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intellectualammo

On Rand’s The Little Street

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At age 23, this is Rand’s first attempt at in English to plan a novel:


 

David Harriamn describes it in The Journals of Ayn Rand as:
 

 

Its theme is that humanity - warped by a corrupt philosophy - is destroying the best in man for the sake of enshrining mediocrity. By far AR’s most malevolent story.


 

She writes:
 

 

All the “realistic” books have shown the bad side of life and, as good, have shown the good of today. They have denounced that which is accepted as bad and set up as a relief or example that which is accepted as good. I want to show that there is no good at present, that the “good” as it is now understood is worse than bad, that it is only the result


 

Danny Renahan is a character in this story, who is, in part, modeled after William Hickman.

 

She describes Danny in her notes. Some of the description:

 

 

Imperious. Impatient. Uncompromising. Untamable. Intolerant. Unadaptable.


 

 

An extreme “extremist”


 

 

He grows up lonely, hating everybody and being hated by everybody

 

 

Show his battle with the world. He is too impatient to toil slowly through the years for the things he wants. Too uncompromising to succeed in the way of the popular men who know how to get along with those in power. Too intolerant to “get along” with anybody. Too passionate not to burn with disgust for life as he sees it and with humiliation at not being above the mob, crushing it under his feet, giving it orders instead of trying to satisfy it, of crawling before it for its good graces. He is unable to understand how he can act and live as an equal with those he knows to be inferior to him, those he despises and had a right to despise.


 

A man that can slash with an [ax], but can’t saw patiently.


 

Stone-hard. Monstrously cruel. Brazenly daring. No respect for anything or anyone.


 

 

His mind is brilliant enough to see the ridiculous side of everything. He gets immense enjoyment from shocking people, amusing them with his cynicism, [ridiculing] before their eyes the most sacred, venerated, established ideas. He takes a real delight in opposing people, in fighting and terrifying them. He has no ambition to be a benefactor or popular hero for mankind. […] Subconsciously, this is the result of a noble feeling of superiority, which knows that to be loved by the mob is an insult and that to be hated is the highest compliment it can pay you.


 

The setting, the context Little Street’s world in which Danny was in, Rand wrote in her journals about: “The world as it is.” “life at present” “Show them the real, one and only horror - the horror of mediocrity” “Show that the world is nothing but a little street. That this little street is its king and master, its essence and spirit. Show the little street and how it works.”
 

Harriman wrote in regards to these notes of Rand’s “it seems likely that they were made over a short period when she was feeling particularly bitter towards the world”.
 

One of several characters also in it, is a pastor:

 

Rand writes that subconsciously he has:
 

 

Not the kind of passion for power that says “ I want to rule because I know I am superior to others and I must dominate them”; but the kind that says: “I know that I am inferior and therefore I don’t want to let anything superior exist.”


 

In the story, Danny:
 

 

shoots him straight in the face, mad with loathing and the desire to destroy him. He then shoots the rest of the bullets into the body, in his hatred and fury to kill. After that - no regrets, no remorse whatsoever.


 

I haven’t seen an actual topic about The Little Street, most had to do with who she had modeled Danny in part after, William Hickman.

 

I like studying Rand’s transition in her writing, from Danny, to first edition We The Living Kira, all the way up to Galt himself in Atlas Shrugged, the methods, actions, the setting/context in which the characters are all in.
 

So, this thread is open discussion on anything and everything that has to do with her notes on The Little Street.


 

In her notes about who Danny was, in part, modeled after, Hickman:
 

 

Adela Rogers St.-Johns cleverly noted that Hickman is an extremist, a type that can either be very good or very bad. This is true and the idea of the “extremist” is splendid. We should have more extremists - then life wouldn’t be what it is. But she says that “an extremist is always dangerous” and we all should be just in between, the “golden mean”, the balanced average. This is a wonderful expression of the view exactly opposite from mine. What I want to show in my book is just the horror of that middle. For if men were extremists they would follow each idea and feeling to its end, they would be faithful to their purposes and to themselves, they would be clear, straight, and absolute in everything. And they wouldn’t tolerate a lot of what is tolerated now. This is just what we need.


 

 

For this reason I admire Hickman and every extremist.


 

 

This is what my book is going to say. Extremist beyond all extreme is what we need

Edited by intellectualammo

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I would argue that he was not to be portrayed or thought of as a loose cannon, but that perhaps his actions and behavior was a result of the society/humanity in which he was subjected to. She wrote about Hickman in that way, let me find the quote, but Hickman was not crazy.

She writes that society transformed Hickman into a monster basically:

"Yes, he is a monster—now. But the worse he is, the worst must be the cause that drove him to this. Isn't it significant that society was not able to fill the life of an exceptional, intelligent boy, to give him anything to outbalance crime in his eyes? If society is horrified at his crime, it should be horrified at the crime's ultimate cause: itself. The worse the crime—the greater its guilt. What could society answer, if that boy were to say: "Yes, I'm a monstrous criminal, but what are you?"

"This is what I think of the case. I am afraid that I idealize Hickman and that he might not be this at all. In fact, he probably isn't. But it does not make any difference. If he isn't, he could be, and that's enough. The reaction of society would be the same, if not worse, toward the Hickman I have in mind. This case showed me how society can wreck an exceptional being, and then murder him for being the wreck that it itself has created. This will be the story of the boy in my book."

Edited by intellectualammo

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Here's a recent story that made me think of Hickman:

http://www.cleveland.com/chardon-shooting/index.ssf/2013/03/tj_lane_sentenced_in_chardon_h.html

"T.J. Lane will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing three students and wounding three others in the Chardon High School cafeteria Feb. 27, 2012.

Before his sentence, Lane, wearing a white T-shirt with the word "killer" written across the front, said: "This hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory. F--- all of you."

If you read up on Hickman, you have to wonder what Rand read about him that led her to write what she did.

"He gets immense enjoyment from shocking people, amusing them with his cynicism, [ridiculing] before their eyes the most sacred, venerated, established ideas. He takes a real delight in opposing people, in fighting and terrifying them. He has no ambition to be a benefactor or popular hero for mankind. […] Subconsciously, this is the result of a noble feeling of superiority, which knows that to be loved by the mob is an insult and that to be hated is the highest compliment it can pay you."

Or, more likely, he was a f'd in the head monster.

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How is it justified for her to blame society for Hickman? What does society owe to an allegedly "exceptional intelligent boy"?

 

 Danny, the "Little Street" character sounds like a sociopath. But she doesn't offer any explanation (here) as to why he is what he is, other than a "noble feeling of superiority", and a subconscious one at that. Its amazing how much her idea of the ideal man changed from this time period to the creation of Galt.

Edited by JayR

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If you read up on Hickman, you have to wonder what Rand read about him that led her to write what she did.

 

The OP's quotes already explain it. Rand wasn't glorifying his crimes. She was highlighting his ability not to be mediocre. He was an extremist, and she saw that as a good thing, instead of society's attempts at making civilians adopt a golden mean kind of view of themselves. A collectivist society wants you to join the mob, the collective. A person who demands to be an individual will be considered an extremist. That's why she says, "He has no ambition to be a benefactor or popular hero for mankind. […] Subconsciously, this is the result of a noble feeling of superiority, which knows that to be loved by the mob is an insult and that to be hated is the highest compliment it can pay you."

 

But she didn't say that all extremists are good, or that Hickman himself was good. She clearly denounced his killings and crimes, and extremism can be very bad if extreme in the wrong ways.

 

Hickman is an extremist, a type that can either be very good or very bad."

 

 

 

Her larger point was that extremism is preferable to the golden mean, preferable to society's attempt to make us all part of the average. Only "extremists" can ...

be faithful to their purposes and to themselves, they would be clear, straight, and absolute in everything. And they wouldn’t tolerate a lot of what is tolerated now.

 

 

But to say that Rand was honoring or idealizing Hickman's crimes and murders themselves is to misunderstand what she said about him in her notes.

Edited by secondhander

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Guys, I actually read Rand's notes on The Little Street initially thinking that I would agree with the chorus of voices denouncing it, the chorus of voices saying that it lauds a horrible, horrible killer, etc., etc., etc.

Surprisingly to me, I truly didn't see it that way. I understood generally where she was "coming from", what she was trying to "get at", much more than with Atlas Shrugged and especially her nonfiction books in which she tries to be a "logician" and tries to sound like she is deriving capitalism from "A is A" and other basic logic laws, a project that is simply impossible and frankly a little bit silly.

There's something about The Little Street that clearly seems to bother most Objectivists. It's the "moonshine" of Ayn Rand. It's Ayn Rand with several Objectivist centralities (and indeed I would argue: several Incorrectnesses) such as "Ayn the 'Capitalist Logician' ", the "Benevolent Universe Premise", and the "Benevolent People Premise" distilled out of it.  

The Little Street, had Rand written it, would have been my favorite work of hers by far, and indeed would have occupied a special place on my bookshelf.

Edited by Dustin86

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On 12/11/2016 at 0:23 PM, Dustin86 said:

The Little Street, had Rand written it, would have been my favorite work of hers by far, and indeed would have occupied a special place on my bookshelf.

It'd probably be cool, but as I recall it was more like short-story material than enough to be a novel.

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