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Book info: Author: Ayn Rand Title: Anthem Language: en. Original publication date: Characters: Equality (Prometheus), Liberty (The. Read Anthem online by Ayn Rand at terney.info, the free online library full of thousands of classic books. Now you can read Anthem free from the comfort. "A dystopian fiction novella by Ayn Rand, first published in It takes You can also read the full text online using our ereader. More books by Ayn Rand.
May we be forgiven! But this is not the only sin upon us. We have committed a greater crime, and for this crime there is no name. What punishment awaits us if it be discovered we know not, for no such crime has come in the memory of men and there are no laws to provide for it. It is dark here. The flame of the candle stands still in the air. Nothing moves in this tunnel save our hand on the paper.
We are alone here under the earth. It is a fearful word, alone. The laws say that none among men may be alone, ever and at any time, for this is the great transgression and the root of all evil. But we have broken many laws. And now there is nothing here save our one body, and it is strange to see only two legs stretched on the ground, and on the wall before us the shadow of our one head.
The walls are cracked and water runs upon them in thin threads without sound, black and glistening as blood. We stole the candle from the larder of the Home of the Street Sweepers. We shall be sentenced to ten years in the Palace of Corrective Detention if it be discovered.
But this matters not. It matters only that the light is precious and we should not waste it to write when we need it for that work which is our crime. Nothing matters save the work, our secret, our evil, our precious work. Still, we must also write, for--may the Council have mercy upon us! Our name is Equality , as it is written on the iron bracelet which all men wear on their left wrists with their names upon it.
We are twenty-one years old. 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:. 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. We strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike. Over the portals of the Palace of the World Council, there are words cut in the marble, which we repeat to ourselves whenever we are tempted:. These words were cut long ago. There is green mould in the grooves of the letters and yellow streaks on the marble, which come from more years than men could count.
And these words are the truth, for they are written on the Palace of the World Council, and the World Council is the body of all truth. Thus has it been ever since the Great Rebirth, and farther back than that no memory can reach.
Anthem ebook Ayn Rand. Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na: It is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers told us so, and they frowned when they looked upon us.
So we fought against this curse. We tried to forget our lessons, but we always remembered. We tried not to understand what the Teachers taught, but we always understood it before the Teachers had spoken. We looked upon Union , who were a pale boy with only half a brain, and we tried to say and do as they did, that we might be like them, like Union , but somehow the Teachers knew that we were not. And we were lashed more often than all the other children.
The Teachers were just, for they had been appointed by the Councils, and the Councils are the voice of all justice, for they are the voice of all men. And if sometimes, in the secret darkness of our heart, we regret that which befell us on our fifteenth birthday, we know that it was through our own guilt.
We had broken a law, for we had not paid heed to the words of our Teachers. The Teachers had said to us all:. You shall do that which the Council of Vocations shall prescribe for you. For the Council of Vocations knows in its great wisdom where you are needed by your brother men, better than you can know it in your unworthy little minds. And if you are not needed by your brother men, there is no reason for you to burden the earth with your bodies.
We knew this well, in the years of our childhood, but our curse broke our will.
We were guilty and we confess it here: We preferred some work and some lessons to the others. We did not listen well to the history of all the Councils elected since the Great Rebirth. But we loved the Science of Things. We wished to know. We wished to know about all the things which make the earth around us.
We asked so many questions that the Teachers forbade it. We think that there are mysteries in the sky and under the water and in the plants which grow. But the Council of Scholars has said that there are no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things. And we learned much from our Teachers. We learned that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it, which causes the day and the night. We learned the names of all the winds which blow over the seas and push the sails of our great ships.
We learned how to bleed men to cure them of all ailments. We loved the Science of Things. And in the darkness, in the secret hour, when we awoke in the night and there were no brothers around us, but only their shapes in the beds and their snores, we closed our eyes, and we held our lips shut, and we stopped our breath, that no shudder might let our brothers see or hear or guess, and we thought that we wished to be sent to the Home of the Scholars when our time would come.
All the great modern inventions come from the Home of the Scholars, such as the newest one, which was found only a hundred years ago, of how to make candles from wax and string; also, how to make glass, which is put in our windows to protect us from the rain. To find these things, the Scholars must study the earth and learn from the rivers, from the sands, from the winds and the rocks. And if we went to the Home of the Scholars, we could learn from these also. We could ask questions of these, for they do not forbid questions.
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.
So we wished to be sent to the Home of the Scholars. We wished it so much that our hands trembled under the blankets in the night, and we bit our arm to stop that other pain which we could not endure.
It was evil and we dared not face our brothers in the morning. For men may wish nothing for themselves. And we were punished when the Council of Vocations came to give us our life Mandates which tell those who reach their fifteenth year what their work is to be for the rest of their days. The Council of Vocations came on the first day of spring, and they sat in the great hall.
And we who were fifteen and all the Teachers came into the great hall. And the Council of Vocations sat on a high dais, and they had but two words to speak to each of the Students. They called the Students' names, and when the Students stepped before them, one after another, the Council said: Now if the Council has said "Carpenter" or "Cook," the Students so assigned go to work and they do not study any further. But if the Council has said "Leader," then those Students go into the Home of the Leaders, which is the greatest house in the City, for it has three stories.
And there they study for many years, so that they may become candidates and be elected to the City Council and the State Council and the World Council -- by a free and general vote of all men. But we wished not to be a Leader, even though it is a great honor. We wished to be a Scholar.
So we awaited our turn in the great hall and then we heard the Council of Vocations call our name: There were five members of the Council, three of the male gender and two of the female. Their hair was white and their faces were cracked as the clay of a dry river bed. They were old. They seemed older than the marble of the Temple of the World Council.
They sat before us and they did not move. And we saw no breath to stir the folds of their white togas. But we knew that they were alive, for a finger of the hand of the oldest rose, pointed to us, and fell down again. This was the only thing which moved, for the lips of the oldest did not move as they said: We felt the cords of our neck grow tight as our head rose higher to look upon the faces of the Council, and we were happy.
We knew we had been guilty, but now we had a way to atone for it. We would accept our Life Mandate, and we would work for our brothers, gladly and willingly, and we would erase our sin against them, which they did not know, but we knew. So we were happy, and proud of ourselves and of our victory over ourselves. We raised our right arm and we spoke, and our voice was the clearest, the steadiest voice in the hall that day, and we said:.
And we looked straight into the eyes of the Council, but their eyes were as cold blue glass buttons. So we went into the Home of the Street Sweepers. It is a grey house on a narrow street. There is a sundial in its courtyard, by which the Council of the Home can tell the hours of the day and when to ring the bell. When the bell rings, we all arise from our beds.
The sky is green and cold in our windows to the east. The shadow on the sundial marks off a half-hour while we dress and eat our breakfast in the dining hall, where there are five long tables with twenty clay plates and twenty clay cups on each table.
Then we go to work in the streets of the City, with our brooms and our rakes. In five hours, when the sun is high, we return to the Home and we eat our midday meal, for which one-half hour is allowed. Then we go to work again. In five hours, the shadows are blue on the pavements, and the sky is blue with a deep brightness which is not bright.
We come back to have our dinner, which lasts one hour. Then the bell rings and we walk in a straight column to one of the City Halls, for the Social Meeting. Other columns of men arrive from the Homes of the different Trades.
The candles are lit, and the Councils of the different Homes stand in a pulpit, and they speak to us of our duties and of our brother men. Then visiting Leaders mount the pulpit and they read to us the speeches which were made in the City Council that day, for the City Council represents all men and all men must know. The sky is a soggy purple when we return to the Home. Then the bell rings and we walk in a straight column to the City Theatre for three hours of Social Recreation. There a play is shown upon the stage, with two great choruses from the Home of the Actors, which speak and answer all together, in two great voices.
The plays are about toil and how good it is. Then we walk back to the Home in a straight column. The sky is like a black sieve pierced by silver drops that tremble, ready to burst through. The moths beat against the street lanterns. We go to our beds and we sleep, till the bell rings again. The sleeping halls are white and clean and bare of all things save one hundred beds. Thus have we lived each day of four years, until two springs ago when our crime happened.
Thus must all men live until they are forty. At forty, they are worn out. At forty, they are sent to the Home of the Useless, where the Old Ones live. The Old Ones do not work, for the State takes care of them. They sit in the sun in summer and they sit by the fire in winter. They do not speak often, for they are weary. The Old Ones know that they are soon to die. When a miracle happens and some live to be forty-five, they are the Ancient Ones, and children stare at them when passing by the Home of the Useless.
Such is to be our life, as that of all our brothers and of the brothers who came before us. Such would have been our life, had we not committed our crime which changed all things for us.
And it was our curse which drove us to our crime. We had been a good Street Sweeper and like all our brother Street Sweepers, save for our cursed wish to know. We looked too long at the stars at night, and at the trees and the earth. And when we cleaned the yard of the Home of the Scholars, we gathered the glass vials, the pieces of metal, the dried bones which they had discarded.
We wished to keep these things and to study them, but we had no place to hide them. So we carried them to the City Cesspool. And then we made the discovery.
It was on a day of the spring before last. We Street Sweepers work in brigades of three, and we were with Union , they of the half-brain, and with International Now Union are a sickly lad and sometimes they are stricken with convulsions, when their mouth froths and their eyes turn white. But International are different.
They are a tall, strong youth and their eyes are like fireflies, for there is laughter in their eyes. We cannot look upon International and not smile in answer. For this they were not liked in the Home of the Students, as it is not proper to smile without reason.
And also they were not liked because they took pieces of coal and they drew pictures upon the walls, and they were pictures which made men laugh. But it is only our brothers in the Home of the Artists who are permitted to draw pictures, so International were sent to the Home of the Street Sweepers, like ourselves.
International 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 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.
So on that day of the spring before last, Union were stricken with convulsions on the edge of the City, near the City Theatre.
We left them to lie in the shade of the Theatre tent and we went with International to finish our work. We came together to the great ravine behind the Theatre. It is empty save for trees and weeds. Beyond the ravine there is a plain, and beyond the plain there lies the Uncharted Forest, about which men must not think.
We were gathering the papers and the rags which the wind had blown from the Theatre, when we saw an iron bar among the weeds. It was old and rusted by many rains. We pulled with all our strength, but we could not move it. So we called International , and together we scraped the earth around the bar.
Of a sudden the earth fell in before us, and we saw an old iron grill over a black hole. International stepped back. But we pulled at the grill and it gave way. And then we saw iron rings as steps leading down a shaft into a darkness without bottom. And they answered: And everything which is not permitted by law is forbidden. We hung on the iron rings with our hands and our feet. We could see nothing below us.
And above us the hole open upon the sky grew smaller and smaller, till it came to be the size of a button. But still we went down.
Then our foot touched the ground. We rubbed our eyes, for we could not see. Then our eyes became used to the darkness, but we could not believe what we saw. No men known to us could have built this place, nor the men known to our brothers who lived before us, and yet it was built by men. It was a great tunnel. Its walls were hard and smooth to the touch; it felt like stone, but it was not stone.
On the ground there were long thin tracks of iron, but it was not iron; it felt smooth and cold as glass. We knelt, and we crawled forward, our hand groping along the iron line to see where it would lead. But there was an unbroken night ahead. Only the iron tracks glowed through it, straight and white, calling us to follow. But we could not follow, for we were losing the puddle of light behind us.
So we turned and we crawled back, our hand on the iron line. And our heart beat in our fingertips, without reason. And then we knew. We knew suddenly that this place was left from the Unmentionable Times. So it was true, and those Times had been, and all the wonders of those Times. Hundreds upon hundreds of years ago men knew secrets which we have lost. And we thought: They are damned who touch the things of the Unmentionable Times.
They backed away, as if they dared not touch us. Then they smiled, but it was not a gay smile; it was lost and pleading. But still we could not speak. Then they said:. This place is ours. This place belongs to us, Equality , and to no other men on earth.
And if ever we surrender it, we shall surrender our life with it also. Then we saw that the eyes of International were full to the lids with tears they dared not drop. They whispered, and their voice trembled, so that their words lost all shape:.
But if you wish it so, we shall obey you. Rather shall we be evil with you than good with all our brothers. May the Council have mercy upon both our hearts! Then we walked away together and back to the Home of the Street Sweepers. And we walked in silence. Thus did it come to pass that each night, when the stars are high and the Street Sweepers sit in the City Theatre, we, Equality , steal out and run through the darkness to our place.
It is easy to leave the Theatre; when the candles are blown and the Actors come onto the stage, no eyes can see us as we crawl under our seat and under the cloth of the tent. Later, it is easy to steal through the shadows and fall in line next to International , as the column leaves the Theatre.
It is dark in the streets and there are no men about, for no men may walk through the City when they have no mission to walk there. Each night, we run to the ravine, and we remove the stones which we have piled upon the iron grill to hide it from men. Each night, for three hours, we are under the earth, alone. We have stolen candles from the Home of the Street Sweepers, we have stolen flints and knives and paper, and we have brought them to this place.
We have stolen glass vials and powders and acids from the Home of the Scholars. Now we sit in the tunnel for three hours each night and we study. We melt strange metals, and we mix acids, and we cut open the bodies of the animals which we find in the City Cesspool. We have built an oven of the bricks we gathered in the streets. We burn the wood we find in the ravine. The fire flickers in the oven and blue shadows dance upon the walls, and there is no sound of men to disturb us. We have stolen manuscripts.
This is a great offense. Manuscripts are precious, for our brothers in the Home of the Clerks spend one year to copy one single script in their clear handwriting.
Manuscripts are rare and they are kept in the Home of the Scholars. So we sit under the earth and we read the stolen scripts. Two years have passed since we found this place.
And in these two years we have learned more than we had learned in the ten years of the Home of the Students. We have learned things which are not in the scripts. We have solved secrets of which the Scholars have no knowledge. We have come to see how great is the unexplored, and many lifetimes will not bring us to the end of our quest. But we wish no end to our quest. We wish nothing, save to be alone and to learn, and to feel as if with each day our sight were growing sharper than the hawk's and clearer than rock crystal.
Strange are the ways of evil. We are false in the faces of our brothers.
We are defying the will of our Councils. We alone, of the thousands who walk this earth, we alone in this hour are doing a work which has no purpose save that we wish to do it. The evil of our crime is not for the human mind to probe. The nature of our punishment, if it be discovered, is not for the human heart to ponder. Never, not in the memory of the Ancient Ones' Ancients, never have men done that which we are doing. 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! Just with the opening paragraph one can see differences between the style of Anthem and Rand's other novels. Differences include: The use of a first-person narrative.
All of Rand's other novels are written in the third person, generally from an "omniscient" point of view.
Unusual although grammatically acceptable phrase constructions and word orders. For example, "bid them so," in the next to last sentence of this paragraph. Vocabulary that is not typical of Rand, such as the use of words like "transgression" and "base. In addition, this opening paragraph is different in that it is easily the longest opening paragraph for any Rand novel.
All of her other novels have one-sentence opening paragraphs: Finally, it is probably worth noting the similarity between the opening of Anthem and the opening of one of Rand's first writing efforts in English: The unusual "names" are a striking feature of Anthem.
Rand intentionally gave the characters numerical designations rather than regular names to represent the collectivism of the society she projected: I patterned the numbering after telephone numbers, with prefixes consisting of statist slogans, some good, but hypocritical for that society such as "Liberty" -- others, ironic on my part such as "Equality" for the hero, who is obviously a genius and not the intellectual "equal" of average men. Some texts use the wording "which we are required to repeat to ourselves" instead of "which we repeat to ourselves.
The additional phrase has been excluded from this edition on the following grounds: Some texts lack the phrase "that we can know them if we try," which is a significant omission given the philosophical implications of that clause.
It has been included in this edition on the following grounds: Equality 's assignment as a Street Sweeper shows the disdain that the Council has for his ability and his desire for learning. He is assigned to the most menial of positions, work with a minimum of intellectual stimulation, precisely because he has shown ability and interest. It is punishment for his individualism. An echo of the Council's attitude can be found in the character of Ellsworth Toohey in Rand's later novel The Fountainhead.
In an early job as a vocational adviser, Toohey encourages students to avoid careers they love in favor of work that does not interest them. The street sweeping assignment also serves other purposes within Rand's story. See the footnote for paragraph 1. Although it first appears as an instance of how a collectivist society mistreats the individual, the assignment to work as a Street Sweeper actually drives several important events in the story.
It is his work that takes Equality to the place where he makes his discoveries. Later, his work will also take him to the place of his first meetings with Liberty This is a classic example of Rand's use of the same element of a story to serve multiple purposes. Some texts omit the sentence, "But we wish no end to our quest. We wish to write this name. We wish to speak it, but we dare not speak it above a whisper. For men are forbidden to take notice of women, and women are forbidden to take notice of men.
But we think of one among women, they whose name is Liberty , and we think of no others. The women who have been assigned to work the soil live in the Homes of the Peasants beyond the City.
Where the City ends there is a great road winding off to the north, and we Street Sweepers must keep this road clean to the first milepost. There is a hedge along the road, and beyond the hedge lie the fields. The fields are black and ploughed, and they lie like a great fan before us, with their furrows gathered in some hand beyond the sky, spreading forth from that hand, opening wide apart as they come toward us, like black pleats that sparkle with thin, green spangles.
Women work in the fields, and their white tunics in the wind are like the wings of sea-gulls beating over the black soil. And there it was that we saw Liberty walking along the furrows. 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. They threw seeds from their hand as if they deigned to fling a scornful gift, and the earth was a beggar under their feet.
We stood still; for the first time did we know fear, and then pain. And we stood still that we might not spill this pain more precious than pleasure. Then we heard a voice from the others call their name: Thus we learned their name, and we stood watching them go, till their white tunic was lost in the blue mist. And the following day, as we came to the northern road, we kept our eyes upon Liberty in the field. And each day thereafter we knew the illness of waiting for our hour on the northern road.
And there we looked at Liberty each day. We know not whether they looked at us also, but we think they did. Then one day they came close to the hedge, and suddenly they turned to us. They turned in a whirl and the movement of their body stopped, as if slashed off, as suddenly as it had started.
They stood still as a stone, and they looked straight upon us, straight into our eyes. There was no smile on their face, and no welcome. But their face was taut, and their eyes were dark. Then they turned as swiftly, and they walked away from us. But the following day, when we came to the road, they smiled. They smiled to us and for us. And we smiled in answer. Their head fell back, and their arms fell, as if their arms and their thin white neck were stricken suddenly with a great lassitude.
They were not looking upon us, but upon the sky. Then they glanced at us over their shoulder, and we felt as if a hand had touched our body, slipping softly from our lips to our feet.
Every morning thereafter, we greeted each other with our eyes. We dared not speak. It is a transgression to speak to men of other Trades, save in groups at the Social Meetings. But once, standing at the hedge, we raised our hand to our forehead and then moved it slowly, palm down, toward Liberty Had the others seen it, they could have guessed nothing, for it looked only as if we were shading our eyes from the sun.
But Liberty saw it and understood. They raised their hand to their forehead and moved it as we had. Thus, each day, we greet Liberty , and they answer, and no men can suspect. 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 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. We do not think of them as Liberty any longer. We have given them a name in our thoughts. We call them the Golden One. But it is a sin to give men names which distinguish them from other men.
Yet we call them the Golden One, for they are not like the others. The Golden One are not like the others.
And we take no heed of the law which says that men may not think of women, save at the Time of Mating. This is the time each spring when all the men older than twenty and all the women older than eighteen are sent for one night to the City Palace of Mating.
And each of the men have one of the women assigned to them by the Council of Eugenics. Children are born each winter, but women never see their children and children never know their parents. Twice have we been sent to the Palace of Mating, but it is an ugly and shameful matter, of which we do not like to think. We had broken so many laws, and today we have broken one more. Today, we spoke to the Golden One. The other women were far off in the field, when we stopped at the hedge by the side of the road.
The Golden One were kneeling alone at the moat which runs through the field. And the drops of water falling from their hands, as they raised the water to their lips, were like sparks of fire in the sun. Then the Golden One saw us, and they did not move, kneeling there, looking at us, and circles of light played upon their white tunic, from the sun on the water of the moat, and one sparkling drop fell from a finger of their hand held as frozen in the air. Then the Golden One rose and walked to the hedge, as if they had heard a command in our eyes.
The two other Street Sweepers of our brigade were a hundred paces away down the road. And we thought that International would not betray us, and Union would not understand. So we looked straight upon the Golden One, and we saw the shadows of their lashes on their white cheeks and the sparks of sun on their lips.
And we said:. Their face did not move and they did not avert their eyes. Only their eyes grew wider, and there was triumph in their eyes, and it was not triumph over us, but over things we could not guess. We cannot say what they meant, for there are no words for their meaning, but we know it without words and we knew it then. And suddenly, without cause for the thought which came to us, we felt cold, cold to our stomach. And we sighed, as if a burden had been taken from us, for we had been thinking without reason of the Palace of Mating.
And we thought that we would not let the Golden One be sent to the Palace. How to prevent it, how to bar the will of the Councils, we knew not, but we knew suddenly that we would. Only we do not know why such thought came to us, for these ugly matters bear no relation to us and the Golden One. What relation can they bear? Still, without reason, as we stood there by the hedge, we felt our lips drawn tight with hatred, a sudden hatred for all our brother men.
And the Golden One saw it and smiled slowly, and there was in their smile the first sadness we had seen in them. We think that in the wisdom of women the Golden One had understood more than we can understand.
Then three of the sisters in the field appeared, coming toward the road, so the Golden One walked away from us. They took the bag of seeds, and they threw the seeds into the furrows of earth as they walked away. But the seeds flew wildly, for the hand of the Golden One was trembling. Yet as we walked back to the Home of the Street Sweepers, we felt that we wanted to sing, without reason. So we were reprimanded tonight, in the dining hall, for without knowing it we had begun to sing aloud some tune we had never heard.
But it is not proper to sing without reason, save at the Social Meetings. And now, sitting here in our tunnel, we wonder about these words. It is forbidden, not to be happy. For, as it has been explained to us, men are free and the earth belongs to them; and all things on earth belong to all men; and the will of all men together is good for all; and so all men must be happy. Yet as we stand at night in the great hall, removing our garments for sleep, we look upon our brothers and we wonder. The heads of our brothers are bowed.
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. And a word steals into our mind, as we look upon our brothers, and that word is fear.
There is fear hanging in the air of the sleeping halls, and in the air of the streets. Fear walks through the City, fear without name, without shape. All men feel it and none dare to speak. We feel it also, when we are in the Home of the Street Sweepers. But here, in our tunnel, we feel it no longer.
The air is pure under the ground. There is no odor of men. And these three hours give us strength for our hours above the ground. Our body is betraying us, for the Council of the Home looks with suspicion upon us. It is not good to feel too much joy nor to be glad that our body lives.
For we matter not and it must not matter to us whether we live or die, which is to be as our brothers will it. But we, Equality , are glad to be living. If this is a vice, then we wish no virtue. Yet our brothers are not like us. All is not well with our brothers. There are Fraternity , a quiet boy with wise, kind eyes, who cry suddenly, without reason, in the midst of day or night, and their body shakes with sobs they cannot explain.
There are Solidarity , who are a bright youth, without fear in the day; but they scream in their sleep, and they scream: Help us! And as we all undress at night, in the dim light of the candles, our brothers are silent, for they dare not speak the thoughts of their minds.
For all must agree with all, and they cannot know if their thoughts are the thoughts of all, and so they fear to speak. And they are glad when the candles are blown for the night. But we, Equality , look through the window upon the sky, and there is peace in the sky, and cleanliness, and dignity. And beyond the City there lies the plain, and beyond the plain, black upon the black sky, there lies the Uncharted Forest.
We do not wish to look upon the Uncharted Forest. We do not wish to think of it. But ever do our eyes return to that black patch upon the sky. Men never enter the Uncharted Forest, for there is no power to explore it and no path to lead among its ancient trees which stand as guards of fearful secrets. It is whispered that once or twice in a hundred years, one among the men of the City escape alone and run to the Uncharted Forest, without call or reason.
These men do not return. They perish from hunger and from the claws of the wild beasts which roam the Forest. But our Councils say that this is only a legend. We have heard that there are many Uncharted Forests over the land, among the Cities.
And it is whispered that they have grown over the ruins of many cities of the Unmentionable Times. The trees have swallowed the ruins, and the bones under the ruins, and all the things which perished. 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. The words of the Evil Ones. The words of the Unmentionable Times. What are the words which we have lost? May the Council have mercy upon us! We had no wish to write such a question, and we knew not what we were doing till we had written it. We shall not ask this question and we shall not think it. We shall not call death upon our head. There is some word, one single word which is not in the language of men, but which had been.
And this is the Unspeakable Word, which no men may speak nor hear. But sometimes, and it is rare, sometimes, somewhere, one among men find that word. They find it upon scraps of old manuscripts or cut into the fragments of ancient stones. But when they speak it they are put to death. There is no crime punished by death in this world, save this one crime of speaking the Unspeakable Word.
We have seen one of such men burned alive in the square of the City. And it was a sight which has stayed with us through the years, and it haunts us, and follows us, and it gives us no rest.
We were a child then, ten years old. And we stood in the great square with all the children and all the men of the City, sent to behold the burning. They brought the Transgressor out into the square and they led them to the pyre. They had torn out the tongue of the Transgressor, so that they could speak no longer. 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. And of all the faces on that square, of all the faces which shrieked and screamed and spat curses upon them, theirs was the calmest and the happiest face.
As the chains were wound over their body at the stake, and a flame set to the pyre, the Transgressor looked upon the City. There was a thin thread of blood running from the corner of their mouth, but their lips were smiling.
And a monstrous thought came to us then, which has never left us. We had heard of Saints. But we had never seen a Saint nor what the likeness of a Saint should be. And we thought then, standing in the square, that the likeness of a Saint was the face we saw before us in the flames, the face of the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word.
As the flames rose, a thing happened which no eyes saw but ours, else we would not be living today. Perhaps it had only seemed to us. 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. And it seemed as if these eyes were trying to tell us something through the flames, to send into our eyes some word without sound. And it seemed as if these eyes were begging us to gather that word and not to let it go from us and from the earth. But the flames rose and we could not guess the word. What -- even if we have to burn for it like the Saint of the pyre -- what is the Unspeakable Word? Equality states that this is his second "Transgression of Preference.
He says he committed this transgression when he "preferred some work and some lessons to the others" 1. It is not clear from this brief description whether the "Council of Eugenics" has retained any concept of eugenics in the usual sense of selective breeding. They may simply be arranging anonymous matings in order to remove any elements of personal relationships or individual feelings from the sex act. If they are engaging in selective breeding, one wonders whether a non-conformist like Equality would be allowed to have any children at all.
Some texts omit a large portion of the sentence that begins, "And the fire which is called The missing scripts are significant to the plot later in the novel. The full sentence is present in most texts first and second edition and is therefore included in this edition. In the sentence that includes the phrase, "they led them to the pyre," some texts notably including the printed 50th Anniversary Edition use 'him' instead of 'them.
At least one commentator has speculated as to the import of Rand's use of 'him,' apparently not realizing that this is a copyediting error.
We, Equality , have discovered a new power of nature. And we have discovered it alone, and we are alone to know it. It is said. Now let us be lashed for it, if we must. The Council of Scholars has said that we all know the things which exist and therefore the things which are not known by all do not exist. But we think that the Council of Scholars is blind.
The secrets of this earth are not for all men to see, but only for those who will seek them. We know, for we have found a secret unknown to all our brothers. We know not what this power is nor whence it comes. But we know its nature, we have watched it and worked with it. We saw it first two years ago. One night, we were cutting open the body of a dead frog when we saw its leg jerking. It was dead, yet it moved. Some power unknown to men was making it move.
We could not understand it. Then, after many tests, we found the answer. The frog had been hanging on a wire of copper; and it had been the metal of our knife which had sent a strange power to the copper through the brine of the frog's body. We put a piece of copper and a piece of zinc into a jar of brine, we touched a wire to them, and there, under our fingers, was a miracle which had never occurred before, a new miracle and a new power.
This discovery haunted us. We followed it in preference to all our studies. We worked with it, we tested it in more ways than we can describe, and each step was as another miracle unveiling before us.
We came to know that we had found the greatest power on earth. For it defies all the laws known to men.
It makes the needle move and turn on the compass which we stole from the Home of the Scholars; but we had been taught, when still a child, that the loadstone points to the north and that this is a law which nothing can change; yet our new power defies all laws. We found that it causes lightning, and never have men known what causes lightning. In thunderstorms, we raised a tall rod of iron by the side of our hole, and we watched it from below.
We have seen the lightning strike it again and again. And now we know that metal draws the power of the sky, and that metal can be made to give it forth.
We have built strange things with this discovery of ours. We used for it the copper wires which we found here under the ground. We have walked the length of our tunnel, with a candle lighting the way. We could go no farther than half a mile, for earth and rock had fallen at both ends. But we gathered all the things we found and we brought them to our work place.
We found strange boxes with bars of metal inside, with many cords and strands and coils of metal. We found wires that led to strange little globes of glass on the walls; they contained threads of metal thinner than a spider's web. These things help us in our work. We do not understand them, but we think that the men of the Unmentionable Times had known our power of the sky, and these things had some relation to it.
We do not know, but we shall learn. We cannot stop now, even though it frightens us that we are alone in our knowledge. 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! The description of the tunnel here and at 1. If it is a subway, then this suggests that city where Equality lives exists on or near the ruins of an earlier city -- one large enough to have a subway. The ruins must have been cleared away or thoroughly decayed, because it is not acceptable for people to have contact with things from the Unmentionable Times 1.
Exactly what happened to the old city is not explained in any detail. Perhaps the war of the Great Rebirth 2. Perhaps the victorious collectivists intentionally dismantled it as a rejection of the previous society. Perhaps it was simply abandoned and fell to dust. Equality does not know. He can only report rumors that ruins of old cities have been overgrown by the Uncharted Forests 2. Many days passed before we could speak to the Golden One again.
But then came the day when the sky turned white, as if the sun had burst and spread its flame in the air, and the fields lay still without breath, and the dust of the road was white in the glow. So the women of the field were weary, and they tarried over their work, and they were far from the road when we came. But the Golden One stood alone at the hedge, waiting. We stopped and we saw that their eyes, so hard and scornful to the world, were looking at us as if they would obey any word we might speak.
The head of the Golden One bowed slowly, and they stood still before us, their arms at their sides, the palms of their hands turned to us, as if their body were delivered in submission to our eyes.
And we could not speak. Then they raised their head, and they spoke simply and gently, as if they wished us to forget some anxiety of their own. Then they knelt by the moat, they gathered water in their two hands, they rose and they held the water out to our lips. We do not know if we drank that water. We only knew suddenly that their hands were empty, but we were still holding our lips to their hands, and that they knew it, but did not move.
We raised our head and stepped back. For we did not understand what had made us do this, and we were afraid to understand it.
And the Golden One stepped back, and stood looking upon their hands in wonder. Then the Golden One moved away, even though no others were coming, and they moved stepping back, as if they could not turn from us, their arms bent before them, as if they could not lower their hands.