Study Guide

Anthem Strength and Skill

By Ayn Rand

Strength and Skill

We are six feet tall, and this is a burden, for there are not many men who are six feet tall. Ever have the Teachers and the Leaders pointed to us and frowned and said: "There is evil in your bones, Equality 7-2521, for your body has grown beyond the bodies of your brothers." (1.5)

Equality 7-2521 is naturally tall, which sets him apart from most other people in his society. Learning this detail immediately lends an aura of strength and distinction to his character. It makes him stand out from others, and seem stronger than them, which is just why his Teachers don't like it.

It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was that the learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a head which is too quick. (1.17)

Equality 7-2521 is not only taller than most of the other people around them, he's also smarter. A lot smarter. But this is even worse than being tall in his society, because it gives him an even more significant kind of superiority.

So we fought against this curse. We tried to forget our lessons, but we always remembered. (1.18)

It sounds like Equality 7-2521 feels guilty for being as intelligent as he is, and tries to will it away. However, he's incapable of changing who he is and becoming inferior just because he wants to. He's just stuck with his natural superiority.

They are a tall, strong youth and their eyes are like fireflies, for there is laughter in their eyes. (1.36)

Equality 7-2521's friend International 4-8818 is, like Equality 7-2521, also tall, strong, and young. He's also got bright and lively eyes, unlike everyone else (whose eyes are dull). The people with a sense of individuality who naturally resist the Great WE seem to be physically marked off from everyone else.

Their body was straight and thin as a blade of iron. Their eyes were dark and hard and glowing, with no fear in them, no kindness and no guilt. Their hair was golden as the sun; their hair flew in the wind, shining and wild, as if it defied men to restrain it. (2.4)

Liberty 5-3000 has another straight, strong, beautiful body. And another pair of glowing eyes. Her eyes are "without kindness" too. Maybe that appeals to Equality 7-2521 because it makes her seem stronger and more ruggedly individualistic? Between that and the guiltlessness/fearlessness, she definitely radiates a kind of aggressive strength.

The eyes of our brothers are dull, and never do they look one another in the eyes. The shoulders of our brothers are hunched, and their muscles are drawn, as if their bodies were shrinking and wished to shrink out of sight. (2.42)

Here we get the description of the masses. They are dull-eyed, afraid, hunched, weak, and small. Just no middle ground between the tall, strong beautiful people and everybody else, is there?

The Transgressor were young and tall. They had hair of gold and eyes blue as morning. They walked to the pyre, and their step did not falter. (2.54)

The Transgressor – the guy who said the Unspeakable Word and got burned at the stake – is also tall, strong, young, and beautiful. Does this come as a surprise? And of course, he also faces his execution without fear, even with pride.

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. (3.7)

Equality 7-2521 has just beat out the combined mental powers of his entire society and come upon something they've never dreamed of before. The capability of an exceptional individual has triumphed over the mediocrity of the masses.

Our body is healthy and strength returns to it speedily. We lunged against the door and it gave way. We stole through the dark passages, and through the dark streets, and down into our tunnel. (6.26)

Equality 7-2521 is so much stronger than the average person in his society that getting out of jail is just a breeze. It only takes a single lunge to break down the door.

Then I shall build a barrier of wires around my home, and across the paths which lead to my home; a barrier light as a cobweb, more impassable than a wall of granite; a barrier my brothers will never be able to cross. For they have nothing to fight me with, save the brute force of their numbers. I have my mind. (12.12)

Strength in numbers doesn't fare well in this story. The power of Equality 7-2521's own brilliant mind gives him an advantage over the entirety of his society. He simply has nothing to fear from them, because he has technology and ingenuity on his side.