Atlas Shrugged

[[|{{|Atlas Shrugged}}]]

I finally got around to reading [[wp>Atlas_shrugged|Atlas Shrugged]], originally inspired by my dear friend N. The book needs no introduction and [[Google>atlas shrugged|so much]] has already been said about it that I’m not sure I’ll be adding anything new. Its a really long book, but persevere dear reader and thou shalt not be disappointed. It //is// a phenomenal book and with a little suspension of disbelief, it can be very insightful and thought provoking.

I will leave out my thoughts on Ayn Rand’s philosophy for another post. I do want to talk about one aspect of her work that bothers me. One of the thing Rand says is that one should view oneself as a //hero//: not the bollywood ishtyle filmi hero, but in the sense of the //triumph of the human spirit//. We should uphold ourselves to high values, stick to our principles, and not give in to things that we do not believe in.

This is all very inspiring, and naturally to bring out her philosophy in her books, Ayn Rand uses very very strong characters. All the protagonists are perfect in their own way: their spirit can’t be broken, they //always// know what to do, they use their own knowledge and logic to drive their judgement and don’t care what anyone else says or does, and they are all **physically impeccable**.

Again and again while reading her work, I have felt very uplifeted, inspired and motivated. But I can’t help but wonder how ordinary folks like you and me should be inspired. As in, none of her main characters seem to have any //internal// flaws — they are always fighting the rest of the world. But most of us are not that perfect. In that sense I don’t think she does justice to her readers. I would be a lot happier if there was at least one character, who held on his/her own, without having to have perfect good looks, supreme intelligence and confidence.

Nonetheless, a wonderful book and most highly recommended.


  1. Ergo


    Good to know you have found Atlas Shrugged inspiring and uplifgting. I hope you continue your interest and study in the Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

    Regarding her portrayal of perfect and heroic characters, Rand wrote in the tradition of Romanticism, and modified that school of art with her own emphasis on realism and human volition. Thus, for Rand, selectivity is paramount in art. According to her, just as you would not create a beautiful painting or a very beautiful woman with perfect features but with a pimple on her forehead, so you would not project the mundane, the gritty, the routine nature of reality in romantic art. Art is being highly selective with what you *choose* to depict: do you descend into the depictions of man’s daily life with routine descriptions like “he went to the toilet, brushed his teeth, took a shower” etc., or do you exercise selectivity in your projections.

    Thus, for Rand, to depict heroic men in the romanticism who are intended to be vehicles of her philosophy, it would be inappropriate for her to muddle her characters and their ideals and their philosophy with inconsistencies, aberrations, or trivialities–things that you and I might consider more “real.”

    Finally, as a side point, emulating her character’s philosophy in your own life does not imply that you emulate their personality traits. Fictional characters are required to have distinct personalities like real people do. But we all have different personalities and should not try to be someone we are not. We may share common ideological principles with each other but we cannot imitate each other’s personality. That is a recipe for losing your own sense of identity. John Galt and Dagny and Rearden and D’Anconia are characters with different personalities but common principles. Extrapolat the ideas and the principles from them, not imitate their mannerisms.

    Wish you the best! :)

  2. Diwaker Gupta

    *@ergo*: thanks for that thoughtful response! You almost sound like an Ayn Rand spokesperson :-) I actually read Fountainhead a long time back, but I think I wasn’t mentally ready for that book then.

    Your points about the Romantic style of writing are very well taken. However, such a style of writing might not be accessible to all audiences. I know several people who gave up on Fountainhead/Atlas Shrugged because it just felt too unrealistic, too perfect, too extreme — even for a work of fiction.

    Nice blog you got there!

  3. tinkoo

    You are not alone in not being able to connect to Fountainhead. Many Indian readers that pick it up before Atlas Shrugged feel unable to connect. I’ve gone through it.

    When I picked up Atlas, I had forgotten I had read her other book. After Atlas, suddenly, Fountainhead made sense.

    Also, if you get into her non-fiction, you will very likely come back disappointed, or at least disenchanted.

    Another very readable book by her is Anthem. If you are in B’by, you should be able to pick it up from roadside vendors.

  4. kowsik

    Have you read “We, the living”? It was one of her first books, and it was about the fate of aristocrats after the Russian Revolution. It’s a small book, and one of those where she does not go off on long, frequent ideological speeches. I read Atlas Shrugged in my BTech, never read Fountainhead.

  5. Matthew j

    Enjoyed the post, and I won’t comment at length, but you asked for a character that held their own without being the giant like d’anconia or Rearden, and I wanted to point out that Eddie Willers is very much that sort of person, and im sure there are others, but we do get narrative from eddie’s point of view. cheers!

Leave a Reply