“Atlas Shrugged”: meaning and analysis of the book by Ayn Rand

“Atlas Shrugged”: meaning and analysis of the book by Ayn Rand Literature

The novel “Atlas Shrugged” (from English – “Atlas Shrugged”) was written by a talented American writer, playwright and screenwriter – Ayn Reid. This work was published on October 10, 1957, then, it took off sharply and in just a week, the book was on the 6th position of the New York Times bestsellers, and remained there for 6 weeks. Later, 3 feature films were shot on Atlanta. The most popular of them was filmed by director Paul Johansson in 2011.

What is Atlas Shrugged about?

The novel Atlas Shrugged is based on the story of the organization of an ideal society of smart and talented people, this society was led by engineer and entrepreneur John Galt. Their goal is to leave the country as early as possible, in which the state and people are socialist, and try to prevent them from realizing their ideas and projects. After that, the economic system of the United States of America collapses, and a crisis begins.

The plot and characters of Ayn Rand’s work trace the features of the philosophy of Russian philosophers such as Chernyshevsky Nikolai Gavrilovich, and Dmitry Ivanovich Pisarev. Basically, all books about economics and politics call for equality, cooperation and mutual understanding among people. But this one was special among all. In her work, the writer praises individualism, capitalist values, competition and the free market. Reasonable selfishness is the desire for one’s own good, which does not contradict the interests of other people.

He is well described by a quote from a fictional novel: “I will never live for another person and I will never ask or make a person live for me.” Ayn Rand shows in his book “Atlas Shrugged” that the ideal structure of society is capitalism, created on deals between smart and talented people. The state should not interfere in the economy, its duty is to ensure individual human rights.

The meaning of the book “Atlas Shrugged”

The meaning of dystopia is that the development of society is preserved by creative and intelligent people, entrepreneurs, scientists and leaders. There are few such people, but they are the ones who generate ideas, make good products, and invent useful things. Everyone else lives off of them.

John Galt – one of the main characters of the book, is the image of “Atlanta. He is the founder of the city. And he creates his own society, which offers to put forward their own interests, above the public and not to share the results of their work and ideas. Almost the entire work, the characters ask the question: “Who is John Galt?”. This phrase has become a proverb and easily entered the English language. It is used in the sense of a meaningless or rhetorical question.

The writer Ayn Rand was the first to show the heroes of our time, scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, community and group leaders, and inventors. Now such personalities as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Elon Musk, and many others are popular. The Society discusses their ideas and plans and spreads them all over the world. Such people are able to influence the progress and development of the planet alone.

The history of the creation of the book “Atlas Shrugged”

Atlas Shrugged was written by Ayn Rand (1905-1987), a famous American writer. She worked on this book for 2 years. The name given to her at birth is Alisa Zinovievna Rosenbaum. She was born on February 2, 1905 in the city of St. Petersburg in the family of a pharmacist father and a dental technician mother, by 1926 she learned English and went to live in America. This novel was written by a woman 4 in a row among all her books. In total it consists of 3 parts and has more than 1000 pages. Ain herself considered this dystopia the most significant in her career. She was also awarded various awards, such as the Prometheus Prize in 1983 and 1987. Late in her life, she began giving philosophy lectures to students.

The writer wants to convey to the reader the concept of objectivism – this is a philosophical doctrine. Its meaning is that the failure to fully recognize reality in almost all cases leads to bad consequences. One of the quotes from the book confirms this: “He who has no mind suffers defeat at his own hands.”

Analysis of the book “Atlas Shrugged”Analysis of the book "Atlas Shrugged"

The book is – a novel – a dystopia, this genre is quite rare. It refers to fiction, also describes the world or state position. This style is a contrast to utopia, in which the author draws an ideal world in his work. Ain’s creation Atlas Shrugged emphasizes the themes of rationalism and individualism. Also, in this literature, there are elements of science, social fiction and detective story.

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The meaning of the title of the book is revealed in its plot. The writer equates the society of people with “Atlant” – the mythical titan from ancient Greek mythology. Such characters in the novel as:

  • 1. John Galt is a talented inventor and engineer who develops electric motors, his image runs through all the pages of the book, but as an active hero he appears only in 3 parts.
  • 2. Dagny Tugger – heiress to a large fortune, deputy head of a large company, Taggart Transcontinental. A very brave, determined girl who is not afraid to take responsibility. To solve important issues, she prefers to use composure and calmness.
  • 3. Hank Rearden is a businessman, steel manufacturer, he owns mines and factories for the manufacture of metal products. At the end of the book’s plot, he ruins his company.
  • 4. Francisco D’Anconia (Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian D’Anconia) – Dagny Tugger’s first love, in the novel he got rich with the help of his mind and thoughtfulness, without money and other people’s help, even at school he differed from his classmates in that he was very inquisitive.

And there are many other interesting characters, in the plot of the novel it is shown that if people do not share their ideas with society, then it will collapse. Each hero of the book is aimed at motivating and educating a person, giving him time to think, and learning a lesson from the situation shown.

The problems of the book “Atlas Shrugged” and what it teaches

The heroes are faced with the question of how to live and develop their business in such a difficult time? And how to get out of such an incomprehensible situation? The writers wanted to convey to readers the concept of objectivism, in which the main thing is rationality and individualism. Ayn Rand argued that reality is unchanging and objective. The book teaches that we can use our minds to understand reality and apply knowledge to our advantage. Each person is obliged to achieve the realization of his plans and goals, thanks to his abilities and intelligence.

This work had a great impact on political literature and society in general. Most believe that a book can change the worldview and give strong motivation. In 1991, a reader’s club polled Atlas Shrugged as the most inspiring book after the Bible. This literary work became especially relevant in the period from 2006 to 2011, during the economic crisis. It began to be included in the curriculum of some institutes and colleges. To this day, the novel wins the hearts of readers and remains popular.

Rand’s statements and solutions can help with current financial and organizational problems. This book is recommended reading for everyone, especially those who are interested in politics and business.

Atlas Shrugged Ending

On the last pages of the work, the characters go to Antarctica, find John Galt, and go to the “new” society. “The way is clear,” Gault said. We are returning to our world. He raised his hand and drew a dollar sign over the deserted land. Thanks to their willpower and determination, they cope with difficulties, and a promising future opens up for them.

Atlas Shrugged is a bad book. That’s why

In Useless Classics, philologist Leonid Klein shows how good fiction books can serve as management textbooks. And vice versa, how the frontal propaganda of even good ideas turns the novel into a boring edification. We are publishing a fragment about the bible of libertarianism – Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.

Evolution has no beginning…

One of the hallmarks of good literature is credibility, the extent to which the reader can believe that something like this can actually happen. Of course, it must be taken into account that Atlas Shrugged is a dystopia where, it would seem, anything can happen. But the genre is no excuse for abandoning the realism and logic of the development of the plot and characters. The main dystopias of the 20th century present a much larger picture. Take the most famous – “1984” by George Orwell . The levels of problems identified in this book are much larger and much deeper.

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And in general, the culture of the last century puts industrial magnates before a much more difficult existential choice. Examples include Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and  Luchino Visconti ‘s Godsbane , where the characters have to deal with issues of life and death in circumstances much more unfavorable than those described by the American writer’s cult novel.

And Ayn Rand’s book is structured in such a way that, apart from America’s economic problems, nothing exists in it. And those, to put it mildly, are substantiated unconvincingly.

The heroes of “Atlanta”, we repeat, live in a two-dimensional world that does not allow halftones, which sets them the same tasks. Which is not surprising: being flat themselves, they will not be able to solve other problems.

Consider the evolution of heroes. For comparison, let’s take “War and Peace”, although, perhaps, this is not entirely fair – despite comparable volumes, these works are from completely different leagues of authorship.

The key characters of Tolstoy’s novel change from chapter to chapter, solving many big and small problems, understanding themselves and the world around them. The generally solid images of Natasha Rostova and Pierre Bezukhov at the beginning of the work, its middle and at the end differ strikingly. Andrei Bolkonsky, who, by the way, could, albeit with difficulty, fit into the iconostasis of the “Atlanteans” if he had been roughly and decisively hewn with an ax and then placed in a vacuum, went through several reincarnations that required real feats of the spirit. The development of the heroes of “War and Peace” is due to the huge internal work and many different circumstances that, in fact, make up life.

“Atlantes”, the heroes of Ayn Rand, are born perfect and immediately placed in a distilled environment. Their entire internal evolution, by and large, consists in understanding the need to abandon their own business and determine the scope of sexual freedoms. Let’s remember the childhood of the main character:

Dagny Taggart was nine years old when she promised herself that one day she would run the Taggart Transcontinental railroads. She made such a decision, standing alone between two rails …

Why not? But that’s all we know about her childhood. Yes, of course, there is a story of their friendship with Francisco D’Anconia. But they are friends somehow monotonously:

“When I’m in charge of Taggart Transcontinental…” Dagny said from time to time.

“When I am in command of the D’Anconia Copper…” Francisco replied. The rest they did not need to explain to each other; each knew his end and the means to achieve it.

It’s not that children dream of becoming businessmen. For American culture, this is par for the course. Tom Sawyer, for example, promised to sue those who would illegally use the brand of his gang, with which he intended to rob eastern stagecoaches.

In Americans, judging by their literature, business is really in the blood from an early age. The fact is that Dagny, placed in the canvas of the story by a girl, having matured and passed a considerable life path, has not changed one iota. Except that the musical opuses of Richard Halley and the man were added to the rails in her head. Why change if the author initially rewarded you with perfection?

What about John Galt? Yes, he is the only one of Dr. Exton’s trinity of apostles “who owes everything only to himself, a man from the wilderness, who had no money, no parents, no connections.” It can be assumed what a difficult path he went through when he reached the university, where he found a teacher. But no.

He appeared in the world as Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, who came out of the head of Jupiter, fully grown and fully armed …

Is it that one person in the whole brilliant galaxy of impeccable has some problems that are not related to business:

As far as he remembered, he was always told that his face was ugly – because it was unyielding and hard. It expressed nothing even now, when he looked at the pouring metal. It was Hank Rearden.

What did it cost him? Ayn Rand is silent about this. But it could be a story of victories no less brilliant than the creation of wonderful rearden metal. Although, wait, this story is not there either – we only know that he worked on his brainchild for eight years.

Note: the categorical, not allowing exceptions, the words “always”, “all”, “never” are used extremely often in the novel. This technique allows you to avoid details, draw in large strokes, not waste energy on a serious explanation of the motives of the characters, who are driven only by the belief in the same values ​​for all the “Atlanteans”, inherent in them, apparently, immediately at birth, like that Minerva.

Love in a vacuum

However, it is difficult to accuse Ayn Rand of slyness. Writer biographer Ann Heller wrote that Atlas Shrugged is her attempt to “create the perfect man and signify the idea and life effort that would enable him to love, create and produce.” But here’s the problem: the ideal is always boring. Especially if it exists against the background of freaks and mediocrity, in a world where such important components of life as children, parents, illness, death and much more are absent. In this case, being perfect is quite simple.

The society described in War and Peace is far from perfect. Among the more than 500 characters in the novel, there is not a single ideal person. Even those to whom Tolstoy treats with obvious sympathy, Ayn Rand would not even let stand next to the Golta Gorge. Platon Karataev? Pierre Bezukhov? Natasha Rostov? Kutuzov, who won a great victory? Where are they up to the “Atlanteans”.

Tolstoy does not let go of any of the idle playboys, careerists and intriguers described by him, and at the same time … he loves them all. Because they are part of life as it is. Even to Anatole Kuragin – an obvious scoundrel and a dummy – he makes you feel sympathy, showing him terribly suffering during the amputation of his leg after the Battle of Borodino.

Ayn Rand loves no one. She sees no meaning in the life of the overwhelming majority of the population of the United States of America. People with the wrong worldview, the author mercilessly lets go to waste.

Here is a description of the people who died in a train accident in a tunnel on the Taggart Line.

The housewife in the ninth compartment of car number twelve believed that she had the right to elect politicians she knew nothing about, to control the giants of the industry she knew nothing about.

The lawyer in the sleeping compartment of car number thirteen used to say: “Who? I? I will adapt to any political system.”

The man in the compartment of car number fifteen, who had inherited a large fortune, said: “Why should Rearden be the only one who produces rearden metal?”

Died on merit – the verdict handed down by Ayn Rand is obvious.

In one of Viktor Shklovsky’s articles, there is a reflection on how fiction describes death. We can weep over the death of a sparrow or a dove in the hands of a hero, but the death of a dozen of the cardinal’s guardsmen, who were killed by the musketeers, will not resonate with us in any way and even please us. Because they are enemies. This is fine.

However, in Ayn Rand’s novel, almost all of humanity is thus recorded as an enemy. Because people are sinful, weak and not always smart enough.

The heroes of Ayn Rand are very kind to their lives, neglecting others. Which, by the way, gives us the right not to worry about their future fate and to follow the “Atlanteans”, not taking their movements and experiences to heart. Who seriously cares about the fate of a scalpel that has fallen into a sterile vacuum of space, even if it is made of supermetal and superbly sharpened?

And then the suspicion creeps in that the author does not even love her heroes, since she has no desire to show them as real people. They are tools. For my own business and so that Ayn Rand can convey her ideas to readers. Is it possible to love a scalpel, a tool, a piece of iron? Yes, you can, and we’ll talk about this a little lower, but in the novel “Atlas Shrugged” this love cannot be found.

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