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Matus1976

Female conceptions of Beauty from Atlas Shrugged

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Forced to take a 'social science' course and ending up in Sociology, for the assigned paper I decided to contrast the gender conceptions of beauty from common media sources against those portrayed in Atlas Shrugged. I'm pouring over the text again for the goodies, but looking for help from fellow Rand admirers, point out your favorite examples that convey the concepts of feminine beauty, such as Rearden seeing Dagny for the first time, etc. I particularly like the way Rand conveys beauty in the feminine context and it stands as a stark contrast to popular conventions, where women are often portrayed as shy, passive, demure, dependent, etc. Where Rand's beautiful heroines are strong, confident, capable, intelligent, etc.

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Well, you might consider broadening your source material from just AS to AS and TF, or more broadly Rand's fiction; depending on how much material you need for your paper, you're leaving out several strong and important female characters in her work. Particularly, I just flipped back through The Fountainhead; the scene where Roark and Dominique first meet is told from her perspective, so that's unhelpful to you, but I'm sure there are accounts of her (and other Rand female characters) that could help you with your thesis in the paper.

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You know one scene that comes to my mind? There's a scene early in Atlas Shrugged where Dagny is reminiscing about her childhood interactions with Francisco. I remember at one point early in their teens where Dagny sort of notices Francisco admiring her, though she's not entirely sure exactly what's going on and is a bit miffed at the time at what she thinks it means. There's more in Dagny and Francisco's early story about what it is that Francisco regards as what he finds attractive about Dagny. He values her for things like that he knows she's the type that has her dream and will go on and live up to it in spite of it generally being frowned upon. She'll earn her status rather than expect to take it by birth, just like the d'Anconia's expect of their kids.

Edited by bluecherry

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mental descriptions:

1. maybe zoom in on the scene where Dagny says, "That's okay, I'm the man." and analyze what she means by that. It's not just a sharp comeback, it's an affirmation.

2. maybe consider the values of the men that admire her, because their values indicate the qualities that they find beautiful in her.

3. contrast with Mrs. Rearden might be helpful

physical descriptions:

1. follow the bracelet

2. the gray dress

3. contrast with Mrs. Rearden might be helpful

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Here are the ones I've collected so far, relevant but not yet edited

Her leg, sculptured by the tight sheen of the stocking, its long line running straight, over an arched instep, the tip of a foot in a high-heeled pump, had a feminine elegance that seemed out of place in the dusty train car and oddly incongruous with the rest of her. She wore a battered camel's hair coat that had been expensive, wrapped shapelessly about her slender nervous body. The coat collar was raised to the slanting brim of her hat. A sweep of brown hair fell back, almost touching the line of her shoulders, Her face was made of angular planes, the shape of her mouth clear-cut, a sensual mouth held closed with inflexible precision. She kept her hands in the coat pockets, her posture taut, as if she resented immobility, and unfeminine, as if she were unconscious of her own body and that it was a woman's body (pg 20)

t was astonishing to discover that the lines of her shoulder were fragile - and beautiful, and that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.(pg 136)

She stood as she always did, straight and taut, her head lifted impatiently. It was the unfeminine pose of an executive. But her naked shoulder betrayed the fragility of the body under the black dress, and the pose made her most truly a woman. The proud strength became a challenge to someone's superior strength, and the fragility a reminder that the challenge could be broken.(pg 154)

Lillian Rearden was generally regarded as a beautiful woman. She had a tall, graceful body, the kind that looked well in high-waisted gowns of the Empire style, which she had made it a practice to wear. Her exquisite profile belonged to a cameo of the same period: its pure, proud lines and the lustrous, light brown waves of her hair, worn with classical cimplicity, suggested an austere, imperial beauty. But when she turned full face…the eyes were the flaw: they were vaguely pale…lifelessly empty of expression. Rearden had always wondered, since she seemed amused so often, why there was no gaiety in her face. Pg 33

The girl had blurred eyes, a perspiring face, an ermine cape and a beautiful evening gown that had slipped off one shoulder like a slovenly housewife’s bathrobe, revealing too much of her breast, not in a manner of daring, but in the manner of a drudge’s indifference pg 66

Betty Pope washing her teeth in the bathroom beyond. Her girdle lay on the floor…was a faded pink, with broken strands of rubber. [she] came into the living room, dragging the folds of a satin negligee harlequin-checkered in orange and purple. She looked awful in a negligee, thought Taggart; she was ever so much better in a riding habit, in the photographs on the society pages of newspapers. She was a lanky girl, all bones and loose joints that did not move smoothly. She had a homely face, a bad complexion and a look of impertinent condescension derived from the fact that she belonged to one of the very best families. …He saw her dressing in front of the open door. She took a long time twisting herself into her girdle, hooking garters to her stockings, pulling on an ungainly, expensive tweed suit. The negligee, picked from an advertisement in the smartest fashion magazine, was like a uniform which knew to be expected on certain occasions, which she had worn dutifully for a specified purpose and then discarded. Pg 70-71

“He seldom spoke in Francisco’s presence. But he would corner Dagny and he would smile derisively, saying, “All those airs you put on, pretending that you’re an iron woman with a mind of her own! You’re a spineless dishrag, that’s all you are. Its disgusting, the way you let that conceited punk order you about…You haven’t any pride at all. The way you run when he whistles and wait on him! Why don’t you shine his shoes?” “Because he hasn’t told me to,” she answered” pg 94
Edited by Matus1976

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Some ideas to consider, all in the context of Atlas Shrugged:

I would argue that Rand does not convey beauty in either a feminine or masculine context - at least not positively. I do not think there is any element distinguishing the great men and the great women in Rand's fiction writing. Adjectives of feminine used with characters like Dagny seem more to describe how something is off, how they don't seem to be womanly as much as they are human and admirable. The way I see it, human beauty is what is portrayed and emphasized. Notice how Lillian is described as being generally regarded as a beautiful woman. She is pretty much exactly what you'd think of as a typical woman in the 50s, and not surprisingly, one of the most evil characters in Atlas Shrugged. There is nothing to distinguish Lillian as an individual, and she fits an already existing mold. Feminine as a means to sacrifice others to herself.

It would be interesting to also look at how masculine beauty is portrayed by Rand, but that context may be too broad.

All of Rand's heroes are strong, confident, capable, etc, so I think it's worth pointing out that there isn't any distinction between admirable men and admirable women. There's a stark contrast with popular conventions precisely because Rand is showing how what is often most attractive has to do with what makes all humans, human: reason.

I think the mention of Dagny's childhood memories is a good one. I think that shows just how what is beautiful and attractive about her has nothing to do with femininity, but rather, how selfish and self-confident she is.

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Not only that,

All of her attractive females are very slender and have gray eyes, they are also very pale.

Thats for the physical look.

Other than that they are not afraid to be alone, they are the outsiders, they are strong, smart and opinionated. Men find them pretty but they are affraid of them because of their strong personality

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