0027 | Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand


I hardly know where to begin to respond to this immense book. It isn’t an easy read or rather it wasn’t an easy listen as I had the audio version. Rand’s characters do not converse, they ‘hold forth’ and while there is a storyline that is relatively interesting, this is splattered with great dobs of philosophy. It is immense in scale, scope and aim and is heroic for that. But, heroic attempts have a tendency to fail, and when they fail, they do so often with astonishing results. Atlas Shrugged is nothing short of an heroic failure.

To understand this failure, you must first understand that this is not a novel by the standard definition. It is a thesis. Novelists tend to have philosophical ambitions, Rand is more of a philosopher with a novelist’s ambition. Novelists have the ability to charm you into their way of thinking. Rand grabs you by the throat and smashes you in the face with it.

I could write for days here but I’ll confine myself to hours and to what is arguably the centrepiece of the whole book viz. the speech given by the hero of heroes (and heroes are where it’s at for Rand) John Galt near the end of the book. My response will be twofold; while Rand’s attack on faith demands a response, I will first respond to the nub of her argument that “A is A.”

My response to Rand’s basic premise
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My response to Rand’s attack on Christianity
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Who is John Galt?

He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.

RATING:terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb


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  1. In comparing the Bible to Atlas, you comment that: “Jesus came to proclaim that admission to his utopia was freely available for all and to commission the church to pass on that Good News. Rand’s characters, in stark and telling contrast, contrive to keep their utopia secret while the world perishes.”

    This is definitely one of the problems with the book and one of the reasons why so many people misinterpret it – clearly its a bit harsh on the average person since everyone believes they deserve to be invited to utopia by John Galt. And everyone believes that they deserve to be invited to heaven by Jesus…

    First however – most religions condemn the majority to hell or purgatory for their sins so they are equally as harsh as John Galt/Ayn Rand if not more so since they they are equally as unforgiving regarding a person “only having themselves to blame for the consequences of their actions” (sin -> hell). If you have ever violated the ten commandments or been accused of committing a crime (whether you did or not), presumably you would fall from grace and lose your access privileges to the universal mind – which is no walk in the clouds.

    Second – John Galt’s “utopian Colorado sanctuary” is open to any who earn it. The interpretation of the book is problematic because you have to draw the line on defining John Galt’s accounting – what does that mean to “earn” utopia? However, Rand merely mirrors the economic reality that exists in the real wordl every day – ie. some people do live in $10 million houses but the majority dont. How does anybody “earn” it in real life? Is this book really to be condemned for prescribing elitism or is it merely describing the economic reality that exists.

    Third, my reading of Rand’s objection to original sin is merely sexual. All her books echo the message that sex is nothing to be ashamed of…who knows what sort of influences she had that imposed shame on her that she spent so much time defending freedom of consciousness and the right to “party”.

  2. Miss T – thanks for your response. I appreciate it.
    1. you are right that God is equally as harsh as Ayn Rand here. I wasn’t arguing otherwise. Rand was.
    2. good point. I don’t think though that Rand was at any time a fan of the “economic reality that exists” was she? Instead, she detailed an alternative. However, her alternative seems to be as elitist because it is a meritocracy of gain. By contrast, Jesus answered those who asked him how they could earn their way into heaven by telling them to give up that which prevents us from following God and thus earn “treasure in heaven.” While this may be seen also as a meritocracy, the difference lies in that all of us can give up while not all of us have the skill, intuition and ability to gain.
    3. that’s something you’ve taught me. I wouldn’t have known that just from the one book. There is nothing wrong with sex according to the Bible either (laying aside erroneous established church views on the issue). Perhaps the difference between Rand and God is that, like any powerful source of influence, sex should be employed in the right environment to be beneficial and not damaging to us.

    Thanks again for commenting 😉

  3. The problem with Rand’s meritocracy is that the only people admitted are those who manage to draw a good hand of natural intelligence (should I say “god given”;-). Remember Eddie, the nice-but-too-stupid-for-us guy that JG manipulates into getting all the goods on Dagny? He was supposed to be satisfied with being their little toady, because he was only of average intelligence. Rand was just a cranky snob, and imagined a world where everyone else bowed to her obvious intellectual superiority. Dream on, beotch!

  4. Rand’s characters do not converse, they ‘hold forth.’ I agree, and with your later statement about her grabbing you by the throat. But it’s been many years since I read this book or The Fountainhead, so I won’t make a fool of myself by pretending I remember much more about either book than that feeling of being grabbed by the throat.

    I enjoyed reading each of your sections, though. I have a better idea of you as a person, which is sometimes hard to find in a blog.

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