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In Anthem, Ayn Rand draws heavily on Greek mythology but also references more recent cultures and actual events, especially from the twentieth century. The idea of living underground, in ignorance and under surveillance, draws on Plato’s “Allegory of Cave” in his Republic. Even before the reader learns that Equality 7-2521 has decided to rename himself, his association with the mythical figure Prometheus is clear. He takes a candle, a singular light source, in order to continue his activities. He later makes light without fire. In Greek mythology, Prometheus brought fire to humankind and paid the price with eternal punishment by Zeus. Because this defiant figure was greatly admired by many generations of writers, Rand also alludes to his interpretation by Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

In the modern world, Rand names the Great War, which is another name for World War I. The World Council similarly alludes to the League of Nations.

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The equality and conformity that characterize the collective society in Anthem clearly allude to the communism of Soviet Russia, which Rand herself experienced and fled. Rand critiques a society in which talent is not allowed to rise to the top and where individualism is crushed, which was her experience in the Soviet Union.

Rand also alludes to Greek mythology, which she uses as a positive ideology to counter the repressive qualities of collectivism. At the end of the book, Equality and Liberty rename themselves Prometheus and Gaea. In Greek myth, Prometheus defied the gods to give fire to humankind, for which he was punished. This name refers back to Equality's trying to give to his society the gift of the lightbulb, which he had rediscovered, and being punished for it. In Romantic thought, Prometheus is also seen as one who strives, which is what Equality does, for he is always seeking to improve. Gaea in Greek mythology is the earth goddess and mother of all life. Clearly, Equality and Liberty see themselves as people who will bring new life and new ideas to the world.

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