Novels & Works
of Ayn Rand

Owner: Leonard Peikoff  |  Credit: Ayn Rand Archives

Three Plays

2005

Three Plays shadow

Overview

  • Between 1934 and 1939, Ayn Rand wrote the three original stage plays collected in this volume. Since Night of January 16th and Ideal are covered as a separate volumes on this site, only the third play, Think Twice, is discussed here.

    Think Twice is a murder mystery with a twist. As might be expected, various suspects all have a motive to kill — but not a relatively superficial motive like financial gain or petty jealousy. Rand moves at deeper levels — and the play’s title is meant to be a reminder of this fact.

    “The purpose of this collection is to bring Ayn Rand’s achievements as a writer of dramatic art to the attention of a wider audience of readers — and thereby enrich their enjoyment of her creative power.”

    — Richard E. Ralston, “Editor’s Note,” Three Plays

  • Think Twice presents Walter Breckenridge, physicist and “humanitarian,” on the eve of a much-anticipated public announcement concerning his company’s breakthrough in energy technology. Breckenridge intends to donate it to the world and its governments, without payment or restriction. At his home, surrounded by the objects of his charity, as well as a certain foreign agent, Breckenridge is murdered. Who could have had a motive to kill such a benefactor, and why is murder the only way out?

  • From Think Twice:

    Tony: [In the same wise, tired voice] Mr. Hastings, you don’t know what a ghastly weapon kindness can be. When you’re up against an enemy, you can fight him. But when you’re up against a friend, a gentle, kindly, smiling friend — you turn against yourself. You think that you’re low and ungrateful. It’s the best in you that destroys you. That’s what’s horrible about it.

Characters

  • Walter Breckenridge

    Walter Breckenridge is a prominent physicist and renowned “humanitarian” who claims to seek the good of all mankind in everything he does. We meet him on the eve of his announcement that a breakthrough in energy production technology will be given away, without patent restrictions, to all the world’s people and governments.

    The ominous presence of Serge Sookin, a Russian immigrant with no visible means of support, is a reminder of the hazards of making such technology available to oppressive regimes. And what of Breckenridge’s other charitable giveaways, to a child with infantile paralysis, a budding musician who needs schooling, and a struggling actress who needs a theater? What is the effect of his charity on their lives — and can it provide a motive for murder?

    “My friends! Not I, but you are to be honored today. Not what I have been, but those whom I have served. You — all of you — are the justification of my existence — for help to one’s fellow men is the only justification of anyone’s existence.”

    — Walter Breckenridge, Think Twice by Ayn Rand

  • Steve Ingalls

    Steve Ingalls is Walter Breckenridge’s business partner. “Sixteen years ago,” he tells Breckenridge at one point, “when we formed our partnership and started the Breckenridge Laboratories, I was very young. I did not care for mankind and I did not care for fame. I was willing to give you most of the profits, and all the glory, and your name on my inventions . . . .”

    Is there a motive for murder here? Anyone who thinks a mere struggle over money or credit would explain an Ayn Rand mystery has not experienced her unique approach to motivation. The key lies elsewhere, in the deepest recesses of the various suspects’ soul, where self-esteem struggles against the pressure for self-betrayal.

    “I don’t see what’s wrong with making a fortune — if you deserve it and people are willing to pay for what you offer them. Besides, I’ve never liked things that are given away. When you get something for nothing — you always find a string attached somewhere. Like the fish when it swallows the worm.”

    — Steve Ingalls, Think Twice by Ayn Rand

Themes

  • Think Twice dramatizes the value of independence, the virtue of relying solely on one’s own judgment rather than substituting the judgments of other people.

    In Think Twice, Walter Breckenridge repeatedly spouts sentiments that command universal public agreement. Yet all the other characters, major and minor, have reason to disagree that Breckenridge’s “humanitarianism” is morally good. The plot’s events bring each character face-to-face with the need to choose: their own judgments or conventional wisdom. It’s a choice with life-or-death consequences.

  • On Rand’s view, altruism is not to be confused with benevolence toward others, as expressed by, for example, holding doors for the elderly. In its deepest sense, altruism (literally, “otherism”) is the view that the individual has no right to the pursuit of happiness, only a duty to serve and sacrifice for the sake of others.

    In Think Twice, Walter Breckenridge embodies the ideal of altruism in his every action. Through Breckenridge, Rand dramatizes the practical effects of altruism, not only in global politics, but in everyday life, through a series of painful events that give rise to several motives for murder. 

  • On Ayn Rand’s view, crucial to understanding man’s nature is that he possesses free will: the choices one makes throughout one’s life determine one’s values and character. In terms of her mature philosophy, Ayn Rand states the principle as “man is a being of self-made soul.”

    Think Twice highlights the kinds of moral choices we all face in life, and dramatizes the importance and responsibility of forming one’s own values and of striving to realize them in practice.

    In Think Twice, we see a hero fight for and remain true to actual values, despite enormous risk.

Extras

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