Thoughts on Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I picked up the audiobook version of Atlas Shrugged for $5 when it was on sale at Audible.com. It is 63 hours long.  This will be my longest audiobook yet, beating our David McCollough’s Truman and Roy Jenkin’s Churchhill.  Interrestingly, neither seem to be offered any more at Audible in their unabridged versions.

I am not going to try to write a review of Atlas Shrugged.  It has been reviewed to death by people much smarter than I am.  I just have a few thoughts.  I am about 5.5 hours into it now. First, at this point the characters seem to be a bit two dimensional.  It seems to be clear that Rand is trying to make a point, and as much as I hate to say it, I don’t like being preached at.  Feels a bit like Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamozov.

Second, I am at a point where the characters seem to be talking about the reason for work.  Rand has them asserting that whatever they do, they should do it as well as they can.  What this makes me think of is my pastor’s sermon series on work that just finished a couple weeks ago (I am linking to a copy of the message that you buy, but it is free if you look at the church website.  The website is in flash and doesn’t allow you to link directly to the particular message.)  In the three messages Jeff says that traditionally we work because we find one or more of four values in work (purpose, paying the bills, identity and anther one I can’t remember.)  He says when we work for God and place God at the center of our work, then the other four values become less important and we can focus on working for him, whether we are a pastor or a fry cook at McDonalds.  All work can be for God.  In Atlas Shrugged, at least at this point, it seems Rand can only envision income and identity as purposes for work.

The third thing that seems strange to me is the underlying sexual tension that is present.  It seems Rand particularly choose the woman in the book to be a Vice President of a Railroad to be breaking stereotypes.  But she seems to be in these work situations where she receives an almost erotic pleasure from accomplishing work goals and then being attracted to the men around her that are just like her.  I am sure it is going somewhere, but at this point it seems like she is countering her own argument.

Just a few thoughts.  I have not read anything by Ayn Rand before and feel like my education and culture have been lacking.  Less than 10 percent of the way in, the book feels very dated, not because of the technology or writing style but because of the ideas.

One Comment

So I just finished reading it. All of it. Not sure when I started, but I do know that at some point I started tracking how many times I hit the forward button on my kindle. It went from 90 – 91% with 54 clicks. Glad to be done with it so that I can go to something easier and happier.

You reviewed this in 2009. I read this in a 2014 that makes me wonder if this mass exodus of industry is closer to happening in the United States than fiction. I think there are plenty of examples of business leaders choosing to step down or not push as hard because of government involvement. I think the recent exodus of businesses to other countries to avoid certain taxation is an example of this. This is cyclical, and those businesses will return but that seems to be the place we are at the moment.

You mentioned several things that I agree with. The characters are 2 dimensional. Also, the sexual piece of this book was not expected when I picked it up. I had not heard anything of the book other than the two movies that had been produced. I think the third part is in the works.

The book talks about the collapse of an economy because leading innovators and industry leaders (producers) mysteriously disappear. They are going to allow the ‘looters’ to destroy the world to total collapse and ultimately die off so that they can come back into the world to rebuild it in a manner that rewards producers.

I believe that work is a blessing. We get to do things that we are passionate about so that we can build into others. Not everyone has a charitable/giving mentality as they go through life (and would not if it didn’t reduce their tax burden) This book doesn’t touch on the fact that there are business leaders who have a core value of stewardship at the heart of their lives. The world doesn’t need to be rebuilt with those who don’t have giving as a part of their belief system.

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