Study Guide

Anthem Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

  • We learn that Equality 7-2521's got a crush on a girl. Her name is Liberty 5-3000, and he tells us he can't think of anybody else.
  • Needless to say, this is also evil. Men aren't supposed to notice women.
  • It's also time for another extended flashback sequence…
  • First, we need to set the scene. There's a group of women, Equality 7-2521 tells us, who are assigned to work in the fields just outside of the city. They live in the Home of the Peasants.
  • The Street Sweepers have to clean a road that runs from the city to the north and passes by the fields. It's separated from the fields by a hedge.
  • So, one day while he's doing his street sweeping near the fields, Equality 7-2521 sees Liberty 5-3000 at work and gets a crush on her. She is attractive and her eyes in particular are striking: "no fear in them, no kindness, and no guilt" (2.4).
  • For the first time in his life, Equality 7-2521 feels fear. Pain too.
  • Somebody calls the beautiful woman "Liberty 5-3000" and she retreats further into the fields. Now Equality 7-2521 knows her name.
  • Every day after, Equality 7-2521 tells us, he looks at Liberty 5-3000 as he passes
  • One day, Liberty 5-3000 looks at him back. There's no smile or welcome on her face.
  • But the next day, when Equality 7-2521 passes. Liberty 5-3000 looks at him again. This time she smiles. Equality 7-2521 smiles back.
  • Every morning afterwards, Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 greet each other with their eyes. Eventually they even progress to greeting each other with a hand gesture.
  • Equality 7-2521 knows this is also high up on the list of things no one's supposed to do. He now definitely values one person more than everyone else, and that is bad. But he doesn't care. Now he feels for the first time as if it's actually good to be alive.
  • Equality 7-2521 no longer thinks of Liberty 5-3000 as "Liberty 5-3000" anymore. In his mind, he calls her "the Golden One."
  • Men and women are not supposed to think of each other like that, Equality 7-2521 says. Except, that is, during the one night each year that is appointed for the Time of Mating, when men and women "of age" are matched up with total strangers by the Council of Eugenics for an anonymous but biologically optimal roll in the hay. Afterwards, they never see their children.
  • Equality 7-2521 does not like the Time of Mating.
  • Anyway, the good news is that today (the day he's writing), Equality 7-2521 actually spoke to the Golden One.
  • Begin flashback.
  • Equality 7-2521 was passing Liberty 5-3000. All the other women were far off in the field, and the Street Sweepers were a ways behind Equality 7-2521. Liberty 5-3000 was kneeling at a moat, looking at Equality 7-2521, and water was falling from her hands seductively.
  • When she sees Equality 7-2521, Liberty 5-3000 walks to the hedge, looking straight at him all the while. (We're switching to present tense again. Flashbacks are just always more vivid in real time).
  • Equality 7-2521 tells Liberty 5-3000 she's beautiful and calls her by name. She gets a look of triumph in her eyes.
  • Liberty 5-3000 asks Equality 7-2521 what his name is. When he tells her, she tells Equality 7-2521 that she does not think he is "one of her brothers," because she does not wish him to be…
  • Equality 7-2521 says that Liberty 5-3000 is not one of his "sisters" either. She's different.
  • Liberty 5-3000 asks if Equality 7-2521 always works the same stretch of road every day.
  • He does.
  • Liberty 5-3000 tells Equality 7-2521 his eyes are unlike any other man's.
  • Equality 7-2521 asks Liberty 5-3000 how old she is. Evidently he's started to think about the Time of Mating.
  • Liberty 5-3000 says she's seventeen. That means she hasn't yet been subjected to the Time of Mating.
  • Equality 7-2521 can't bear the idea of anyone else touching her. The idea is actually so disgusting that for a moment there he finds himself hating all of his "fellow men."
  • Three women start to approach from the field, and Liberty 5-3000 walks away.
  • Later that night, in the dining hall, Equality 7-2521 starts to sing without realizing it, because he is "happy." He is of course reprimanded. Everyone must be happy at all times, but apparently they're not allowed to show it spontaneously.
  • As Equality 7-2521 prepares himself for sleep, he looks around at his "brothers" and realizes that their eyes are dull, their bodies are hunched, and they never make eye contact. They're all afraid.
  • In fact, fear is everywhere in the City. Everyone's afraid. But nobody talks about it. Nobody's allowed to.
  • The flashback ends.
  • Equality 7-2521 also feels fear most of the time when he's in the City. But when he's alone, in the tunnel, he doesn't. There is "no odor of men" there (2.44).
  • Equality 7-2521 doesn't feel any fear when he looks at the sky, either. Or at the Uncharted Forest.
  • The Uncharted Forest is a place outside the City no one is allowed to go. It's wild and dangerous. It's rumored there are even ruins from the Unmentionable Times there.
  • Whenever Equality 7-2521 looks at the Uncharted Forest, he wonders about the Unmentionable Times. We now get to hear a little more about it.
  • According to the Legends, Equality 7-2521 says, the Unmentionable Times ended with a great war between "the many" and "the few." The few were the Evil Ones.
  • Suffice to say, the Evil Ones lost. When they did, everything they made was destroyed. All of their scripts and their words, were lost. The Great Rebirth began with a book burning.
  • Equality 7-2521 wants to know what it was the Evil Ones wrote about. This is a tremendously evil desire, but still, he wants to know.
  • In particular, there's one word, known as the Unspeakable Word, which no one can speak or hear. To speak the Unspeakable Word is the only crime punished by death.
  • Although most people don't know what the Unspeakable Word is, somehow a few do.
  • Once, when he was ten years old, Equality 7-2521 saw the execution of somebody who had said the Unspeakable Word. His tongue was cut out and he was burned publicly.
  • But to Equality 7-2521, the Transgressor who was executed seemed nobler and happier than anyone else in the crowd, even as he was executed. To Equality 7-2521, he even seemed like a Saint.
  • Equality 7-2521 tells us that when the flames began to engulf the Transgressor, he looked right into Equality 7-2521's eyes, and Equality 7-2521 saw pride. In that moment, Equality 7-2521 felt as if he'd been Chosen by the Transgressor to carry his torch.
  • Equality 7-2521 wants to know: what is the Unspeakable Word the Transgressor learned, and died for?

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