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The opening words to Anthem by Ayn Rand reveal the overwhelming effects of a lack of individuality. "It is a sin to write this..." allows the reader a glimpse of the world in which Equality 7-2521 is forced to think only of the collective "we." He knows only too well that there is no scope for being different. He is taller than his "brothers" and has therefore been punished for his height which, according to the council, is the result of "the evil in your bones." Equality 7-2521 also considers his inquisitiveness to be "a curse" and he has to hide his true nature as he knows that that will also get him into trouble. To avoid being punished, he has even tried to be like Union 5-3992 who has only half a brain, but still his teachers know. Even having friends is forbidden as that reveals preference and the "Transgression of Preference" is a sin. Paying any attention to a woman would be a greater sin and Equality 7-2521 fights his yearning to be with Liberty 5-3000, whom he decides to call "The Golden One."
Whilst musing on the happiness he feels when he thinks of the Golden One and the contradictory teachings which only allow collective happiness, Equality 7-2521 also considers "The Unmentionable Times" and the mysteries which the council says do not exist. He is concerned that his thoughts linger on secrets of past times and the words that may have been lost. There is one word in particular of which he is afraid, even though he does not know that word as yet, because "There is no crime punished by death in this world, save this one crime of speaking the Unspeakable Word." Anyone who finds that word, even on old manuscripts, is immediately put to death. The word in question is "I," which is forbidden after The Great Rebirth.
The word that is missing from Equality's vocabulary is the word "I", but this represents more than just the first-person singular. Throughout his journal writing, Equality speaks in third-person plural, and he knows no other way to express himself because he wasn't taught about himself. In fact, he wasn't allowed to get to know himself as an individual. One of the most powerful ways in which the leaders of the society control the people is to talk about themselves as a whole and as if the individual does not exist. Rand said once that the story didn't have much of a plot as much as it is the cognitive journey of self-discovery. She almost titled the book "Ego" in its literal sense which also means "self". So the word "I" means more in this book and to everyone who reads it than just the difference between tenses.
I feel that the word Equality is looking for on p.49 is "I" for a couple of different reasons. First, it is singular, so the very isolation of one apart from the group is contrary to the ideology of the society. Also, the word "I" places emphasis on that person, which the Council would be wary of because emphasis on an individual would be prideful.
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The Golden One and Equality both struggle to express their ideas with using the word 'we'. In their society, the idea of collectivism is worshiped, and individualism in nonexistent. There is no need for words like 'I', 'my', 'me'. Thus, the Golden One and Equality were struggling to express their very own ideas without these words in their vocabulary, specifically 'I'.
Equality is struggling to recapture the word “I” instead of “we”.
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