Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged Book Review

One of the most phenomenon books I have ever read that has profoundly had an impact both to my writings and view of the world; Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged is a work that magnifies objective philosophy and its principles at its best. It is, in my view, among the greatest work of literature to ever exist in the face of the earth. I pay honour to Ayn Rand for her philosophy, “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.” She is the only woman I would have loved to the ends of the world: An analogy of Danny Taggart and John Galt.

The over 800 paged novel, which is an overture of The Fountainhead, shows among many themes including what happens when logic and reason is removed from the face of the world due to mans lack of thinking, looting and mooching, and worship of self-immolation. The main characters include: John Galt, (who appears in character form as the book comes to a close), Danny Taggart (Vice-President of Taggart Transcontinental), James Taggart (President of Taggart Transcontinental), Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d’Anconia (the last inheritor of d’Anconia Copper), Henry/Hank Rearden (Inventor of Rearden Steel after 10 year of experimentation), Ellis Wyatt (owner of the Wyatt Oil fields), Ragnar Danneskjold (a great philosopher turned into a pirate/bandit), Eddie Willers (Danny and Jim’s childhood friend, also Special Assistant to the Vice-President in Charge of Operations), Orren Boyle (owner of Associated Steel), Richard Halley (a great musician), Owen Kellogg (assistant to the manager of the Taggart Terminal in New York), Philip (Hank’s brother), Paul Larkin (Hank’s friend), Lillian Rearden (Hank’s wife), Cherryl (Jim’s wife), Dr. Robert Stadler (founder of State Science Institute also once a teacher of John Gait, Francisco, and Ragnar, in Patrick Henry University), Dr. Ferris (head of operations in State Science), Hugh Akston (teacher of John Gait, Francisco, and Ragnar, in Patrick Henry University), Ken Danagger (owner of Danagger Coal Company), Midas Mulligan (owner of Mulligan Bank), Lawrence Hammond (owner of the Hammond Car Company), Ted Nielsen (owner of Nielsen Motors), Judge Narragansett, Dan Conway (president of the Phoenix-Durango), Mr. Weatherby, Wesley Mouch, Chick Morrison, Kip Chalmers and Tinky Holloway (employees of the state from Washington), and Mr. Thompson, the president.

An Overview of Major Events as they Unfold in Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged

The book opens with a bum begging on the street asking ‘Who is John Galt?’ Eddie Willers overhears him as he heads to work at the Taggart Transcontinental Railway. He goes to Jim’s office, where he relentlessly confronts him about the steel order that for six months the railway has been expecting from Associated Steel without forthcoming results, so as to fix the Rio Norte Line. Jim barks at Eddie that he can do nothing but wait, and when Eddie suggests the railway to buy from Hank Rearden, his Rearden Metal, Jim becomes chafe denouncing Hank’s Rearden Metal as unsafe for use as no other company has made an order yet. He equally attacks the rising railway Phoenix-Durango, which after ten years only has become the best freight traffic for Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, and also Ellis Wyatt for giving the line business to felly his oil. Jim damns all these organisations as they are companies, in their own right, which conduct straight business without expecting any favours to or in return in a bid to make profit. He is against this, as he believes that no one company should be sufficient in itself to pursue its agenda, rather it ought to be interdependent on other companies, seeking and offering favours, and also work for the common good.

Danny is coming to New York on board the Taggart Comet listening to Halley Concerto; she is surprised that she has never heard the music before, only to learn that it is Richard Halley fifth concerto. She is astounded as Halley produces no more music as he disappeared a few years ago without a trace after years of struggling as an artist for the society to accept his music. Abruptly the Comet stops, she has to give out orders for the train to proceed. It is here she detects problems in the railway line. On reaching her office, Owen Kellogg quits his job, even after she tries to make what could be described as a counteroffer. Who is John Galt?

We learn through a recollection of Danny, of the past between Eddie Willers, Danny, Jim and Francisco. They all grew up together, with Danny and Francisco becoming intimate years later while in college: they become sweethearts. Both know what they want to become when they grow up; one to run The Taggart Transcontinental Railway, while the other to operate the great d’Anconia Copper Mines. We also learn of how both companies were formed; The Taggart Transcontinental Railway by Nat Taggart, who came from New England penniless and built the railway line without seeking after loans or grants, but by sheer hard work of convincing men, who had money, to invest in his business with a prediction of clean handsome profits; the d’Anconia Copper Mines by Sebastian d’Anconia, who left Spain after the Lord of Acquisition refusing to approve his way of thinking, yet he was the most distinguished figure in the country in a time when Spain was the greatest country in the world. He came to Argentina and for fifteen years, in the foothills of the Andes, dug for copper with an axe in hand in company of other derelicts, deserters of the army. He sent for the woman he loved, who had waited for him for all these years, and when she set foot in the Andes, she met a silver coat of arms above the entrance of a large marble palace, a great estate, and mountains full of copper ore.

As the novel unfolds, companies across the country slowly close shop; it all starts with The Phoenix-Durango Railway line. This is after the formation of The National Alliance of Railroads, which claims to protect the welfare of the railroad industry. It sets a new law that, ‘every member to subordinate his own interests to those of the industry as a whole; the interests of the industry as a whole were to be determined by a majority vote, and every member was committed to abide by any decision the majority chose to make.’ The law is called Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule. This means that old railway lines have an upper hand when it comes to conducting business, as they are supposed to operate without any ‘destructive competition’ from new upcoming railway lines, and that no more than one railway line is permitted to operate in such an area that is already occupied by existing railway lines, and that newcomers, who have encroached unfairly on its territory, are supposed to close down within nine months after being given an executive order. This means that The Phoenix-Durango Railway Line is supposed to close shop in Colorado and leave its business of ferrying Wyatt Oil to the oldest railway namely; The Taggart Transcontinental. All this is orchestrated by Jim Taggart, who is aided by Orren Boyle. The Phoenix-Durango Railway Line becomes obsolete and its owner Dan Conway disappears from the face of the earth without a trace.

The closing of The Phoenix-Durango affects many businesses leading to their closure including The Wyatt Oil after its owner Ellis Wyatt sets it ablaze and disappears never to be found. As his company is the largest oil producer, a shortage of the commodity strikes the country. This leads to other huge companies closing shop including car manufactures like the Hammond Car Company, Danagger Coal Company, Mulligan Bank, among others and the owners mysteriously disappear.

All this closing of vital companies creates chaos across the country. A major event also unfolds when the San Sebastian Mines are neutralized by the government of the People’s state of Mexico; this sees all the major investors including Jim, Orren Boyle and their friend’s lose millions of dollars together with The Taggart Transcontinental as it had used thirty million dollars to build the San Sebastian Lane. All this is orchestrated by Francisco d’Anconia, who fools everyone that he is a playboy who doesn’t know what he is doing as everyday he is caught in newspapers with the most absurd sexual scandals with all sorts of women. When the People’s State of Mexico seize the mine, they are horrified to find that the whole mine contains not even a single drop of copper. Millions of dollars are lost. All of it was a set up. The looters have the first bite of the bullet.

At the same time, Hank Rearden starts to experience problems. For starters, his Washington man, Wesley Mouch, who is supposed to lookout for his companies’ interest, has betrayed him and has been bought off by the State and has accepted a job in the government. Further, Wesley Mouch associates, Paul Boyle, Paul Larking and Jim Taggart are trying hard to fight him off. They have had the National Council of Metal Industries pass a resolution to appoint a committee to study Rearden Metal to verify that indeed its use is a public hazard. In as much as they try to fight Hank off, Danny makes an order for Rearden Steel to rebuild the Rio Norte Line, to which she renames it as The John Galt Line. In spite of all the challenges, The John Galt Line becomes a reality and makes headlines across the country. It is applauded by the nation. Danny and Hank become intimate and start off a relationship.

Hank Rearden is arrested for selling four thousand tons of Rearden Steel to Ken Danagger, which is against the monthly quota the law permits him to produce, this is after he refuses to sell his product to the State Science Institute for Project X. When he is taken to court, he wins the case as he neither recognises nor complies with their jungle law. The three chosen judges to oversee the case are shocked out of their wits and at the end make him pay a fine, the case is dismissed.

Things get worse for the country with the closure of the d’Anconia Copper Mines by Francisco d’Anconia and he vanishes from the face of the earth. This creates chaos and hits on the economy badly as many of the looters had invested heavily in the company. After heavy investigations it is found that nothing remains of the company even the company stocks, as Francisco had been moving them in secrecy for the last two years, and all the mines have been blasted into ruins and will take years to excavate them if it is possible that its. Things continue to get worse as more and more industries close down and their owners disappear.

On the other hand, Hand Reader faces a major threat from the looters, Dr. Ferris comes to him with a blackmail that if he does not sign The Gift Certificate, which essentially states that he will give out his rights of Rearden Metal to the State together with its formulae, his relationship with Danny Taggart will be unmasked to the world. He contemplates how this will soil Danny’s career, so he gives in, signs and gives away his rights for Rearden Steel. All this has been orchestrated by Lillian, his wife, who approaches Jim Taggart, and over lunch, shares the secret expecting a favour in return from him in the near future. When Hank finds out of her betrayal, he divorces her and leaves her without a single penny. In spite of the State having the formula for producing Rearden Metal, when any factory tries to manufacture, it is destroyed and burnt down to the ground by Ragnar Danneskjold and his men. A good example is Paul Boyle Associated Steel factory. Also all ships that import goods for the government from abroad including copper are seized by Ragnar Danneskjold and all the goods sunk into the ocean floor.

The Government puts another law called Directive 10-289. It states that anyone who quits his job as a deserter will be arrested and sentenced into prison. The State does this in a bid to stop factories from closing and people, who are the brains behind invention and running of the factories and are further competent in their work, from leaving. This does not work as more and more people now than ever are abandoning their jobs and factories closing down.

Danny, trying to follow Quentin Daniels with her plane, who was trying to reconstruct the motor she and Hank had found in the now abandoned old car factory, The Twentieth Century Motor Company, crashes in the Rockies Mountains. When she comes to, she finds herself in Gait’s Gulch/ Mulligan’s Valley with John Galt looking down on her. The Gait Gulch can only be likened to the lost City of Atlantis. Here she finds all the great men, who got lost from the face of the earth, now established companies doing all the things they used to do before they freed and abandoned their companies in the old world. She is surprised at how well Gait’s Gulch operates with everything revolving around the dollar, where everything is based on value and nothing is for free. She wishes to stay here with all these great minds, but she has to go back when she sees Hank’s plane searching for her.

After spending a whole month in Gait Gulch, Danny comes back to the old world and discovers the blackmail that Hank gave in for her sake. She goes live on air and confesses her love relationship with Hank. Now the moochers have no hold of her or Hank. By this time Cheryl, James wife, has already committed suicide and the Taggart Transcontinental Railway is on the brick of collapse. Danny tries to hold it together.

So far the whole country is in shambles, workers strike, wars erupt, hunger spills all over the country, factories close down, and the economy finally comes to a stop. The looters/the State try to blackmail Hank Rearden but this time he shrugs, and with the help of Francisco, once they defend his factory after an attack from thugs hired by the government, he disappears and abandons everything. Now his mother, Lillian and his brother Philip face poverty and finally recognise the important role he played in their lives.

The president, Mr. Thompson, is terribly afraid as the economy of the country has come to a standstill and everyone faces poverty, disease and hunger in the near future. He tries to address the country on the state of the nation, but then John Galt takes over the airwaves and address the nation of who he is, what he has been doing, why the economy is dead, and what will now proceed. Everyone in the country loses hope, darkness overtakes the nation, John Galt is arrested, but in the end he is freed by Hank, Francisco, and Danny after being tortured by Dr. Ferris, Jim and Paul. Jim becomes insane. Dr. Stadler dies together with other looters inside Project X. John Galt with his friends leave the old fallen world for Galt’s Gulch, leaving it in darkness, hunger and disaster. The world of the looters comes crumbling down, as a new life starts in the Gulch.

A Comparison of Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged and Howard Roark in The Fountainhead

There is a linear similarity between Howard Roark in The Fountainhead and Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged. Both men have a strong opinion about what they do, they do not conform to the whims of the society, they have taken time to master their craft; one in his architectural designing while the other in the manufacture of steel; both are attacked by the society, by moochers and looters, but they do not relent, they seek after no vindication for what they are, for what they create, and for their intelligence and reason. They are indeed the immovable mover. They are men that I would wish to become.

Howard Roark is chased out of the university because his designs do not conform to the present modernistic designs that trend but have no originality. He is fought off by the society, government, and designing firms, though he is accepted by one man: Henry Cameron. Later on Guy Francon becomes his friend. He tries to help him, though needless to say Roark does not seek after assistance. He is arrested but he neither acknowledges nor affirms such a jungle law that is bent on self-immolation. Hank Rearden on the other hand works his way up from being a mine boy until he owns a steel factory. He builds his empire with his own bare hands without seeking after favour or acceptance; he is fought by off by the society, by the government; by the National Council of Metal Industries, after spending ten years developing his metal, an alloy that is lighter than steel but a hundred times stronger. He does not exhort himself so as to be accepted by looters, he is adored by a selective few including Danny and Francisco. He is arrested but he affirms that he cannot accept a Neanderthal law that is bent to kill the mind.

Both of these men stand out in a world that has neglected intellect and human reasoning, a world that lives off the fruits of others abdicating reason over faith, the mystic at the expense of the mind. They do not give in to the demands of the second handers, the freeloaders, thieves, looters and moochers. They hold their happiness as the most important thing on earth and that it is an end in itself rather a means to anything else in life, and they further do not believe in altruism, a thing that today’s world worships through business, work, friendships, marriages and religion. Both men hold that their happiness comes from productive work with profits being the end result of it all without compromising on their integrity and ideas to the whims of the collective. They highlight a flaw in the theory of for the public good. Hank Rearden observes in his trial, “Who is the public? What does it hold as its good? There was a time when men believed that the good was a concept to be defined by a code of moral values and that no man had the right to seek his good through the violation of the rights of another. If it is now believed that my fellow men may sacrifice me in any manner they please for the sake of whatever they deem to be their own good, if they believe that they may seize my property simply because they need it—well, so does any burglar. There is only this difference: the burglar does not ask me to sanction his act.”

Hank goes onto explain his reasoning and observes, “I work for nothing but my own profit—which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it. I do not produce it for their benefit at the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my benefit at the expense of theirs; I do not sacrifice my interests to them nor do they sacrifice theirs to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage—and I am proud of every penny that I have earned in this manner. I am rich and I am proud of every penny I own. I have made my money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with—the voluntary consent of those who employed me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product. I shall answer all the questions you are afraid to ask me openly. Do I wish to pay my workers more than their services are worth to me? I do not. Do I wish to sell my product for less than my customers are willing to pay me? I do not. Do I wish to sell it at a loss or give it away? I do not. If this is evil, do whatever you please about me, according to whatever standards you hold. These are mine. I am earning my own living, as every honest man must. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact of my own existence and the fact that I must work in order to support it. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it and to do it well. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it better than most people—the fact that my work is of greater value than the work of my neighbors and that more men are willing to pay I refuse to apologize for my ability—I refuse to apologize for my me.

Success—I refuse to apologize for my money. If this is evil, make the most of it. If this is what the public finds harmful to its interests, let the public destroy me. This is my code—and I will accept no other.

I could say to you that I have done more good for my fellow men than you can ever hope to accomplish—but I will not say it, because I do not seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to exist, nor do I recognize the good of others as a justification for their seizure of my property or their destruction of my life. I will not say that the good of others was the purpose of my work—my own good was my purpose, and I despise the man who surrenders his. I could say to you that you do not serve the public good—that nobody’s good can be achieved at the price of human sacrifices—that when you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all, and a public of rightless creatures is doomed to destruction. I could say to you that you will and can achieve nothing but universal devastation—as any looter must, when he runs out of victims. I could say it, but I won’t.

It is not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise.

If it were true that men could achieve their good by means of turning some men into sacrificial animals, and I were asked to immolate myself for the sake of creatures who wanted to survive at the price of my blood, if I were asked to serve the interests of society apart from, above and against my own—I would refuse, I would reject it as the most contemptible evil, I would fight it with every, power I possess, I would fight the whole of mankind, if one minute were all I could last before I were murdered, I would fight in the full confidence of the justice of my battle and of a living being’s right to exist. Let there be no misunderstanding about me. If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public good be damned, I will have no part of it.

This is one of the most powerful words that best describe the character of Hank Rearden, and they equally reflect in many ways Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. The individual should not relent to altruism so as to fit into the ideas of the collective; he has in his own right the mandate to execute his intelligence in so far as it aids in the totality of his happiness and in the implementation of productive work. His sole rationale of living is to attain his purpose to which lies in objective ethics: he should not sacrifice himself for love, family, business, region – anything, everything should come after I. His ego, his self, the I, is important than anything else, he lives, not to fulfil the desires of others, but of his own, he works, not to satisfy the demands of the society, but of his own, he thinks, not to help others, but to improve his life. He is a man dedicated to improving himself at the expense of no one else save himself. What he wills arises from his own need to improve his present state and not from the dictates of others. He practices husbandly over his own life, following his convictions to the letter, whether they be right or wrong, whether he dies for them or not is of no consequence to general development of his character and intelligence. He holds reason over everything else. The mind always comes first.

Who Is John Galt and What Does He Represents In Atlas Shrugged By Ayn Rand?

Who is John Galt? That is the question everyone asks in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Who is he and what does he represent? And what does Atlas Shrugged mean in relation to John Galt? John Galt represents the man who lives in the perimeters of thought, of complete reason; he neither gives nor seeks after favours from other men, all human engagements are based on productive work, objective ethics, and pure intelligence without taking lesser or more of what he deserves or exhorts himself into self-immolation so as to fit in the totality of men who are freeloaders, moochers and looters.  He does not sacrifice his love or values and seeks only after his happiness. He seeks no sanction from others. He cites the following about happiness:

“Happiness is the successful state of life, pain is an agent of death.

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. A morality that dares to tell you to find happiness in the renunciation of your happiness—to value the failure of your values—is an insolent negation of morality. A doctrine that gives you, as an ideal, the role of a sacrificial animal seeking slaughter on the altars of others, is giving you death as your standard. By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.

“But neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive in any random manner, but will perish unless he lives as his nature requires, so he is free to seek his happiness in any mindless fraud, but the torture of frustration is all he will find, unless he seeks the happiness proper to man. The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.

John Galt represents all the men of the world who put their minds over their bodies, men who seek after their own happiness as an end in itself at no expense of other men, they neither ask other men to suffer for their sake nor they for them, they value human life above all things especially for those who seek nothing else but the development of their mental faculty through productive work, and all engagements with other individuals be it even love and friendship are based on freewill, which is in other words is thinking and not in self-immolation. Men who do not believe in altruism rather live on the principles of egotism; the self comes first before anything else, it is an end itself and not an end for others: it does not accept to be used, abused or taken advantage of even in a point of gun; it would rather bite a bullet than accommodate bums who are freeloaders and have chosen not to think.

To refuse to think is to die. And all men who refuse to think are the cause of the destruction of the world as we see it today. John Galt observes: “Man cannot survive except by gaining knowledge, and reason is his only means to gain it. Reason is the faculty that perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by his senses. The task of his senses is to give him the evidence of existence, but the task of identifying it belongs to his reason, his senses tell him only that something is, but what it is must be learned by his mind.

“All thinking is a process of identification and integration. Man perceives a blob of color; by integrating the evidence of his sight and his touch, he learns to identity it as a solid object: he learns to identify the object as a table; he learns that the table is made of wood; he learns that the wood consists of cells, that the cells consist of molecules, that the molecules consist of atoms. All through this process, the work of his mind consists of answers to a single question: What is it? His means to establish the truth of his answers is logic, and logic rests on the axiom that existence exists. Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.

A contradiction cannot exist. An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole. No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.

“Reality is that which exists; the unreal does not exist; the unreal is merely that negation of existence which is the content of a human consciousness when it attempts to abandon reason. Truth is the recognition of reality; reason, man’s only means of knowledge, is his only standard of truth.

To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

What does Atlas Shrugged mean in relation to John Galt? In my observation the reason why Any Rand wrote the novel was to explain her principles of objective philosophy and its values. John Galt just like other men in her books, like Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d’Anconia and Hank Rearden, Howard Roark, Henry Cameron and Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead does not conform to the whims of the society, the individual comes before the collective. It is the individual who forms the society and not the other way round.

John Galt does not hold that contradictions exist; there is nothing like a conflict of interest in men. A is A. It cannot be B. Men who believe in contradictions choose not to use the mind. Even when it comes to romantic love, there can be no conflict of interest. If two men love one woman, the one who gets chosen will not have the same happiness as the one who loses. A good example is Danny Taggart, who gets into a romantic relationship with Francisco, Hank and finally John Galt. The three men do not fight for her, as they know that contradictions cannot exists. If a woman loves a man, her love is different to that of other men, the same with a man to a woman, and that she can accommodate all at once. There can be no crash in emotions. Love cannot exist in contradiction. In The Fountainhead Dominic Francon loves Hoard Roark, but she gets married to Peter Keating, a man she does not love, but since there is no conflict of interest in men, Howard Roark does not fight for her, he lets her be. She goes again and gets married to Gail Wynand, but in the end she leaves him and gets married to her sweetheart, Howard Roark. For the longest time we have been sold the lie that contradictions exist, and that a man can only love and be with one woman at a time since loving another would create a conflict of interest, but in truth this is not so. Emotions cannot crush; interests cannot conflict. A is A. A man, just like a woman, can love as many people as possible at a go.

As nothing comes to man automatic, his knowledge has to be earned just like everything else he needs in his life. Man must use his mind to get what he needs; he is not entitled to anything, nothing belongs to him apart from what he earns through the use of his mind. There is nothing for free in this world that which is perceived as being free for one man, another man is paying for it and compromising on his needs.

A rational man knows that he cannot fake reality. Faking reality is to deny what is, it is living in a cocoon and completely refusing to acknowledge that everything in life has to be earned. Men who fake reality are the cause of death and pain in this world. These are men who fall in the category of freeloaders and use all means to deceive others in order to make a living. They are leaches, bloody vampires that are draining the world. Everything a rational man needs he has to work for it, he has to employ his mind and put effort. Whiles a rational man knows that he has to work to get what he wants, he is not assured of automatic success, as nothing in life has assurity, though failure does not equate to his inability to think or reason.

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