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Humor In AR's Fiction

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jedymastyr
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I took a class a year or so ago that included reading The Fountainhead. My teacher (a Kelleyite) pointed out a passage which displayed what he called "Ayn Rand's dark sense of humor." Here's the particular passage:

Gus Webb designed a cubistic ornament to frame the original windows, and the modern neon sign on the roof, which read: "The Hopton Stoddard Home for Subnormal Children."

"Comes the revolution," said Gus Webb, looking at the completed structure, "and every kid in the country will have a home like that!"

When I read it the first time I had just seen it as a "revolution" in architecture and him saying that everyone would want a house along the same lines of style. But when my professor pointed it out, I saw the humor that I had missed originally. While it's not entirely subtle, it can be missed accidentally.

What other examples of (semi)subtle humor have you found in her fiction, if any? I'm sure there's more, and I would be interested in seeing any that other people have noticed.

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I've got one: (Plot spoiler, for anyone who hasn't read AS)

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It's the scene where Dagny and Rearden had just discovered the John Galt motor in the abandoned, decrepit factory.

---------------(Atlas Shrugged, Part I, Chapter IX)

"I'll find him--if I have to drop every other thing I'm doing."

"--and if he's still alive."

She heard the unstated guess in the tone of his voice. "Why do you say it like that?"

"I don't think he is. If he were, would he leave an invention of this kind to rot on a junk pile? Would he abandon an achievement of this size? If he were still alive, you would have had the locomotives with the self-generators years ago. And you wouldn't have had to look for him, because the whole world would know his name by now!" (emphasis mine)

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Of course, you'd get that only after your second reading because you wouldn't have known who invented the motor at first.

There are some more subtle ones also in The Fountainhead, but it's gonna take me a while to find them.

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Part 1 Chapter 9, "He" is Hank Rearden and "she" is Dagny:

He remained silent; when he spoke again, his voice was gay. "The worst thing about people is not the insults they hand out, but the compliments. I couldn't bear the kind they spouted tonight, particularly when they kept saying how much everybody needs me—they, the city, the country and the whole world, I guess. Apparently, their idea of the height of glory is to deal with people who need them. I can't stand people who need me." He glanced at her. "Do you need me?"

She answered, her voice earnest, "Desperately."

He laughed. "No. Not the way I meant. You didn't say it the way they do."

"How did I say it?"

"Like a trader—who pays for what he wants. They say it like beggars who use a tin cup as a claim check."

"I … pay for it, Hank?"

"Don't look innocent. You know exactly what I mean."

"Yes," she whispered; she was smiling.

"Desperately", what a great line. :)

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I messed up on the topic title... it was supposed to be "Humor in AR's Fiction" but the AR turned into Ar (typo). I tried but I don't see a way to change it, so if any moderators have that ability, feel free

Also, those are good examples so far, thanks!

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One of the greatest passages in The Fountainhead, early on. AR is describing the building of the Stanton Institute, when Roark is heading to see the dean. She talks about the walls and tower as being "a fragile defense against two mighty enemies: light, and air".

I may not be quoting word by word, because I don't have TF near me right now. I remember the whole description of this building is hilarious.

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here's that passage:

The Stanton Institute of Technology stood on a hill, its crenelated walls raised as a crown over the city stretched below. It looked like a medieval fortress, with a Gothic cathedral grafted to its belly. The fortress was eminently suited to its purpose, with stout, brick walls, a few slits wide enough for sentries, ramparts behind which defending archers could hide, and corner turrets from which boiling oil could be poured upon the attacker—should such an emergency arise in an institute of learning. The cathedral rose over it in lace splendor, a fragile defense against two great enemies: light and air.

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I burst out laughing when I first read that scene where the looters have captured Galt and are taking him to the banquet.

"You will please co-operate, Mr. Galt," said Chick Morrison, when Galt was ready, and indicated the door with a courtly gesture of invitation to proceed.

So swiftly that no one could catch the motion of his hand, the muscular man was holding Galt's arm and pressing an invisible gun against his ribs. "Don't make any false moves," he said in an expressionless voice.

"I never do," said Galt.

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An exchange between Roark and Toohey in The Fountainhead, from memory:

Toohey: "Tell me what you think of me, in any terms you choose."

Roark: "But I don't think about you."

I ADORE that quote! I have been waiting for the perfect time to actually use it on someone, but the opportunity has never presented itself. *rubs hands together* MWAHAHAHAHA

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I ADORE that quote! I have been waiting for the perfect time to actually use it on someone, but the opportunity has never presented itself. *rubs hands together* MWAHAHAHAHA

After waiting over a decade I got to use that line a year ago. My firends roomate is a stereotypical looter. Always unemployed trustafarian who has a "highly regarded" (talk about false praise) leftist blog.

He was on his usual ramble about the evils of capitalism and Bush etc when I realized he was deliberately provoking me into a debate. He finally got tired of me ignoring him and he asked exactly that: "What do you think of me Scott?" My reply was straight from the book. He mumbled something under his breath and hasn't talked to me since. And that's a good thing in my book!

Oh was it worth the wait! I glowed for days and days.

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I haven’t read the previous missives but I surely will. And I would like to quote some more. But one of the funniest themes from Atlas is when Dagny meets Hugh Akston flipping burgers at the diner. It is funny for many reasons but obviously the irony is awesome. The meaning of Akston’s position there is a slap at the world. The type of man that men need most is cast away in seclusion.

One of the lines from Rand that I sometimes repeat to myself during my weeks is, “Toothbrush brush in the foam dome Roman dome….” This is an excerpt from a celebrated novel by Lois Cook called Clouds and Shrouds. The existential counterparts are Gertrude Stein and James Joyce. They are just as funny.

Americo.

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One of my favourite humouristic line in the Fountainhead is Toohey' reaction to his teachers' reading from the Bible: What does a man gain if he has lost his soul? He answers:So to be really rich a man should start collecting souls? And the teacher doesnot know what to make of that.

Apparently Toohey did get in the business of collecting souls later- in a manner of speaking.

This is my first post, I must say I like the short, 'to the point syle' of messages posted here.

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I know about you guys but I thought relationship between Wynand and Francon to be fun before they fell in love.

After writing a positive article expressing contrary view of the public and other intellectuals

"(Alvah) Scarrt knew that he would get hell from Gail Wynand if he printed the thing, and might get hell if he lost Dominique Francon whose column was popular. Wynand had not returned from his cruise. Scarret cabled him in Bali, explaining the situation. Within a few hours Scarret received an answer. It was in Wynand's private code. Translated it read: FIRE THE BITCH. G.W."

And also read their conversation in part III of Gail Wynand.

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  • 2 years later...

I think Ayn Rand's humor was very biting at times - which is one of the things I love about it.

The example that comes to mind in her fiction is the scene in which Gail Wynand wants to spend a quite evening at home and Dominique instead rubs his nose in what he has turned himself into by announcing that they are going to attend the modern-trash play No Skin Off Your Nose and makes the suggestion that he use his wealth and power to buy her the leading role in the play. I can't find the passage quickly - but it is hilarious.

She also had biting humor in her non-fiction. For example, in her article "Apollo And Dionysus," she summed up the interview of Woodstock hippies that she quoted from thusly:

Hence their state of stagnant, resigned passivity: if no one comes to help them, they will sit in the mud. If a box of Cocoa Puffs hits them in the side, they'll eat it; if a communally chewed watermelon comes by, they'll chew it; if a marijuana cigarette is stuck into their mouth, they'll smoke it. If not, not.

When writing about the first Earth Day, she described the hippies along the lines of the following: "they who would pollute a stream merely by stepping into it." (I am paraphrasing as I cannot quickly locate the exact quote)

When the leaders of the Feminist movement denounced men regarding women as sexual objects, Ayn Rand wrote that there was no such danger of them being regarded as such.

I find that kind of stuff to be very funny.

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I find that kind of stuff to be very funny.

Me, too. Those quotes (especially about the Hippie polluting the river... or just about anything she says on hippies) and others like them are among the most lastingly funny things I've ever heard. It really goes to show you that the negative portrayals out there of Ayn Rand as emotionless are really very off base.

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