Thursday, July 17, 2008

Finished The "Masterwork"

I am in North Carolina right now. I road tripped up with my boys Russell and Allen as a last hurrah before Russell gets married next month. We came to hang out with another friend of ours, Ryan, who used to be on staff with us back in the day. They are playing a quality game of Settlers of Catan right now so I figured I would take the time to write.

On the drive up I finished the last 80 pages or so of Atlas Shrugged. The pace of the novel in the last 150 pages slowed down dramatically, although there was still a good amount of action. I know it is a fictional novel, but that did not prevent Rand from using an entire chapter and her ultimate hero, John Galt, to present her entire philosophy in one long monologue. I will not go into plot detail, but I believe it put the entire novel to a halt. I have read that a movie is in the making with Angelina Jolie set to play Dagny, the female lead, but I can't see how they would fit the diatribe given by Galt late in the story.

In finishing the novel--which I felt both relief and triumph because it is the longest book I have ever read outside of the Bible--I had two immediate thoughts.
  1. Rand mentions as part of her philosophy that
    "Objectivism rejects any form of determinism, the belief that man is a victim of forces beyond his control (such as God, fate, upbringing, genes, or economic conditions)."
    This means that she would feel no pity for the religious blind child who grew up in the ghetto with no parents and can't get out. But that's not what I notice in her novels. In both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged there are never any natural disasters; all the disasters are manmade, particularly in the form of fire. I just found that interesting and I wonder how she would respond to those and other things that surely are outside of man's control.
  2. The line that epitomizes the character of John Galt is the final one he makes during his ridiculously long speech where he spells out her philosophy. Galt closes with these words:
    "I swear--by my life and my love of it--that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine"
    Sacrfice was a disgusting concept to Rand, but again what I find interesting in the fictional worlds she created is that none of the heroes ever have children. They may start off as children of others (as in the case of Hank Rearden and his family), but there is no situation where the heros themselves have children with each other and start a family; this also in light of the fact that there is a good bit of sex that occurs throughout the novel. What does her philosophy look like then? My understanding goes that no one really knows the meaning of sacrifice until one has to raise a family. I personally cannot understand the anguish experienced in Abraham's life as he had Isaac on the altar or Jesus' life as He sacrificed Himself for His creation. As far as I know, Rand herself, who was married to Frank O'Connor for fifty years, never had children. Would things have looked different for her should she have had a family? Would she reconsider her this thought of not living for another person? Does the concept of a family go against her philosophical ideals?

I don't have the answers as I am still trying to process stuff and do not have a strong enough grasp on her philosophy, but after reading her two greatest works these two issues needed to at least be mentioned.

Now back to my peeps.

By His Grace.


  1. dude- where at in NC? I'm here too... hope you're having fun!

  2. I have read the novel too, and it temporarily caused me to think that perhaps laissez-faire capitalism was, after all, the only way to go...

    ...then I realized we've tried that before in history, and started reading about how things have gone when that was the case.

    Looking back, I chuckle as I remember the feeling that her book was meant to say: "A is A, therefore capitalism!"

    I really appreciated your insights here and thought they were deep: altruism isn't her enemy, per se, but she considers selfishness a "virtue" and considers taxation, even when the money is invested in our own infrastructure, a form of stealing in most instances.