In Anthem, who is the "Saint of the Pyre"?

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Ayn Rand's Anthem is a novel which describes a dystopic future totalitarian culture. The lead character, named Equality 7-2521, witnesses a man being burned at the stake, whom he later describes as the "Saint of the Pyre." Equality 7-2521 gives him this name after he learns that the man was burned for discovering the Unspeakable Word, a word which Equality goes on to discover for himself.

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Equality 7-2521 is an independent thinker who researches whatever information he can get his hands on. At one point, Equality is thinking about the Unmentionable Times and the wars he has heard about before the Great Rebirth. He then remembers his history lessons about the Great Rebirth. Apparently, there was a fire which started it. Equality elaborates as follows:

"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" (48-49).

He says that the Evil Ones had words that his civilization doesn't have anymore. He really wants to know what those words are. Equality remembers that one person knew one important word from the Evil Ones. They call that word the Unspeakable Word. If someone discovers that word, there are no questions asked, and the man is burned to death. In fact, Equality saw one man burned alive in the city's center a long time ago for knowing what that word was. He says that the memory of that day haunts him because he was only ten years old when he witnessed the execution by fire.

Equality remembers the day of the execution. He remembers the blonde-haired man who walked towards his execution with confidence. His face was calm even though people yelled at him and spit on him. As the man was burning, Equality feels as though he looked right at him through the crowd and it is something that he never forgot. As a result, Equality has always wondered what the Unspeakable Word is, and he refers to this confident and brave man as the "Saint of the pyre" (51). It isn't until the end of the book that Equality discovers that the word is "I."


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