Prometheus, of Greek mythology, was a Titan, the forerunners of the Greek gods, who stole fire from Zeus (who was not a Titan) and gave the fire to mortals. Prometheus was horribly punished for this crime against Zeus and against order. He was also the god of forethought and the molder of humankind from clay. It was his desire to better the existence of humans that led to his conflicts with Zeus.
Gaea (also Gaia) was a Protogenos goddess, one of the original deities connected with the original primeval elements of the universe. Some of these were Earth, Air, Sea, Sky, Fresh Water, Underworld, Darkness, Night, Light, Day, Procreation, and Time. Gaea is the mother of Earth, the begetter of the universe. Her anthropomorphic depiction shows her as being at one with and inseparable from the Earth: her legs remain only partially risen from the ground.
In Anthem, Equality 7-2521, was a scientist unrecognized.
We loved the Science of Things. ... we awoke in the night ... and we thought that we wished to be sent to the Home of the Scholars when our time would come.
All the great modern inventions come from the Home of the Scholars, ...
He is consigned to street sweeping for his life's work; rediscovers electricity, a form of fire; and takes it to the the World Council of Scholars in order to improve the lives of his fellowkind. He is horribly punished for his actions. In this, you can see the parallel to Prometheus as each brings the potent power of the world as a gift to improve life and is then horribly punished. Equality 7-2521 parallels a Titan since he is the first of a new line of free people.
When Equality 7-2521 is working in an isolated area one day he meets Liberty 5-3000, having the mischance of falling in love with her--falling in love is directly forbidden in their land.
It is our second Transgression of Preference, for we do not think of all our brothers, as we must, but only of one, and their name is Liberty 5-3000.
She follows him as he flees his punishment and they resume their forbidden love in the forest. Equality 7-2521 tells her that she shall be the mother of all that is to come. From the books they find in the forest's abandoned house dating from before the Great Rebirth, they choose names for themselves: Prometheus because, like Equality, he was a light bearer and Gaea because she was known as the mother of all that was new, as Liberty would come to be known.
He took the light of the gods and he brought it to men, and he taught men to be gods. And he suffered for his deed as all bearers of light must suffer. His name was Prometheus. And I have read of a goddess who was the mother of the earth and of all the gods. Her name was Gaea. Let this be your name, my Golden One, for you are to be the mother of a new kind of gods.
Tools of Characterization
Thoughts and Opinions
At its core, Anthem is a book about ideas. It revolves around the contrast between the individualist philosophy represented by Equality 7-2521 and the collectivist philosophy represented by his society. Naturally, the ideas the different characters have are just about the most important thing about them. Much of the book consists of Equality 7-2521 telling us directly what he's thinking about, and we watch him move progressively away from accepting the ideals of his society into full-blown individualism. By the end, he writes an anthem to the ego and delivers the real message of the book.
The other characters either all have thoughts similar to Equality 7-2521's (Liberty 5-3000, and to some extent International 4-8818) or represent the opposed philosophy of collectivism (like Collective 0-0009). In fact, there's not much to the collectivist characters besides the philosophy they represent. They don't have much other value as characters.
Equality 7-2521 steals, breaks out of prison, and breaks the law countless times. In normal circumstances, those actions might not reflect so well on his character. In Anthem, however, breaking the law is good, since society itself is evil and oppressive. Through his actions, Equality 7-2521 shows just how brave, perseverant, and independent a guy he is. Moral, too, since he emerges as a defender of human freedom.
Most characters, in fact, reveal who they are through their acts of resistance or submission to society. International 4-8818's act of complicity with Equality 7-2521 – his agreement to keep the tunnel they find a secret, which is against the law – shows that he has an independent streak and that he cares about Equality 7-2521. So does Liberty 5-3000's decision to leave her society and follow Equality 7-2521 into the wilderness. On the other hand, Collective 0-0009 is so fanatically dedicated to his society that he chooses to reject Equality 7-2521's gift of electric light and literally remain in the dark ages. He even wants Equality 7-2521 to suffer horribly for inventing it.
Everyone in Equality 7-2521society has strange names, like Equality 7-2521. The names reveal the oppressive collectivism of Equality 7-2521's society. Individuals are just given stock names which reflect the collectivist social ideals (Harmony, Collective, Union, International) and then are literally numbered. Nothing in the names is expressive of individuality.
Equality 7-2521's own name is almost surely ironic. He's represented as far from equal to the run-of the mill people in his society. He stands for liberty and freedom of the individual, which are opposed to the value of equality (as presented in Anthem), since equality requires that everyone be forced into sameness. Liberty 5-3000, on the other hand, is a character who stands for freedom. What's ironic in her case is that her society would name her Liberty 5-3000, since that's exactly what it destroys. As for Collective 0-0009, there's no irony in his name at all: he's the perfect spokesperson for "collectivism."
It's also significant that both Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 end up changing their names to Prometheus and Gaea. The renaming amounts to a reclaiming of their individuality, and the names themselves are quite meaningful. Both are from the names of creator figures in Greek mythology, and reflect Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000's desire to start a new race of men. Gaea was mother earth, who gave birth to the first gods. Prometheus was the god (technically, a Titan) who designed human beings. Prometheus was also a great hero for humankind, because he defied the order of the other gods to give human beings fire. In a similar way, Equality 7-2521 heroically defied the laws of his society to give human beings light, though he got off much better than the original Prometheus did.
Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 stand out from the other characters because of their physical beauty. Both of them are young, tall, strong, straight, slim, and gorgeous. Their looks reflect their individual pride, fearlessness, and strength of character. In describing Liberty 5-3000's eyes, Equality 7-2521 even explicitly says they express those qualities (2.4). Everyone else seems to be hunched, weak, dull-eyed, and sickly looking.
Everyone in Equality 7-2521's society has their lifetime occupation chosen for them by the Council of Vocations, supposedly to reflect the way in which they can use their talents to serve their society. Once an individual's occupation is chosen, he/she has to live with, eat with, and work with only people in his or her occupation. Sometimes the occupations fit well. Other times, however, they're just given as punishments. Equality 7-2521 is a scientific genius, and his friend International 4-8818 seems to be a natural artist, yet they both wind up Street Sweepers.
Sex and Love
Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000's love for each other helps to define their individuality and set them off from their society, which forbids any kind of preference for one person over another. Everyone else has to go once a year to the Time of Mating and mate a stranger prescribed by the Council of Eugenics (right after they're born, the kids get taken away, too). Our two heroes, however, decide that they don't want any of that.
Speech and Dialogue
One of the most noticeable elements in Anthem is that none of the characters use the word "I" (or "he" or "she," for that matter). The first-person and third-person singular have been abolished by society because they promote individuality, and no one even knows they exist anymore. This is perhaps the most dramatic illustration of the collectivist mindset of the society and the characters that belong to it. Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000's struggles to find the word "I" are a part of their broader struggle to reclaim their freedom and individuality.