About Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand's epochal novel, first published in 1957, has been a continual bestseller as well as an intellectual landmark. It is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world—and did. Was he a destroyer or the greatest of liberators? Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies but against those who needed him most—and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world’s motor—and the motive power of every man?
Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life—from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction to the philosopher who becomes a pirate to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad to the lowest track worker in the railroad’s tunnels.
Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand’s masterpiece. It is a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller.
Discussion Questions on Atlas Shrugged
- What and where is the “utopia of greed”?
- Why does Dagny Taggart, a woman of ruthless logic who passionately loves life, chase a mysterious stranger’s plane in her own plane when she knows it will lead to her virtually certain death?
- Why do Dagny Taggart and Lillian Rearden—both highly affluent women—fight over a cheap metallic bracelet? Who gets to keep the bracelet, and at what cost? What is Lillian’s real motive in trapping her husband Hank in infidelity?
- Why does Francisco d’Anconia, heir to the greatest fortune in the world and a productive genius with boundless ambition, seek evermore outrageous ways to destroy his own business empire? Why does he turn into a playboy who forsakes the woman he loves and instead seduces prominent women who are of no interest to him?
- When an entire country tells them that their railroad bridge, constructed from a new ultralight metal, won’t stand under the onrush of a speeding train, why are Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden so confident that it will? Were you convinced by the arguments offered against them by their opponents? Whom did you side with? Why?
- According to Atlas Shrugged, selfishness is both moral and practical. What does Ayn Rand mean by “selfishness”? Compare the actions and character of James Taggart, Hank Rearden, Orren Boyle, and Francisco d’Anconia: Who is selfish and who is not? Can you present arguments for or against Ayn Rand’s view of selfishness?
- What basic motive unites people who brag about their sexual promiscuity and people who demand economic handouts from the government?
- Explain the meaning and wider significance of the following quote from Atlas Shrugged: “‘The words to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.” Explain what ideas underlie the maxim that “money is the root of all good.”
- Capitalism is often defended by appeal to the “public good”; that is, solely because its economic efficiency benefits society. Contrast this with Ayn Rand’s defense of capitalism, as dramatized in Atlas Shrugged.
- Conventional defenses of capitalism are based on the altruistic premise of “social usefulness.” Contrast this with Ayn Rand’s moral defense of capitalism as dramatized in Atlas Shrugged.
- Using the events in Atlas Shrugged, explain the moral and philosophical meaning of the following quote: “So you think that money is the root of all evil . . . Have you ever asked what is the root of money?”
- Using the events in Atlas Shrugged, explain the moral and philosophic meaning of the following quote: “The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.”
- Many people try to defend capitalism solely on grounds of its economic efficiency. Contrast this with Ayn Rand’s moral defense of capitalism as dramatized in Atlas Shrugged.
- Ayn Rand described the theme of Atlas Shrugged as the role of the mind in man’s existence. How do the events and characters in the novel dramatize this theme? Discuss how the role of the mind is regarded in today’s world.
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