Author: Ayn Rand
Publisher: Signet Book
Publishing Date: 1959
Number of Pages: 1,084
Genre: Classic, Philosophical, Utopia
“WHAT MOVES THE WORLD?
This is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world-and did.
Is he a destroyer or a liberator?
Why does he have to fight his battle not against his enemies but against those who need him most? Why does he fight his hardest battle against the woman he loves?
You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the amazing men and women in this remarkable new book by the author of The Fountainhead. You will discover why a productive genius became a worthless playboy . . . why a great steel industrialist was working for his own destruction . . . why a philosopher became a pirate . . .why a composer gave up his career on the night of his triumph . . why a beautiful woman who ran a transcontinental railroad fell in love with the man she had sworn to kill.
Tremendous in scope, breathtaking in its suspense, Atlas Shrugged is unlike any other book you have ever read. It is a mystery story, not about the murder of a man’s body, but about the murder-and rebirth-of a man’s spirit.”
My reading was once limited to more popular, contemporary authors like Mary Higgins-Clark, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steel, and Nora Roberts. Sheldon remains to be my favorite author because it was through his works that I have discovered the wonderful world of books. Steel, whose 42 books I’ve already read, remains to be my most read author. I also tried other authors. I felt like I was doing a great job as a reader.
However, my perspective began changing when I began doing list challenges. It got me initiated into the even more wonderful world of classics and must-read books. This made me realize how vast the world of literature is. Through these challenges, I’ve encountered authors I have never heard of like Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera, Thomas Hardy, among others. One of these authors I have never heard before is Ayn Rand. Although she only wrote four novels, she is immensely popular amongst the current day literatis.
Through an online seller, I was able to avail two of Rand’s works, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I have already read The Fountainhead last year and was one of my best reads in 2016. Because of how impressed I was with The Fountainhead, I was really looking forward to Atlas Shrugged. To ensure that I will be able to read it this year, I included it on my 2017 Top 20 Books to Read.
Ayn Rand is a highly philosophical author and she has no reservations in inculcating her philosophy into her works. Atlas Shrugged, her last and longest novel, reeked so much of these philosophies. It was so doused with philosophy that I got daunted when I began reading the book. At first, it seemed like a very simple work about capitalism in dystopian United States. However, it proved to be otherwise as I dug deeper into the narrative.
The central theme of the book was conceived when a friend of hers asserted that she owed it to her readers to keep writing fiction about her philosophy. She replied, “What if I went on strike? What if all the creative minds of the world went on strike?” Through this philosophical fiction, Rand portrayed the philosophy of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. “We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties,” is the industrialists’ response to the regulators’ clamor for their return from their strike.
The story began when industrialists began disappearing one after the other because of aggressive regulations that are being enacted by government officials. The officials abused their power by enforcing tight regulations that forced “men of the mind” to desert their properties. As a result, the most vital industries collapsed. One crisis after another began crippling the entire country. At the center of this ruckus is Taggart Transcontinentals’ Dagny Taggart, Rearden Steel’s Hank Rearden and some of the country’s industrial intellects.
Who is John Galt? This is a question that was asked numerous times in the narrative. This enigma surrounding the identity of John Galt is what kept me hooked in the book in spite of its length. I was kept in tenterhook until at least midway through the book. However, I would leave it to the readers to unravel who John Galt is or what his role is in Atlas Shrugged.
One of the glaring aspects of the story is the numerous attributes that mirror The Fountainhead. One attribute is the presence of two prevailing radical point of views. On one side of the spectrum are the industrialists who strive to survive in spite of the numerous regulations that are being passed on by the regulatory bodies. On another side are the regulators who want a piece of what the industrialists have worked for.
Another attribute is the presence of numerous philosophical themes, especially opposing philosophies. Such philosophies include pride in the wealth they have accumulated because they worked hard for it. Had such philosophy prevailed today, these industrialists would have been criticized and condemned although I find nothing wrong with it as long as it is earned honestly. The last major aspect it shares with The Fountainhead is the undertone of romance on top of the mystery that surrounds the entire story.
Through Dagny Taggart, Rand was able to highlight another critical yet unspoken issue – the unacknowledged role of women in the corporate board rooms. Rand was able to depict what was once the role of women were in the boardrooms. Although Dagny was practically the one running Taggart Transcontinental, her role was undermined by her brother, the company president. Whenever her plans succeed, her brother takes credit, however, whenever there are failures, the blame lands on her.
The biggest issue I had with the book is the numerous philosophical subjects it tried to highlight. Because of this, it became overly preachy, something that made me dislike it. In a plethora of words, it pushed too much philosophy to the readers. It was just a tad too much. I liked The Fountainhead but Atlas Shrugged was too much. It was too complex and it was too preachy. I can forgive the complexity of the book because that is something that is constant. However, I would have preferred if the thoughts and ideas were conveyed in a less preachy manner.
Overall, Atlas Shrugged is too intellectual in its approach, hence, not advisable for those who are seeking light reads. It is a challenge to understand and appreciate. Nonetheless, through Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand proved herself to be a genius word smith. However, there are just ideas that are overboard. I am really torn on Atlas Shrugged. Whereas I find the artistic aspect of it truly astounding, I find the philosophical aspect of a little too implausible to even be applied on a contemporary setting.
About the Author
Ayn Rand is a famous playwright, philosopher and novelist. She was born and educated in Russia before moving to the United States in 1926. She stayed first with relatives in Chicago before moving to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming a screenwriter. Things didn’t go as planned as she took odd jobs to pay her basic living expenses. A chance meeting with Cecil DeMille opened opportunities for her as she played an extra in one of his films before working for him as junior screenwriter. She met her husband, Frank O’Connor, while filming DeMille’s movie.
From screenwriting, she shifted to being a novelist. However, her first two novels, We The Living and Anthem were both unsuccessful. Her first taste of success came with the publication of her third novel, The Fountainhead, a book she wrote over a period of seven years. Her magnum opus is Atlas Shrugged, her longest and last novel. After Atlas Shrugged, she shifted to non-fiction writing to promote her philosophy.
Rand died of heart failure on March 6, 1982 and is buried at Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.