In Ayn Rand's Anthem, what does the Uncharted Forest symbolize?

Quick answer:

In Ayn Rand's Anthem, the Uncharted Forest symbolizes everything that Equality's community rejects: personal and individual freedom, discovery, information, individuality, self-government and ideas from the past.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Understanding the background of the Uncharted Forest in Ayn Rand's Anthem helps one to interpret the symbolism. First, the Uncharted Forest used to be modernized cities that flourished with knowledge, freedom, and technology such as electricity. Equality doesn't know any more than the forest used to be cities inhabited...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

by Evil Ones during Unmentionable Times, though. Other than the fact that people are told that wild beasts could kill them if they enter, these labels are used by the government to scare people from going into the forest.

Why would anyone want to stop someone from going into the forest, then? Because even though wild animals may live there, anyone who ventures into the Uncharted Forest would have personal freedom to explore and discover the natural world, the ability to govern themselves, and possibly find evidence and information left behind by the Evil Ones before they were destroyed by fires. Equality's interest is piqued when he thinks about the forest and explains as follows:

"And as we look upon the Uncharted Forest far in the night, we think of the secrets of the Unmentionable Times. And we wonder how it came to pass that these secrets were lost to the world. . . The words of the Evil Ones. . . The words of the Unmentionable Times. . . What are the words which we have lost?" (48-49).

For Equality, the forest holds secrets of the past and possibly words and ideas that are forbidden for his people to learn.  

Once Equality escapes to the Uncharted Forest, he's happy! He feels free to learn and to discover the world on his own. Eventually he finds a house with books from which to learn more about humanity and the human experience. Therefore, the Uncharted Forest symbolizes almost everything that Equality's community rejects: personal and individual freedom, discovery, information, individuality, self-government and the ideas from the past.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Ayn Rand's Anthem, what was symbolic about the Uncharted Forest?

The Uncharted Forest in Ayn Rand’s Anthem can be interpreted in multiple ways, but a primary symbolic meaning directly relates to the growth of the individual. Since the city in Anthem is composed of only “we,” the space to explore and learn as an individual is completely unheard of. Thus, once Equality escapes to the Uncharted Forest, his individuality, which could only be freed for temporary periods of time in the underground area beneath the city, can be fully unleashed. The fact that Equality and Liberty find the home from the Unmentionable Times further speaks to this newfound freedom. Once in the Uncharted Forest, these two characters are finally able to see their own reflections, make volitional decisions, read voraciously, and rename themselves, which can be seen as an ultimate act of independence.

The same archetypal setting of the forest is used often in literature, so it is worth considering its connection to other works such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Scarlet Letter. Northrop Frye recognized this pattern of characters entering a forest and emerging greatly changed when he spoke of “The Green World.”

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Ayn Rand's Anthem, what was symbolic about the Uncharted Forest?

The Uncharted Forest represents an individual's life not mapped out by the government, or in this case, the brotherhood. Every aspect of the people's lives was mapped out for them from birth, to school, to work, and up until they die in the Home of the Useless when they are 45 years old. The Uncharted Forest represents free choice, individuality, and open-ended options for life as opposed to city life. Some people are too afraid to venture out into this symbolic forest of life because they are afraid of the animals (just as people were afraid in the story). And even though there is risk in living in the Uncharted Forest, there is also individual choice and hope to live as one wants to live. The animals in the forest may represent  disappointment and failures that one might experience when they choose to follow their dreams or live as they believe, but the alternative is being enslaved to the mundane activities of a safety zone prepared and ruled by others.

Last Updated on