by Bridget Richard
Atlas Shrugged is one of the most famous novels by 20th century writer and philosopher Ayn Rand. Written in 1957, it depicts a dystopian American economy and follows the stories of several industrialist leaders and how they all try to go about solving it. That in and of itself is a bland summary, because the novel is so much more than that. Since I am halfway through reading this monster of a novel, I’d like to recap why I hate it, why I love it, and why I think it is worth reading so far.
When I said that it was a monster of a novel, I wasn’t exaggerating. It’s comprised of 561,996 words in total. For reference, that’s over 1,000 pages in the 50th anniversary commemorative edition. That’s why there are usually multiple bent and wrinkled copies in secondhand bookstores. You see three or four piled together on the shelf, and know that those are from people who more than likely gave up on such a behemoth–which is completely understandable. It’s a difficult book to read. There have been multiple occasions where I went to turn the page, saw that a character was going to speak, and then saw that that particular character speaks non-stop for nearly two pages. And sometimes those monologues aren’t broken into paragraphs. There are just two massive columns of text laughing at you spouting a whole philosophical spiel that will almost always fly over your head the first time you read it.
I’m officially halfway through the novel, and we’re still introducing key characters into the story. I’ve met more people through this storyline in the past several months than I have since my senior year started.
As exasperating as reading it can be, it is also just as fulfilling. Watching these characters become so fleshed-out and developed is a real pleasure. While they are not always realistic or relatable at first glance, they have such admirable qualities–whether it be their determination, their charisma, or their loyalty.
Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism is surely flawed–in the way that it glorifies isolation and a lack of emphasis on the beauty of human interaction–but if anything it is a fascinating and new perspective to take, which has value in itself.
And if nothing else, read Atlas Shrugged halfway through to at least meet and experience the character of Eddie Willers. He the inexplicable “everyman” in a world filled with hyper-intelligent elite executives. Eddie Willers has proven to be nothing but a sweet and loyal character who I am excited to continue rooting for, even if it is for another 500 pages.