Atlas Shrugged Term Paper


Atlas Shrugged John Galt, Ayn Rand's Ubermensch, relays his values in the poignant rhetorical question: "Which is the monument to the triumph of the human spirit over matter: the germ-eaten hovels on the shorelines of the Ganges or the Atlantic skyline of New York?" Galt's public address, delivered over the subverted airwaves, encompasses the major themes running through Atlas Shrugged. In the speech, Galt claims the triumph of reason over religion, of individualism over collectivism, of self-determination over governmental intervention. Galt's libertarian ideals are at the heart of Rand's novel, forming the basis for the author's own philosophical stance. It is not so much the buildings lining the Manhattan skyline that so inspire Galt; rather it is the motivation behind them: the desire to propel human consciousness and human society forward and to continue to expand the boundaries of human potential. Rand does not glamorize capitalism arbitrarily; the author's thinly veiled personal philosophy rests on solid bedrock of reason. For her heroes, such as Dagny Taggart and John Galt, capitalism is the manifestation of key social, political, and economic ideals. Such ideals, which include the expansion of the mind, continual progress, and individualism, form the philosophical core of Atlas Shrugged.

Furthermore, Galt's allusion to the "germ-eaten hovels on the shorelines of the Ganges" is not arbitrary. Rand carefully selected imagery from India's sacred river to denounce delusion, to criticize those who would propose that society restrict its impetus for technological and social change in favor of superstition and socialism. The Ganges River also represents the dual forces of life and death, which are examined closely in Rand's novel. The Ganges also evokes imagery of funeral pyres: images that closely mimic some of the novel's key events. For example, the destruction of industrial enterprises pervade Atlas Shrugged. From the Taggart railroads, to d'Anconia's...


Ellis Wyatt's setting fire to his own oil wells points directly to the fire symbolism that the Ganges River image invokes. The concept of death is also central to Atlas Shrugged.
Galt's quote also demonstrates Rand's willingness to liberally use symbolism in Atlas Shrugged. From meaningful, pun-filled names like Wesley Mouch to the title of the book itself, Atlas Shrugged is peppered with meaningful motifs. Galt's alluding to the Ganges in India connotes death and destruction and it also points to the central philosophical themes in the book that pertain to industrial, economic, political, and social progress. The Ganges is age-old; the buildings in big cities are relatively new. The Ganges represents stagnation; the buildings represent progress and productivity. The "germ-eaten hovels" indicate decay and defilement; the buildings indicate construction and constructivism. The "germ-eaten hovels" connote living close to the earth and therefore to death and decomposition; the sky rises connote reaching toward the stars and therefore vim, vigor, and life.

Rand is thus unafraid of dualism: Galt's quote exemplifies the binary opposites of social stagnation and social transformation. The "germ-eaten hovels on the Ganges" is not meant to denounce the age-old civilizations of India. In fact, Rand appreciates traditional symbols, as is evident by the title of the book referring unabashedly to Greek mythology. Rand was undoubtedly aware of the advanced industrialism of the ancient civilizations along the Ganges River; her quote bears reference to the unfortunate devastation that has besieged India since. Galt's image evokes the poverty, disease, and corruption that characterize India and many places in the world. Socialism and governmental intervention are not the answers to these problems, and through Galt, Rand criticizes the attempt to cure the world's ills through such means.

Socialism, big government,…

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