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					Prometheus and Egoism

                 Kim Stoner

                 521 Colony Road

                 Camp Hill, PA 17011

                 Trinity High School

                 3601 Simpson Ferry Road

                 Camp Hill, PA 17011

                 Topic: #1

                 Grade: 10

                 Teacher: Mr. Robert Casey
                                 Prometheus and Egoism

       An egoist is usually thought of as an excessively proud individual who

exaggerates his personal accomplishments. The term is not commonly used to express

the strong individualism presented in Ayn Rand’s Anthem and other novels. To Ayn

Rand a strong ego is a virtue when it means individual intellectual independence and

self-awareness. The word “I,” or the “Unspeakable Word,” is actually prohibited in the

collectivist totalitarian society of the novel. When Equality 7-2521 discovers the word

“I” in the literature of the previous civilization, he awakens his ego and realizes his

individualism. Prometheus is presented as a hero in a world where humanity is lost,

and the natural longing for individual completeness is suppressed.

       Prometheus has a vision for knowledge and an understanding that he does not

yet possess. He has a personal need to satisfy what appears to be a personal longing

deep within his soul or his being. In the sense, he is single-minded in this quest and

indifferent to society’s rules. He is an egoist. This drive within him appears to come

from his own ego deep within himself. He is not an egoist, however, in the conventional

sense of the word.

       This need within him for transcendent knowledge is not selfish. It is not an

attempt to achieve personal wealth or satisfaction at the expense of others. It is not an

effort to demonstrate his power or intelligence over others to satisfy his own pride. He

does not seek to gain power or influence over other individuals.

       The Prometheus of Greek mythology stole fire from the gods and gave it to

mankind. The gods punished him for disobeying their rules and being a champion to

humanity. Equality 7-2521, the hero of the novel Anthem, sees his discovery of
electricity in a similar manner. He sees himself as his world’s equivalent of

Prometheus. He adopts the name Prometheus when he discovers a few books from

the “Unmentionable Times” at his house in the Uncharted Forest.

       The Prometheus in Anthem does not see his discovery of electricity as a means

to expose the ignorance of society. He only wants society to benefit from his scientific

experiments. He is not a social critic or reformer. Nor does he use his discovery for

personal power or wealth. When the World Council of Scholars accuses him of

personal pride or self-arrogance and disrupting the stability of society, he does not

object. He is even prepared to accept his punishment and execution. He is willing to

accept the judgment of society, provided that the miracle of electricity is given to

mankind. His only concern is that truth is exposed and others realize the benefits of his


       Although it is his personal quest that results in the discovery of electricity, which

is the modern equivalent of fire, Equality 7-2521 is only interested in the search for truth

and the benefit of others. In no way is he egoistical in the sense of being self-

promoting, self-centered, or selfish. He also finds what his life has always been missing

when he feels love for Liberty 5-3000. He realizes that love is what has really been

missing in his life. He feels badly for the rest of human kind that never experiences true

love in the Palace of Mating where children are bred under government authority. Later,

he plans to leave the Uncharted Forest in order to tell his friends of the amazing life that

they could be living. He wants others to share in his benefits.

       The ego within the Prometheus of Anthem is a natural human need for

understanding and mastery of the world. It is the incredible mystery of human history
that has resulted in all extraordinary human achievements. In this sense it is something

hidden and hard to define, but it is clearly within this hero as it is in all humans. It is this

ego that provides the energy and drive needed to defy social conventions to explore the

unknown. When this energy and drive is suppressed by totalitarian societies, human

progress is suppressed and civilization declines. In open societies this human drive for

discovery is allowed to reveal itself and society progresses. This drive for the

realization of a person’s dreams and an individual vision is not selfishness; it is the

manifestation of a basic human need for discovery and improvement.

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