In Anthem, how do the smartest men in Equality's community react to his invention?
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When Equality 7-2521 comes before the World Council of Scholars and announces that he is a street sweeper, the Scholars are frightened and very angry. Having just escaped from the Palace of Corrective Detention, Equality is determined to tell the scholars all about his experiments with electricity. He reasons that his light-bulb invention is too important not to share with the world, and he hopes that his discovery will so impress the Scholars that his past transgressions against the state will finally be forgiven. Equality shows them his glass box and puts the wires to the box; the Scholars watch carefully. When the wire glows, the Scholars are horrified. They leap to their feet, and run to the wall, where they huddle together for comfort and warmth.
Equality assures the Scholars that he has given them the power of the sky and the keys to the earth. They remain silent but eventually find their voice when Equality demands an answer. Collective 0-0009 is angry that Equality would dare to think he knows better than the Scholars and that he would dare to strive beyond his position in society as a street sweeper. Fraternity 9- 3452 is angry that Equality has dared to think beyond the collective voice. Individual voices are not allowed. Two more scholars demand that Equality be lashed or burned at the stake. Eventually, the Scholars decide that the glass box must be destroyed. After all, they reason that everyone whose ideas are voted against by the Scholars will eventually have to yield to their authority. Unanimity 2-9913 assures his brother Scholars that it took fifty years to alter plans to make candles rather than torches and that the Council cannot afford to alter plans again so soon. The scholars all declare that the box should be destroyed; grieved beyond measure, Equality grabs his glass box, crashes through a window and escapes. He runs away, his heart broken. When he finds that he has run to the Uncharted Forest, he feels that he is doomed to spend the rest of his days in solitude, the specific 'corruption' condemned by his society.
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The smartest Council of Scholars decides that Equality's invention is against the law. They are fearful of it, and try to destroy it for they deem it to be dangerous and different from things they know of. Equality sees the danger and sudden pride in not wanting the box destroyed, thus takes it and runs away.