First sentence: "It is a sin to write this."
Last sentence: "The sacred word: EGO."
Plot Summary (Wikipedia):
Equality 7-2521, writing in a tunnel under the earth, later revealed to be an ancient subway tunnel, explains his background, the society around him, and his emigration. His exclusive use of plural pronouns ("we", "our", "they") to refer to himself and others tells a tale of complete socialization and governmental control. The idea of the World Council was to eliminate all individualist ideas. It was so stressed, that people were burned at the stake for saying an Unspeakable Word ("I", "Me", "Myself", and "Ego"). He recounts his early life. He was raised, like all children in the world of Anthem, away from his parents in the Home of the Infants, then transferred to the Home of the Students, where he began his schooling. Later, he realized that he was born with a "curse": He is eager to think and question, and unwilling to give up himself for others, which violates the principles upon which Anthem's society is founded. He excelled in math and science, and dreamed of becoming a Scholar. However, a Council of Vocations assigned all people to their jobs, and he was assigned to the Home of the Street Sweepers.
Equality accepts his profession willingly in order to repent for his transgression (his desire to learn). He works with International 4-8818 and Union 5-3992. International is exceptionally tall, a great artist (which is his transgression, as only people chosen to be artists may draw), and Equality's only friend (having a friend also being a crime because, in Anthem's society, one is not supposed to prefer one of one's brothers over the rest). Union, "they of the half-brain," suffers from some sort of neurological seizures.
However, Equality remains curious. One day, he finds the entrance to a subway tunnel in his assigned work area and explores it, despite International 4-8818's protests that an action unauthorized by a Council is forbidden. Equality realizes that the tunnel is left over from the Unmentionable Times, before the creation of Anthem's society, and is curious about it. During the daily three hour-long play, he leaves the rest of the community at the theater and enters the tunnel and undertakes scientific experiments.
Working outside the City one day, by a field, Equality meets and falls in love with a woman, Liberty 5-3000, whom he names "The Golden One." Liberty 5-3000 names Equality "The Unconquered".
Continuing his scientific work, Equality rediscovers electricity (which he, until the book nears its conclusion, calls the "power of the sky") and the light bulb. He makes a decision to take his inventions to the World Council of Scholars when they arrive in his town in a few days' time, so that they will recognize his talent and allow him to work with them, as well as to make what he sees as a valuable contribution to his fellow men.
I read De Eeuwige Bron (The Fountainhead) by Ayn Rand a long time ago, and loved it. Therefore, when I had the chance to read another one of her novels, I didn't hesitate. Although I do not always agree with Rand's philosophy, I think she writes great novels, with subjects and themes that set you thinking. I will definitely have to read Atlas Shrugged too.
In Anthem, she tackles the, for me, immensely interesting subject of identity and the possible loss of it. She believes, and I agree, that there will always be individuals that will try to break free from totalitarian and/or repressive, dictatorial doctrines because there will always be people who wonder and think...