My Experience with Atlas Shrugged

Luke Rhoads


Estimated read time:

2 minutes

What led me into it

I resonated with the characters of Rand's <em>The Fountainhead</em>. Obsessed with Rand's characterizations and ideology, I decided to try out her magnum opus which dives deeper into the realm of Objectivism.

What did I learn initially

I was confused by the enduring monologues, which covered abstract ideas I was not familiar with. Cliffhangers added complexity to already esoteric concepts were not friendly to me, a rather beginner reader. I was able to grasp the surface level concepts about the morality of production which stated that those who produce should not be hampered by those who rely on them. Deeper concepts like the sanction of the victim went over my head until I reached the end of the book.

What did I learn upon closely analyzing it

Analyzing this book for the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest granted me a deeper understanding of its many messages. I better understood more complex concepts that Francisco, Rearden, and Dagny all allude to in their dialogues. The various character vs. character conflicts balanced with the character vs. society conflicts show their true light upon a second look. In the contest, I answered a question about the morality of production, something I immediately understood about the book, even after my initial read. This culminated in an essay that I hope will stand up to the masterpieces of competing graduate students.


Atlas Shrugged and Objectivism has had a large influence on my outlook on my life and the world. Similarly to my experience reading <em>Titan</em> by Ron Chernow, Atlas Shrugged has empowered myself with the idea that the future lies in your own hands.

Despite being a such a dense book, I can summarize my takeaways in three key points:

1. Your mind is your greatest tool.
The virtuous are those whom are able to harness it. Any time Rearden, Dagny, or their counterparts are presented with a challenge, it is their mind and judgement that guides their effort. Under the guidance of their mind, they precisely address the problem, with striking efficiency and undeniable conviction.

2. Nothing worthwhile is undeserved.
Creating value means subjecting your mind to your effort. It means putting faith in a system that rewards those who understand that their sacrifice is for their own good. Francisco's speech on money elaborates on how money is a claim on the effort of others. It is on this principle, the mutual agreement to trade value for value, that society conducts itself.

3. One's partner is a reflection of themselves.
When Hank realizes that his desire for Dagny is not to be condemned, he has an epiphany. Instead of seeing this desire as carnal, Rearden sees it as virtuous and merited. This is due to the fact that their relationship is a celebration of themselves and their minds, not the lecherous, wanton indulgence he thought it was.

Wrap up

All in all, I would strongly recommend reading Atlas Shrugged and other works of Rand. While seeming polemic and excessively libertarian, these works actually conform to ancient wisdom in that they venerate hard work and unrelenting effort.

Thank you everyone who helped me through the process of writing this essay, and thank you for taking the time to read this!