Wednesday, June 17, 2009


So I actually finished "Atlas Shrugged" a little while ago. What an interesting concept. In an earlier post, I said that I would forever attribute Barack Obama to James Taggart in this book, but I take that back now. The character in the book is a sniveling little weasel who doesn't know what he wants. I don't think that's the case with our president. But that's a whole different topic...

The book was SO long, but well worth the read. Ayn Rand's libertarian manifesto is so intriguing! It captures what the world would be like with unprecedented government rule, and with a world that frowns upon accomplishment, and tyrannically forces society to conform. There are a few problems with the book, though. Ms. Rand is the queen of the 10+ page monologue. The first and second monologues by separate characters were so redundant, that on each monologue following, I just skipped to the end. I found I didn't miss a thing. There were no plot points that I hadn't picked up, because when these characters start talking, their entire speeches are summed up in their first and last paragraphs. Everything in between are just reiterations; making the same point in different ways.

Another reason I had to skip through these pages and pages of monotonous speech, is because they are blatant lectures to the reader. The only problem is, the type of person who is actually reading her book, is not the type of person who needs to hear those lectures.

The other night, my Ma and I watched "The Fountainhead," the movie based on her first novel. Incidentally, the screenplay for that movie was also written by Ayn Rand. It was funny to watch, because the character composition is almost parallel to the characters in "Atlas Shrugged." EXTREME characters, on the far left or right of the norm. Each has a political view, and a deep-rooted psychological issue of some sort. They all seem to be mad ALL of the time, and participate in, how shall I put it... angry love?

I think Ms. Rand had some serious inner-turmoil. Both stories have very VIOLENT parts, (although the violence in Atlas Shrugged is far greater.) I only found one other thing about her stories that I didn't like, and that is that there were no characters that could be swayed. There was nobody who could listen to reason and change his or her point of view. There were those who had the point of view the reader should hold, but didn't identify it as such, until later. But there were no "bad guys" who would change their minds about any subject whatsoever. I thought it would be interesting if Ayn would write someone who was capable of change for the better.

LONG POST, I KNOW! The book is great. If you have like, 3 months to spare, I highly suggest you read it... not for the political or philosophical views, but for the amazing story, and what would happen to the world if the great thinkers went on strike. (By the way, "The Strike" was Ayn Rand's first choice for the title of the book.)


Dan said...

I just happened upon this post. I think you're mistaken about a couple of things here. I'll just say that there are many characters in Rand's books, including Atlas, who undergo intellectual change for the better. The first example that occurs to me is Hank Rearden. His initial attitude towards his marriage and family life, and towards sex, all result from his acceptance of elements of the morality of duty. (Why does he stay with Lillian for as long as he does?) If you go through Atlas carefully, you can trace the slow shift in his philosophical premises and the evidence and reasoning that leads him to go through that shift. Dagny also goes through an intellectual change for the better--she needs to be persuaded that the strike is right. For most of the novel, she condemns it. Again, it is interesting to go through the novel carefully and see exactly what evidence she needs and what premises she has to reexamine before she can accept the strike.

Now, it is true that these characters who change for the better tend to be basically good characters from the beginning. But there's a reason for that. Only a character that is committed to reason can discover any errors that he makes. It makes sense that to the extent that a character fails to embrace reason he is less likely to reexamine his premises.

Daniel Schwartz
Graduate Student in Philosophy, UCSD

M@ said...

First of all, I think it's awesome my blog popped up on whatever search you were doing!!

But, yeah, I should have made my point a little better. I was wishing that one of his characters on the "bad" side would come over to the "good" side. Someone who could "see the light" so to speak. Not one of the characters who is already a hero, who then becomes even moreso.

The closest character I think that came to "crossing over" was Taggart's wife, but she still held our "heroic" values, she was just conned into thinking that James was a hero, when truly he was not.