Atlas Shrugged | book review

9363“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.”

Title: Atlas Shrugged
Author: Ayn Rand
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 1957
Rating: 4 stars

Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow bloggers, I have news: I have finished reading Atlas Shrugged, a feat I did not expect to achieve for another month or two. Being 1079 pages with print smaller than the Bible, it is officially the longest text I’ve ever read. Yes, I know there are longer books out there, and that it’s really not hard to read 1000 pages, but when you’re a college student taking a ton of English classes while also working to pay off those classes, it’s hard to fit in significant chunks of time to spend reading. I’m sure I’ll read longer books in my lifetime, but I just need to take a moment to give myself a pat on the back. I did it. I read a long book that I honestly never thought I’d read.

Atlas Shrugged is a classic. Written by the influential philosopher Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged tells the story of how one man stopped the motor of the world. It’s a story of how the government can easily ruin the world. Dagny Taggart is a woman in a man’s world – she is Operating Vice President of Taggart Transcontinental, a railroad that’s been in her family for generations. She knows how to run a business; she knows how to successfully lead and make money. Unfortunately, her brother (and men like him in Washington) think they know how to run the company (and the county) better. According to the government, it’s not fair if someone works hard and earns money and becomes successful. Instead, those men are selfish, greedy bastards and must help out those ‘less fortunate’ than them. In other words, they want the intelligent men to work their asses off, and then give all their money away to the lazy, poor, unintelligent people – the people who, instead of learning a skill and getting a job, sit around and beg, whine, and mope until someone gives them handouts. So the government starts creating laws and controlling every aspect of the businesses; they begin to produce at a loss due to their hard-earned cash being given to those ‘less fortunate’ than them. Eventually, one by one, businesses fail. The intelligent men – the men who worked their whole lives to earn their achievements, money, and status – begin to disappear. Factories and businesses shut down. Nothing is being produced. People are starving. The country begins to fall apart and what results is mass chaos. Soon, Dagny and Taggart Transcontinental are the only ones left. But with disasters occurring left and right, and no way to solve the issues, she must make a choice: continue letting the people feed off her life, love, and spirit and go down with her railroad, or follow the other men to a place where the looters and moochers can’t touch them. But where is this safe haven? And what will happen to the country without them? Who is John Galt?

My mom and step-dad have been trying to get me to read this book for years. They don’t understand why I love to read so much. They think about 98% of books are a waste of time. My mom especially hates that all I ever do is ‘sit around’ and read because sitting around isn’t helping with my figure.

Could I stand to lose a few pounds? Yeah, maybe.

Okay, more like 20 or 30 pounds, but still, not the point.

The point is, I love to read. It is my passion. And for years, they’d always ask, “What are you reading now?” and I’d tell them, and they’d do this annoying thing where they’d gasp and say, “Oh my gosh, if you like that, you would love Atlas Shrugged,” even if it had nothing to do with anything similar to Atlas Shrugged. They just really wanted me to read it. I’d ask what it was about, and they’d say a railroad, and then I’d stop listening because that sounded boring to me. Well, years later, I have read it, and I can say that I’m glad I didn’t read it until now; I wouldn’t have been able to read it back then, nor appreciate it.

As I mentioned, this book was written by a philosopher, so I knew it would be a very philosophical, political book – and it was. Good luck, my friend, on reading this hefty material. It was slow-going. Don’t worry, though – the political rantings and philosophical bantering was nicely spread throughout the engaging dialogue and interesting storyline. However, towards the end of the book, I was disheartened to see that there is a span of about 50 pages where one guy is talking, and it’s all about philosophy. He rants for fifty pages about his philosophical ideals and, I’m sorry, but about half of it was completely unnecessary. It felt so redundant at times I just felt like he was talking in circles. It took me forever to get through it. In book-time, the speech took three hours! What character would want to listen to that guy talk for three hours!? Sorry, it was just a huge break in my stride because it completely slowed down the entire novel for me. I understood its purpose, I just didn’t like it.

The characters, however, were fantastic. It’s told in third-person omniscient, which means you can hear the inner thoughts of pretty much all the characters in the book, and let me tell you, there are dozens and dozens of characters. You’d think it would be hard to keep them all straight, but I have to say Rand did an amazing job giving all of her characters completely different voices. You read the name ‘Hank Rearden’ a couple times and then you’re given about ten other major characters’s names and thoughts, and then you go back to Rearden and it’s like he’s your childhood best friend, you know him so well. And Rearden, by the way, was one of my favorite characters, along with Fransisco, Dagny, and Eddie Willers. Oh god, Eddie Willers…I didn’t like how the book left off with his character. There were definitely a few parts in this book where my heart hurt. Many people criticize the fact that the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ are clearly represented through Rand’s beliefs – the bad guys are the socialists, the good guys the capitalists. They are starkly contrasted and readers who don’t agree with Rand’s beliefs – the socialists – hate it. Well, what did you expect, guys? If you know Rand’s philosophy, then you’ll know exactly what to expect: black and white hard facts.

The writing was fantastic. Rand was very articulate and honest and knew how to put every thought and feeling into words. The world she created in Atlas Shrugged was complex and I found myself deep in it, living amongst the characters. It was such a long book that the story kept building and building and I found myself eager to reach the climax (which, of course, doesn’t happen until the end of Part II, and it was slow-going leading up to it). The concept was great, too. Timeless – that is, until it happens for real. Our country could collapse at any moment. The society and government in the book kind of relates to our own today. I’m not going to get into politics and discuss my own opinions because that would take away from this review, but it was interesting to see how Rand’s world she created in 1957 mirrors certain aspects in ours today in 2015.

This is my roundabout way of saying I am glad I read Atlas Shrugged, even though it took months and it was a hard read. I learned a lot, actually, even though I didn’t agree with every little thing. It’s a lot of politics and a lot of philosophy – a lot of things to get offended by or agree with. I’m not going to mention my beliefs or views because I am the type of person who avoids conflict at all costs. However, I will encourage you to read this book at some point in your life because it’s a classic and it’s a wonderful world to get stuck in for a while. When I closed the book, I felt myself leaving their detailed, drawn-out world, and I felt a little more lonesome.

Favorite Quote(s): “He never felt loneliness except when he was happy.”

“For the moment, there was no future. They had earned the present.”

“He tried to avoid these thoughts. He had to stand guard against his own feeling – as if some part of him had become a stranger that had to be kept numb.”

“The hours ahead, like all her nights with him, would be added to the savings account of one’s life where moments of time are stored in the pride of having been lived.”

“Your fear of death is not a love of life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it.”

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6 thoughts on “Atlas Shrugged | book review

  1. This was a fantastic article regarding “Atlas Shrugged”; one that I really enjoyed. I especially liked the concise way in which it conveyed all the information required succinctly. I’m a 15 year old with a blog on finance and economics at shreysfinanceblog.com. It would be very much appreciated if you could read and reblog one of my articles! Thanks again for this great article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice review.

    A couple of questions and comments: Have you read any of Ayn Rand’s other novels? I definitely recommend Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead as well.

    Also, what would you say the main theme or point of the novel was? Was it primarily a political novel, or something else?

    By the way, a lot of people think they understand Ayn Rand’s philosophy after reading Atlas Shrugged/Galt’s Speech. But it’s actually extremely rare that this is the case. If you want to learn more about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, my blog is dedicated to explaining and arguing for it: Objectivism for Intellectuals. I also provide a page of books and links that go deeper into the philosophy.

    Like

    1. I have not read any of Rand’s other novels, but my step-dad highly recommends “The Fountainhead” as well. I may give it a shot one day.
      As for the main theme or point, I’d say it would have to do with the oath the men must speak upon living in the valley. I think the critical point is to not live for another man, rather to live for yourself and earn your achievements. But that’s just my opinion. I definitely wouldn’t call myself an expert on Rand’s philosophy. I learned about her in my Intro to Ethics course as well as reading this book, but I’m in no way an expert. However I will definitely check out your blog. Thanks for reading!

      Like

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