Book Report: Atlas Shrugged

A little over three weeks have gone by since I posted my Summer Want to List and the only of my wants that can be fully completed is complete.

I finished reading Atlas Shrugged.

The 50th anniversary version I read was written in the smallest print known to man and even still was 1,070 pages long. It was not a difficult read–for the most part. Rather it was a long read that continued to draw me in. Though I love to read, I often feel guilty lying around with a book while the rest of the world is working. To curb my guilt, the bright idea occurred to me that I could dust off my gym membership while also getting further in this brick of a book. The last three weeks, an hour of my mornings has been spent upon treadmill and stationary bicycle, book in hand. With the exception of one extremely painful chapter towards the end where Rand essentially outlines her entire philosophy*, it was my best time ever spent in the gym.

*I would rather do dead lifts than read that chapter again.

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Friends, I don’t selfie…so you know finishing this book was a big deal.

If it weren’t for Hubby, the desire to read this book may never have occurred. He read it while we were in college and after I was only a few chapters in, the impact some of Ayn Rand’s philosophies had on him was easy to see.

While I don’t want to give away anything, because this book is still relevant and one you should read, I think it’s only right I share with you what I took from it along with the things that excited me and the things that made me roll my eyes.

Our protagonist is Dagny Taggart. The smallest delving into the novel and Ayn Rand’s personal life shows that Dagny is Ayn Rand’s ideal self living out Rand’s fantasies. Dagny is driven by running the family business, Taggart Transcontinental. She isn’t your average women. While other female characters in the novel are obsessed with society and status, her only interest is her work and doing her job beyond her best capabilities. Her older brother, James, plays an important character as well who is the complete opposite. He seeks to find how to climb the ladder with as little effort possible.

The famous question posed throughout the novel is, “Who is John Galt?” a seemingly senseless question that is asked when no answer is known.

When men of great minds start disappearing, Dagny is certain there is a destroyer who she immediately deems her enemy. After stumbling upon an advanced motor with great potential, she becomes obsessed with searching for the motor’s creator before he can disappear with the rest of the world’s great minds.

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What I didn’t like about the book was that many of her characters were one dimensional. Dagny became this woman that everyone wanted and an incredibly strong character, but often without enough support to allow for such opinions. The villains have no good in them whatsoever, act only on their emotions, blame others when things go wrong, and are all drawn by their desire to use as little effort possible to get the things they want. Other characters often held reactions completely unrealistic to people of the human race.

In terms of her philosophy, this quote may help:

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
-AYN RAND

Throughout the book, her stance that the mind matters over all and that morality as we know it essentially does not matter, was slightly disturbing, especially when it came down to the subject of love.

However, through her own opinions and views she was able to clearly illustrate that we are in a time where the government can essentially do anything it pleases. Atlas Shrugged makes an effort to show this to the world so that it can be stopped.

The book showed me that it takes a clear philosophy, understanding what you stand for, but also WHY you stand for it, in order to attempt to bring about change. She notes problems in human existence and essentially maps out a way to change these problems. Though some of her ideals are skewed, an important point she hits on is that a man of intelligence should never have to sacrifice his mind for others. This is where this famous quote comes from:

“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders – What would you tell him?”

“I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”

“…To shrug.”

Society is more than willing to continue to pile on pressure for those great minds of our country. It is their duty to share their knowledge. They must produce and help those who can’t help themselves. But then, in the end, they are painted to look as greedy businessmen instead of the gifted minds they are.

Again, I don’t support the better part of Rand’s philosophy, but there are many points she makes in the book that any person wishing to live in a forwards moving society should be able to recognize as sound. It brings to mind this quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson:

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

The overall premise is that the government is out of control, but unfortunately in might take desperate times the like of what occurs in Atlas Shrugged to ever change it.

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