Prometheus' Individuality

In Prometheus’ monotonous City, every action of every person is dictated by the controlling government, called the Council, in an attempt to carry out the flawed idea that complete discipline and equality leads to complete happiness. Prometheus’ romantic love for the Golden One, his craving for knowledge, and his desire to be free and strong-willed are all acts of rebellion against the Council and the regimented order of the society in which he lives. The Council sees his rebellion as a huge threat to its fragile balance of order, and tries to show these acts in the most negative light possible. While people today display their differences proudly, for Prometheus the very act of being different, in any way, from his brothers goes against the foundation of the entire society: that “all men must be alike” (19). People acting out against the laws that forbid singularity would ruin the careful setup of his City; thus the council sees him as a threat to the oblivious citizens.

In the final chapter of Anthem, a novella written by Ayn Rand, Prometheus realizes that his best qualities are unique to him. Sins and transgressions do not cause him guilt because he knows that his individuality was never a crime, but a part of himself. In modern times, people have a multitude of relationships with varying levels of commitment that define their persona. However, in Prometheus’ city, all relationships, and the emotions that go along with them, are generalized into one cult-like brotherhood. The society relies on everyone having equal feelings for each other. The Council tells the members of its City that “there are no men,” meaning no individuals, and that no one can exist by themselves (19).

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In Prometheus’s City, “[loving] any among men better than the others”, and, in doing so, acknowledging that a single person exists, is one of the worst sins (30). The Council needs everyone to believe that the only way to exist is as a collective whole. When Prometheus first feels himself falling in love with the Golden One, he recognizes the idea of having feelings for “only one [person]” as a sin, but he “[does] not wonder of it,” one of the first signs that he is accepting his “transgressions” as part of his personality (41). Obliterating the use of the word “I” and replacing it completely with “we” is one of the extreme tactics that the Council uses to suppress individuality. A side effect of people not having individual personalities is people not having close relationships. Romantic love is not an emotion that one collective group of people feels for another.

It necessitates the word “I” to reveal a single person’s innermost feelings. Prometheus and the the Golden One’s relationship is inhibited by the lexical gap in their language, as they are left “groping vainly […] for some word [they cannot] find” when they try to confess their love for each other (87). Prometheus and the Golden One are not able to truly express their feelings for each other until they learn the pronoun “I”.

In today’s society, intelligence is rewarded with scholarships, recognition, and respect, but for Prometheus, it “is a great sin, to be born with a head that is too quick” (21). Prometheus’ differences are pointed out to him with negative connotations by authority figures, like Teachers and Leaders, in an attempt to smother his unique characteristics. The bias against qualities that are not shared by everyone, like intelligence, leads Prometheus to believe that being clever is a “curse,” when really it is a positive antithesis to the dull ignorance of his fellow citizens (18). His creative, curious mind is the bright spot in a city of blind followers. The more time he spends alone, researching science and writing in a journal, the more he begins to feel “no shame and no regret” in his solitary studying (37).

By himself, he discovers electricity, which could revolutionize the world as he and his fellow citizens know it, but the Council refuses to even acknowledge his invention’s existence, because “what is not done collectively cannot be good” (73). The Council is so intent on preserving its total control over the City that it deprives its citizens of the incredible technology that Prometheus discovers, leaving them literally and metaphorically in the dark. As Prometheus accepts his feelings for the Golden One and rationalizes his taboo study of science, he feels unsatisfied with the tedious lifestyle with which the City provides him. Dissatisfaction is an emotion that is not just rare in his society, it is unheard of. The faint whispers and legends of the Unmentionable Times, years before his society existed, are the only ideas Prometheus has of a different life, and yet he “[wishes] to be away, away from the City” (76). Prometheus is willing to give up his safe, if insipid, life on the hopes that the tall tales he has heard will be true.

He will risk everything he has known for the slight possibility of freedom. His greatest “transgression” is that he aches to be a free individual, to live, love, and think as he wishes. “[He] walks, while [his] brothers crawl,” and while he is not completely certain of the repercussions of his defiance, he acts on his gut feeling that freedom is more important than safety, instead of questioning it (83). In controlling every emotion, thought, or action of every person, down to the pronouns they are allowed to use, the Council plants into its citizens’ heads the idea that “there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone” (17). Prometheus manages to avoid being brainwashed by the Council by not conforming to the Council’s standards.

When he escapes the confines of his society and heads for the Uncharted Forest, he truly begins to understand the concept of freedom. He realizes that a person’s differences are not sins or transgressions. Differences in humans’ thoughts, wills, and spirits are “treasures” (95). They are necessary for the human race to grow, evolve, and develop. In his epiphany, Prometheus recognizes that not every action should be done for someone else.

In fact, the opposite: his happiness is “its own goal and purpose” (95). Prometheus “is not a tool for [others’] use, or a servant for [others’] needs” and he does not need to hide his individuality in order to conform into the person his society believes he should become (95).