Stephen Speicher

Atlas Shrugged

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I used to say that The Fountainhead was my favorite book, because it was more personally relevant, and Atlas Shrugged was my second favorite. The older I get, however, the more I have come to appreciate Atlas for its immense scale and broad integration.

Which is my favorite now?

Whichever one I read last. :)

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I used to say that The Fountainhead was my favorite book, because it was more personally relevant, and Atlas Shrugged was my second favorite.  The older I get, however, the more I have come to appreciate Atlas for its immense scale and broad integration. 

Which is my favorite now? 

Whichever one I read last. :)

Seems to be that way with me on all the books of hers I read. Of course I'm just starting my second go through, so we'll see if a true favorite ever emerges :)

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There are spoilers about this book in this post.

Everytime I read this book I find something new to admire in Ayn Rand's writing. An example of this is in Galt's speech from the last time I read it, just last week; "hardships are a down payment on my future".

What a brilliant way to discard sacrifice that the average person is always talking about. When I first started my own business, clients would almost always make these kinds of statements. I would then have to refute with a dicusssion on self-interest. I can now just quote John Galt and end it there.

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There are spoilers about this book in this post.

Everytime I read this book I find something new to admire in Ayn Rand's writing.  An example of this is in Galt's speech from the last time I read it, just last week; "hardships are a down payment on my future". 

I was near tears the whole time I read Galt's Speech, and Atlas was the second Ayn Rand book I read. I've had a lot of light bulb moments along the way, but that was like the powder keg moment. :) What a brilliant piece of prose, just in that speech. What a brilliant woman who wrote it. :)

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I was near tears the whole time I read Galt's Speech, and Atlas was the second Ayn Rand book I read. I've had a lot of light bulb moments along the way, but that was like the powder keg moment.    :)  What a brilliant piece of prose, just in that speech. What a brilliant woman who wrote it.  :)

Aside from everything else that is great about it (that is a very big aside), the thing that amazes me about Atlas Shrugged, that I notice more each time I travel through it, is the level of integration. Given the scope of the story, it is magnificent how everything fits together so flawlessly.

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I used to say that The Fountainhead was my favorite book, because it was more personally relevant, and Atlas Shrugged was my second favorite.  The older I get, however, the more I have come to appreciate Atlas for its immense scale and broad integration. 

Which is my favorite now? 

Whichever one I read last. B)

We the Living used to be mine, Betsy. It still leaves imagery that I will never forget, but I am currently re-evaluating my most favorite and the older I get... Atlas Shrugged is pertinent to my core more than ever.

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An excellent book. A true magnum opus.

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Atlas Shrugged is still my favorite of Ayn Rand's novels, as it was 25 years ago. What never ceases to amaze me is how I can pick up the book and start reading almost anywhere and not want to put it down for two hours. And then I'll want to spend an equal amount of time thinking about what I've read. There are just so many memorable things said by the characters that it's impossible to not learn something new by reading excerpts.

But I do have my favorites in Atlas.

My favorite character has always been Hank Rearden.

...slight spoilers follow...

My favorite scene is the one in which Dagny has asked for volunteers to drive the train on the first run over the John Galt Line. And she then discovers that not only does she have a few volunteers, but virtually every engineer on the railroad wants to have the honor. It was a little surprising at first, but immediately afterwards and always since, my thought has been "but of course". I've always thought that scene dramatizes well the American sense-of-life, the pride of ordinary men in their work, and the almost implicit knowledge so many people have of what is good. (Of course, they need philosophy to make it explicit.) I suppose many Objectivists have scenes from Atlas that are difficult to read with dry eyes. This one is mine.

To pick another scene I love reading through: the events leading up to the tunnel disaster. From the time the of the original locomotive leaving the track, right up to Ayn Rand's descriptions of all of the people in the cars who were headed to their demise, this is a beautiful, ruthless concretization of the power of bad ideas. By the time the disaster happens, we all see how, given the actions and ideas of the people involved, it could not have been otherwise. To me it is a supreme act of justice, almost like a judge (reality) handing down a capital sentence from which there will be no appeal.

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My favorite book of all times.

A few scenes that I liked the most

- When Dagny breaks down and seeks Galt after Galt's speech and then in his laboratory she sees a photograph of her smiling at the opening of the John Galt line and then Galt says

I was the symbol of what you wanted to destroy in the world. But you were the symbol of what I wanted to achieve. This is how men expect to feel about their lives once or twice, as an exception. But this is what I chose as constant and normal.

And then the description that follows just brings tears to my eyes.

Infact the whole Dagny-Galt romance and association has a brilliant, adventurous, happy and youthful quality to it unmatched in the novel. It gives me fuel to sustain the same feeling that I used to get when I would read adventure stories as a child.

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We the Living used to be mine, Betsy. It still leaves imagery that I will never forget, but I am currently re-evaluating my most favorite and the older I get... Atlas Shrugged is pertinent to my core more than ever.

I find this very interesting. I have never finished We The Living (although I did read the ending when the emotion became too much). As a young child, I must have heard a great many stories about WWII from 2 uncles who fought in the war. For years I hid food (boxes of raisins) under my bed and later in the AC vent. I don't think it's irrational of me to have a fear of communism, but I don't fully understand my highly charged emotional reaction. Any thoughts?

After reading your comment, perhaps I will try to read it again [i'm well stocked up on raisins at the moment] after I finish my 5th reading of Atlas.

Brin

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after I finish my 5th reading of Atlas.

This is probably not the correct place to ask, but the event continues to gnaw at me. When I first began to study Objectivism, I suggested to a friend that he read Atlas Shrugged. The following is, as best as I remember, verbatim.

After he finished, I excitedly inquired, "Is that not the best novel you have read in your life? Isn't it just the greatest in the whole wide world of America?"

He replied, "I don't understand why Dagny killed the security guard; that doesn't seem right to me."

More than a little irritated, I demanded, "In 1100 plus pages, that's your criticism - the death of an insignificant guard; you have no other comment to make?"

"Well the others didn't kill anyone."

"Explain to me how she was suppose to get past the guard? It's not like she didn't give him an option."

No reply, or at least nothing that I rationally remember. At that point in my life, it had never crossed my mind to even question the guard's death. Indeed I had always held it as a given that should I be confronted by danger, I would shoot first, ask questions later. To be more clear I would have shot everyone in my way to find Galt and would have had to search the entire building because no would have been left alive to tell me. I'm more rational now.

I was heartbroken and have never discussed the book further with this person. Has anyone else encountered such trivial stupidity? I have read utterly ridiculous comments by people who hate Miss Rand's philosophy, but that doesn't compare to someone who has only just read *this* book.

Brin

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Brin,

I have given many books to many people that either asked for a certain book or showed me indicators of philosophical query that ended in negative returns.

One situation was with an acquaintance of my wife who finished the book and said it was the most boring book she had ever read. "All Ayn Rand did was repeat herself through the whole book, how boring." I did not bother to ask any further questions.

I have many more stories like these along with some good ones. The readiers either like it or they do not, I do not let it effect me any more. Altlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are the two greatest novels I have ever read and no one's remarks will ever change that for me.

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Warning: There are MANY spoilers about this book in this post.

I just finished re-reading AS for probably the 10th time. While it's still fresh on my mind I want to address this particular issue. It is a very specific one I've encountered before.

He replied, "I don't understand why Dagny killed the security guard; that doesn't seem right to me."

...

"Well the others didn't kill anyone."

Like everything in AS, it is there for a reason.

Throughout the storyline Dagny has struggled with her personal conflict, "Do they really want to live?" or Galt vs. her railroad & the "outside" world. She has been overgenerous in assuming her fellow men are human and really do want to live.

Once she finally, completely, totally grasps that they really do not want to live (or more specifically that the guard "wanted to exist without the responsibility of consciousness") all her conflicts are resolved. Rand even further clarifies her point by saying something to effect that Dagny "would have hesitated to fire at an animal."

But by this time Dagny knows what is at stake. Before it was Galt vs. the world and Dagny was on the world's side. Now, she is on Galt's side. Dagny going in first to rescue Galt and killing the guard is perfect symmetry! Also remember that the "tipping point" or fulcrum of Dagny's switch in sides happens when she discovers the villains are planning to torture Galt. At that point she has a "switch in perspectives", when it finally occurs to her that these people are not "human beings"; or at least do not want to exist as human beings.

Finally, she shoots the guard in the heart. Perfect symbolism! Remember Galt, in the valley, telling her (from memory), "In a conflict between your heart and your mind, follow your mind"? And throughout the book "the heart" is symbolic of emotions divorced from reason.

Has anyone else encountered such trivial stupidity?

Yes, many times. I have suggested the book (along with everything else by Rand) to many people over the years. I can only tink of 2 basic reasons for it: unwillingness or inability to comprehend. I can certainly understand your frustration. But don't waste your time, effort, life on it. It might be worth it for you to make clear to such a person that you think Dagny was completely justified. Simply so there is no ambiguity in your stance on the issue. But some people might never "get it".

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I gave it an 8, because I adore Atlas Shrugged, but I see some flaws in it. (My favorite books would probably have to be C. S. Lewis's "Till We Have Faces" and Ursula K. Leguin's "The Lathe of Heaven.")

First of all, I always wished the book were more personal in tone than social. I can get much more excited about two friends renouncing one another than about a country being socialized (in a book of course; generally not in real life.) That is why I like The Fountainhead better. It emphasizes the emotions and struggles of the main characters, which makes them seem more human, because they seem alive and self-directing, rather than marionettes of the author's political views, which is sort of the impression I got from Atlas Shrugged.

Also, I thought it was too obvious. In the end, you aren't left with any question of what the general premise and philosophical message of the book is. If you wonder what the theme is, you can flip open to Galt's speech and there it is. I like a book better if you can savor the ends left open and wonder, "Why is it that that is so interesting? What is the author trying to say?"

I dunno, maybe it's Rand's fault, and maybe it's mine for misunderstanding her work. Either way, I didn't connect emotionally with some of the characters. So I gave it an 8.

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I gave it an 8, because I adore Atlas Shrugged, but I see some flaws in it. (My favorite books would probably have to be C. S. Lewis's "Till We Have Faces" and Ursula K. Leguin's "The Lathe of Heaven.")

C. S. Lewis is the total opposite of Ayn Rand when it comes to their philosophies. Also, from your statements from above I am really surprised that you are even on this forum. Ayn Rand's characters are not "marionettes of the authors political views". They are rationally thought out concretizations of her philosophy that act accordingly.

Whether an author is good, bad or somewhere in between, they always write according to thier choosen philosophy.

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C. S. Lewis is the total opposite of Ayn Rand when it comes to their philosophies. Also, from your statements from above I am really surprised that you are even on this forum. Ayn Rand's characters are not "marionettes of the authors political views". They are rationally thought out concretizations of her philosophy that act accordingly.

Have you read the book (TWHF)? I think it's very good, and though I disagree with it's author's philosphy (which I wouldn't say is the total opposite of Rand's) I don't think that matters much. It's not a philosophy textbook, it's a novel.

I realize that Ayn Rand constructed her characters rationally in order to demonstrate her philosophy of reason in the form of a novel. But, so to speak, "the seams show." Rather than seeming natural and "human," they seem a little bit like puppets at times, doing things I can't imagine people really doing.

And I'm on this forum because I like to talk about Ayn Rand!

Whether an author is good, bad or somewhere in between, they always write according to thier choosen philosophy.

*According to* their philosophy. Rand also wrote *about* her philosophy, explicitly, through the actions of her characters and in Galt's speech. Lewis does not do that. There is only one section in the book in which he philsoophizes, and that is on the very last page. And logically enough, that part is my least favorite in the whole novel!

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I dunno, maybe it's Rand's fault, and maybe it's mine for misunderstanding her work.

I opt for the latter. :unsure:

Have you read Miss Rand's book, The Romantic Manifesto? It is subtitled "A Philosophy fo Literature." Well worth studying, in detail. There is also a very interesting analysis of Atlas Shrugged in the book Who Is Ayn Rand.

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I realize that Ayn Rand constructed her characters rationally in order to demonstrate her philosophy of reason in the form of a novel.

Why do you think that? Can you point to something that Ayn Rand wrote that discusses her motivation as you describe?

But, so to speak, "the seams show." Rather than seeming natural and "human," they seem a little bit like puppets at times, doing things I can't imagine people really doing.

I'm curious. Could you please give just one specific example from the book that illustrates what you mean.

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pianoGeek,

You are still missing the point. When an author, any author, writes a novel they are illustrating their philosophy in the form of a story. There is no other way for someone to write. For example, look at the way that you write, you are stating your philsophy everytime you put down a word whether on your blog or on THE FORUM. You might not be able to explicitly express your philosophy but you are stating it everytime you write.

You also keep stating that Ayn Rand has faults or has made mistakes (which I do not agree with), but as of yet I have not seen you refute her philosophy with your own position. I await the day when you can explicitly refute what you percieve her mistakes to be.

p.s. I will not be holding my breath.

p.s.s. I have not read the book that you mention but I have read two others and at this time I do not intend to read any other books by C.S. Lewis

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Finally, she shoots the guard in the heart. Perfect symbolism! Remember Galt, in the valley, telling her (from memory), "In a conflict between your heart and your mind, follow your mind"? And throughout the book "the heart" is symbolic of emotions divorced from reason.

Thank you for your excellent explanation. I did miss the symbolism of the heart. I think the reason for this is that it's one of those symbols that has never made sense to me from the 1st time I learned, in science or biology (I can't remember if this was in grade school or the 10th grade), that the only function of the heart was to pump blood. Although I knew nothing of the conscious or the sub-subconscious, when someone told me that God knew what was in my heart, I'd automatically think to myself, "Yeah, A+ blood."

Is this an error on my part that I should correct when reading literature?

Brin

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Thank you for your excellent explanation. I did miss the symbolism of the heart. I think the reason for this is that it's one of those symbols that has never made sense to me from the 1st time I learned, in science or biology (I can't remember if this was in grade school or the 10th grade), that the only function of the heart was to pump blood. Although I knew nothing of the conscious or the sub-subconscious, when someone told me that God knew what was in my heart, I'd automatically think to myself, "Yeah, A+ blood."

Is this an error on my part that I should correct when reading literature?

Brin

Historically, going back to the Greeks, the heart has been associated with emotions. So, you need to keep that in mind when reading literature in order to understand the context. You can always remember "emotions don't come from the heart, but that's where the author thinks they come from."

I love that line, "Yeah, A+ blood."

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Historically, going back to the Greeks, the heart has been associated with emotions. So, you need to keep that in mind when reading literature in order to understand the context. You can always remember "emotions don't come from the heart, but that's where the author thinks they come from."

Oh, dear me. I get it...because the heat beats faster or slower with emotion. All these years of blanking out -- and I finally connect the dots. No wonder I rode the little, yellow school bus. :P

Thank you,

Brin

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I've read AS only once; it was about 2 years ago. I laughed through most of the book, as the only way of expressing the overflowing joy I felt. I knew I had found uncompromising heroes when tears ran down my face. I love this book.

However, something's bothered me since I finished the book: in my mind, John Galt's personality wasn't as well defined as Francisco's. I know how Francisco would laugh, sit on the floor, smile when telling a joke, stand while making scrambled eggs, etc. I've never been able to imagine these things about Galt.

I suspect this is my own fault, from not imagining his persona well enough -- maybe from not paying enough attention in the book? I don't know. Has anyone else experienced the same?

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I've read AS only once; it was about 2 years ago. I laughed through most of the book, as the only way of expressing the overflowing joy I felt. I knew I had found uncompromising heroes when tears ran down my face. I love this book.

However, something's bothered me since I finished the book: in my mind, John Galt's personality wasn't as well defined as Francisco's. I know how Francisco would laugh, sit on the floor, smile when telling a joke, stand while making scrambled eggs, etc. I've never been able to imagine these things about Galt.

I suspect this is my own fault, from not imagining his persona well enough -- maybe from not paying enough attention in the book? I don't know. Has anyone else experienced the same?

I laughed myself to joyful tears often when reading AS, also.

John Galt is certainly not developed to the extent that Francisco, Dagny, Hank, and some of the other characters are (he doesn't even show until well into the novel). I seem to remember reading Ayn Rand commenting on her reasons for this, somewhere, but I can't remember.. I'll try and look for it, though, because now I'm curious again.

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