Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Atlas Read-Through

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

I've created this thread as a way of keeping track of my thoughts on AS as I tackle it for the first time. Feedback from the community is more than welcome, as I anticipate needing help in untangling some passages and ideas.

I started reading AR about two years ago, starting with the FH. Since then I've read 6 or 7 of her other books, listened to hours of Piekoff and talk about her incessantly with friends. However, on account of coming at Objectivism from a libertarian position, I was concerned more with her non-fiction than fiction. For that Reason, it has taken me until now to actually start AS. I tried once before, but I found it so dry that I decided to wait for a period when I could devote more attention to it.

I'm already on chapter 7, so I'm beginning this thread later than I should have, but I figure it's not too late. Here are some of my thoughts so far.

Notes on Style:

She really puts the "romantic" in "romantic realism", which is paradoxical considering what I said above about the book being dry. But I'm just reporting the facts here. There's a point or two in virtually every section of dialogue where I imagine the speaking character is holding an American flag as it blows in the wind. I did start on The Romantic Manifesto, but I stopped in the middle of the chapter on literature because - again - dry. I'll pick that back up ASAP as I imagine it'll help with enjoying AS.

Speaking of paradoxes, I've noticed the sheer volume of paradoxical phrases AR uses in this book ("...to honor a woman by the act of possessing her." "...condescendingly tolerant."). FH had plenty, but this is next-level. Of course, I've always loved paradoxical phrasing in literature, and it played a big role in my embracing AR. The feeling they give is very true to life, in my opinion. My guess is that these paradoxes are meant to highlight conceptual hierarchy, in the sense that one level of analysis may be described in contrary terms to another, that appearances can be deceiving to the "undiscerning".

She's not as heavy on the realism as I'd prefer. That might be the naturalist in me, but I think my subconscious still finds the personality's of AR's characters somewhat alien. Then again, James Taggart & Co. all talk like they're cartoons, so maybe it's just the dialogue.

Lastly, I have to say that her peppering the narrative with philosophy terms bugs me, but I get it. She said once that AS as intended as a way of pointing people to her explicit philosophy. Still, I personally get more out of figurative language in these contexts. However, I do like the chapter names. 

Notes on Themes:

Shrugging: I've always seen this metaphor for AR's philosophy as a little "bitchy" or passive-aggressive, but I don't think that's the point. The capitalists' strike (spoiler alert) is a result of their mistreatment by society and is the morally responsible thing to do. Furthermore, I know how vital this concept is to her entire ethics. Shrugging is not something you have to be a capitalist to do. I beg many of friends to learn how to buck social "responsibilities" and tradition and conventional wisdom. Pure, unbridled egoism comes a little naturally to me, so I’m paying strong attention to that aspect of Dagny, Hank, etc. I agree with it philosophically, but I don't have that emotional reverence for it that they do.

Work Ethic: I'm paying special attention to this topic since it's probably the one that has the most relevance to my personal life. I'll put it this way: I am - in contrast to Francisco D'Anconia - fond of "standing still" and "moving aimlessly". This habit has caused me tremendous grief, and I've begun to think of it as a primary determinant in whether or not I will ever be able to consider my life worth living. I admire Dagny, Hank, Eddie, etc. for their commitment to hard work, but the former hedonist in me think it sounds like a living hell.

Industry: AR describes industry in this book the way she describes Howard Roark in the first pages of FH - some of my favorite passages in all of literature. Therefore, I have had no trouble appreciating the way AR describes the Rearden foundry, etc. However, I'm having a little trouble imagining what "blue-green" metal looks like. I plan on paying attention to how AR views industry metaphysically. On of the least familiar of Rand's that I've encountered to date is her attitude towards environmentalism. The way she casts aside concerns for nature when they conflict with human needs is unthinkable today. That bit in WTL where Kira says something like, "It's beautiful; it almost looks manmade," is instructive in understanding AR's attitude. Although I feel calmer in the woods than I do in a modern home, I do recognize the difference in meaning between the two.

Women: I'm only ranking this topic so highly on this list due to how often it comes up. Almost every mention so far of femininity has been what some might call "problematic". Probably the most left-wing position I still take currently is the equality of the sexes. It's been an important issue to me for as long as I can remember. However, I've been wrong to disagree with AR on a number of things, so I'm trying to be open-minded. The "rape" scene in FH obviously bothered me, but once I found a good explanation of it, Rand's intention became very clear to me. From what I can tell, Dominique was playing out one of those paradoxical attitudes mentioned above. Still, I don't understand AR's conception of gender. Gender, to me, has always been either a genetic characteristic or a social role, both of which I've always given less value in my judgments than do most people. Anyways, most of what she's said so far in the book has been completely opaque to me.

Second-handers: She's included all the classics, just as she did in FH. I'm familiar enough with her philosophy and with the political left that I can view these characters as more-or-less patron deities of various evil beliefs. They're like a League of Villians. Pretty cool. Anyways, this theme is going to be important for me because on shift in thinking Ive had trouble automatizing has been viewing the producers as the bedrock of civilization rather than simply it's most fortunate members.

Please let me know if there are any other themes I ought to focus on. I'm sure I missed a few.

Other Impressions So Far:

Of course, I'm enjoying it. Reading Rand's fiction gives her voice a vulnerability that I often forget about when reading her non-fiction. She's venomous in her polemics, but she's only vaguely negative in her fiction. She's much more focused on the positive qualities of her heroes. It's also great to read something that's optimistic. It continues to shock me how hard that is to find today and how easy it was for me to go without any desire for optimism in the past and never noticing.

Doesn't feel like much of a plot yet. Still setting up. Just friction between Dagny and James, Rearden Steel rolling out, Francisco being mysterious, lots of people quitting their jobs, Lillian just being a right c*nt.

So far, I identify most with Hank Rearden. Probably the Catholic in me. He really knows how to embrace suffering. In FH I identified most with Dominique, who is nothing like Rearden. It was less her assertiveness and more her idealistic pessimism. It's so easy to be angry at others. That said, I don't truly identify with any character - not the way I'd like to. See above about realism.

I wish I could hear Richard Halley. Anybody have any clue as to what in real life might be the closest thing? Who's the Frank Lloyd Wright to his Howard Roark?

Anyways, I'll be posting some thoughts on the first few chapters ASAP.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...