Many days have passed since Equality 7-2521 has written in his journal. He did not have any desire to speak, and has not needed to record his experiences in words in order to remember them. On his second day in the forest, Equality 7-2521 hears footsteps behind him and hides. He sees someone clad in a tunic and leaps out to confront them. It is the Golden One; she rushes towards him.
Equality 7-2521’s experiences in the wilderness have been so individual and personal that he hasn’t even felt the need to share them with his own journal.
Equality 7-2521 asks the Golden One what she is doing in the forest, but she answers only by saying that she has found him. She then explains that she followed him into the forest after news of his escape spread throughout the City. After running away from the Home of the Peasants, she tracked him through the wilderness, undisturbed by the cuts and bruises she suffered on the way. The Golden One explains that she will follow Equality 7-2521 wherever he goes, and is even willing to die alongside him. “You are damned, and we wish to share your damnation,” she explains.
The Golden One occupies an interesting space in between Equality 7-2521’s individualism and her utterly conformist society. After all, she has the strength to break free of her culture, but she remains at Equality 7-2521’s beck and call. It is in moments like these that it becomes very clear that the Golden One is designed as a secondary character, meant to complement, but not to challenge, Equality 7-2521’s rugged individualism.
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 deferential. She kneels and bows before him. When Equality 7-2521 reaches down to help her up, they touch lips. The feeling of kissing is foreign and thrilling to them, and Equality 7-2521 is struck that he lived 21 years without knowing that he could experience such great joy.
It is unclear just how flattering Rand seeks to make her portrayal of the Golden One’s deference to Equality 7-2521. By kneeling and bowing before Equality 7-2521, she certainly portrays herself as much less of an assertive individual than he.
Equality 7-2521 tells the Golden One that she has nothing to fear about the solitude of the forest. Their comrades and their internalized notions of good and evil are unnecessary. The two go off hand in hand, and later that night Equality 7-2521 comes to learn that having sexual intercourse with a woman is an ecstasy, not a source of shame.
It is worth considering whether the two lovers’ mutually enjoyable sexual encounter is a representation of individual self-sufficiency, or an indication that some aspects of human fulfillment are indeed collective.
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 uses to hunt birds for food. At night, he and the Golden One set up camp in a clearing and surround themselves with fires to prevent the wild animals from attacking them while they sleep. He resolves to one day build a house and stop wandering, but feels no need to rush to do so.
Just as Equality 7-2521’s invention of the light bulb served to differentiate him from his dull, dark surroundings, the fires he uses to defend himself and the Golden One while they sleep are another symbol of their individual strength and their abilities to prevail over their environments.
Equality 7-2521 finds his new life far more straightforward than his previous one. He reveres the beauty that surrounds him—both of nature itself and of the Golden One. He ponders how the solitude he has found could possible be considered a sinful, corrupting force. “If this is the great evil of being alone, then what is good and what is evil?” he asks himself. Though he has broken the law before, he had never doubted it until this moment. He reflects that the only meaningful life he had thought possible was spent in toil for his fellow brothers, and that the only joy he thought possible had to be shared with his brethren. But his most profound joys have come from the solitary experiences he has had while creating his light bulb, and in his relationship with the Golden One. The delight he finds in solitude puzzles him.
Equality 7-2521 begins to still more vigorously investigate and question the dubious principles of collectivism that he has internalized. Finally, Equality 7-2521 is on the verge of doubting the collectivist principles he has accepted unquestioningly for his entire life. He has already adapted to a fulfilling, individualistic lifestyle; the only missing piece is for his moral sensibilities to align with his real-life behavior, so that he can act as he wants to without feeling like a transgressor.
The Golden One tells Equality 7-2521, “we love you.” But something sounds wrong about that phrase, and she takes it back. She tries to express that she alone loves him alone, but cannot express this thought in the proper words. Equality 7-2521 ends the chapter by saying that he feels distraught and in need of a particular word he does not know.
The couple’s collectivist society has literally controlled the way they think and speak, by denying them the ability to think of themselves as an individual with the word “I.” However, the discomfort they feel after hearing this phrase suggests that they are on the cusp of fully realizing their individuality.