Equality 7-2521 is captivated by a woman named Liberty 5-3000, even though it is forbidden to take notice of women in this way. Liberty 5-3000 works as a farmer in the Home of the Peasants. When Equality 7-2521 sweeps near her field, he admires her from afar. One day, the two face one another and seem to share a moment of recognition. The following day, the two smile at one another, and they begin to rendezvous in silence every day, gesturing subtly at one another so that their comrades cannot observe their greetings.
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 though men are only permitted to think of women at the Time of Mating. This takes place one day each spring when fertile men and women are sent to the Palace of Mating to procreate impersonally. Equality 7-2521 finds this mating “ugly” and “shameful.”
Equality 7-2521’s distinctive renaming of Liberty 5-3000 illustrates another small breach of his society’s restrictions on individuality. His revulsion to the Palace of Mating demonstrates that his society’s treatment of sex reduces a natural, and ideally joyful, act into a shameful, mechanical ordeal.
One day, Equality 7-2521 speaks to the Golden One. He tells her that she is beautiful, and they confide in one another that they are attracted to each other. He then begins to think of the Palace of Mating, and is confused why he would associate Liberty 5-3000 with that place. However, he vows never to let her be sent to the Palace. She is seventeen, which makes her one year away from being eligible to be sent for mating. This thought makes Equality 7-2521 furious, though he cannot understand why. The Golden One notices this anger, and she smiles sadly. Equality 7-2521 muses that she, in her “wisdom of women,” understands more than he. The two part ways, and Equality 7-2521 notices that the Golden One’s hands tremble as she continues her farming.
Interpersonal interactions have been so de-sexualized, and sex made so clinical, that Equality 7-2521 cannot understand why his romantic attraction would have sexual undertones. He also cannot decipher his individualistic urge to keep the Golden One’s sexual availability to himself. This suggests that Rand’s ideal society might accommodate jealousy and rage more than this collectivist society does.
Later that night, Equality 7-2521 is reprimanded for singing joyfully at the dinner table. It is considered improper to sing without reason. He notices that, while all men are supposed to be happy, his comrades live in fear. One, Fraternity 2-5503, sobs uncontrollably throughout the day. Another, Solidarity 9-6347, often screams out for help in his sleep. Because of the solace Equality 7-2521 finds in his tunnel, he seems visibly content, and the Council of the Home notices this with suspicion.
The dismalness of Equality 7-2521’s collectivist society is further reinforced by its utterly depressing prohibition of joyfulness. The pathetic misery of Equality 7-2521’s comrades shows that in the name of promoting equal happiness, their society has in fact guaranteed that none can live happily—and repressed those who still dare to do so.
Before bed, Equality 7-2521 looks out at the Uncharted Forest that lies outside the city. Rarely, some men are rumored to escape the City and hide in the forest, and the forest is also rumored to hold ruins from the Unmentionable Times. The secrets of the Unmentionable Times were erased when the group of people called Evil Ones were defeated just before the Great Rebirth and their writings were burned in the Script Fire.
Equality 7-2521’s retelling of history shows how deeply the government’s collectivist propaganda runs. His narrative implies that all traces of individualistic society—and all the attendant knowledge—were burned, and any that subscribed to this ideology were given the monolithic label of “Evil Ones.”
Equality 7-2521 longs to learn these secrets, and reflects on the fact that there is an Unspeakable Word that has been lost to language. The only crime punishable by death in his society is to speak the Unspeakable Word. Equality 7-2521 is haunted by the memory of witnessing one speaker of the Unspeakable Word being burned alive in the City’s public square. This Transgressor, despite having his tongue ripped out and being set on fire, carries himself with remarkable composure, reminiscent of a Saint. Equality 7-2521 remembers the Transgressor making eye contact with him as he burned to death. He recalls seeing not pain or suffering in the Transgressor’s eyes, but simply pride.
Here, we finally see the brutality that the collectivists use to impose their anti-individualistic agenda. It is fairly clearly implied, even at this point, that the Unspeakable Word is “I”—the word that allows individuals to distinguish themselves from the collective. The dignity that Equality 7-2521 sees in the Transgressor foreshadows the dignity he may be able to regain once he, too, can access his individuality.