Character Analysis The Saint of the Pyre


Although this character appears only in a flashback and does not figure in the present-time action, he is an important person in the story. He is a young man whom Equality 7-2521, in his youth, witnesses being burned at the stake. The young man had re-discovered and dared to state the Unspeakable Word. The authorities had ripped his tongue from his throat, so he could speak no more. The youthful Equality 7-2521 sees that the transgressor is young and tall, with gold hair and eyes as "blue as morning." He walks to his death with a sure step. Among the shrieking masses at the public execution, his is the calmest and happiest face. As the authorities wind chains around his body, lashing him to the stake, Equality 7-2521 notices that a thread of blood runs from his mouth, but that his lips are curled in a smile. The young Equality 7-2521 experiences a thought then that, given his indoctrination, he regards as traitorous. He had been taught of the Saints of Labor, the Saints of the Councils, and the Saints of the Great Rebirth. But up until that time, he had seen neither a Saint nor a picture of one. The idea comes to him that this courageous youth, who faces death calmly, bears the likeness of a Saint — that his noble bearing is what one would properly expect of a moral paragon.

As the flames rise to engulf him, a strange thing happens. The Saint's eyes rove the crowd and stop on the youthful Equality 7-2521, singling him out for attention. The Saint stares at him with neither pain nor fear, but with a seemingly holy joy and with pride. It seems to the young Equality 7-2521 that the Saint is trying to communicate with him, seeking to impart some precious knowledge. The Saint attempts to teach Equality 7-2521 the sound and the meaning of the Unspeakable Word — but the flames sweep over his body, leaving him no chance. It leaves Equality 7-2521 with an agonizing question regarding the Unspeakable Word, and a determination to discover its meaning, even if, as the Saint, he must burn at the pyre for it.

The Saint's character embodies a significant element of foreshadowing. The Saint of the Pyre recognizes in Equality 7-2521's height, posture, and fearless gaze the same independence of spirit that he possesses and singles him out as the next brave soul who will re-discover the word embodying the meaning of individualism. This scene presents a symbolic changing of the guard, a passing of the torch from a dying hero to the young man who, in the future, will carry the battle to its successful conclusion.