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Review: Joker? I barely know her! – University of Pittsburgh The Pitt News

In the beginning of Todd Phillips Joker, the titular character Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) gets beaten up by a teenage gang so deliberately characterless it couldve been pulled from a 90s morning cartoon. He twirls a furniture store sign on the sidewalk while dressed as a clown for money, dancing joyfully and sinuously, before said teens snatch it from him. They lure him into an alley, smash his face with the sign and kick him while he cries and his fake flower lapel leaks water onto the pavement. The camera pans out. Ominous music sounds. Then the title drops like a cinder block Joker.

I laughed out loud when I saw this. I dont think I was supposed to. But the scene was so self-pitying that it wasnt hard to imagine the director self-righteously nodding as he watched the first cut. You see, its not him thats crazy, Phillips mightve said. Its society.

Jokers origin story has an unlikely counterpart Netflixs recent release Tall Girl, about a 6-foot-1 high school student who finds friendship and love despite being tall. Hows the weather up there? a classmate snidely asks her in one scene. Face it, Jodi. Youre the Tall Girl, a friend self-righteously tells her. Her story is entirely defined by her height. Shes not a character so much as a vector for a single personality trait.

Tall Girls trailer sparked deserved scorn and delight on Twitter. Its a high school oppression tale that couldve been written by algorithm. Its stripped of nuance, complexity and features a main character whose identity consists of nothing more than the way people react to their defining trait. But the internet-fueled hype and fear surrounding Jokers release mask a similar problem its also a movie that couldve been written by an algorithm.

Hey freak! one stranger shouts at Fleck as he walks down the street in his clown outfit. Look at this joker, Robert De Niros Letterman-esque character says to mock Flecks stand-up comedy tape. Hes later nicer to Fleck in person, but even then his tone echoes that of the Netflix film. He might as well have said, Face it, Joker. Youre the Clown Guy.

Fleck becomes a singular vehicle for rage in the way that Tall Girl is a vehicle for being tall. What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? he howls at De Niro in one of the films most cringe-worthy lines. Without spoiling too much, the punchline is less funny and more predictable than youd expect.

Phoenix gives a masterful performance despite the scripts limitations, though. His talent shines when Phillips gives him the least to say. In one scene, Fleck imitates a woman dancing on TV while holding his newly acquired gun. He raises his hands above his head like a belly dancer and twists his hips. He slips into reverie as his gun gives him the confidence to contemplate desiring and being desired in turn. Then he accidentally shoots his wall and jolts back to his repressed adulthood.

Later, he screams at the man who denies being his father in an opera house bathroom. Maybe just a little affection, Dad! Maybe you would have showed up! he simultaneously shouts and sneers. Phoenix delivers a twitching, pained portrayal of a man who craves love so deeply that its denial destroys his psyche.But that same sympathetic portrayal also robs Fleck of any villainous agency. Hes a man who bad things happen to and who the film presents as being forced to do bad things in turn. His motivation seems to be to revenge himself on a city thats unrealistically out to kill him. We learn that he has multiple mental illnesses (I take seven pills) but we never find out what they are. We learn that he was abused as a child but are only told the vaguest contours of what form that abuse took. Three drunk Wall Street guys who know Stephen Sondheim songs by heart beat him up on a subway. And were meant to understand that these inevitably lead to mass murdering psychopathy, despite evidence that many real-life extremists come from very normal homes.

Arthur doesnt even do anything particularly villainous throughout the film. Phillips presents everyone who he kills on screen as having karmically deserved it. The fate of the one innocent character who he mightve killed, which wouldve turned him into an unambiguously evil character, is left deliberately ambiguous. This is where the film most significantly fails. Showing a beaten-down man who willfully decides to kill a woman whos not interested in him mightve actually illuminated something about our time. But a movie about a self-perceived antihero who lashes out against a society that doesnt understand him? Id prefer if wed stopped at Atlas Shrugged.

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Review: Joker? I barely know her! - University of Pittsburgh The Pitt News

Right-wingers finally got their Ayn Rand hero as president and it’s this guy – Salon

When she was young, author Ayn Rand had a schoolgirl crush on a man who murdered, dismembered and disemboweled 12-year-old Marion Parker, before dumping her body on the street, after promising to return her alive to her parents. That 1927 murder was big news, especially in Los Angeles, where the crime had occurred, and it certainly got the attention of Rand, who had just moved to the city after emigrating from the Soviet Union. She immediately began work on a novel, which she called "Little Street,"with a hero based on the murderer, William Hickman.

While Rand's modern-day fans are quick to argue that Rand didn't endorse the murder,it's safe to say she thought highly of Hickman himself and sneered at the people who denounced him, writing that they exhibited "the mobs murderous desire to revenge its hurt vanity against a man who dared to be alone." This champion of individualism said that Hickman's "degeneracy" showed "how society can wreck an exceptional being." She got to work sketching a protagonist based on Hickman, one with a "wonderful, free, light consciousness" resulting from "the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling" and having "no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people."

Rand eventually scrapped the idea for "Little Street," but most historians argue that she reworked her idea of the individualistic, contemptuous hero into her later novels, "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged." These two books, and Rand's writings on her selfishness-oriented philosophy she deemed "Objectivism," have become the backbone of modern conservatism, a pseudo-intellectual rationalization beloved by Republicans such as former House Speaker Paul Ryan or Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky for a reactionary movement that rose up to reject the feminist and antiracist movements of the 20th century.

In her purple prose, Rand romanticized the capitalist predator as a handsome, virile man whose towering intellect justifies his massive ego and disregard for the common masses. It's why conservatives, angry about the election of Barack Obama, started publicly identifying with John Galt, who is the great-man-among-parasites hero of "Atlas Shrugged."

The question that haunts that novel is, "Who is John Galt?" Now we finally have the answer: Donald Trump.

It turns out a philosophy of radical selfishness is not sexy or heroic, but comes in the form of a half-literate narcissist, cheered on by a bunch of sweatpants-clad fascists as he commits crimes in service of conspiracy theories he hopes will trick the ignorant masses into electing him again.

"In the abstract, Rand would have said that her ideal man upholds reason and capitalism. Based on how this plays out in her books, her ideal man is rich, sexually aggressive, sociopathically unconcerned with what others think of him," author Adam Lee, who spent years blogging his close reading of "Atlas Shrugged,"told Salon.

"The real message Rand's works convey is that her protagonists are exempt from the puny standards of law and morality that the common people try to tie them down with," Lee added, noting that the heroes of Rand's bookscommit rape, mock the people who will die in their shoddily built housing and threaten violence to punish wives who disapprove of their adultery.

Trump's time in politics has been a true test of Rand's theory, which has been embraced by modern Republicans, that this kind of sociopathic selfishness is what compels men to greatness of the sorts that we ordinary people, with our plebeian concerns about moral duty to others and the common good, cannot understand. After all, one thing that is certain about Trump is that, like a true Randian hero, he acts only for himself and to satisfy his own ego, and has no concern for others outside of how they serve his interests.

The results, it's safe to say, are underwhelming. Trump's Randian philosophy of pure self-interest is, of course, why he felt it wise to abandon the traditional point of international diplomacy, which is to advance national interests, in favor of viewing other nations merely as resources to be exploited for his own personal and political gain. That's how he ended up on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, extorting the man to pony up manufactured conspiracy theories about a Democratic presidential candidate in exchange for military aid.

The fallout has, needless to say, been a little less John Galt and a little more Richard Nixon ranting pathetically about his enemies. Trump's blatant lies and grasping excuses for his behavior don't cause the heart to soar so much as the eyes to avert in embarrassment. As the outlines of Trump's conspiracy, with the clownish Rudy Giuliani at its center, come into view, the picture is less that of triumphant individualists sticking it to the small-brained masses than of a bunch of idiots who have vastly overrated their own abilities to pull off pointless crimes.

Nor has Trump's Randian attitude towards his henchmen, in which he shows them no weak-minded loyalty or gratitude for their service, worked out quite as well for him as it's supposed to. Trump's firing national security adviser John Bolton, himself no paragon of social virtue, was the move of a classic Randian hero. Bolton, after all, had the temerity to question the great man's judgment regarding matters like the Ukraine extortion, and had to be dispatched with contempt. But now reports that paint Bolton favorably (in itself a remarkable accomplishment) and make Trump look like a blithering idiot are worming their way into the news, suggesting that Trump's unwillingness to keep the good opinion of his henchmen is coming back around to bite him.

Conservatives like Paul Ryan may wrinkle their noses at Trump's uncouth demeanor and petty behavior, but this is what they signed up for in exalting Ayn Rand as some great philosopher. Despite the high-minded rhetoric, the lived reality of selfishness as a philosophy is less like the fictional figures of Howard Roark and John Galt, and more like the incoherent, small-minded sociopathy of Donald Trump. The great man of the Objectivist imagination has always been a silly fantasy. But it's particularly rich and satisfying that now that the Ayn Rand fanboys finally have a leader who lives out their supposed ideals, the result is the comic, pathetic and catastrophic figure now disgracing the White House.

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Right-wingers finally got their Ayn Rand hero as president and it's this guy - Salon

A Mix of Malcolm and Milton: On Corey Robin’s The Enigma of Clarence Thomas – lareviewofbooks

SEPTEMBER 30, 2019

THAT CLARENCE THOMAS is now the longest-serving justice on the US Supreme Court, as Corey Robin tells us at the outset of The Enigma of Clarence Thomas, inspires me to start doing the math on my own age. Anita Hill, jade-suited, sitting alone before the Senate, is among my earliest memories of American politics and what is now called the news cycle.

Since his 52-48 confirmation in October 1991, Thomas has exerted quiet influence on American jurisprudence and politics. The majority of justices now share Thomass politics, if not his unique perspective and reasoning. Neil Gorsuch and freshman Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose own confirmation hearing was a Thomas-like affair, are lockstep with their judicial elder. Among Thomass former clerks are 11 nominees to the federal bench, including seven on the court of appeals, and 10 who are either administration officials or members of the Office of US Attorneys, helping to craft current US immigration and deregulation policy. Just as importantly, Thomas has written more than seven hundred opinions, staking out controversial positions on gun rights, campaign finance, and other issues that have come to command Supreme Court majorities.

But he remains an enigma, particularly to liberal White America whose knowledge of him is often limited to the Anita Hill hearing, his silence during oral arguments, and the mistaken belief that Thomas was merely Antonin Scalias puppet. As a longtime reader of the right from the left, Robin writes, I know how tempting it is for people on one side of the spectrum to dismiss those on the other as unthinking defenders of partisan advantage. To his great credit, Robins aim is to avoid facile critiques from the left of Thomass political and legal philosophies.

He also aims for something other than a biography of the justice who filled the seat of Thurgood Marshall, who was himself too easily dismissed by liberal heavyweights like Archibald Cox and Bob Woodward. He writes,

Because the temptation to dismiss is even greater in Thomass case perversely mimicking the dismissal of Marshall and because its sufficiently difficult to get people to believe that Thomas has a jurisprudence, much less to hear it, the imperative to let him speak without the interruption of easy criticisms is that much more acute.

Instead, Robin engages in a close reading of Thomass writings in the hopes of providing a coherent description of Thomass political and legal philosophies as well as their historical and personal contexts.

Throughout, Robin demonstrates that Thomass worldview is complex, contradictory, and, at times, has plenty in common with far more progressive modes of thought than liberals might think. For one thing, Thomas is a Black nationalist. He can quote Malcolm X, chapter and verse. As the child of Jim Crow, he remains deeply skeptical of the conciliatory, post-racial politics of liberal America. His jurisprudence is almost universally informed by a race-consciousness that stands in stark contrast to the thinking of almost all of his fellow Justices.

Moreover, despite his conservatism, many of his arguments have, over the years, utilized a type of structural analysis of race and class in American society that could rest, if uneasily, next to that of radical left thinkers. Whats most fascinating about the book is watching Thomass thoughts evolve, seeing him move to the right in real time; from the Black Student Union treasurer at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, who chanted, Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh during a rally in Cambridge to free Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins; to the law student at Yale who argued for government regulation with a young John Bolton; to the head of Reagans EEOC who was still relying on the theory of disparate impact when considering affirmative action policies; to the nominee who claimed that the Anita Hill hearings were a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks; to the Justice who has staked out the most conservative position on the Supreme Court.

Robin splits the book into three parts Race, Capitalism, and Constitution, the primary categories of Clarence Thomass jurisprudence and their development corresponds, roughly, to Thomass biography. The parts build off one another as we get closer to the present. His early experiences in Jim Crow Savannah and his chastening experiences as a Yale Law student flow into his post-law-school drift toward political and economic conservatism, thanks in large part to encounters with explicitly pro-capitalist Black thinkers in the mid-to-late 1970s. By the 1980s, with Thomas heading the EEOC under Reagan, there appeared a real chance of being named to the bench; only then did he start thinking seriously about developing a constitutional jurisprudence, of which, as a career politician, he had had little need. Thomas was on the federal bench a mere 16 months before his nomination by George H. W. Bush.

At Holy Cross, Thomas spoke the grammar of 1960s Black Power and was elected secretary-treasurer of the newly formed Black Student Union. The BSUs 11-point manifesto was steeped in the Black nationalism of Marcus Garvey, Kwame Ture, and Malcolm X, whose Autobiography Thomas read as a freshman: 7. The Black man wants [] the right to perpetuate his race; 9. The Black man does not want or need the white woman. Thomas was one of the more radical members of the BSU, remembered for his edgy race consciousness.

But it wasnt all Little Red Books and hard left resistance to The Man, as Robin explains:

Like all ideologies, black nationalism is a contested tradition, whose exponents and analysts seldom agree on its basic tenets. While a stringent definition might entail a belief in the separate cultural identity of African Americans and a commitment to their gaining a sovereign state, black nationalists frequently have taken up one position without the other, larding both with a thick layer of pragmatism.

One evening Thomas might take a hard line on an issue, but by the next morning, he might soften his stance. He was a young man testing the limits of his politics during one of the more incendiary periods in American history.

Although Thomas has since denied being a Black nationalist, Robin points out that he has never completely disavowed the movements grammar as the formative base upon which he built his subsequent politics. Black nationalist theory continues to pepper his court opinions. Thomas is the only justice to frequently quote W. E. B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglass. Hes even lifted from James Baldwin, without attribution.

At Yale Law chosen because it had a more liberal reputation than Harvard Thomas first questioned the welfare states intervention on behalf of African Americans. He began to view such liberal political programs as both perpetuating and masking the deep racism at the heart of the American project. In Thomass mind, to a White student, a Black student at Yale Law could only ever be the result of White largesse, thereby undermining any sense of achievement the Black student might derive from having gained admission.

His position on the court, undermining affirmative action programs, was an irony lost on no one, with Rosa Parks once quipping, He had all the advantages of affirmative action and went against it. Yet, unlike fellow conservatives who decry affirmative action as simply reverse racism, Thomass beliefs rest on the notion that affirmative action further marks already marked bodies. For Thomas, Robin explains, the most important form that racism takes is the stigma or mark it puts on black people, designating them as less worthy or capable than white people. Thomas has said as much in the 1995 decision Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pea:

So called benign discrimination teaches many that because of chronic and apparently immutable handicaps, minorities cannot compete with them without their patronizing indulgence. Inevitably, such programs engender attitudes of superiority or, alternatively, provoke resentment among those who believe that they have been wronged by the governments use of race. These programs stamp minorities with a badge of inferiority and may cause them to develop dependencies or to adopt an attitude that they are entitled to preferences.

Yet Robin astutely notes that Thomass form of race-consciousness doesnt extend to all classes: The victim of racial stigmas Thomas has most in mind is not a poor black person racially profiled by the police but the ambitious black striver condescended to by liberal whites. The victim he has in mind is someone like him.

Thomass feelings about affirmative action were still inchoate in the early 1970s. And even several years into his appointment, Thomas was conflicted about completely giving up on such political measures. It makes sense that, as Thomas struggled with the racial politics of the welfare state, he became receptive to the radical free-market ideology that had started creeping into the mainstream from the fringes, while faith in Keynesianism on both the center right and left disintegrated under the weight of the Vietnam War and domestic civil unrest.

Free markets promised solutions to Black self-sufficiency in a still utterly racist landscape. After Yale, Thomas went west, where he found himself working in the Missouri Attorney Generals office, headed by the Republican John Danforth. At this point, according to Thomas, the most conservative thing hed done was vote for George McGovern in 1972, but philosophically he was in transit, writes Robin, moving away from a black left that disquieted him and white liberals who looked down on him.

In 1976, he had his first important encounter with conservative Black politics when a friend recommended the University of Chicagotrained economist Thomas Sowells Race and Economics, which Robin calls a mix of Malcolm and Milton. Through an analysis of urban and rural slavery and the varying economic experiences of immigrant groups in the United States, Sowell lays out an argument that politics is the domain of White power and that the market is the key to Black survival. Even in the antebellum South, argues Sowell, market logic constrained the masters cruelty more than morality. A slave was, after all, an investment and an asset; to harm a slave was to work against the goals of capital accumulation. This contention had an immense impact on Thomass politics and, later, his jurisprudence. He registered as an independent in 1976, voted for Gerald Ford, and became the most conservative attorney in an office that included John Ashcroft.

Though Thomas claims a Pauline conversion to conservatism, Robin is skeptical. Sowell may have been the final straw, but in the summer of 1971 Thomas read Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead (he still requires all his clerks attend a judicial term-opening screening of King Vidors 1949 film version of The Fountainhead), and was increasingly disenchanted by his own participation in tear-gassy demonstrations as an undergraduate, which never seemed to put a dent in state power.

Thomass personal path in the 70s also reflected larger currents in Black politics at the time, which were increasingly shot through with pessimism and fatigue and the belief that, for all its achievements such as 1964s Civil Rights Act and 1965s Voting Rights Act the movement had done little to improve the daily life of African Americans and left a bloody trail in its wake. Black nationalism often gains traction, Robin writes, when conditions for African Americans are getting worse, as was the case with the Garvey movement in the 1920s, or when the movement for multiracial democracy comes up against the hard limits of white supremacy.

Under these conditions, Black leaders, like Thomas, turned to the markets, recalling Adam Clayton Powells initial use of the phrase Black Power to suggest Black business ownership. This is not to say that Black Power in the 70s was simply co-opted by capitalism, but there was significant discussion and disagreement within the movement about the direction in which it should head. And the discussion remains relevant today, as the recently slain Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle is eulogized for encouraging Black business ownership and entrepreneurship as a means of empowerment.

Capitalism resonated with Thomas on a personal level as well. His own father, M. C. Thomas, or simply C, abandoned his family when Thomas was one, and the boy and his siblings were raised primarily by Myers Anderson, their grandfather, to whom Thomas refers as Daddy. In Thomass memory, Myers represented what capitalism could accomplish for African Americans. As a young man, Myers owned his own fuel oil business, supplied ice, and had several rental properties. In Myers, Thomas saw the archetype of a strong, independent Black man living on his own terms; he contrasted his grandfather with his mother and sisters, whom he viewed as weak and incapable of providing for their family. This valorization of Black masculinity, which was also deeply informed by the vernacular of Black Power, remains a core feature of Thomass worldview.

Memories of his grandfather and Sowells writing confirmed to Thomas that there was a surer route to Black emancipation than politics. On the court, he has gone out of his way to deemphasize, even discourage Black political participation, in the hope that African Americans would turn to the markets something of a rehash of Marcus Garveys declaration:

[The Negro] cannot resort to the government for protection for government will be in the hands of the majority of the people who are prejudiced against him, hence for the Negro to depend on the ballot and his industrial progress alone, will be hopeless as it does not help him when he is lynched, burned, jim-crowed, and segregated.

While Thomass jurisprudence regarding ballot access hews mainly to the conservative line on federalism, when it comes to the question of electoral power, or the ability of a group to elect representatives of its choosing, he diverges from the general consensus of the court as well as from conservative politics at large.

Since the 80s, when Thomas briefly tried to convince Blacks that they should be Republicans either to influence Republican politics or to signal to Democrats that the Black vote could not be taken for granted, Thomas has largely abandoned the belief that there is any constitutional solution for incorporating Blacks into a political process that Sowell and others argued was forever rigged against them. Thomas sees the Courts attempt to address Black disenfranchisement and voter dilution as just more liberal White paternalism, which allows Whites to maintain symbolic and real power over Blacks.

Robin identifies this as an argument of despair, which resembles the social theorist Albert O. Hirschmans futility thesis. According to Hirschman, futility is a common tool for conservatives, who argue that attempting broad political action results in largely superficial changes, leaving structural inequities in place. And Hirschman notes that thinkers on the left may also be daunted by the difficulty of structural change and fall into the trap of futility thinking. Futility arguments, along with the concomitant arguments of perversity (that a policy will have the opposite effect) or jeopardy (that a policy will undo some previous achievement), are convenient for Thomas; he uses them frequently to demonstrate the failure of state intervention and regulation.

Another important aspect of Thomass project to steer African Americans away from politics is his contention that they do not constitute a stable, collective political class. They may share a collective stigma and experiences vis--vis racism, but for Thomas that doesnt necessarily translate into a coherent collective Black politics. Its hard to argue with the notion that individuals hold wildly different perspectives on a great number of things, or that there is an obvious class hierarchy within Black life. Still, when Thomas argues for a Black capitalism at the expense of politics he fails to take into account how capitalism and race are inextricably tied. If American politics is rigged against Blacks, capitalism is doubly so. As Huey Newton warned on the pages of Ebony in 1969, Black capitalism would merely be trading one master for another. A small group of blacks with control our destiny if this development came to pass. People like Thomass grandfather entered the rentier class, extracting labor value and rents from the Black community.

While Thomass views on capitalism and race are unique among his peers on the court, they often fit, without too much effort, into the arc of contemporary conservative politics. His justifications may be different, but the result is the same. However, Thomass conception of the Constitution, to which Robin devotes the last third of his book, resides in a wholly different sphere. This section of Robins book may represent his most interesting break with the conventional reading of Thomass thought.

While many legal scholars brand him a constitutional literalist, often to fit the Scalias puppet narrative, Robin argues that Thomass originalism is at best episodic, and of greater import is his conception of two separate versions of the Constitution. This conception supports his belief that a strong moral authority is necessary for keeping African Americans on the straight and narrow. One version is the Constitution of Reconstruction, with its signal achievements, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, since undermined by liberal paternalism and a misapplication of their content. The other is the original Constitution of three-fifths and states rights, which, after the failure of Reconstruction, was revitalized as Jim Crow.

At no time does Thomas argue that United States should return to forced segregation or chattel slavery. Rather, he looks to those times as exemplary moments when African Americans developed virtues of independence and habits of responsibility, practices of self-control and institutions of patriarchal self-help, that enabled them to survive and sometimes flourish. During Jim Crow, in other words, authority was clearly marked out; it offered a framework within which Black men could protect and provide for their families and communities. That framework was obscured and undermined by the welfare state.

Both Thomass Black and White Constitutions work to create a stark form of authority meant to order Black political and social life. For Thomas, the most important part of the Black Constitution is its extension of the Bill of Rights to all citizens after the Civil War, most notably, the right to bear arms. This Constitution granted Black men the means to physically confront White terror, a means that was with notable exceptions like the Nat Turner Rebellion in 1831 absent in the antebellum United States. Thomass Black Constitution allows [him] to tell a version of American history from the revolution against slavery to the counterrevolution of Jim Crow in which racial violence has been the motor of change [and] black actors and black violence are central both to the making of freedom and to its unmaking.

However, in order for Thomass Black Constitution to exist, society must remain in a permanent state of tension, and its in the last chapter, The White Constitution, that Robin presents the Justices logic at its most perverse. Only an antagonistic White Constitution of states rights can re-create the conditions that made for black survival[,] undo the culture of rights and replace it with a state of exigency. That exigency is to be found in the harsh rules of the penal state. All the better if these harsh rules are implemented in a racist fashion, because only then will the necessary tension rescue Black patriarchal authority.

How could a Justice who spends so much of his energy arguing that affirmative action and welfare are the tools of White domination give a pass to the carceral state? Here, Robin reads between the lines, surmising that the carceral state

serves a vital function: it provides African Americans with every reason they need to steer clear of trouble. That is a foundation not only for law-abiding behavior but also for the market-based activity [] Thomas regards as critical to the African American community. The carceral state re-creates the kind of adversity African Americans once suffered under Jim Crow.

Unless the state enacts carceral violence there is no hope, in Thomass mind, of bringing about his ideal of the strong Black patriarch, who will protect his race from the forces of White supremacy. This is the disturbing core of Thomass constitutional jurisprudence a nostalgic project that aims to return us to the idealized life of his childhood, where men were patriarchs, women wore their finery to church, and boys never strayed from the lines that authority had laid out for them.

Corey Robin has done all US citizens a great service by reading Thomas with such care, and by providing a fascinating and original interpretation of the man who, in many cases, quietly determines the direction we are taking. Thomas now wields significantly more power on the Court than he did even a decade ago, and his acolytes are in step with him on deregulation, the expansion of the state monopoly on violence, and the project to erode hard-won rights. Even if they dont share his unique views, the results are the same: the vote is 5-4.

John W. W. Zeiser is a poet, journalist, and critic. He no longer lives in Los Angeles.

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A Mix of Malcolm and Milton: On Corey Robin's The Enigma of Clarence Thomas - lareviewofbooks

Noteworthy: Notes from our business community and everywhere else – The Sylva Herald

THE FIRST FRIDAY BOOK GROUP will meet at 10 a.m. Oct. 4 in room 129 of the Jackson County Senior Center. The book to be discussed is The Traveling Cat by Hiro Arikawa. The November selection is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. For more information, call 586-4940.

Cullowhee Valley School is having its annual yard sale from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 12. The yard sale helps middle school students earn money to go towards their annual trips to Camp Greenville and Charleston, South Carolina. Community members can reserve a table for $30 by visiting the front office staff by Wednesday, Oct 2.

The CommUnity Square Dance is 7-9 p.m. Saturday at Reid Gym at Western Carolina University. The caller will teach and call all dances to live old-time music. No experience or partner is necessary. For more information contact Pammanottus@gmail.com.

Harris Regional Hospital will host a reception and dedication ceremony for anyone affected by breast cancer. The event will take place at noon Thursday, Oct. 3 at Harris Medical Park, 98 Doctors Drive, Sylva. Attendees will be allowed a time to place a card on the tree of hope in celebration and/or memory of a breast cancer patient. Refreshments will be served.

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Noteworthy: Notes from our business community and everywhere else - The Sylva Herald

Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand: 9780451191144: Amazon.com: Books

INTRODUCTION: Ayn Rand held that art is a re-creation of reality according to an artist s metaphysical value judgments. By its nature, therefore, a novel (like a statue or a symphony) does not require or tolerate an explanatory preface; it is a self-contained universe, aloof from commentary, beckoning the reader to enter, perceive, respond. Ayn Rand would never have approved of a didactic (or laudatory) introduction to her book, and I have no intention of flouting her wishes. Instead, I am going to give her the floor. I am going to let you in on some of the thinking she did as she was preparing to write Atlas Shrugged. Before starting a novel, Ayn Rand wrote voluminously in her journals about its theme, plot, and characters. She wrote not for any audience, but strictly for herself that is, for the clarity of her own understanding. The journals dealing with Atlas Shrugged are powerful examples of her mind in action, confident even when groping, purposeful even when stymied, luminously eloquent even though wholly unedited. These journals are also a fascinating record of the step-by-step birth of an immortal work of art. In due course, all of Ayn Rand s writings will be published. For this 35th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged, however, I have selected, as a kind of advance bonus for her fans, four typical journal entries. Let me warn new readers that the passages reveal the plot and will spoil the book for anyone who reads them before knowing the story. As I recall, Atlas Shrugged did not become the novel s title until Miss Rand s husband made the suggestion in 1956. The working title throughout the writing was The Strike. The earliest of Miss Rand s notes for The Strike are dated January 1, 1945, about a year after the publication of The Fountainhead. Naturally enough, the subject on her mind was how to differentiate the present novel from its predecessor. Theme. What happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike. This means a picture of the world with its motor cut off. Show: what, how, why. The specific steps and incidents in terms of persons, their spirits, motives, psychology and actions and, secondarily, proceeding from persons, in terms of history, society and the world. The theme requires: to show who are the prime movers and why, how they function. Who are their enemies and why, what are the motives behind the hatred for and the enslavement of the prime movers; the nature of the obstacles placed in their way, and the reasons for it. This last paragraph is contained entirely in The Fountainhead. Roark and Toohey are the complete statement of it. Therefore, this is not the direct theme of The Strike but it is part of the theme and must be kept in mind, stated again (though briefly) to have the theme clear and complete. First question to decide is on whom the emphasis must be placed on the prime movers, the parasites or the world. The answer is: The world. The story must be primarily a picture of the whole. In this sense, The Strike is to be much more a social novel than The Fountainhead. The Fountainhead was about individualism and collectivism within man s soul ; it showed the nature and function of the creator and the second-hander. The primary concern there was with Roark and Toohey showing what they are. The rest of the characters were variations of the theme of the relation of the ego to others mixtures of the two extremes, the two poles: Roark and Toohey. The primary concern of the story was the characters, the people as such their natures. Their relations to each other which is society, men in relation to men were secondary, an unavoidable, direct consequence of Roark set against Toohey. But it was not the theme. Now, it is this relation that must be the theme. Therefore, the personal becomes secondary. That is, the personal is necessary only to the extent needed to make the relationships clear. In The Fountainhead I showed that Roark moves the world that the Keatings feed upon him and hate him for it, while the Tooheys are out consciously to destroy him. But the theme was Roark not Roark s relation to the world. Now it will be the relation. In other words, I must show in what concrete, specific way the world is moved by the creators. Exactly how do the second-handers live on the creators. Both in spiritual matters and (most particularly) in concrete, physical events. (Concentrate on the concrete, physical events but don t forget to keep in mind at all times how the physical proceeds from the spiritual.). However, for the purpose of this story, I do not start by showing how the second-handers live on the prime movers in actual, everyday reality nor do I start by showing a normal world. (That comes in only in necessary retrospect, or flashback, or by implication in the events themselves.) I start with the fantastic premise of the prime movers going on strike. This is the actual heart and center of the novel. A distinction carefully to be observed here: I do not set out to glorify the prime mover ( that was The Fountainhead ). I set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers, and how viciously it treats them. And I show it on a hypothetical case what happens to the world without them. In The Fountainhead I did not show how desperately the world needed Roark except by implication. I did show how viciously the world treated him, and why. I showed mainly what he is. It was Roark s story. This must be the world s story in relation to its prime movers. (Almost the story of a body in relation to its heart a body dying of anemia.) I don t show directly what the prime movers do that s shown only by implication. I show what happens when they don t do it. (Through that, you see the picture of what they do, their place and their role.) (This is an important guide for the construction of the story.) In order to work out the story, Ayn Rand had to understand fully why the prime movers allowed the second-handers to live on them why the creators had not gone on strike throughout history what errors even the best of them made that kept them in thrall to the worst. Part of the answer is dramatized in the character of Dagny Taggart, the railroad heiress who declares war on the strikers. Here is a note on her psychology, dated April 18, 1946: Her error and the cause of her refusal to join the strike is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last). Over-optimism in that she thinks men are better than they are, she doesn t really understand them and is generous about it. Over-confidence in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can. She thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent; not by forcing them, of course, not by enslaving them and giving orders but by the sheer over-abundance of her own energy; she will show them how, she can teach them and persuade them, she is so able that they ll catch it from her. (This is still faith in their rationality, in the omnipotence of reason. The mistake? Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.) On these two points, Dagny is committing an important (but excusable and understandable) error in thinking, the kind of error individualists and creators often make. It is an error proceeding from the best in their nature and from a proper principle, but this principle is misapplied. The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specific men. First, it s not necessary, the creator s life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being. Therefore, while a creator does and must worship Man (which means his own highest potentiality; which is his natural self-reverence), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship Mankind (as a collective). These are two entirely different conceptions, with entirely (immensely and diametrically opposed) different consequences. Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled within each creator himself. Whether the creator is alone, or finds only a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importance or consequence whatever; numbers have nothing to do with it. He alone or he and a few others like him are mankind, in the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest possibility. (The rational being, who acts according to his nature.) It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or all the men around him fall short of the ideal of Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the optimism about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or will become better, or she will teach them to become better or, actually, she so desperately wants them to be better) and to be tied to the world by that hope. It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it s up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason. But here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander. Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. (He can t and he shouldn t even wish to try it and the mere attempt is improper.) He must not think that he can. somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence; [he must] deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from the others. Now, in Dagny s case, her desperate desire is to run Taggart Transcontinental. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence and competence. She thinks she can run it with others, with the incompetent and the parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility; with herself, in effect, being the spark of initiative, the bearer of responsibility for a whole collective. This can t be done. This is her crucial error. This is where she fails. Ayn Rand s basic purpose as a novelist was to present not villains or even heroes with errors, but the ideal man the consistent, the fully integrated, the perfect. In Atlas Shrugged, this is John Galt, the towering figure who moves the world and the novel, yet does not appear onstage until Part III. By his nature (and that of the story) Galt is necessarily central to the lives of all the characters. In one note, Galt s relation to the others, dated June 27, 1946, Miss Rand defines succinctly what Galt represents to each of them: For Dagny the ideal. The answer to her two quests: the man of genius and the man she loves. The first quest is expressed in her search for the inventor of the engine. The second her growing conviction that she will never be in love For Rearden the friend. The kind of understanding and appreciation he has always wanted and did not know he wanted (or he thought he had it he tried to find it in those around him, to get it from his wife, his mother, brother and sister). For Francisco d Anconia the aristocrat. The only man who represents a challenge and a stimulant almost the proper kind of audience, worthy of stunning for the sheer joy and color of life. For Danneskjld the anchor. The only man who represents land and roots to a restless, reckless wanderer, like the goal of a struggle, the port at the end of a fierce sea-voyage the only man he can respect. For the Composer the inspiration and the perfect audience. For the Philosopher the embodiment of his abstractions. For Father Amadeus the source of his conflict. The uneasy realization that Galt is the end of his endeavors, the man of virtue, the perfect man and that his means do not fit this end (and that he is destroying this, his ideal, for the sake of those who are evil). To James Taggart the eternal threat. The secret dread. The reproach. The guilt (his own guilt). He has no specific tie-in with Galt but he has that constant, causeless, unnamed, hysterical fear. And he recognizes it when he hears Galt s broadcast and when he sees Galt in person for the first time. To the Professor his conscience. The reproach and reminder. The ghost that haunts him through everything he does, without a moment s peace. The thing that says: No to his whole life. Some notes on the above: Rearden s sister, Stacy, was a minor character later cut from the novel. Francisco was spelled Francesco in these early years, while Danneskld s first name at this point was Ivar, presumably after Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match king, who was the real-life model of Bjorn Faulkner in Night of January 16th. Father Amadeus was Taggart s priest, to whom he confessed his sins. The priest was supposed to be a positive character, honestly devoted to the good but practicing consistently the morality of mercy. Miss Rand dropped him, she told me, when she found that it was impossible to make such a character convincing. The Professor is Robert Stadler. This brings me to a final excerpt. Because of her passion for ideas, Miss Rand was often asked whether she was primarily a philosopher or a novelist. In later years, she was impatient with this question, but she gave her own answer, to and for herself, in a note dated May 4, 1946. The broader context was a discussion of the nature of creativity. I seem to be both a theoretical philosopher and a fiction writer. But it is the last that interests me most; the first is only the means to the last; the absolutely necessary means, but only the means; the fiction story is the end. Without an understanding and statement of the right philosophical principle, I cannot create the right story; but the discovery of the principle interests me only as the discovery of the proper knowledge to be used for my life purpose; and my life purpose is the creation of the kind of world (people and events) that I like that is, that represents human perfection. Philosophical knowledge is necessary in order to define human perfection. But I do not care to stop at the definition. I want to use it, to apply it in my work (in my personal life, too but the core, center and purpose of my personal life, of my whole life, is my work). This is why, I think, the idea of writing a philosophical nonfiction book bored me. In such a book, the purpose would actually be to teach others, to present my idea to them. In a book of fiction the purpose is to create, for myself, the kind of world I want and to live in it while I am creating it; then, as a secondary consequence, to let others enjoy this world, if, and to the extent that they can. It may be said that the first purpose of a philosophical book is the clarification or statement of your new knowledge to and for yourself; and then, as a secondary step, the offering of your knowledge to others. But here is the difference, as far as I am concerned: I have to acquire and state to myself the new philosophical knowledge or principle I used in order to write a fiction story as its embodiment and illustration; I do not care to write a story on a theme or thesis of old knowledge, knowledge stated or discovered by someone else, that is, someone else s philosophy (because those philosophies are wrong). To this extent, I am an abstract philosopher (I want to present the perfect man and his perfect life and I must also discover my own philosophical statement and definition of this perfection). But when and if I have discovered such new knowledge, I am not interested in stating it in its abstract, general form, that is, as knowledge. I am interested in using it, in applying it that is, in stating it in the concrete form of men and events, in the form of a fiction story. This last is my final purpose, my end; the philosophical knowledge or discovery is only the means to it. For my purpose, the non-fiction form of abstract knowledge doesn t interest me; the final, applied form of fiction, of story, does. (I state the knowledge to myself, anyway; but I choose the final form of it, the expression, in the completed cycle that leads back to man.) I wonder to what extent I represent a peculiar phenomenon in this respect. I think I represent the proper integration of a complete human being. Anyway, this should be my lead for the character of John Galt. He, too , is a combination of an abstract philosopher and a practical inventor; the thinker and the man of action together In learning, we draw an abstraction from concrete objects and events. In creating, we make our own concrete objects and events out of the abstraction; we bring the abstraction down and back to its specific meaning, to the concrete; but the abstraction has helped us to make the kind of concrete we want the concrete to be. It has helped us to create to reshape the world as we wish it to be for our purposes. I cannot resist quoting one further paragraph. It comes a few pages later in the same discussion. Incidentally, as a sideline observation: if creative fiction writing is a process of translating an abstraction into the concrete, there are three possible grades of such writing: translating an old (known) abstraction (theme or thesis) through the medium of old fiction means (that is, characters, events or situations used before for that same purpose, that same translation) this is most of the popular trash; translating an old abstraction through new, original fiction means this is most of the good literature; creating a new, original abstraction and translating it through new, original means. This, as far as I know, is only me my kind of fiction writing. May God forgive me (Metaphor!) if this is mistaken conceit! As near as I can now see it, it isn t. (A fourth possibility translating a new abstraction through old means is impossible, by definition: if the abstraction is new, there can be no means used by anybody else before to translate it.) Is her conclusion mistaken conceit ? It is now forty-five years since she wrote this note, and you are holding Ayn Rand s master-work in your hands. You decide. Leonard Peikoff September 1991. Chapter 1: THE THEME Who is John Galt? The light was ebbing, and Eddie Willers could not distinguish the bum s face. The bum had said it simply, without expression. But from the sunset far at the end of the street, yellow glints caught his eyes, and the eyes looked straight at Eddie Willers, mocking and still as if the question had been addressed to the causeless uneasiness within him. Why did you say that? asked Eddie Willers, his voice tense. The bum leaned against the side of the doorway; a wedge of broken glass behind him reflected the metal yellow of the sky. Why does it bother you? he asked. It doesn t, snapped Eddie Willers. He reached hastily into his pocket. The bum had stopped him and asked for a dime, then had gone on talking, as if to kill that moment and postpone the problem of the next. Pleas for dimes were so frequent in the streets these days that it was not necessary to listen to explanations and he had no desire to hear the details of this bum s particular despair. Go get your cup of coffee, he said, handing the dime to the shadow that had no face. Thank you, sir, said the voice, without interest, and the face leaned forward for a moment. The face was wind-browned, cut by lines of weariness and cynical resignation; the eyes were intelligent. Eddie Willers walked on, wondering why he always felt it at this time of day, this sense of dread without reason. No, he thought, not dread, there s nothing to fear: just an immense, diffused apprehension, with no source or object. He had become accustomed to the feeling, but he could find no explanation for it; yet the bum had spoken as if he knew that Eddie felt it, as if he thought that one should feel it, and more: as if he knew the reason. Eddie Willers pulled his shoulders straight, in conscientious self-discipline. He had to stop this, he thought; he was beginning to imagine things. Had he always felt it? He was thirty-two years old. He tried to think back. No, he hadn t; but he could not remember when it had started. The feeling came to him suddenly, at random intervals, and now it was coming more often than ever. It s the twilight, he thought; I hate the twilight. The clouds and the shafts of skyscrapers against them were turning brown, like an old painting in oil, the color of a fading masterpiece. Long streaks of grime ran from under the pinnacles down the slender, soot-eaten walls. High on the side of a tower there was a crack in the shape of a motionless lightning, the length of ten stories. A jagged object cut the sky above the roofs; it was half a spire, still holding the glow of the sunset; the gold leaf had long since peeled off the other half. The glow was red and still, like the reflection of a fire: not an active fire, but a dying one which it is too late to stop. No, thought Eddie Willers, there was nothing disturbing in the sight of the city. It looked as it had always looked. He walked on, reminding himself that he was late in returning to the office. He did not like the task which he had to perform on his return, but it had to be done. So he did not attempt to delay it, but made himself walk faster. He turned a corner. In the narrow space between the dark silhouettes of two buildings, as in the crack of a door, he saw the page of a gigantic calendar suspended in the sky. It was the calendar that the mayor of New York had erected last year on the top of a building, so that citizens might tell the day of the month as they told the hours of the day, by glancing up at a public tower. A white rectangle hung over the city, imparting the date to the men in the streets below. In the rusty light of this evening s sunset, the rectangle said: September 2. Eddie Willers looked away. He had never liked the sight of that calendar. It disturbed him, in a manner he could not explain or define. The feeling seemed to blend with his sense of uneasiness; it had the same quality. He thought suddenly that there was some phrase, a kind of quotation, that expressed what the calendar seemed to suggest. But he could not recall it. He walked, groping for a sentence that hung in his mind as an empty shape. He could neither fill it nor dismiss it. He glanced back. The white rectangle stood above the roofs, saying in immovable finality: September 2. Eddie Willers shifted his glance down to the street, to a vegetable pushcart at the stoop of a brownstone house. He saw a pile of bright gold carrots and the fresh green of onions. He saw a clean white curtain blowing at an open window. He saw a bus turning a corner, expertly steered. He wondered why he felt reassured and then, why he felt the sudden, inexplicable wish that these things were not left in the open, unprotected against the empty space above. When he came to Fifth Avenue, he kept his eyes on the windows of the stores he passed. There was nothing he needed or wished to buy; but he liked to see the display of goods, any goods, objects made by men, to be used by men. He enjoyed the sight of a prosperous street; not more than every fourth one of the stores was out of business, its windows dark and empty. He did not know why he suddenly thought of the oak tree. Nothing had recalled it. But he thought of it and of his childhood summers on the Taggart estate. He had spent most of his childhood with the Taggart children, and now he worked for them, as his father and grandfather had worked for their father and grandfather. The great oak tree had stood on a hill over the Hudson, in a lonely spot on the Taggart estate. Eddie Willers, aged seven, liked to come and look at that tree. It had stood there for hundreds of years, and he thought it would always stand there. Its roots clutched the hill like a fist with fingers sunk into the soil, and he thought that if a giant were to seize it by the top, he would not be able to uproot it, but would swing the hill and the whole of the earth with it, like a ball at the end of a string. He felt safe in the oak tree s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength. One night, lightning struck the oak tree. Eddie saw it the next morning. It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel. The trunk was only an empty shell; its heart had rotted away long ago; there was nothing inside just a thin gray dust that was being dispersed by the whim of the faintest wind. The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not been able to stand without it. Years later, he heard it said that children should be protected from shock, from their first knowledge of death, pain or fear. But these had never scarred him; his shock came when he stood very quietly, looking into the black hole of the trunk. It was an immense betrayal the more terrible because he could not grasp what it was that had been betrayed. It was not himself, he knew, nor his trust; it was something else. He stood there for a while, making no sound, then he walked back to the house. He never spoke about it to anyone, then or since. Eddie Willers shook his head, as the screech of a rusty mechanism changing a traffic light stopped him on the edge of a curb. He felt anger at himself. There was no reason that he had to remember the oak tree tonight. It meant nothing to him any longer, only a faint tinge of sadness and somewhere within him, a drop of pain moving briefly and vanishing, like a raindrop on the glass of a window, its course in the shape of a question mark. He wanted no sadness attached to his childhood; he loved its memories: any day of it he remembered now seemed flooded by a still, brilliant sunlight. It seemed to him as if a few rays from it reached into his present: not rays, more like pinpoint spotlights that gave an occasional moment s glitter to his job, to his lonely apartment, to the quiet, scrupulous progression of his existence. He thought of a summer day when he was ten years old. That day, in a clearing of the woods, the one precious companion of his childhood told him what they would do when they grew up. The words were harsh and glowing, like the sunlight. He listened in admiration and in wonder. When he was asked what he would want to do, he answered at once, Whatever is right, and added, You ought to do something great. I mean, the two of us together. What? she asked. He said, I don t know. That s what we ought to find out. Not just what you said. Not just business and earning a living. Things like winning battles, or saving people out of fires, or climbing mountains. What for? she asked. He said, The minister said last Sunday that we must always reach for the best within us. What do you suppose is the best within us? I don t know. We ll have to find out. She did not answer; she was looking away, up the railroad track. Eddie Willers smiled. He had said, Whatever is right, twenty-two years ago. He had kept that statement unchallenged ever since; the other questions had faded in his mind; he had been too busy to ask them. But he still thought it self-evident that one had to do what was right; he had never learned how people could want to do otherwise; he had learned only that they did. It still seemed simple and incomprehensible to him: simple that things should be right, and incomprehensible that they weren t. He knew that they weren t. He thought of that, as he turned a corner and came to the great building of Taggart Transcontinental. The building stood over the street as its tallest and proudest structure. Eddie Willers always smiled at his first sight of it. Its long bands of windows were unbroken, in contrast to those of its neighbors. Its rising lines cut the sky, with no crumbling corners or worn edges. It seemed to stand above the years, untouched. It would always stand there, thought Eddie Willers. Whenever he entered the Taggart Building, he felt relief and a sense of security. This was a place of competence and power. The floors of its hallways were mirrors made of marble. The frosted rectangles of its electric fixtures were chips of solid light. Behind sheets of glass, rows of girls sat at typewriters,

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It was great to be alive, once, but the world was perishing. Factories were shutting down, transportation was grinding to a halt, granaries were empty--and key people who had once kept it running were disappearing all over the country. As the lights winked out and the cities went cold, nothing was left to anyone but misery. No one knew how to stop it, no one understood why it was happening - except one woman, the operating executive of a once mighty transcontinental railroad, who suspects the answer may rest with a remarkable invention and the man who created it - a man who once said he would stop the motor of the world. Everything now depends on finding him and discovering the answer to the question on the lips of everyone as they whisper it in fear: Who *is* John Galt? Written byRobb

Taglines:Who is John Galt?

Budget:$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA: $1,686,347,17 April 2011, Limited Release

Gross USA: $4,752,353

Runtime: 97 min

Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1

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Atlas Shrugged Movie – About Atlas Shrugged

Joan CarterAssociate Producer

Vice President Atlas Productions, LLC

President Atlas Shrugged Movie Merchandise, LLC

Co-Founder/Owner UM Holdings Ltd.

Joan is immediate past President of the Union League of Philadelphia (voted #1 private club in the USA) - the first woman to hold such office in the League's 150 years of existence. She also serves on the board of Penn Mutual Life Insurance company, Lourdes Health System, and her alma mater, The College of Wooster.

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Atlas Shrugged Movie - About Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged | AynRand.org

Reason and freedom are corollaries, Ayn Rand holds, as are faith and force. Atlas Shrugged showcases both relationships.

The heroes are unwavering thinkers. Whether it is a destructive business scheme proclaimed as moral, the potential collapse of the economy, or a personal life filled with pain, the heroes seek to face the facts and understand. To them, reason is an absolute. Politically, therefore, what they require and demand is freedom. Freedom to think, to venture into the new and unknown, to earn, to trade, to succeed and fail and pursue their own individual happiness.

The villains, by contrast, reject the absolutism of reason. They want a world ruled by their feelings, in which wishing makes it so. James Taggart, for instance, wants to be the head of a railroad without the need of effort. No amount of thinking can bring such a world about he must attempt to bring it about by force. As Rand puts it elsewhere, Anyone who resorts to the formula: Its so, because I say so, will have to reach for a gun, sooner or later.

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SparkNotes: Atlas Shrugged: Plot Overview

In an environment of worsening economicconditions, Dagny Taggart, vice president in charge of operations,works to repair Taggart Transcontinentals crumbling Rio Norte Lineto service Colorado, the last booming industrial area in the country.Her efforts are hampered by the fact that many of the countrysmost talented entrepreneurs are retiring and disappearing. The railroadscrisis worsens when the Mexican government nationalizes TaggartsSan Sebastian Line. The line had been built to service FranciscodAnconias copper mills, but the mills turn out to be worthless.Francisco had been a successful industrialist, and Dagnys lover,but has become a worthless playboy. To solve the railroads financialproblems, Dagnys brother Jim uses political influence to pass legislationthat destroys Taggarts only competition in Colorado. Dagny mustfix the Rio Norte Line immediately and plans to use Rearden Metal,a new alloy created by Hank Rearden. When confronted about the SanSebastian mines, Francisco tells Dagny he is deliberately destroyingdAnconia Copper. Later he appears at Reardens anniversary partyand, meeting him for the first time, urges Rearden to reject thefreeloaders who live off of him.

The State Science Institute issues a denunciation of Rearden metal,and Taggarts stock crashes. Dagny decides to start her own companyto rebuild the line, and it is a huge success. Dagny and Reardenbecome lovers. Together they discover a motor in an abandoned factorythat runs on static electricity, and they seek the inventor. Thegovernment passes new legislation that cripples industry in Colorado.Ellis Wyatt, an oil industrialist, suddenly disappears after settingfire to his wells. Dagny is forced to cut trains, and the situationworsens. Soon, more industrialists disappear. Dagny believes thereis a destroyer at work, taking men away when they are most needed.Francisco visits Rearden and asks him why he remains in businessunder such repressive conditions. When a fire breaks out and theywork together to put it out, Francisco understands Reardens lovefor his mills.

Rearden goes on trial for breaking one of the new laws,but refuses to participate in the proceedings, telling the judgesthey can coerce him by force but he wont help them to convict him.Unwilling to be seen as thugs, they let him go. Economic dictatorWesley Mouch needs Reardens cooperation for a new set of socialistlaws, and Jim needs economic favors that will keep his ailing railroadrunning after the collapse of Colorado. Jim appeals to Reardenswife Lillian, who wants to destroy her husband. She tells him Rearden andDagny are having an affair, and he uses this information in a trade.The new set of laws, Directive 10-289,is irrational and repressive. It includes a ruling that requiresall patents to be signed over to the government. Rearden is blackmailedinto signing over his metal to protect Dagnys reputation.

Dagny quits over the new directive and retreats to a mountain lodge.When she learns of a massive accident at the Taggart Tunnel, shereturns to her job. She receives a letter from the scientist shehad hired to help rebuild the motor, and fears he will be the nexttarget of the destroyer. In an attempt to stop him from disappearing,she follows him in an airplane and crashes in the mountains. Whenshe wakes up, she finds herself in a remote valley where all theretired industrialists are living. They are on strike, calling ita strike of the mind. There, she meets John Galt, who turns outto be both the destroyer and the man who built the motor. She fallsin love with him, but she cannot give up her railroad, and she leavesthe valley. When she returns to work, she finds that the governmenthas nationalized the railroad industry. Government leaders wanther to make a speech reassuring the public about the new laws. Sherefuses until Lillian comes to blackmail her. On the air, she proudlyannounces her affair with Rearden and reveals that he has been blackmailed. Shewarns the country about its repressive government.

With the economy on the verge of collapse, Francisco destroys therest of his holdings and disappears. The politicians no longer evenpretend to work for the public good. Their vast network of influencepeddling creates worse chaos, as crops rot waiting for freight trainsthat are diverted for personal favors. In an attempt to gain controlof Franciscos mills, the government stages a riot at Rearden Steel.But the steelworkers organize and fight back, led by Francisco,who has been working undercover at the mills. Francisco saves Reardenslife, then convinces him to join the strike.

Just as the head of state prepares to give a speech onthe economic situation, John Galt takes over the airwaves and deliversa lengthy address to the country, laying out the terms of the strikehe has organized. In desperation, the government seeks Galt to makehim their economic dictator. Dagny inadvertently leads them to him,and they take him prisoner. But Galt refuses to help them, evenafter he is tortured. Finally, Dagny and the strikers rescue himin an armed confrontation with guards. They return to the valley,where Dagny finally joins the strike. Soon, the countrys collapseis complete and the strikers prepare to return.

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SparkNotes: Atlas Shrugged: Plot Overview

About Atlas Shrugged – CliffsNotes

Introduction

Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand's masterpiece and the culmination of her career as a novelist. With its publication in 1957, the author accomplished everything she wanted to in the realm of fiction; the rest of her career as a writer was devoted to nonfiction. Rand was already a famous, best-selling author by the time she published Atlas Shrugged. With the success of The Fountainhead a decade earlier and its subsequent production as a Hollywood film starring Gary Cooper in 1949, her stature as an author was established. Publishers knew that her fiction would sell, and consequently they bid for the right to publish her next book.

Atlas Shrugged, although enormously controversial, had no difficulty finding a publisher. On the contrary, Rand conducted an intellectual auction among competing publishers, finally deciding on Random House because its editorial staff had the best understanding of the book. Bennett Cerf was a famous editor there. When Rand explained that, at one level, Atlas Shrugged was to provide a moral defense of capitalism, the editorial staff responded, "But that would mean challenging 3,000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition." Their depth of philosophical insight impressed Ayn Rand, and she decided that Random House was the company to publish her book.

Atlas Shrugged furthers the theme of individualism that Ayn Rand developed in The Fountainhead. In The Fountainhead, she shows by means of its hero, the innovative architect Howard Roark, that the independent mind is responsible for all human progress and prosperity. In Atlas Shrugged, she shows that without the independent mind, our society would collapse into primitive savagery. Atlas Shrugged is an impassioned defense of the freedom of man's mind. But to understand the author's sense of urgency, we must have an idea of the context in which the book was written. This includes both the post-World War II Cold War and the broader trends of modern intellectual culture.

The Cold War and Collectivism

Twentieth-century culture spawned the most oppressive dictatorships in human history. The Fascists in Italy, the National Socialists (Nazis) in Germany, and the Communists first in Russia and later in China and elsewhere seriously threatened individual freedom throughout the world. Ayn Rand lived through the heart of this terrifying historical period. In fact, when she started writing Atlas Shrugged in 1946, the West had just achieved victory over the Nazis. For years, the specter of national socialism had haunted the world, exterminating millions of innocent people, enslaving millions more, and threatening the freedom of the entire globe. The triumph of the free countries of the West over Naziism was achieved at an enormous cost in human life. However, it left the threat of communism unabated.

Ayn Rand was born in Russia in 1905 and witnessed firsthand the Bolshevik Revolution, the Communist conquest of Russia, and the political oppression that followed. Even after her escape from the Soviet Union and her safe arrival in the United States, she kept in close touch with family members who remained there. But when the murderous policies of Joseph Stalin swallowed the Soviet Union, she lost track of her family. From her own life experiences, Ayn Rand knew the brutal oppression of Communist tyranny.

During the last days of World War II and in the years immediately following, communism conquered large portions of the world. Soviet armies first rolled through the countries of Eastern Europe, setting up Russian "satellite" nations in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and elsewhere. Communists then came to power in China and North Korea and launched an invasion of South Korea. Shortly thereafter, communism was also dominant in Cuba, on America's doorstep. In the 1940s and 1950s, communism was an expanding military power, threatening to engulf the free world.

This time period was the height of the Cold War the ideological battle between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union ruled its empire in Eastern Europe by means of terror, brutally suppressing an uprising by Hungarian freedom fighters in 1956. The Russians developed the atomic bomb and amassed huge armies in Eastern Europe, threatening the free nations of the West. Speaking at the United Nations, Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev vowed that communism would "bury" the West. Like the Nazis in the 1930s, communists stood for a collectivist political system: one in which an individual is morally obliged to sacrifice himself for the state. Intellectual freedom and individual rights, cherished in the United States and other Western countries, were in grave danger.

Foreign military power was not the only way in which communism threatened U.S. freedom. Collectivism was an increasingly popular political philosophy among American intellectuals and politicians. In the 1930s, both national socialism and communism had supporters among American thinkers, businessmen, politicians, and labor leaders. The full horror of Naziism was revealed during World War II, and support for national socialism dwindled in the United States as a result. But communism, in the form of Marxist political ideology, survived World War II in the United States. Many American professors, writers, journalists, and politicians continued to advocate Marxist principles. When Ayn Rand was writing Atlas Shrugged, many Americans strongly believed that the government should have the power to coercively redistribute income and to regulate private industry. The capitalist system of political and economic freedom was consistently attacked by socialists and welfare statists. The belief that an individual has a right to live his own life was replaced, to a significant extent, by the collectivist idea that individuals must work and live in service to other people. Individual rights and political freedom were threatened in American politics, education, and culture.

An Appeal for Freedom

Rand argues in Atlas Shrugged that the freedom of American society is responsible for its greatest achievements. For example, in the nineteenth century, inventors and entrepreneurs created an outpouring of innovations that raised the standard of living to unprecedented heights and changed forever the way people live. Rand, who thoroughly researched the history of capitalism, was well aware of the progress made during this period of economic freedom. Samuel Morse invented the telegraph a device later improved by Thomas Edison, who went on to invent the phonograph, the electric light, and the motion picture projector. John Roebling perfected the suspension bridge and, just before his death, designed his masterpiece, the Brooklyn Bridge. Henry Ford revolutionized the transportation industry by mass-producing automobiles, a revolution that the Wright Brothers carried to the next level with their invention of the airplane. Railroad builders like Cornelius Vanderbilt and James J. Hill established inexpensive modes of transportation and opened up the Pacific Northwest to economic development.

Likewise, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone during this era, Cyrus McCormick the reaper, and Elias Howe the sewing machine. Charles Goodyear discovered the vulcanization process that made rubber useful, and George Eastman revolutionized photography with the invention of a new type of camera the Kodak. George Washington Carver, among myriad agricultural accomplishments, developed peanuts and sweet potatoes into leading crops. Architects like Louis Sullivan and William LeBaron Jenney created the skyscraper, and George Westinghouse, the inventor of train airbrakes, developed a power system able to transmit electricity over great distances. The penniless Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie built a vast company manufacturing steel, and John D. Rockefeller did the same in the oil industry.

These are a few examples from an exhaustive list of advances in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ayn Rand argues that economic freedom liberated these great creative thinkers, permitting them to put into practice new ideas and methods. But what would happen if economic freedom were lost?

Atlas Shrugged provides Ayn Rand's answer to this question. In the story, she projects the culmination of America's twentieth-century socialist trend. The U.S. government portrayed in the story has significant control over the domestic economy. The rest of the world has been swallowed up by communist "Peoples' States" and subsists in abject poverty. A limited degree of economic freedom still exists in America, but it is steadily declining, as is American prosperity. The successful are heavily taxed to support the poor, and the American poor are similarly levied to finance the even poorer people in foreign Peoples' States. The government subsidizes inefficient businesses at the expense of the more efficient. With the state controlling large portions of the economy, the result is the rise of corrupt businessmen who seek profit by manipulating crooked politicians rather than by doing productive work. The government forces inventors to give up their patents so that all manufacturers may benefit equally from new products. Similarly, the government breaks up productive companies, compelling them to share the market with weaker (less efficient) competitors. In short, the fictionalized universe of Atlas Shrugged presents a future in which the U.S. trend toward socialism has been accelerated. Twentieth-century realities such as heavy taxation, massive social welfare programs, tight governmental regulation of industry, and antitrust action against successful companies are heightened in the universe of this story. The government annuls the rights of American citizens, and freedom is steadily eroded. The United States of the novel the last bastion of liberty on earth rapidly becomes a fascist/communist dictatorship.

The result, in Rand's fictional universe, is a collapse of American prosperity. Great minds are shackled by government policies, and their innovations are either rejected or expropriated by the state. Thinkers lack the freedom necessary to create new products, to start their own companies, to compete openly, and to earn wealth. Under the increasing yoke of tyranny, the most independent minds in American society choose to defend their liberty in the most effective manner possible: They withdraw from society.

The Mind on Strike

Atlas Shrugged is a novel about a strike. Ayn Rand sets out to show the fate that befalls the world when the thinkers and creators go on strike. The author raises an intriguing question: What would happen if the scientists, medical researchers, inventors, industrialists, writers, artists, and so on withheld their minds and their achievements from the world?

In this novel, Rand argues that all human progress and prosperity depend on rational thinking. For example, human beings have cured such diseases as malaria, polio, dysentery, cholera, diphtheria, and tuberculosis. Man has learned to fly, erect cities and skyscrapers, grow an abundant food supply, and create computers. Humans have been to the moon and back and have invented the telephone, radio, television, and a thousand other life-promoting technologies. All of these achievements result from the human application of a rational mind to practical questions of survival. If the intellectuals responsible for such advances abandon the world, regression to the primitive conditions of the Dark Ages would result. But what would motivate intellectuals to such an extreme act as going on strike? We are used to hearing about strikes that protest conditions considered oppressive or intolerable by workers. The thinkers go on strike in Atlas Shrugged to protest the oppression of their intellect and creativity.

The thinkers in Atlas Shrugged strike on behalf of individual rights and political freedom. They strike against an enforced moral code of self-sacrifice the creed that human life must be devoted to serving the needs of others. Above all, the thinkers strike to prove that reason is the only means by which man can understand reality and make proper decisions; emotions should not guide human behavior. In short, the creative minds are on strike in support of a person's right to think and live independently.

In the novel, the withdrawal of the great thinkers causes the collapse of the American economy and the end of dictatorship. The strike proves the role that the rational mind plays in the attainment of progress and prosperity. The emphasis on reason is the hallmark of Ayn Rand's fiction. All of her novels, in one form or another, glorify the life-giving power of the human mind.

For example, in The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand emphasizes the independent nature of the mind's functioning that rational individuals neither conform to society nor obey authority, but trust their own judgment. In her early novelette Anthem, Ayn Rand shows that under a collectivist dictatorship, the mind is stifled and society regresses to a condition of primitive ignorance. Anthem focuses on the mind's need for political freedom. The focus of Atlas Shrugged is the role that the human mind plays in human existence. Atlas Shrugged shows that rational thinking is mankind's survival instrument, just as the ability to fly is the survival tool for birds. In all of her major novels, Ayn Rand presents heroes and heroines who are brilliant thinkers opposed to either society's pressure to conform or a dictatorial government's commands to obey. The common denominator in all of her books is the life-and-death importance, for both the individual and society, of remaining true to the mind.

Objectivism in Action

In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand presents, for the first time and in a dramatized form, her original philosophy of Objectivism. She exemplifies this philosophy in the lives of the heroes and in the action of the story. Objectivism holds that reason not faith or emotionalism is man's sole means of gaining knowledge. Her theory states that an individual has a right to his or her own life and to the pursuit of his or her own happiness, which is counter to the view that man should sacrifice himself to God or society. Objectivism is individualistic, holding that the purpose of government is to protect the sovereign rights of an individual. This philosophy opposes the collectivist notion that society as a whole is superior to the individual, who must subordinate himself to its requirements. In the political/economic realm, Objectivism upholds full laissez-faire capitalism a system of free markets that legally prevent the government from restricting man's productive activities as the only philosophical system that protects the freedom of man's mind, the rights of the individual, and the prosperity of man's life on earth.

Because of Ayn Rand's uncompromising defense of the mind, of the individual, and of capitalism, Atlas Shrugged created great controversy on its publication in 1957. Denounced by critics and intellectuals, the book nevertheless reached a wide audience. The book has sold millions of copies and influenced the lives of countless readers. Since 1957, Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism has gradually taken hold in American society. Today, her books and ideas are becoming widely taught in high schools and universities.

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About Atlas Shrugged - CliffsNotes

Atlas Shrugged: Part II (2012) – Rotten Tomatoes

The global economy is on the brink of collapse. Unemployment has risen to 24%. Gas is now $42 per gallon. Brilliant creators, from artists to industrialists, continue to mysteriously disappear at the hands of the unknown. Dagny Taggart, Vice President in Charge of Operations for Taggart Transcontinental, has discovered what may very well be the answer to a mounting energy crisis - found abandoned amongst the ruins of a once productive factory, a revolutionary motor that could seemingly power the World. But, the motor is dead... there is no one left to decipher its secret... and, someone is watching. It's a race against the clock to find the inventor before the motor of the World is stopped for good. Who is John Galt? -- (C) Official Site

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Atlas Shrugged: Part II (2012) - Rotten Tomatoes

Atlas Shrugged Movie (Official Site)

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Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand: 9780451191144: Amazon.com: Books

INTRODUCTION: Ayn Rand held that art is a re-creation of reality according to an artist s metaphysical value judgments. By its nature, therefore, a novel (like a statue or a symphony) does not require or tolerate an explanatory preface; it is a self-contained universe, aloof from commentary, beckoning the reader to enter, perceive, respond. Ayn Rand would never have approved of a didactic (or laudatory) introduction to her book, and I have no intention of flouting her wishes. Instead, I am going to give her the floor. I am going to let you in on some of the thinking she did as she was preparing to write Atlas Shrugged. Before starting a novel, Ayn Rand wrote voluminously in her journals about its theme, plot, and characters. She wrote not for any audience, but strictly for herself that is, for the clarity of her own understanding. The journals dealing with Atlas Shrugged are powerful examples of her mind in action, confident even when groping, purposeful even when stymied, luminously eloquent even though wholly unedited. These journals are also a fascinating record of the step-by-step birth of an immortal work of art. In due course, all of Ayn Rand s writings will be published. For this 35th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged, however, I have selected, as a kind of advance bonus for her fans, four typical journal entries. Let me warn new readers that the passages reveal the plot and will spoil the book for anyone who reads them before knowing the story. As I recall, Atlas Shrugged did not become the novel s title until Miss Rand s husband made the suggestion in 1956. The working title throughout the writing was The Strike. The earliest of Miss Rand s notes for The Strike are dated January 1, 1945, about a year after the publication of The Fountainhead. Naturally enough, the subject on her mind was how to differentiate the present novel from its predecessor. Theme. What happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike. This means a picture of the world with its motor cut off. Show: what, how, why. The specific steps and incidents in terms of persons, their spirits, motives, psychology and actions and, secondarily, proceeding from persons, in terms of history, society and the world. The theme requires: to show who are the prime movers and why, how they function. Who are their enemies and why, what are the motives behind the hatred for and the enslavement of the prime movers; the nature of the obstacles placed in their way, and the reasons for it. This last paragraph is contained entirely in The Fountainhead. Roark and Toohey are the complete statement of it. Therefore, this is not the direct theme of The Strike but it is part of the theme and must be kept in mind, stated again (though briefly) to have the theme clear and complete. First question to decide is on whom the emphasis must be placed on the prime movers, the parasites or the world. The answer is: The world. The story must be primarily a picture of the whole. In this sense, The Strike is to be much more a social novel than The Fountainhead. The Fountainhead was about individualism and collectivism within man s soul ; it showed the nature and function of the creator and the second-hander. The primary concern there was with Roark and Toohey showing what they are. The rest of the characters were variations of the theme of the relation of the ego to others mixtures of the two extremes, the two poles: Roark and Toohey. The primary concern of the story was the characters, the people as such their natures. Their relations to each other which is society, men in relation to men were secondary, an unavoidable, direct consequence of Roark set against Toohey. But it was not the theme. Now, it is this relation that must be the theme. Therefore, the personal becomes secondary. That is, the personal is necessary only to the extent needed to make the relationships clear. In The Fountainhead I showed that Roark moves the world that the Keatings feed upon him and hate him for it, while the Tooheys are out consciously to destroy him. But the theme was Roark not Roark s relation to the world. Now it will be the relation. In other words, I must show in what concrete, specific way the world is moved by the creators. Exactly how do the second-handers live on the creators. Both in spiritual matters and (most particularly) in concrete, physical events. (Concentrate on the concrete, physical events but don t forget to keep in mind at all times how the physical proceeds from the spiritual.). However, for the purpose of this story, I do not start by showing how the second-handers live on the prime movers in actual, everyday reality nor do I start by showing a normal world. (That comes in only in necessary retrospect, or flashback, or by implication in the events themselves.) I start with the fantastic premise of the prime movers going on strike. This is the actual heart and center of the novel. A distinction carefully to be observed here: I do not set out to glorify the prime mover ( that was The Fountainhead ). I set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers, and how viciously it treats them. And I show it on a hypothetical case what happens to the world without them. In The Fountainhead I did not show how desperately the world needed Roark except by implication. I did show how viciously the world treated him, and why. I showed mainly what he is. It was Roark s story. This must be the world s story in relation to its prime movers. (Almost the story of a body in relation to its heart a body dying of anemia.) I don t show directly what the prime movers do that s shown only by implication. I show what happens when they don t do it. (Through that, you see the picture of what they do, their place and their role.) (This is an important guide for the construction of the story.) In order to work out the story, Ayn Rand had to understand fully why the prime movers allowed the second-handers to live on them why the creators had not gone on strike throughout history what errors even the best of them made that kept them in thrall to the worst. Part of the answer is dramatized in the character of Dagny Taggart, the railroad heiress who declares war on the strikers. Here is a note on her psychology, dated April 18, 1946: Her error and the cause of her refusal to join the strike is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last). Over-optimism in that she thinks men are better than they are, she doesn t really understand them and is generous about it. Over-confidence in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can. She thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent; not by forcing them, of course, not by enslaving them and giving orders but by the sheer over-abundance of her own energy; she will show them how, she can teach them and persuade them, she is so able that they ll catch it from her. (This is still faith in their rationality, in the omnipotence of reason. The mistake? Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.) On these two points, Dagny is committing an important (but excusable and understandable) error in thinking, the kind of error individualists and creators often make. It is an error proceeding from the best in their nature and from a proper principle, but this principle is misapplied. The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specific men. First, it s not necessary, the creator s life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being. Therefore, while a creator does and must worship Man (which means his own highest potentiality; which is his natural self-reverence), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship Mankind (as a collective). These are two entirely different conceptions, with entirely (immensely and diametrically opposed) different consequences. Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled within each creator himself. Whether the creator is alone, or finds only a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importance or consequence whatever; numbers have nothing to do with it. He alone or he and a few others like him are mankind, in the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest possibility. (The rational being, who acts according to his nature.) It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or all the men around him fall short of the ideal of Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the optimism about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or will become better, or she will teach them to become better or, actually, she so desperately wants them to be better) and to be tied to the world by that hope. It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it s up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason. But here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander. Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. (He can t and he shouldn t even wish to try it and the mere attempt is improper.) He must not think that he can. somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence; [he must] deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from the others. Now, in Dagny s case, her desperate desire is to run Taggart Transcontinental. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence and competence. She thinks she can run it with others, with the incompetent and the parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility; with herself, in effect, being the spark of initiative, the bearer of responsibility for a whole collective. This can t be done. This is her crucial error. This is where she fails. Ayn Rand s basic purpose as a novelist was to present not villains or even heroes with errors, but the ideal man the consistent, the fully integrated, the perfect. In Atlas Shrugged, this is John Galt, the towering figure who moves the world and the novel, yet does not appear onstage until Part III. By his nature (and that of the story) Galt is necessarily central to the lives of all the characters. In one note, Galt s relation to the others, dated June 27, 1946, Miss Rand defines succinctly what Galt represents to each of them: For Dagny the ideal. The answer to her two quests: the man of genius and the man she loves. The first quest is expressed in her search for the inventor of the engine. The second her growing conviction that she will never be in love For Rearden the friend. The kind of understanding and appreciation he has always wanted and did not know he wanted (or he thought he had it he tried to find it in those around him, to get it from his wife, his mother, brother and sister). For Francisco d Anconia the aristocrat. The only man who represents a challenge and a stimulant almost the proper kind of audience, worthy of stunning for the sheer joy and color of life. For Danneskjld the anchor. The only man who represents land and roots to a restless, reckless wanderer, like the goal of a struggle, the port at the end of a fierce sea-voyage the only man he can respect. For the Composer the inspiration and the perfect audience. For the Philosopher the embodiment of his abstractions. For Father Amadeus the source of his conflict. The uneasy realization that Galt is the end of his endeavors, the man of virtue, the perfect man and that his means do not fit this end (and that he is destroying this, his ideal, for the sake of those who are evil). To James Taggart the eternal threat. The secret dread. The reproach. The guilt (his own guilt). He has no specific tie-in with Galt but he has that constant, causeless, unnamed, hysterical fear. And he recognizes it when he hears Galt s broadcast and when he sees Galt in person for the first time. To the Professor his conscience. The reproach and reminder. The ghost that haunts him through everything he does, without a moment s peace. The thing that says: No to his whole life. Some notes on the above: Rearden s sister, Stacy, was a minor character later cut from the novel. Francisco was spelled Francesco in these early years, while Danneskld s first name at this point was Ivar, presumably after Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match king, who was the real-life model of Bjorn Faulkner in Night of January 16th. Father Amadeus was Taggart s priest, to whom he confessed his sins. The priest was supposed to be a positive character, honestly devoted to the good but practicing consistently the morality of mercy. Miss Rand dropped him, she told me, when she found that it was impossible to make such a character convincing. The Professor is Robert Stadler. This brings me to a final excerpt. Because of her passion for ideas, Miss Rand was often asked whether she was primarily a philosopher or a novelist. In later years, she was impatient with this question, but she gave her own answer, to and for herself, in a note dated May 4, 1946. The broader context was a discussion of the nature of creativity. I seem to be both a theoretical philosopher and a fiction writer. But it is the last that interests me most; the first is only the means to the last; the absolutely necessary means, but only the means; the fiction story is the end. Without an understanding and statement of the right philosophical principle, I cannot create the right story; but the discovery of the principle interests me only as the discovery of the proper knowledge to be used for my life purpose; and my life purpose is the creation of the kind of world (people and events) that I like that is, that represents human perfection. Philosophical knowledge is necessary in order to define human perfection. But I do not care to stop at the definition. I want to use it, to apply it in my work (in my personal life, too but the core, center and purpose of my personal life, of my whole life, is my work). This is why, I think, the idea of writing a philosophical nonfiction book bored me. In such a book, the purpose would actually be to teach others, to present my idea to them. In a book of fiction the purpose is to create, for myself, the kind of world I want and to live in it while I am creating it; then, as a secondary consequence, to let others enjoy this world, if, and to the extent that they can. It may be said that the first purpose of a philosophical book is the clarification or statement of your new knowledge to and for yourself; and then, as a secondary step, the offering of your knowledge to others. But here is the difference, as far as I am concerned: I have to acquire and state to myself the new philosophical knowledge or principle I used in order to write a fiction story as its embodiment and illustration; I do not care to write a story on a theme or thesis of old knowledge, knowledge stated or discovered by someone else, that is, someone else s philosophy (because those philosophies are wrong). To this extent, I am an abstract philosopher (I want to present the perfect man and his perfect life and I must also discover my own philosophical statement and definition of this perfection). But when and if I have discovered such new knowledge, I am not interested in stating it in its abstract, general form, that is, as knowledge. I am interested in using it, in applying it that is, in stating it in the concrete form of men and events, in the form of a fiction story. This last is my final purpose, my end; the philosophical knowledge or discovery is only the means to it. For my purpose, the non-fiction form of abstract knowledge doesn t interest me; the final, applied form of fiction, of story, does. (I state the knowledge to myself, anyway; but I choose the final form of it, the expression, in the completed cycle that leads back to man.) I wonder to what extent I represent a peculiar phenomenon in this respect. I think I represent the proper integration of a complete human being. Anyway, this should be my lead for the character of John Galt. He, too , is a combination of an abstract philosopher and a practical inventor; the thinker and the man of action together In learning, we draw an abstraction from concrete objects and events. In creating, we make our own concrete objects and events out of the abstraction; we bring the abstraction down and back to its specific meaning, to the concrete; but the abstraction has helped us to make the kind of concrete we want the concrete to be. It has helped us to create to reshape the world as we wish it to be for our purposes. I cannot resist quoting one further paragraph. It comes a few pages later in the same discussion. Incidentally, as a sideline observation: if creative fiction writing is a process of translating an abstraction into the concrete, there are three possible grades of such writing: translating an old (known) abstraction (theme or thesis) through the medium of old fiction means (that is, characters, events or situations used before for that same purpose, that same translation) this is most of the popular trash; translating an old abstraction through new, original fiction means this is most of the good literature; creating a new, original abstraction and translating it through new, original means. This, as far as I know, is only me my kind of fiction writing. May God forgive me (Metaphor!) if this is mistaken conceit! As near as I can now see it, it isn t. (A fourth possibility translating a new abstraction through old means is impossible, by definition: if the abstraction is new, there can be no means used by anybody else before to translate it.) Is her conclusion mistaken conceit ? It is now forty-five years since she wrote this note, and you are holding Ayn Rand s master-work in your hands. You decide. Leonard Peikoff September 1991. Chapter 1: THE THEME Who is John Galt? The light was ebbing, and Eddie Willers could not distinguish the bum s face. The bum had said it simply, without expression. But from the sunset far at the end of the street, yellow glints caught his eyes, and the eyes looked straight at Eddie Willers, mocking and still as if the question had been addressed to the causeless uneasiness within him. Why did you say that? asked Eddie Willers, his voice tense. The bum leaned against the side of the doorway; a wedge of broken glass behind him reflected the metal yellow of the sky. Why does it bother you? he asked. It doesn t, snapped Eddie Willers. He reached hastily into his pocket. The bum had stopped him and asked for a dime, then had gone on talking, as if to kill that moment and postpone the problem of the next. Pleas for dimes were so frequent in the streets these days that it was not necessary to listen to explanations and he had no desire to hear the details of this bum s particular despair. Go get your cup of coffee, he said, handing the dime to the shadow that had no face. Thank you, sir, said the voice, without interest, and the face leaned forward for a moment. The face was wind-browned, cut by lines of weariness and cynical resignation; the eyes were intelligent. Eddie Willers walked on, wondering why he always felt it at this time of day, this sense of dread without reason. No, he thought, not dread, there s nothing to fear: just an immense, diffused apprehension, with no source or object. He had become accustomed to the feeling, but he could find no explanation for it; yet the bum had spoken as if he knew that Eddie felt it, as if he thought that one should feel it, and more: as if he knew the reason. Eddie Willers pulled his shoulders straight, in conscientious self-discipline. He had to stop this, he thought; he was beginning to imagine things. Had he always felt it? He was thirty-two years old. He tried to think back. No, he hadn t; but he could not remember when it had started. The feeling came to him suddenly, at random intervals, and now it was coming more often than ever. It s the twilight, he thought; I hate the twilight. The clouds and the shafts of skyscrapers against them were turning brown, like an old painting in oil, the color of a fading masterpiece. Long streaks of grime ran from under the pinnacles down the slender, soot-eaten walls. High on the side of a tower there was a crack in the shape of a motionless lightning, the length of ten stories. A jagged object cut the sky above the roofs; it was half a spire, still holding the glow of the sunset; the gold leaf had long since peeled off the other half. The glow was red and still, like the reflection of a fire: not an active fire, but a dying one which it is too late to stop. No, thought Eddie Willers, there was nothing disturbing in the sight of the city. It looked as it had always looked. He walked on, reminding himself that he was late in returning to the office. He did not like the task which he had to perform on his return, but it had to be done. So he did not attempt to delay it, but made himself walk faster. He turned a corner. In the narrow space between the dark silhouettes of two buildings, as in the crack of a door, he saw the page of a gigantic calendar suspended in the sky. It was the calendar that the mayor of New York had erected last year on the top of a building, so that citizens might tell the day of the month as they told the hours of the day, by glancing up at a public tower. A white rectangle hung over the city, imparting the date to the men in the streets below. In the rusty light of this evening s sunset, the rectangle said: September 2. Eddie Willers looked away. He had never liked the sight of that calendar. It disturbed him, in a manner he could not explain or define. The feeling seemed to blend with his sense of uneasiness; it had the same quality. He thought suddenly that there was some phrase, a kind of quotation, that expressed what the calendar seemed to suggest. But he could not recall it. He walked, groping for a sentence that hung in his mind as an empty shape. He could neither fill it nor dismiss it. He glanced back. The white rectangle stood above the roofs, saying in immovable finality: September 2. Eddie Willers shifted his glance down to the street, to a vegetable pushcart at the stoop of a brownstone house. He saw a pile of bright gold carrots and the fresh green of onions. He saw a clean white curtain blowing at an open window. He saw a bus turning a corner, expertly steered. He wondered why he felt reassured and then, why he felt the sudden, inexplicable wish that these things were not left in the open, unprotected against the empty space above. When he came to Fifth Avenue, he kept his eyes on the windows of the stores he passed. There was nothing he needed or wished to buy; but he liked to see the display of goods, any goods, objects made by men, to be used by men. He enjoyed the sight of a prosperous street; not more than every fourth one of the stores was out of business, its windows dark and empty. He did not know why he suddenly thought of the oak tree. Nothing had recalled it. But he thought of it and of his childhood summers on the Taggart estate. He had spent most of his childhood with the Taggart children, and now he worked for them, as his father and grandfather had worked for their father and grandfather. The great oak tree had stood on a hill over the Hudson, in a lonely spot on the Taggart estate. Eddie Willers, aged seven, liked to come and look at that tree. It had stood there for hundreds of years, and he thought it would always stand there. Its roots clutched the hill like a fist with fingers sunk into the soil, and he thought that if a giant were to seize it by the top, he would not be able to uproot it, but would swing the hill and the whole of the earth with it, like a ball at the end of a string. He felt safe in the oak tree s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength. One night, lightning struck the oak tree. Eddie saw it the next morning. It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel. The trunk was only an empty shell; its heart had rotted away long ago; there was nothing inside just a thin gray dust that was being dispersed by the whim of the faintest wind. The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not been able to stand without it. Years later, he heard it said that children should be protected from shock, from their first knowledge of death, pain or fear. But these had never scarred him; his shock came when he stood very quietly, looking into the black hole of the trunk. It was an immense betrayal the more terrible because he could not grasp what it was that had been betrayed. It was not himself, he knew, nor his trust; it was something else. He stood there for a while, making no sound, then he walked back to the house. He never spoke about it to anyone, then or since. Eddie Willers shook his head, as the screech of a rusty mechanism changing a traffic light stopped him on the edge of a curb. He felt anger at himself. There was no reason that he had to remember the oak tree tonight. It meant nothing to him any longer, only a faint tinge of sadness and somewhere within him, a drop of pain moving briefly and vanishing, like a raindrop on the glass of a window, its course in the shape of a question mark. He wanted no sadness attached to his childhood; he loved its memories: any day of it he remembered now seemed flooded by a still, brilliant sunlight. It seemed to him as if a few rays from it reached into his present: not rays, more like pinpoint spotlights that gave an occasional moment s glitter to his job, to his lonely apartment, to the quiet, scrupulous progression of his existence. He thought of a summer day when he was ten years old. That day, in a clearing of the woods, the one precious companion of his childhood told him what they would do when they grew up. The words were harsh and glowing, like the sunlight. He listened in admiration and in wonder. When he was asked what he would want to do, he answered at once, Whatever is right, and added, You ought to do something great. I mean, the two of us together. What? she asked. He said, I don t know. That s what we ought to find out. Not just what you said. Not just business and earning a living. Things like winning battles, or saving people out of fires, or climbing mountains. What for? she asked. He said, The minister said last Sunday that we must always reach for the best within us. What do you suppose is the best within us? I don t know. We ll have to find out. She did not answer; she was looking away, up the railroad track. Eddie Willers smiled. He had said, Whatever is right, twenty-two years ago. He had kept that statement unchallenged ever since; the other questions had faded in his mind; he had been too busy to ask them. But he still thought it self-evident that one had to do what was right; he had never learned how people could want to do otherwise; he had learned only that they did. It still seemed simple and incomprehensible to him: simple that things should be right, and incomprehensible that they weren t. He knew that they weren t. He thought of that, as he turned a corner and came to the great building of Taggart Transcontinental. The building stood over the street as its tallest and proudest structure. Eddie Willers always smiled at his first sight of it. Its long bands of windows were unbroken, in contrast to those of its neighbors. Its rising lines cut the sky, with no crumbling corners or worn edges. It seemed to stand above the years, untouched. It would always stand there, thought Eddie Willers. Whenever he entered the Taggart Building, he felt relief and a sense of security. This was a place of competence and power. The floors of its hallways were mirrors made of marble. The frosted rectangles of its electric fixtures were chips of solid light. Behind sheets of glass, rows of girls sat at typewriters,

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Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi

Railroad owner Dagny Taggart and steel mogul Henry Rearden search desperately for the inventor of a revolutionary motor as the U.S. government continues to spread its control over the national economy.

Director:John Putch

Stars:Samantha Mathis,Jason Beghe,Esai Morales

Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi

Railroad executive Dagny Taggart and steel mogul Henry Rearden form an alliance to fight the increasingly authoritarian government of the United States.

Director:Paul Johansson

Stars:Taylor Schilling,Grant Bowler,Matthew Marsden

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'Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged is a feature length documentary film that examines the resurging interest in Ayn Rand's epic and controversial 1957 novel and the validity of its dire prediction for America.

Director:Chris Mortensen

Stars:John Allison,Clifford Asness,Rajia Baroudi

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Revealing the surprising life story of one of the world's most influential minds, this unprecedented film weaves together Ayn Rand's own recollections and reflections, providing a new understanding of her inspirations and influences.

Directors:Robert Anderson,John Little

Stars:Phil Donahue,Ayn Rand,Mike Wallace

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An uncompromising, visionary architect struggles to maintain his integrity and individualism despite personal, professional and economic pressures to conform to popular standards.

Director:King Vidor

Stars:Gary Cooper,Patricia Neal,Raymond Massey

Biography | Drama | Romance

The rather eccentric (especially in her thinking) author of "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" becomes involved with a much younger, and married man... to the dismay of those close to her.

Director:Christopher Menaul

Stars:Helen Mirren,Eric Stoltz,Julie Delpy

Documentary | Short | Drama

Approaching collapse, the nation's economy is quickly eroding. As crime and fear take over the countryside, the government continues to exert its brutal force against the nation's most productive who are mysteriously vanishing - leaving behind a wake of despair. One man has the answer. One woman stands in his way. Some will stop at nothing to control him. Others will stop at nothing to save him. He swore by his life. They swore to find him. Who is John Galt? Written byOfficial site

Budget:$5,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA: $461,179,12 September 2014, Limited Release

Gross USA: $830,210, 28 September 2014

Runtime: 99 min

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It was great to be alive, once, but the world was perishing. Factories were shutting down, transportation was grinding to a halt, granaries were empty--and key people who had once kept it running were disappearing all over the country. As the lights winked out and the cities went cold, nothing was left to anyone but misery. No one knew how to stop it, no one understood why it was happening - except one woman, the operating executive of a once mighty transcontinental railroad, who suspects the answer may rest with a remarkable invention and the man who created it - a man who once said he would stop the motor of the world. Everything now depends on finding him and discovering the answer to the question on the lips of everyone as they whisper it in fear: Who *is* John Galt? Written byRobb

Taglines:Who is John Galt?

Budget:$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA: $1,686,347,17 April 2011, Limited Release

Gross USA: $4,752,353

Runtime: 97 min

Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1

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Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand: 9780451191144: Amazon.com: Books

INTRODUCTION: Ayn Rand held that art is a re-creation of reality according to an artist s metaphysical value judgments. By its nature, therefore, a novel (like a statue or a symphony) does not require or tolerate an explanatory preface; it is a self-contained universe, aloof from commentary, beckoning the reader to enter, perceive, respond. Ayn Rand would never have approved of a didactic (or laudatory) introduction to her book, and I have no intention of flouting her wishes. Instead, I am going to give her the floor. I am going to let you in on some of the thinking she did as she was preparing to write Atlas Shrugged. Before starting a novel, Ayn Rand wrote voluminously in her journals about its theme, plot, and characters. She wrote not for any audience, but strictly for herself that is, for the clarity of her own understanding. The journals dealing with Atlas Shrugged are powerful examples of her mind in action, confident even when groping, purposeful even when stymied, luminously eloquent even though wholly unedited. These journals are also a fascinating record of the step-by-step birth of an immortal work of art. In due course, all of Ayn Rand s writings will be published. For this 35th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged, however, I have selected, as a kind of advance bonus for her fans, four typical journal entries. Let me warn new readers that the passages reveal the plot and will spoil the book for anyone who reads them before knowing the story. As I recall, Atlas Shrugged did not become the novel s title until Miss Rand s husband made the suggestion in 1956. The working title throughout the writing was The Strike. The earliest of Miss Rand s notes for The Strike are dated January 1, 1945, about a year after the publication of The Fountainhead. Naturally enough, the subject on her mind was how to differentiate the present novel from its predecessor. Theme. What happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike. This means a picture of the world with its motor cut off. Show: what, how, why. The specific steps and incidents in terms of persons, their spirits, motives, psychology and actions and, secondarily, proceeding from persons, in terms of history, society and the world. The theme requires: to show who are the prime movers and why, how they function. Who are their enemies and why, what are the motives behind the hatred for and the enslavement of the prime movers; the nature of the obstacles placed in their way, and the reasons for it. This last paragraph is contained entirely in The Fountainhead. Roark and Toohey are the complete statement of it. Therefore, this is not the direct theme of The Strike but it is part of the theme and must be kept in mind, stated again (though briefly) to have the theme clear and complete. First question to decide is on whom the emphasis must be placed on the prime movers, the parasites or the world. The answer is: The world. The story must be primarily a picture of the whole. In this sense, The Strike is to be much more a social novel than The Fountainhead. The Fountainhead was about individualism and collectivism within man s soul ; it showed the nature and function of the creator and the second-hander. The primary concern there was with Roark and Toohey showing what they are. The rest of the characters were variations of the theme of the relation of the ego to others mixtures of the two extremes, the two poles: Roark and Toohey. The primary concern of the story was the characters, the people as such their natures. Their relations to each other which is society, men in relation to men were secondary, an unavoidable, direct consequence of Roark set against Toohey. But it was not the theme. Now, it is this relation that must be the theme. Therefore, the personal becomes secondary. That is, the personal is necessary only to the extent needed to make the relationships clear. In The Fountainhead I showed that Roark moves the world that the Keatings feed upon him and hate him for it, while the Tooheys are out consciously to destroy him. But the theme was Roark not Roark s relation to the world. Now it will be the relation. In other words, I must show in what concrete, specific way the world is moved by the creators. Exactly how do the second-handers live on the creators. Both in spiritual matters and (most particularly) in concrete, physical events. (Concentrate on the concrete, physical events but don t forget to keep in mind at all times how the physical proceeds from the spiritual.). However, for the purpose of this story, I do not start by showing how the second-handers live on the prime movers in actual, everyday reality nor do I start by showing a normal world. (That comes in only in necessary retrospect, or flashback, or by implication in the events themselves.) I start with the fantastic premise of the prime movers going on strike. This is the actual heart and center of the novel. A distinction carefully to be observed here: I do not set out to glorify the prime mover ( that was The Fountainhead ). I set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers, and how viciously it treats them. And I show it on a hypothetical case what happens to the world without them. In The Fountainhead I did not show how desperately the world needed Roark except by implication. I did show how viciously the world treated him, and why. I showed mainly what he is. It was Roark s story. This must be the world s story in relation to its prime movers. (Almost the story of a body in relation to its heart a body dying of anemia.) I don t show directly what the prime movers do that s shown only by implication. I show what happens when they don t do it. (Through that, you see the picture of what they do, their place and their role.) (This is an important guide for the construction of the story.) In order to work out the story, Ayn Rand had to understand fully why the prime movers allowed the second-handers to live on them why the creators had not gone on strike throughout history what errors even the best of them made that kept them in thrall to the worst. Part of the answer is dramatized in the character of Dagny Taggart, the railroad heiress who declares war on the strikers. Here is a note on her psychology, dated April 18, 1946: Her error and the cause of her refusal to join the strike is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last). Over-optimism in that she thinks men are better than they are, she doesn t really understand them and is generous about it. Over-confidence in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can. She thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent; not by forcing them, of course, not by enslaving them and giving orders but by the sheer over-abundance of her own energy; she will show them how, she can teach them and persuade them, she is so able that they ll catch it from her. (This is still faith in their rationality, in the omnipotence of reason. The mistake? Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.) On these two points, Dagny is committing an important (but excusable and understandable) error in thinking, the kind of error individualists and creators often make. It is an error proceeding from the best in their nature and from a proper principle, but this principle is misapplied. The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specific men. First, it s not necessary, the creator s life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being. Therefore, while a creator does and must worship Man (which means his own highest potentiality; which is his natural self-reverence), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship Mankind (as a collective). These are two entirely different conceptions, with entirely (immensely and diametrically opposed) different consequences. Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled within each creator himself. Whether the creator is alone, or finds only a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importance or consequence whatever; numbers have nothing to do with it. He alone or he and a few others like him are mankind, in the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest possibility. (The rational being, who acts according to his nature.) It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or all the men around him fall short of the ideal of Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the optimism about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or will become better, or she will teach them to become better or, actually, she so desperately wants them to be better) and to be tied to the world by that hope. It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it s up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason. But here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander. Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. (He can t and he shouldn t even wish to try it and the mere attempt is improper.) He must not think that he can. somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence; [he must] deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from the others. Now, in Dagny s case, her desperate desire is to run Taggart Transcontinental. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence and competence. She thinks she can run it with others, with the incompetent and the parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility; with herself, in effect, being the spark of initiative, the bearer of responsibility for a whole collective. This can t be done. This is her crucial error. This is where she fails. Ayn Rand s basic purpose as a novelist was to present not villains or even heroes with errors, but the ideal man the consistent, the fully integrated, the perfect. In Atlas Shrugged, this is John Galt, the towering figure who moves the world and the novel, yet does not appear onstage until Part III. By his nature (and that of the story) Galt is necessarily central to the lives of all the characters. In one note, Galt s relation to the others, dated June 27, 1946, Miss Rand defines succinctly what Galt represents to each of them: For Dagny the ideal. The answer to her two quests: the man of genius and the man she loves. The first quest is expressed in her search for the inventor of the engine. The second her growing conviction that she will never be in love For Rearden the friend. The kind of understanding and appreciation he has always wanted and did not know he wanted (or he thought he had it he tried to find it in those around him, to get it from his wife, his mother, brother and sister). For Francisco d Anconia the aristocrat. The only man who represents a challenge and a stimulant almost the proper kind of audience, worthy of stunning for the sheer joy and color of life. For Danneskjld the anchor. The only man who represents land and roots to a restless, reckless wanderer, like the goal of a struggle, the port at the end of a fierce sea-voyage the only man he can respect. For the Composer the inspiration and the perfect audience. For the Philosopher the embodiment of his abstractions. For Father Amadeus the source of his conflict. The uneasy realization that Galt is the end of his endeavors, the man of virtue, the perfect man and that his means do not fit this end (and that he is destroying this, his ideal, for the sake of those who are evil). To James Taggart the eternal threat. The secret dread. The reproach. The guilt (his own guilt). He has no specific tie-in with Galt but he has that constant, causeless, unnamed, hysterical fear. And he recognizes it when he hears Galt s broadcast and when he sees Galt in person for the first time. To the Professor his conscience. The reproach and reminder. The ghost that haunts him through everything he does, without a moment s peace. The thing that says: No to his whole life. Some notes on the above: Rearden s sister, Stacy, was a minor character later cut from the novel. Francisco was spelled Francesco in these early years, while Danneskld s first name at this point was Ivar, presumably after Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match king, who was the real-life model of Bjorn Faulkner in Night of January 16th. Father Amadeus was Taggart s priest, to whom he confessed his sins. The priest was supposed to be a positive character, honestly devoted to the good but practicing consistently the morality of mercy. Miss Rand dropped him, she told me, when she found that it was impossible to make such a character convincing. The Professor is Robert Stadler. This brings me to a final excerpt. Because of her passion for ideas, Miss Rand was often asked whether she was primarily a philosopher or a novelist. In later years, she was impatient with this question, but she gave her own answer, to and for herself, in a note dated May 4, 1946. The broader context was a discussion of the nature of creativity. I seem to be both a theoretical philosopher and a fiction writer. But it is the last that interests me most; the first is only the means to the last; the absolutely necessary means, but only the means; the fiction story is the end. Without an understanding and statement of the right philosophical principle, I cannot create the right story; but the discovery of the principle interests me only as the discovery of the proper knowledge to be used for my life purpose; and my life purpose is the creation of the kind of world (people and events) that I like that is, that represents human perfection. Philosophical knowledge is necessary in order to define human perfection. But I do not care to stop at the definition. I want to use it, to apply it in my work (in my personal life, too but the core, center and purpose of my personal life, of my whole life, is my work). This is why, I think, the idea of writing a philosophical nonfiction book bored me. In such a book, the purpose would actually be to teach others, to present my idea to them. In a book of fiction the purpose is to create, for myself, the kind of world I want and to live in it while I am creating it; then, as a secondary consequence, to let others enjoy this world, if, and to the extent that they can. It may be said that the first purpose of a philosophical book is the clarification or statement of your new knowledge to and for yourself; and then, as a secondary step, the offering of your knowledge to others. But here is the difference, as far as I am concerned: I have to acquire and state to myself the new philosophical knowledge or principle I used in order to write a fiction story as its embodiment and illustration; I do not care to write a story on a theme or thesis of old knowledge, knowledge stated or discovered by someone else, that is, someone else s philosophy (because those philosophies are wrong). To this extent, I am an abstract philosopher (I want to present the perfect man and his perfect life and I must also discover my own philosophical statement and definition of this perfection). But when and if I have discovered such new knowledge, I am not interested in stating it in its abstract, general form, that is, as knowledge. I am interested in using it, in applying it that is, in stating it in the concrete form of men and events, in the form of a fiction story. This last is my final purpose, my end; the philosophical knowledge or discovery is only the means to it. For my purpose, the non-fiction form of abstract knowledge doesn t interest me; the final, applied form of fiction, of story, does. (I state the knowledge to myself, anyway; but I choose the final form of it, the expression, in the completed cycle that leads back to man.) I wonder to what extent I represent a peculiar phenomenon in this respect. I think I represent the proper integration of a complete human being. Anyway, this should be my lead for the character of John Galt. He, too , is a combination of an abstract philosopher and a practical inventor; the thinker and the man of action together In learning, we draw an abstraction from concrete objects and events. In creating, we make our own concrete objects and events out of the abstraction; we bring the abstraction down and back to its specific meaning, to the concrete; but the abstraction has helped us to make the kind of concrete we want the concrete to be. It has helped us to create to reshape the world as we wish it to be for our purposes. I cannot resist quoting one further paragraph. It comes a few pages later in the same discussion. Incidentally, as a sideline observation: if creative fiction writing is a process of translating an abstraction into the concrete, there are three possible grades of such writing: translating an old (known) abstraction (theme or thesis) through the medium of old fiction means (that is, characters, events or situations used before for that same purpose, that same translation) this is most of the popular trash; translating an old abstraction through new, original fiction means this is most of the good literature; creating a new, original abstraction and translating it through new, original means. This, as far as I know, is only me my kind of fiction writing. May God forgive me (Metaphor!) if this is mistaken conceit! As near as I can now see it, it isn t. (A fourth possibility translating a new abstraction through old means is impossible, by definition: if the abstraction is new, there can be no means used by anybody else before to translate it.) Is her conclusion mistaken conceit ? It is now forty-five years since she wrote this note, and you are holding Ayn Rand s master-work in your hands. You decide. Leonard Peikoff September 1991. Chapter 1: THE THEME Who is John Galt? The light was ebbing, and Eddie Willers could not distinguish the bum s face. The bum had said it simply, without expression. But from the sunset far at the end of the street, yellow glints caught his eyes, and the eyes looked straight at Eddie Willers, mocking and still as if the question had been addressed to the causeless uneasiness within him. Why did you say that? asked Eddie Willers, his voice tense. The bum leaned against the side of the doorway; a wedge of broken glass behind him reflected the metal yellow of the sky. Why does it bother you? he asked. It doesn t, snapped Eddie Willers. He reached hastily into his pocket. The bum had stopped him and asked for a dime, then had gone on talking, as if to kill that moment and postpone the problem of the next. Pleas for dimes were so frequent in the streets these days that it was not necessary to listen to explanations and he had no desire to hear the details of this bum s particular despair. Go get your cup of coffee, he said, handing the dime to the shadow that had no face. Thank you, sir, said the voice, without interest, and the face leaned forward for a moment. The face was wind-browned, cut by lines of weariness and cynical resignation; the eyes were intelligent. Eddie Willers walked on, wondering why he always felt it at this time of day, this sense of dread without reason. No, he thought, not dread, there s nothing to fear: just an immense, diffused apprehension, with no source or object. He had become accustomed to the feeling, but he could find no explanation for it; yet the bum had spoken as if he knew that Eddie felt it, as if he thought that one should feel it, and more: as if he knew the reason. Eddie Willers pulled his shoulders straight, in conscientious self-discipline. He had to stop this, he thought; he was beginning to imagine things. Had he always felt it? He was thirty-two years old. He tried to think back. No, he hadn t; but he could not remember when it had started. The feeling came to him suddenly, at random intervals, and now it was coming more often than ever. It s the twilight, he thought; I hate the twilight. The clouds and the shafts of skyscrapers against them were turning brown, like an old painting in oil, the color of a fading masterpiece. Long streaks of grime ran from under the pinnacles down the slender, soot-eaten walls. High on the side of a tower there was a crack in the shape of a motionless lightning, the length of ten stories. A jagged object cut the sky above the roofs; it was half a spire, still holding the glow of the sunset; the gold leaf had long since peeled off the other half. The glow was red and still, like the reflection of a fire: not an active fire, but a dying one which it is too late to stop. No, thought Eddie Willers, there was nothing disturbing in the sight of the city. It looked as it had always looked. He walked on, reminding himself that he was late in returning to the office. He did not like the task which he had to perform on his return, but it had to be done. So he did not attempt to delay it, but made himself walk faster. He turned a corner. In the narrow space between the dark silhouettes of two buildings, as in the crack of a door, he saw the page of a gigantic calendar suspended in the sky. It was the calendar that the mayor of New York had erected last year on the top of a building, so that citizens might tell the day of the month as they told the hours of the day, by glancing up at a public tower. A white rectangle hung over the city, imparting the date to the men in the streets below. In the rusty light of this evening s sunset, the rectangle said: September 2. Eddie Willers looked away. He had never liked the sight of that calendar. It disturbed him, in a manner he could not explain or define. The feeling seemed to blend with his sense of uneasiness; it had the same quality. He thought suddenly that there was some phrase, a kind of quotation, that expressed what the calendar seemed to suggest. But he could not recall it. He walked, groping for a sentence that hung in his mind as an empty shape. He could neither fill it nor dismiss it. He glanced back. The white rectangle stood above the roofs, saying in immovable finality: September 2. Eddie Willers shifted his glance down to the street, to a vegetable pushcart at the stoop of a brownstone house. He saw a pile of bright gold carrots and the fresh green of onions. He saw a clean white curtain blowing at an open window. He saw a bus turning a corner, expertly steered. He wondered why he felt reassured and then, why he felt the sudden, inexplicable wish that these things were not left in the open, unprotected against the empty space above. When he came to Fifth Avenue, he kept his eyes on the windows of the stores he passed. There was nothing he needed or wished to buy; but he liked to see the display of goods, any goods, objects made by men, to be used by men. He enjoyed the sight of a prosperous street; not more than every fourth one of the stores was out of business, its windows dark and empty. He did not know why he suddenly thought of the oak tree. Nothing had recalled it. But he thought of it and of his childhood summers on the Taggart estate. He had spent most of his childhood with the Taggart children, and now he worked for them, as his father and grandfather had worked for their father and grandfather. The great oak tree had stood on a hill over the Hudson, in a lonely spot on the Taggart estate. Eddie Willers, aged seven, liked to come and look at that tree. It had stood there for hundreds of years, and he thought it would always stand there. Its roots clutched the hill like a fist with fingers sunk into the soil, and he thought that if a giant were to seize it by the top, he would not be able to uproot it, but would swing the hill and the whole of the earth with it, like a ball at the end of a string. He felt safe in the oak tree s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength. One night, lightning struck the oak tree. Eddie saw it the next morning. It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel. The trunk was only an empty shell; its heart had rotted away long ago; there was nothing inside just a thin gray dust that was being dispersed by the whim of the faintest wind. The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not been able to stand without it. Years later, he heard it said that children should be protected from shock, from their first knowledge of death, pain or fear. But these had never scarred him; his shock came when he stood very quietly, looking into the black hole of the trunk. It was an immense betrayal the more terrible because he could not grasp what it was that had been betrayed. It was not himself, he knew, nor his trust; it was something else. He stood there for a while, making no sound, then he walked back to the house. He never spoke about it to anyone, then or since. Eddie Willers shook his head, as the screech of a rusty mechanism changing a traffic light stopped him on the edge of a curb. He felt anger at himself. There was no reason that he had to remember the oak tree tonight. It meant nothing to him any longer, only a faint tinge of sadness and somewhere within him, a drop of pain moving briefly and vanishing, like a raindrop on the glass of a window, its course in the shape of a question mark. He wanted no sadness attached to his childhood; he loved its memories: any day of it he remembered now seemed flooded by a still, brilliant sunlight. It seemed to him as if a few rays from it reached into his present: not rays, more like pinpoint spotlights that gave an occasional moment s glitter to his job, to his lonely apartment, to the quiet, scrupulous progression of his existence. He thought of a summer day when he was ten years old. That day, in a clearing of the woods, the one precious companion of his childhood told him what they would do when they grew up. The words were harsh and glowing, like the sunlight. He listened in admiration and in wonder. When he was asked what he would want to do, he answered at once, Whatever is right, and added, You ought to do something great. I mean, the two of us together. What? she asked. He said, I don t know. That s what we ought to find out. Not just what you said. Not just business and earning a living. Things like winning battles, or saving people out of fires, or climbing mountains. What for? she asked. He said, The minister said last Sunday that we must always reach for the best within us. What do you suppose is the best within us? I don t know. We ll have to find out. She did not answer; she was looking away, up the railroad track. Eddie Willers smiled. He had said, Whatever is right, twenty-two years ago. He had kept that statement unchallenged ever since; the other questions had faded in his mind; he had been too busy to ask them. But he still thought it self-evident that one had to do what was right; he had never learned how people could want to do otherwise; he had learned only that they did. It still seemed simple and incomprehensible to him: simple that things should be right, and incomprehensible that they weren t. He knew that they weren t. He thought of that, as he turned a corner and came to the great building of Taggart Transcontinental. The building stood over the street as its tallest and proudest structure. Eddie Willers always smiled at his first sight of it. Its long bands of windows were unbroken, in contrast to those of its neighbors. Its rising lines cut the sky, with no crumbling corners or worn edges. It seemed to stand above the years, untouched. It would always stand there, thought Eddie Willers. Whenever he entered the Taggart Building, he felt relief and a sense of security. This was a place of competence and power. The floors of its hallways were mirrors made of marble. The frosted rectangles of its electric fixtures were chips of solid light. Behind sheets of glass, rows of girls sat at typewriters,

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Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand: 9780451191144: Amazon.com: Books

Atlas Shrugged | AynRand.org

Reason and freedom are corollaries, Ayn Rand holds, as are faith and force. Atlas Shrugged showcases both relationships.

The heroes are unwavering thinkers. Whether it is a destructive business scheme proclaimed as moral, the potential collapse of the economy, or a personal life filled with pain, the heroes seek to face the facts and understand. To them, reason is an absolute. Politically, therefore, what they require and demand is freedom. Freedom to think, to venture into the new and unknown, to earn, to trade, to succeed and fail and pursue their own individual happiness.

The villains, by contrast, reject the absolutism of reason. They want a world ruled by their feelings, in which wishing makes it so. James Taggart, for instance, wants to be the head of a railroad without the need of effort. No amount of thinking can bring such a world about he must attempt to bring it about by force. As Rand puts it elsewhere, Anyone who resorts to the formula: Its so, because I say so, will have to reach for a gun, sooner or later.

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Atlas Shrugged | AynRand.org

SparkNotes: Atlas Shrugged: Plot Overview

In an environment of worsening economicconditions, Dagny Taggart, vice president in charge of operations,works to repair Taggart Transcontinentals crumbling Rio Norte Lineto service Colorado, the last booming industrial area in the country.Her efforts are hampered by the fact that many of the countrysmost talented entrepreneurs are retiring and disappearing. The railroadscrisis worsens when the Mexican government nationalizes TaggartsSan Sebastian Line. The line had been built to service FranciscodAnconias copper mills, but the mills turn out to be worthless.Francisco had been a successful industrialist, and Dagnys lover,but has become a worthless playboy. To solve the railroads financialproblems, Dagnys brother Jim uses political influence to pass legislationthat destroys Taggarts only competition in Colorado. Dagny mustfix the Rio Norte Line immediately and plans to use Rearden Metal,a new alloy created by Hank Rearden. When confronted about the SanSebastian mines, Francisco tells Dagny he is deliberately destroyingdAnconia Copper. Later he appears at Reardens anniversary partyand, meeting him for the first time, urges Rearden to reject thefreeloaders who live off of him.

The State Science Institute issues a denunciation of Rearden metal,and Taggarts stock crashes. Dagny decides to start her own companyto rebuild the line, and it is a huge success. Dagny and Reardenbecome lovers. Together they discover a motor in an abandoned factorythat runs on static electricity, and they seek the inventor. Thegovernment passes new legislation that cripples industry in Colorado.Ellis Wyatt, an oil industrialist, suddenly disappears after settingfire to his wells. Dagny is forced to cut trains, and the situationworsens. Soon, more industrialists disappear. Dagny believes thereis a destroyer at work, taking men away when they are most needed.Francisco visits Rearden and asks him why he remains in businessunder such repressive conditions. When a fire breaks out and theywork together to put it out, Francisco understands Reardens lovefor his mills.

Rearden goes on trial for breaking one of the new laws,but refuses to participate in the proceedings, telling the judgesthey can coerce him by force but he wont help them to convict him.Unwilling to be seen as thugs, they let him go. Economic dictatorWesley Mouch needs Reardens cooperation for a new set of socialistlaws, and Jim needs economic favors that will keep his ailing railroadrunning after the collapse of Colorado. Jim appeals to Reardenswife Lillian, who wants to destroy her husband. She tells him Rearden andDagny are having an affair, and he uses this information in a trade.The new set of laws, Directive 10-289,is irrational and repressive. It includes a ruling that requiresall patents to be signed over to the government. Rearden is blackmailedinto signing over his metal to protect Dagnys reputation.

Dagny quits over the new directive and retreats to a mountain lodge.When she learns of a massive accident at the Taggart Tunnel, shereturns to her job. She receives a letter from the scientist shehad hired to help rebuild the motor, and fears he will be the nexttarget of the destroyer. In an attempt to stop him from disappearing,she follows him in an airplane and crashes in the mountains. Whenshe wakes up, she finds herself in a remote valley where all theretired industrialists are living. They are on strike, calling ita strike of the mind. There, she meets John Galt, who turns outto be both the destroyer and the man who built the motor. She fallsin love with him, but she cannot give up her railroad, and she leavesthe valley. When she returns to work, she finds that the governmenthas nationalized the railroad industry. Government leaders wanther to make a speech reassuring the public about the new laws. Sherefuses until Lillian comes to blackmail her. On the air, she proudlyannounces her affair with Rearden and reveals that he has been blackmailed. Shewarns the country about its repressive government.

With the economy on the verge of collapse, Francisco destroys therest of his holdings and disappears. The politicians no longer evenpretend to work for the public good. Their vast network of influencepeddling creates worse chaos, as crops rot waiting for freight trainsthat are diverted for personal favors. In an attempt to gain controlof Franciscos mills, the government stages a riot at Rearden Steel.But the steelworkers organize and fight back, led by Francisco,who has been working undercover at the mills. Francisco saves Reardenslife, then convinces him to join the strike.

Just as the head of state prepares to give a speech onthe economic situation, John Galt takes over the airwaves and deliversa lengthy address to the country, laying out the terms of the strikehe has organized. In desperation, the government seeks Galt to makehim their economic dictator. Dagny inadvertently leads them to him,and they take him prisoner. But Galt refuses to help them, evenafter he is tortured. Finally, Dagny and the strikers rescue himin an armed confrontation with guards. They return to the valley,where Dagny finally joins the strike. Soon, the countrys collapseis complete and the strikers prepare to return.

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SparkNotes: Atlas Shrugged: Plot Overview


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