In the world Ayn Rand depicts in Anthem, individuals have no identity of their own. They exist only for the sake of the community. There is no "I" (the word literally doesn't exist), but only "the great WE." Anything that might allow individuals to develop their own identity – whether it be a name, a mirror, or the first-person singular – is suppressed. The story's plot follows the main character, Equality 7-2521 2-7521, as he slowly discovers his own identity as an individual. Gradually he moves away from thinking himself as a member of the "we" to thinking of himself as an "I" and valuing his own uniqueness.
Questions About Identity
- Does Equality 7-2521 have any sense of individual identity when Anthem begins? How can you tell?
- What steps does the society in Anthem take to prevent individuals from acquiring a sense of individual identity? Why does it take the steps it does?
- Do any other characters besides Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 show signs of individual identity? Do you think most members of the society have any sense of it?
- Trace the progress of Equality 7-2521's development of identity in Anthem. At what moment would you say he comes to a clear sense of himself as an individual?
Chew on This
It is only Equality 7-2521's love for Liberty 5-3000 that makes his discovery of himself as an individual possible.
Equality 7-2521 always thought of himself primarily as an individual, in spite of his society's efforts to repress his individuality.