How are names and name-changes in Anthem significant and how do they contribute to the novella's meaning?
All of the characters have names which convey unity and collectivity. The society of this novella is a dystopia in which all forms of individuality have been purposefully erased or forgotten. Even the word “I” and the basic concept of one “self” have been lost. That’s why the narrator refers to himself as "we" and why everyone’s name is a symbol or adjective for a social concept: Liberty, Unity, International or Equality.
Equality 7-2521 begins to read, experiment, and learn things by himself. When he learns the concept of individuality, he begins using “I.” He acquires the concepts of learning, creativity and individuality together.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. This is an allegory for humanity acquiring knowledge. In a sense, learning to make fire was the beginning of humanity’s technology. This is fitting because Equality 7-2521 discovers electric light in his underground tunnel. He tries to share this knowledge with the Council but they reject him. Likewise, Prometheus was punished by the Gods for sharing fire with humans.
Equality 7-2521 changed Liberty 5-3000’s name to Gaea (Gaia). Gaea was the mother of the gods. Equality 7-2521 (aka Prometheus) decides that their children will be brought up with knowledge and books. Gaea is pregnant by this time. The idea is that their children will have access to so much knowledge that they will be like gods compared to the brainwashed masses who cling to anti-individualism.
The names Rand gives her characters in Anthem is very significant. All given names are used to represent collectivism, the collective "we", rather than the individual, than the "I". Readers are first introduced to Equality 7-2521, a street sweeper, and the protagonist of the novella. Equality 7-2521 believes in individualism while suffocating in a society that wants all members to be exactly the same. Equality 7-2521 represents the superiority of a singular intellect to the homogeneity of the masses, who cannot think for themselves and are indistinguishable from one another. As the novella progresses and Equality becomes more fearless, he decides to rename himself Prometheus. This name is significant because, in Mythology, Prometheus is the God of Light/Giver of Light to the people. This is exactly what Equality did when he created light in an unexpected way. Much like Prometheus, Equality was punished for his discovery, rather than praised.
Readers are also introduced to The Golden One. The Golden One is a beautiful peasant with whom Equality 7-2521 falls madly in love. With him, she grapples with a desire to find the word “I” in order to express her love for him. As their love and relationship progresses, The Golden One allows Equality to rename her, showing her subservience. Equality renames The Golden One, Gaea. This is symbolic because Gaea is considered Mother Earth. In this sense, The Golden One would go on to birth sons for Prometheus/Equality, bringing life to the world, much like Mother Earth. Their children are to be raised as individuals and to question what they are told.