Without a doubt, individualism is the core theme of Anthem. The entire text is essentially a parable designed to illustrate the paramount importance of Ayn Rand's idea of individual will. The plot chronicles Equality 7-2521’s evolution from a brainwashed, faceless drone in a dismal authoritarian state; to a self-sufficient, creative, and powerful man living outside of the system that oppressed him. The key catalyst of Equality 7-2521’s liberation is his self-reliance. Even though his society discourages it, Equality 7-2521 gradually begins to act more and more in his own self-interest, instead of bowing to the arbitrary demands imposed upon him. At first, pursuing his passion for scientific discovery registers to Equality 7-2521 as an “evil” act, but he learns to feel unashamed of his strength, intelligence, and creativity and slowly begins to develop as an individual.
Throughout the novel, Equality 7-2521 refers to himself using the first-person plural, “we,” highlighting the way that his collectivist society has eliminated the deep-rooted concept of selfhood. As Equality 7-2521 and his individualistic lover, the Golden One, progress through the awakenings of their individual egos, they begin to grasp the concept of the “I,” and feel “torn, torn for some word we could not find.” Finally, Equality 7-2521’s triumph over collectivist oppression is his realization and embrace of the word “I.” The last chapter of the book is dedicated to praising individualism, delivered in the first person. In this chapter, Equality 7-2521 states Rand’s central message: “My happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.” While Equality 7-2521’s anti-individualist society had unhealthily and unnaturally quashed his impulses to assert himself, he has finally found true empowerment in the strength of his own ego. “Ego,” to both Rand and her protagonist, represents “the word which can never die on this earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning and the glory.” Equality 7-2521’s empowering evolution into an individualist illustrates that no matter what oppressive, depersonalizing conditions are imposed on mankind, the strength of the individual ego will always prevail one way or another.
Individualism Quotes in Anthem
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
We do not wonder at this new sin of ours. It is our second Transgression of Preference, for we do not think of all our brothers, as we must, but only of one, and their name is Liberty 5-3000. We do not know why we think of them. We do not know why, when we think of them, we feel of a sudden that the earth is good and that it is not a burden to live.
And as we look upon the Uncharted Forest far in the night, we think of the secrets of the Unmentionable Times. And we wonder how it came to pass that these secrets were lost to the world. We have heard the legends of the great fighting, in which many men fought on one side and only a few on the other. These few were the Evil Ones and they were conquered. Then great fires raged over the land. And in these fires the Evil Ones were burned. And the fire which is called the Dawn of the Great Rebirth, was the Script Fire where all the scripts of the Evil Ones were burned, and with them all the words of the Evil Ones. Great mountains of flame stood in the squares of the Cities for three months. Then came the Great Rebirth.
But it seemed to us that the eyes of the Transgressor had chosen us from the crowd and were looking straight upon us. There was no pain in their eyes and no knowledge of the agony of their body. There was only joy in them, and pride, a pride holier than it is fit for human pride to be.
We, Equality 7-2521, have discovered a new power of nature. And we have discovered it alone, and we are alone to know it.
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!
We made it. We created it. We brought it forth from the night of the ages. We alone. Our hands. Our mind. Ours alone and only.
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.
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.
"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!"
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.
We have broken the law, but we have never doubted it. Yet now, as we walk through the forest, we are learning to doubt.
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.
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.
Many words have been granted me, and some are wise, and some are false, but only three are holy: "I will it!"
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