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The World Council of Scholars Character Analysis

Led by Collective 0-0009, the World Council of Scholars is the group in charge of all scholarly affairs in Equality 7-2521’s collectivist society. The group and its members are meant to illustrate what Rand perceived as the weak, spineless, and inefficient nature of collectivism. When Equality 7-2521 presents his light bulb to the Council, they condemn him as an arrogant, selfish sinner for trying to better mankind by acting alone. Because the light bulb was not invented collectively, they conclude that it must be evil endeavor to destroy it and punish Equality 7-2521; however, they are thwarted when Equality 7-2521 escapes with his invention.

The World Council of Scholars Quotes in Anthem

The Anthem quotes below are all either spoken by The World Council of Scholars or refer to The World Council of Scholars. 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 3 Quotes

No single one can possess greater wisdom than the many Scholars who are elected by all men for their wisdom. Yet we can. We do. We have fought against saying it, but now it is said. We do not care. We forget all men, all laws and all things save our metals and our wires. So much is still to be learned! So long a road lies before us, and what care we if we must travel it alone!

Related Characters: The World Council of Scholars
Related Symbols: Light and the Light Bulb
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

In Equality's society, all knowledge is controlled by a group of Scholars--a supposedly wise body of elders who control the sum of humanity's knowledge and wisdom. As Equality makes very clear, his own intelligence and wisdom now seems to outstrip that of the Scholars: where the Scholars believe that candles are the best light source, Equality has discovered that there's a much better one, the light bulb.

The passage draws a distinction between the philosophy of the Scholars--to accept the current state of knowledge and refuse to discover anything new--and that of Equality--to be curious and constantly discover new information. The irony of the "Scholars" is that their society is almost totally lacking in information--after the collapse of individualistic society, most of the human race's wisdom was lost forever. The Scholars should be seeking out new information in the hopes of improving their society, but instead, they discourage scientific experimentation or research of any kind (especially the kind practiced by Equality).


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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.

"What is not thought by all men cannot be true."

Related Characters: The World Council of Scholars (speaker)
Related Symbols: Light and the Light Bulb
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

At the World Council of Scholars, Equality presents his discovery of the light bulb, only to be angrily criticized. The Scholars dislike Equality for daring to pursue scientific research on his own. Equality's behavior illustrates his individualism--and therefore it infuriates the Council.

The Scholars ignore the fact that Equality has discovered something that's useful to all people--instead, they focus on the fact that Equality has discovered his invention on his own. In this passage, the Scholars sum up their opposition to Equality's behavior: Equality has dared to think something new, and therefore, he must be lying.

The passage proves that Equality's society is against all human progress. The only way that a society can move forward is if individual people use their intelligence to discover new things. By denying people like Equality the right to do so, the Council is condemning society to an eternity of ignorance.

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The World Council of Scholars Character Timeline in Anthem

The timeline below shows where the character The World Council of Scholars appears in Anthem. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Individualism Theme Icon
Collectivism Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
...his discovery so that all men can use it. Next month, the World Council of Scholars will meet in his City, and he will present his light bulb to them. He... (full context)
Chapter 6
Individualism Theme Icon
Collectivism Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
...imprisoned for many days. Finally, Equality 7-2521 decides to escape, because the World Council of Scholars is scheduled to meet the next day. He easily breaks the old locks on the... (full context)
Chapter 7
Individualism Theme Icon
Collectivism Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon 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... (full context)
Individualism Theme Icon
Collectivism Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
The Scholars tell Equality 7-2521 that his invention—and his presumption that it will help empower mankind—go against... (full context)