Analyze Ayn Rand’s use of darkness and light in Anthem.
Equality 7-2521's growth in knowledge and embrace of individual talents and gifts is symbolized by his movement toward light. When he begins to think for himself, he invents, or reinvents, the electric light. As he moves away from the world of collectivism, characterized by darkness and dullness, images of light become more frequent. For example, when he and the Golden One find the house from the Unmentionable Times, which they realize only two people (not a group) had ever lived in, Equality describes it in radiant tones:
Never had we seen rooms so full of light. The sunrays danced upon colors, colors, more colors than we thought possible, we who had seen no houses save the white ones, the brown ones and the grey. There were great pieces of glass on the walls, but it was not glass, for when we looked upon it we saw our own bodies and all the things behind us, as on the face of a lake.
Of course, gold is a color associated with lightness and brightness, and Golden One is the name of the woman Equality loves.
Light is a symbol of knowledge and freedom, but also power. This why the people of the collectivist world fear the electric light. In deciding in the end to reignite this "new" kind of light, Equality, now renamed Prometheus, is taking hold of the power that individualism offers him.
Rand shows her optimism that determined individuals can break free of social constraints by using the word light almost three times as often as the word dark.
While light is often associated with God or Christ in the Christian world, it's important to keep in mind that for Rand, an atheist, this light is the light of knowledge and the light particularly talented individuals can bring to the world when they are allowed to use their genius.
There are a lot of interesting angles that you could take with light and darkness in this book. To start, Equality 7-2521 is enveloped in darkness. The tone of the novel is dark, both figuratively and physically. For instance, the third paragraph starts with the sentence, "It is dark here. The flame of the candle stands still in the air." As we move through the book, we find out that Equality 7-2521 is in a tunnel which is from the Unmentionable Times. He has found this tunnel with International 4-8188, his street sweeping partner. Ironically, this dark tunnel is where Equality 7-2521 develops his knowledge of light and electricity, which causes him to eventually run away from the society in which he lives.
Symbolically, darkness usually illustrates ignorance while light stands for knowledge. In the case of Anthem, Equality 7-2521 goes to the darkest place, an unlit tunnel, and discovers light. This light leads him to knowledge in the form of electricity and eventually causes him to escape to freedom, allowing him to learn as much as he wishes.
Equality 7-2521 and The Golden One rename themselves Prometheus and Gaea, respectively. Prometheus "took the light of the gods and he brought it to men, and he taught men to be gods." Prometheus plans to go and get some of the men that he left behind to teach them about what he has learned. Further, he and Gaea have found a house at the top of a mountain with a ton of windows and books. In Chapter XI, Prometheus says, "I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest...I am the meaning." He has found a place of ultimate light in the summit and he realizes that he is ultimate knowledge.
The images of darkness and light are continually in contrast with each other in Rand's novel Anthem. While reading it, one might visualize seeing it as a black and white film; but, these images are certainly symbolic to what one might call revelation or enlightenment. For example, the walls, floors, and beds of all the homes are white which symbolizes cleanliness, but also equality. The people wear white tunics and the leaders wear white togas. Although these are status symbols in style, they are not different colors which again suggests equality. The candle is the only form of light given to the people which is partial darkness and the lowest form of technology attributed to controlled light or energy. The candle represents the bare minimum amount of knowledge associated with the people's education. When Equality 7-2521 discovers electricity, and the ability to sustain it through bulbs, it is a symbol of his inner light and knowledge that is growing and expanding within himself. The dark cave where he must secretly learn and discover new things soon becomes a place of light physically and symbolically. It is also interesting that the girl Equality falls in love with is a symbol of light because she has blonde hair and he eventually calls her The Golden One. Through her, he discovers another type of knowledge and light that had previously been denied him. These examples all suggest that living without knowledge of ourselves as individuals leads to darkness, but we can learn so much more in the full light of things.
Initially, Equality 7-2521 must retreat to dark places in order to find knowledge. It is in the dark that he discovers electric light. Shortly before making this discovery, Equality 7-2521 renames Liberty 5-3000 “The Golden One.” Gold and electric light become the symbols of love and knowledge.
All traces of knowledge from “The Unmentionable Times” are hidden by the Council and buried under rubble. The Council has banished all the fruits of individual achievement in order to only promote social achievements. Those achievements, technology, and abilities have been banished from memory (mentally) and from the practical world (physically). The automatons of this world are in the dark relative to all this knowledge. And that knowledge is hidden from them. Therefore, that knowledge is also in the dark. Fittingly, Equality 7-2521 must go to dark places in order to rediscover them.
Although he rediscovers knowledge in the dark, his main discovery is light. This is a literal and figurative theme. He sheds light on the world of all this forgotten knowledge by discovering actual light.