specific actions, exercising their own unique freedom in the process. All human beings (even the human beings in Equality's society) have the capacity to be free individuals, but only those who choose to exercise their free will can truly be called individual. (This is also an echo of the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, in which the "will to power" is the most important part of achieving fulfillment in life.)

3) By the same token, the passage reminds us that individualism is an act, not just a state of mind. Over the course of the novel, Equality gets in touch with his individuality by discovering the light bulb, fleeing from the Council, etc.--in other words, by thinking his own thoughts and acting as he sees fit. As Rand believed, there are many people who know that they're individuals but lack the courage to exercise their free will by being truly original.

My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Equality comes to see that human happiness is its own purpose--an idea that's more complicated than it might seem at first. Equality's discovery rebuts a long philosophical tradition that argues that happiness must itself be a means to some other, higher goal.

Here, Rand uses Equality as a mouthpiece to articulate her own philosophical system Objectivism. As Rand argued in her other writings, all religions and ideologies make the same basic mistake: they trivialize human happiness and deify some other value, be it God, wealth, cooperation, wisdom, etc. The problem with religions and ideologies, then, is that they can be used to reduce individual happiness in favor of another value. (For example, Rand argued that Christianity tries to make human happiness appear less important than loyalty to God.)  For Rand, the cornerstone of any system of philosophy must be the idea that individual happiness is the highest good--indeed, protecting the principle of human happiness is the only way to respect individualism.

Chapter 12 Quotes

And here, over the portals of my fort, I shall cut in the stone the word which is to be my beacon and my banner. The word which will not die, should we all perish in battle. The word which can never die on this earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning and the glory. The sacred word: EGO

Related Characters: Equality 7-2521 (speaker)
Page Number: 88-89
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Equality finally discovers the "sacred word" that defines all human greatness--ego. Ego, which is Latin for "I," is the cornerstone of Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. By the same token, it's also the cornerstone of Equality's way of life--his most important duty is protecting his own happiness and his own freedom. Each human has been given ownership of his own mind and body, and, according to Rand, humans must never sacrifice such gifts for the sake of the group (as in Equality's former society).

It's important to note that Equality's tone here borders on the messianic (notice that the final sentences of the novel echo the Lord's Prayer, "for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory ..." Where Christianity worships God, Equality (and Rand) worships ego--the miraculous, almost divine gift with which all human beings are blessed. 

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Equality 7-2521 Character Timeline in Anthem

The timeline below shows where the character Equality 7-2521 appears in Anthem. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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“It is a sin to write this,” begins an entry in Equality 7-2521’s journal. He always refers to himself using the second-person plural, “we,” and explains that his... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 explains that he is 21 years old, and his tall, strong body and his active,... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 recounts his childhood in the Home of the Infants, where he was disciplined for fighting... (full context)
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For four years, Equality 7-2521 performed the menial, routine tasks demanded of the Street Sweepers, until he committed a “crime”... (full context)
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Once he descends the ladder, Equality 7-2521 finds himself in a large tunnel. He finds metal tracks on the ground and soon... (full context)
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From then on, Equality 7-2521 sneaks away from the mandatory entertainment every night and spends time in his secret tunnel.... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Equality 7-2521 is captivated by a woman named Liberty 5-3000, even though it is forbidden to take... (full context)
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Even though it is a sin to give others distinctive names, Equality 7-2521 now thinks of Liberty 5-3000 as “The Golden One.” He thinks of her often, even... (full context)
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One day, Equality 7-2521 speaks to the Golden One. He tells her that she is beautiful, and they confide... (full context)
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Later that night, Equality 7-2521 is reprimanded for singing joyfully at the dinner table. It is considered improper to sing... (full context)
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Before bed, Equality 7-2521 looks out at the Uncharted Forest that lies outside the city. Rarely, some men are... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 longs to learn these secrets, and reflects on the fact that there is an Unspeakable... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Equality 7-2521 claims to have singlehandedly “discovered a new power of nature,” and he alone is privy... (full context)
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“Haunted” by this discovery, Equality 7-2521 performs more experiments to learn that metal conducts power from the sky, like lightning. Using... (full context)
Chapter 4
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After many days, Equality 7-2521 finds the Golden One again and speaks to her near her fields. He tells her... (full context)
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The Golden One then offers Equality 7-2521 some water to drink. Because he cannot cross the hedge, she kneels by the moat... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Equality 7-2521 has successfully created a strange device that he describes as a glass box housing a... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 decides that he will promote his discovery so that all men can use it. Next... (full context)
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As he thinks about his invention, Equality 7-2521 realizes that he is proud not just of what he created, but also of himself... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Thirty days have passed since Equality 7-2521’s last journal entry. On the night he created his light bulb, he forgot to watch... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 runs back to his tunnel hideout. The next day, he will show his invention at... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Equality 7-2521 is now in the Uncharted Forest. He will live there until he is ripped apart... (full context)
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The Scholars tell Equality 7-2521 that his invention—and his presumption that it will help empower mankind—go against the principles of... (full context)
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As he wanders the forest, Equality 7-2521 concludes that he is “doomed.” He finds solace in his invention, which he crafted in... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Equality 7-2521’s first day in the forest has turned out to be a refreshing, liberating encounter with... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 walks through the forest until nightfall. He then recalls that he is now a complete... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Many days have passed since Equality 7-2521 has written in his journal. He did not have any desire to speak, and has... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 asks the Golden One what she is doing in the forest, but she answers only... (full context)
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The Golden One continues to speak, with “bitterness and triumph” in her voice. Equality 7-2521 , she says, is fierce, hard, and defiant; unlike his brothers, who are weak and... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 tells the Golden One that she has nothing to fear about the solitude of the... (full context)
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The two walk through the vast forest for days. Equality 7-2521 enjoys distancing himself from the City. He has made a bow and arrow, which he... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 finds his new life far more straightforward than his previous one. He reveres the beauty... (full context)
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The Golden One tells Equality 7-2521 , “we love you.” But something sounds wrong about that phrase, and she takes it... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Equality 7-2521 sits at a table and writes this journal entry on paper that is thousands of... (full context)
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Before entering the house, Equality 7-2521 asks the Golden One if she is scared, and she says no, so the two... (full context)
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After inspecting the house, Equality 7-2521 tells the Golden One that they will inhabit the house until the end of their... (full context)
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At nightfall, the Golden One falls asleep, and Equality 7-2521 carries her to bed. He stays up reading the manuscripts by candlelight, knowing that he... (full context)
Chapter 11
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For the first time, Equality 7-2521 narrates in the first person. “I am. I think. I will,” he writes. The words... (full context)
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It is Equality 7-2521’s eyes that give beauty to what he sees, and his hearing is what allows for... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 says that he does not know whether the earth is the center of the universe... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 is neither a friend nor an enemy to his fellow man, and will only give... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Equality 7-2521 explains that he first encountered the word “I” in the first book he read in... (full context)
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...and that they should pick names for themselves. From his readings, he chooses the name Prometheus, after the figure from Greek mythology who stole fire from the Gods and brought it... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521 has also read about Gaea, the mythological earth-mother. He gives the Golden One this name,... (full context)
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Equality 7-2521, now Prometheus, sees his future clearly before him. He is the successor to the Saint of the... (full context)
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Prometheus has learned that his light bulb relies on something the men from the Unmentionable Times... (full context)
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Gaea is pregnant with a child, and Prometheus says he will teach his son to live as a man and speak “I” proudly.... (full context)
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“Freedom,” to Prometheus, simply requires that man be free from his brothers. At first, men were enslaved by... (full context)
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Prometheus ponders how such greatness in human spirit could have faded to such cowardliness, but knows... (full context)