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'''''Atlas Shrugged''''' is a [[novel]] by [[Ayn Rand]], first published in 1957 in the [[United States of America|United States]]. It was partially an allegory to promote the author's philosophy of [[Objectivism]]. The plot concerns the crumbling of the United States economy due to [[collectivism]] and [[altruism]], which Rand considered detrimental to society, and the identity of [[John Galt]], the mysterious protagonist of the story, a man whose name is spoken chiefly in slang.
'''''Atlas Shrugged''''' is a [[novel]] by [[Ayn Rand]], first published in 1957 in the [[United States of America|United States]]. It was partially an allegory to promote the author's philosophy of [[objectivism]] which is a type of [[atheism]]. The plot concerns the crumbling of the United States economy due to [[collectivism]] and [[altruism]], which Rand considered detrimental to society, and the identity of [[John Galt]], the mysterious protagonist of the story, a man whose name is spoken chiefly in slang.
== History and development ==
== History and development ==

Revision as of 09:19, 5 May 2009


Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957 in the United States. It was partially an allegory to promote the author's philosophy of objectivism which is a type of atheism. The plot concerns the crumbling of the United States economy due to collectivism and altruism, which Rand considered detrimental to society, and the identity of John Galt, the mysterious protagonist of the story, a man whose name is spoken chiefly in slang.

History and development

Ayn Rand would later say that she had in mind to write a novel on the theme of the tension between the mind and the heart, and the inherent superiority of reason to emotion.[1] In 1943, while she was considering how she could develop this theme, she had a conversation with her friend Isobel Paterson.[2] Paterson suggested that Ayn Rand ought to write a non-fiction expository book on her philosophy, a thing that Rand did not wish to write. Paterson then said that her readers "needed" such a work. Rand became incensed at this mode of expression, and replied:

Oh, they do? What if I went on strike? What if all the creative minds of the world went on strike? That would make a good novel.

Rand finished her conversation with Paterson. And then her husband, Frank O'Connor, who had been listening to her side of the conversation, said to her, "You know, it would make a good novel."[2]

This was only the beginning, of course, for now Rand turned her full attention to the thing that she would later describe as the novel's primary theme: the role of the mind in man's existence. She asked herself what would happen to any society if "the creative minds of the world went on strike," which is to say, withdrew their talents from the world.[1] She then asked herself what would drive them to call such a strike. This process carried through to the development of all the various heroes, villains, and anti-villains in the story.

The Ayn Rand Institute suggests that the two heroes of the novel were Dagny Taggart and John Galt.[1] This is not actually in accord with literary convention. Dagny Taggart certainly is the novel's heroine, but the other hero is Henry Rearden. They are heroes precisely because each must make a life-altering re-evaluation and decision in order to serve the causes that motivate them, a thing that John Galt does not do.

John Galt is actually an anti-villain: one who pursues the cause of justice with the same single-mindedness of purpose with which a classical villain might pursue his own greed or an insane desire for vengeance. His major decision to call the great strike is a decision he makes before, not during, the time frame of the novel's action.

Spoiler warning
This article contains important plot information


  • The Taggart Transcontinental Railroad
    • James Taggart, President
    • Dagny Taggart, his sister, Vice-President in Charge of Operations
    • Edward "Eddie" Willers, Miss Taggart's assistant
    • A track walker in the New York City terminal, unidentified until near the end
    • Clifton Locey, a temporary VP-Operations
    • David Mitchum, superintendent, Ohio Division
    • William "Bill" Brent, a dispatcher
    • Various conductors, brakemen, track walkers, etc.
  • Rearden Steel
    • Henry "Hank" Rearden, founder and President
    • Lillian Rearden, his wife
    • Philip Rearden, his ne'er-do-well brother
    • Henry Rearden's mother
  • Associated Steel
    • Orren Boyle, President
  • Twentieth-Century Motor Company
    • Gerald "Jed" Starnes, President (deceased)
    • His children:
      • Gerald Starnes, Jr.
      • Eric Starnes
      • Ivy Starnes
  • The United States government
    • Executive Branch
    • The United States Congress
      • Kip Chalmers, a Representative
        • Emma Chalmers, his mother, who conceives her own government program after her son dies
    • Bureau of Economic Planning and Natural Resources
    • State Science Institute
      • Robert Stadler, PhD, Director (formerly Chairman, Department of Physics, Patrick Henry University)
      • Floyd Ferris, PhD, Associate Director
  • Various "vanished" or "vanishing" persons:
    • Hugh Akston, PhD, former Chairman, Department of Philosophy, Patrick Henry University
    • Kenneth Danneger, President, Danneger Coal Company
    • Richard Halley, composer
    • Lawrence Hammond, President, Hammond Car Company
    • Owen Kellogg, former railroad executive in Dagny Taggart's department
    • Kay Ludlow, a stage actress
    • Michael "Midas" Mulligan, a banker
    • Judge Narragansett
    • Andrew Stockton, a foundry operator
    • Ellis Wyatt, President, Wyatt Oil Company
  • The man behind the apparent economic collapse and raft of "vanishings":
    • John Galt, known only by the appearance of his name in a question—"Who is John Galt?"—asked sometimes in cynicism, sometimes in fear.



Dagny Taggart is an unusual woman. Though she is named after the wife of the founder of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad (Nathanial Taggart, whose statue still stands in the New York Terminal), her brother once said that she reminded people more of Nat Taggart than of his wife—a comparison that she has always taken as a compliment. Her brother is the current president of the railroad, but Dagny, as Vice-President of Operations, is the one who keeps the trains running, and they both know it.

Henry Rearden is more than the head of the most successful steelmaker in America. He has invented a new alloy that, like steel, contains iron, but also contains copper. This metal is so much stronger (yet lighter) than steel that it actually has its own name: Rearden Metal.

But for all his success, Henry Rearden is unhappy at home. His wife does not begin to appreciate the significance of his work, and neither does anyone else in his immediate family.

Henry Rearden and Dagny Taggart meet when Dagny has embarked on a great project: to reclaim a railroad line that has fallen into shocking disrepair, and to lay rail made of the new Rearden Metal. While James Taggart prefers to use political lobbying to further the interests of the railroad, Dagny is determined to lay rail and make trains run the old-fashioned way. She and Rearden both face political obtacles—Dagny must overcome the rumors that Rearden Metal is not as claimed, and Henry Rearden finds his business hampered by legislation. But Dagny also faces another obstacle: nearly every good businessman to whom she sends a request-for-proposal suddenly quits business and vanishes, leaving no forwarding address or even any practical trace. Some of them leave a cryptic clue: that "contradictions do not exist," and that if she finds their behavior strange, she should "check [her] premises."

Nevertheless, they complete their project, and together they ride in the first locomotive to make a run on the new line (which also contains a new bridge made entirely of Rearden Metal). After that, they begin an often tempestuous romance.

Shortly after that, they drive together to a deserted factory town in Wisconsin, to see a factory that had once had a branch line from Taggart Transcontinental, until Dagny had ordered it discontinued. There Dagny finds the remains of a prototype electric motor that can capture static electricity from the atmosphere. Together Dagny and Rearden try to track down the engineer who built this motor, but no one seems to remember anything about the motor. They remember much, however, about the Twentieth Century Motor Company and its decline. Dagny interviews several people, including two of the surviving children of Gerald "Jed" Starnes, the founder of the Twentieth Century, and Hugh Akston, once a philosophy professor and now a short-order cook.

Then Congress passes a set of new laws that will make doing business next to impossible for some of the customers on the refurbished railroad line. Those laws prompt one customer—Ellis Wyatt, who extracts oil from shale in the mountains of Colorado—to not only quit and vanish, but also to burn his oil fields and leave a sign on the border of his property:

I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours.


The United States government is doing more than pass bad laws. Robert Stadler, director of the State Science Institute, tries to call his associate director on the carpet with regard to a book that tells its readers that they ought to stop thinking or even believe that they are thinking. Stadler also wants to know about a mysterious "Project X" that has a large budget but no apparent accountability. The associate refuses to answer, and one gathers very quickly that Dr. Stadler is a mere figurehead, chosen for his reputation, and that Dr. Floyd Ferris, the nominal associate, is the real director.

Meanwhile, Dagny and Rearden each continue as best as he or she can. Yet the political situation continues to worsen. The apparent culmination is Directive 10-289, an attempt to "freeze" the economy in place and forbid people to quit or change their jobs. In response, Dagny announces her resignation and retires to a summer home in the Berkshire Mountains. There she has a visitor: Francisco d'Anconia, a man whom she has known since they both were children. She has come to know Francisco d'Anconia as a mere playboy, but now he reveals that his "playboy" persona has been a careful disguise for his real activity: to destroy his old family firm, so that when the Chilean government nationalizes it, as he predicts that they inevitably will, they will have nothing to work with.

Their conversation is interrupted by a shocking report: a catastrophic explosion involving the Taggart Comet (the premiere coast-to-coast express) and a special ammunition train has collapsed the eight-mile Taggart Tunnel through the Rocky Mountains. Against Francisco d'Anconia's fervent protests, Dagny returns to work.

Dagny Taggart is not Francisco d'Anconia's only target. He has been trying to cultivate a relationship with Henry Rearden, not knowing that he and Rearden are in essence pursuing the same woman, i.e. Dagny. When the two men discover their mutual interest in her, Rearden strikes d'Anconia, but d'Anconia refuses to strike back. In fact, d'Anconia's interest in Rearden is far more important than any such consideration: he is trying to induce Rearden to quit his business and vanish, by reminding Rearden that he is no longer his own master and is serving the interests of those who must ultimately destroy him.

Rearden has his own crisis with Directive 10-289. Among its provisions is one that sets aside all intellectual property law and forces everyone to release all inventions, writings, etc. into the public domain. Rearden is forced to release Rearden Metal into the public domain by a threat of blackmail in connection with the driving trip that he and Dagny took to Wisconsin. But the first company to attempt to make Rearden Metal without Rearden's help (Orren Boyle's Associated Steel company) has its blast furnaces shelled to bits by long-range naval guns, after a voice identifying itself as that of Ragnar Danneskjold warns all the workers to evacuate. Ragnar Danneskjold is now the most notorious pirate of the high seas, seizing "humanitarian" cargoes and destroying other cargoes, i.e. the copper cargoes of D'Anconia Copper. As Rearden walks home one evening, brooding on his political reverses, Ragnar Danneskjold actually confronts him on the road and hands him an ingot of gold, which he describes as "a small payment on a very large debt" which is "the money that was taken from you by force."

Shortly afterward, Dagny Taggart travels westward in her private railcar, attached to the Taggart Comet which must now cross a new line through a previously abandoned mountain pass. She is trying to reach another person who might be helpful in her department. When a conductor finds a stowaway on board, Dagny abruptly invites him to stay with her. She learns that he was once a skilled lathe operator who once worked for twenty years at the Twentieth Century Motor Company, until "the owner of the plant died, and the heirs that took it over, ran it into the ground." From him she obtains a description of the way the heirs destroyed the company: by introducing an explicitly Marxian system of compensation, or "distribution of alms." Then he provides the first clue she has had in a long time to the raft of vanishings of gifted individuals: that on the day of the inauguration of that plan, a young engineer had stood up and announced his intention to "stop the motor of the world." The engineer's name was John Galt—a name she is used to hearing as a slang phrase, but a name that for the first time she realizes belongs to a real person.

That night the train stops. It has become a "frozen train," whose conductor, trainmen, and crew have simply stopped and abandoned. Dagny appoints the former lathe operator to take charge of the restive passengers while she walks forward to try to get another crew out to move the train. Then she travels on her own, eventually renting a private plane to continue her search for her prospect.

When she discovers that someone has persuaded the prospect to quit business, and that the prospect has climbed into another aircraft that has only recently taken off, Dagny takes off in pursuit. As she follows the fleeing craft, that craft suddenly vanishes into thin air over a valley that looks entirely rocky. Not believing that a plane could simply disappear, she starts to descend. Then a bright flash of light blinds her, and when she recovers her eyesight, she realizes that her plane's engine has stopped and that she is almost in free fall. Defiant to the end, she fights to regain some semblance of control before she crashes.

A is A

The first person she sees on awakening is the face of a smiling man, a man of commanding presence. He shocks her by telling her his name: John Galt. Gently he picks her up from the green grass onto which she has fallen, and she barely perceives the wreck of her plane (badly damaged, but still reparable) before he carries her into the center of a town bustling with activity. She is surprised to see several men whom she knows from her list of the "vanished ones," including Michael "Midas" Mulligan, famous for vanishing and orchestrating a "controlled run" on his own bank. Those men speak to Mr. Galt in a curious code, using the word scab to describe her.

She is also told the secret of the seclusion of the valley: a screen of "refractor rays" that create a mirror in the sky for any passing aircraft, at an altitude of 8700 feet (700 feet above the altitude of the valley). Dagny Taggart is the first pilot brave (or foolhardy) enough to descend to that altitude, and the rays destroyed the electronic systems and shut down the aircraft's motor, causing the crash.

John Galt takes her to his house, and gives her a room he describes as "the room I never meant for you to occupy." The wall of that room is filled with short messages of encouragement, signed by the vanished ones, including Ellis Wyatt, Ken Danneger, and others. Later that evening, Francisco d'Anconia comes calling on her, and that only deepens the mystery.

She receives an even greater shock the next day when the notorious Ragnar Danneskjold comes calling and describes the true intent of his privateering activities: to seize government "humanitarian" cargoes, sell the goods for gold, deposit the gold with Midas Mulligan's bank, and have the gold credited to various accounts in the names of the vanished ones and of prospects like Dagny herself, and Henry Rearden. Simply put, Danneskjold proposes to refund all income taxes paid by the vanished ones over the previous twelve years—the length of time that people have been vanishing.

She remains in the secluded town—a town known as "Mulligan's Valley" to Galt and "Galt's Gulch" to every other inhabitant—for a month, working as Galt's cook and housemaid in order to earn her room and board. During that time she observes a copper mine that Francisco has started in the side of one of the mountains. She at first proposes to build a railroad to carry the copper to the valley, but then despairs of laying such a short line and "abandon[ing] a transcontinental system." At the end of a month, she is not prepared to give up that system, and John Galt reluctantly takes her out of the valley and leaves her at the nearest airport.

When she returns, she finds that James Taggart has brokered a cynical deal called the "Railroad Unification Plan," under which all the railroads "pool" their resources and receive revenue according to the track they own (productive or not). She comments drily that that situation cannot last, but throws herself into the apparent mystery of frequent train wrecks.

One event that she has not witnessed is the actual demonstration of "Project X," which turns out to be a sonic weapon that can flatten any desired target within a very long range. Robert Stadler does attend the demonstration, and Floyd Ferris actually hands him a speech to deliver on that occasion.

Dagny is asked to speak at a special radio show to celebrate the "generosity" shown by Rearden when he signed the release of Rearden Metal into the public domain. (Signature or no, no one else dares attempt to make Rearden Metal without Rearden, for fear that Ragnar Danneskjold will blow up their furnaces as he did Orren Boyle's furnaces.) Dagny shocks her audience and the engineers by telling them the real reason for Rearden's action: that she had been his mistress, and that the governmental authorities had used that fact as blackmail. Rearden, noting her use of the pluperfect tense, acknowledges that he has lost her affections to another man, and is astonished to find that that other man is the mysterious John Galt.

Toward the end of summer, the Chilean government announces its intention to nationalize the D'Anconia Copper company. The legislative session for passing the nationalization act is set for September 2. But as the speaker of the Chilean parliament strikes his gavel, an explosion destroys the D'Anconia docks. The Chileans later find that they have nationalized a pile of junk, because Francisco d'Anconia blew everything up on the last second that he actually owned it. To boast of his act, Francisco alters the message on the scrolling calendar display in New York City, to read:

Brother, you asked for it!
That message is signed by all his names in full.

A month later, the government attempt to persuade Rearden to sign on to the Steel Unification Plan, similar to the Railroad Unification Plan. Rearden refuses and returns to his mills. There he finds a riot in progress, and a dying man tells him that the riot is staged and is being carried out by infiltrators who were never really Rearden's employees. Rearden's regular workers, led by the recently hired furnace foreman, beat back the rioters and stop some of them from killing Rearden. The furnace forman is in fact Francisco d'Anconia, who now persuades Rearden to quit business. When he quits, several other regulars quit with him.

Dagny is then asked to participate in another radio program in which President Thompson will deliver "a report on the world crisis." But when the appointed hour falls, the government engineers have lost control of the airwaves and are off the air.

Then a voice begins to speak:

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Thompson will not be speaking to you tonight. His time is up. I have taken it over. You were to hear a report on the world crisis. That is exactly what you are going to hear.

Three people recognize the voice at once: Dagny, Dr. Robert Stadler, and Dagny's assistant, Edward "Eddie" Willers. The voice in fact belongs to John Galt, and identifies itself as such. But Robert Stadler remembers John Galt as one of three students who once majored both in physics and philosophy at his old university—and the other two were Francisco d'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold. Eddie Willers remembers the voice as belonging to an anonymous track walker whom he used to tell his troubles to over lunch in the Terminal. What becomes clear now is that John Galt was spying on Dagny Taggart for twelve years, and sometimes when Eddie Willers would foolishly drop a name to Galt (whom he never identified until this occasion), the owner of that name would "vanish."

For three hours, John Galt expounds on his actions: that he and the vanished ones are "on strike" and will settle for nothing less than a system in which the government never interferes with anyone.

Dagny then does a foolish thing: she tracks down John Galt to his apartment in New York. The federal authorities have her watched, and thus are able to arrest John Galt. For about a week they attempt to persuade John Galt to become the "Economic Dictator" of the country, but he refuses, after demonstrating that no person in any such position could possibly make the broken-down system work. Nevertheless the authorities insist on announcing the "John Galt Plan for renewed prosperity" and even try to have Galt address the nation—at the point of a gun. In reply, Galt waits until the last second, and then says,

Get...out of my way.

Robert Stadler has known all along that Galt would never cooperate, so he rushes to the site of Project X, intending to seize control of it for himself. But another government operative named Cuffy Meigs has beaten him to it. The two men then struggle over the controls of the so-called Xylophone, and when Meigs pulls one lever too many, the weapon destroys the complex and everything within a hundred miles, including the one remaining railroad bridge across the Mississippi River.

Dagny watches as Galt is led away, and is now determined to quit the world herself, before anyone suspects her true feelings for Galt. She packs very light, and receives with indifference the report that the Taggart Bridge has been destroyed by sound rays from Project X and that the two halves of the country are now cut off. She leaves her headquarters for the last time and meets Francisco d'Anconia, to whom she finally swears the oath that John Galt wrote twelve years before:

I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

In the final scenes, Floyd Ferris, Wesley Mouch (Coordinator of Economic Planning and Natural Resources), and James Taggart take Galt to the secret laboratory of the State Science Institute and try to torture Galt into cooperating. When the torture machine malfunctions and only John Galt knows how to repair it, the technician flees the scene, Wesley Mouch loses his nerve, and James Taggart goes insane with the realization that all he has ever wanted to do was to make better men than he suffer. Shortly afterward, Dagny, Francisco, Hank Rearden, and Ragnar all descend on the secret laboratory, kill most of its personnel, and rescue Galt. As the rescue plane heads west, the entire eastern seaboard is plunged into darkness.

Eddie Willers, who has traveled westward to negotiate a settlement with a radical faction who has seized power in California and imposed a "departure tax" on trains, is aboard the Comet when it breaks down for the last time. No one is able to start the train again, and Eddie finds himself left alone with the abandoned train as a wagon train takes all the passengers and crew off.

Eventually, the people of Mulligan's Valley realize that the American economy, the last of the world's economies, has collapsed totally and that the federal government essentially has nothing to govern anymore. John Galt declares that "the road is clear" and that his people will emerge from their valley and rebuild the economy on their own terms.

Spoilers end here.

Historical parallels

  • When Richard Nixon began his "four-phase program" of economic controls, beginning with his ninety-day wage-and-price freeze, Miss Rand commented tartly that she had anticipated that very sort of program in her work.
  • Miss Rand chose November 22 for the date of the "report on the world crisis." On that very date, six years after the publication of the novel, Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed John F. Kennedy.
  • When the Northeast Blackout of 1965 occurred, many students of Objectivism remembered tuning in their radios and half expecting someone to say, "This is John Galt speaking...."

Time setting

The novel gives no clue to its setting in time. Current plans for the film adaptation (see below) call for it to be set during the middle of the 1920s.[3]

The novel provides these clues to deciding what were the most likely years during which the action takes place:

  1. The novel depicts the first use of Diesel-electric locomotives in railroading. This is the clue that the International Movie Database mentions.[3]
  2. Railroads are the primary mode of overland transport.
  3. Airline service is still a projected service of the novel's future, and monoplanes are something new.
  4. Telephone service was well-established in this era, but had not achieved universal penetration. In one key scene, a low-level foreman complains to Dagny Taggart that most of the men whom she orders him to contact do not have telephone service where they live.
  5. Radio was the ubiquitous mass medium of the day. Television was something new and exotic, and had not achieved anything remotely approaching universal penetration. If this seems an anachronism, it was not: some inventors had actually experimented with television prior to the Great Depression, but obviously could not sell something as new and expensive as television when the country was, quite simply, "broke."
  6. Telegraphy, being much cheaper than full-duplex long-distance telephony, was still a prominent method of communication.
  7. The United States Navy is definitely not the powerful presence on the high seas that it is today, because the combined forces of the Navy are powerless to stop a single privateer from hijacking every government-ordered relief cargo sent to various "People's States."
  8. Every nation in the world, except the United States of America, is called "People's State of" whatever.
  9. The great "strike of the men of the mind" begins with a single engineer at a plant whose new owners abruptly decide to manage it according to the principles, such as they are, set forth in The Communist Manifesto.
  10. The government develops a weapon of mass destruction ("Project X", "Project Xylophone", "The Thompson Harmonizer"), intended to assert its authority by main force. This weapon is not nuclear, nor chemical, nor biological, but apparently is ultrasonic in nature.
  11. No such thing as gun control exists, or if it is attempted, it fails. The spontaneous strikers who take their inspiration from John Galt's speech set up armed camps in various forest regions.

The most likely span of the years of the great strike is 1917-1929, with the novel's major action taking place in the last three years of this period. This novel, then, qualifies as an alternate history of the United States of America, and of the civilized world. In this version of history, the United States did not intervene in the War of the Reds and the Whites in Russia, and probably did not participate in the First World War. That War probably ended with every country on earth, except America, becoming a Communist state. In addition, prohibition cannot have occurred, because alcoholic drinks flow freely in many settings.

Politically, the United States would have been in the hands of the proponents of Progressivism, which was in fact a potent-enough force in the election of 1912 to field a third party candidate for President (Theodore Roosevelt) who actually out-polled the losing major-party candidate in that race, William Howard Taft. In this version, perhaps, Woodrow Wilson does not have his stroke, or if he does, the Republican Party does not succeed in having a man as President for more than a single term, and their un-named incumbent loses to Mr. Thompson, who is still serving as President when the "looters' system" fails. (Mr. Thompson does not appear to be a parody of Franklin D. Roosevelt or any other known American political or other historical figure; he is merely a type and in fact is described as almost deliberately nondescript.)

Taxation during this period consisted primarily of the income tax, which in actual fact had recently been ratified as a valid Constitutional option. Though the confiscatory (up to 94%) tax rates of the Great Depression era would await the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, they could easily have been enacted into law earlier, during the hypothetical Thompson administration. Many other taxes, some of them completely ad hoc, are applied at one time or another in the course of the novel.


Main Article: Atlas Shrugged (criticism)

Atlas Shrugged has never been a critical favorite. Indeed, Barbara Branden, as quoted by Harold Leiendecker,[4] summed up the criticism thus:

The reviews of We the Living had been bad. The reviews of The Fountainhead has been worse. The reviews of Atlas Shrugged were savage.

Not all the reviews were savage, but most of them were. Even conservative reviewers spoke scathingly of it; for example, Whittaker Chambers said of it that every page screams, "To a gas chamber—go!"[5] Nathaniel Branden said of it, among other things, that it taught emotional repression as a virtue.[6]

Leiendecker, however, reminds us that many of the nefarious laws and "directives" that the novel mentions have in fact come to pass. His chief criticism was that the dialog (and in, John Galt's memorable case, monolog) of the heroes and anti-villains of the work often sounds "stilted," while the words of the villains ring true to their respective real-life anti-types.[4]

Film Adaptation

Almost since the initial publication of the novel, the most avid followers of Ayn Rand, who called themselves "students of Objectivism," have wished to see the novel adapted as a motion picture. To date only one of Ayn Rand's novels has been adapted for film: The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand herself wrote the screenplay for that film, in which Gary Cooper portrayed the leading protagonist, Howard Roark.

The major difficulties with adapting Atlas Shrugged to film were twofold. One, the story was simply too long for any one film to do it justice. Two, Hollywood values were already beginning to diverge from American values, and the prospect of a film that would be remotely faithful, either to the novel or to Ayn Rand's original motivation for writing it, always seemed rather remote.

Yet different producers have attempted a film adaptation for a long time. At one point, according to the trade paper Variety, Alfred S. Ruddy attempted for several years to do his own adaptation. Among the names of actors and actresses that were mentioned in connection with Ruddy's efforts were those of Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, and Faye Dunaway.[3]

Now an independent film company, Baldwin Entertainment, is now trying to produce an adaptation, currently rumored to release in 2011.[3] Writer Randall Wallace has been hired to write the script. For years, persistent rumor had it that Angelina Jolie would appear as Dagny Taggart, but today multiple actresses' names are in circulation, including Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts, and Anne Hathaway—though some fans of the novel insist that Cate Blanchett would be the best actress to interpret that role. Karen Baldwin, the head of Baldwin Entertainment, is quoted as saying that the novel is more timely than ever, though she would not elaborate on the reasons for that assessment. Current budget estimates run as high as $50 million US.[7][8]

As might be expected, several minor characters in the novel will not appear. They include Robert Stadler, the nominal head of the State Science Institute, and Cheryl Taggart, an impressionable young woman who marries James Taggart and then commits suicide on the strength of her realization of what sort of man she married.[3]

Recent popular mention

Protest sign at TEA Party, Morristown, New Jersey, April 15, 2009

In the context of the massive taxation and spending policies proposed by President Barack Obama and the United States Congress, Atlas Shrugged has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. Activists have mentioned the name of the novel, and of its primary anti-villain, in commentaries and on placards. Many liberal commentators in fact have asked scathingly whether certain persons allegedly threatening to "go Galt" mean what they say, and from the tone of their remarks, they seem quite prepared to bid such people "good riddance."


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "History of Atlas Shrugged," The Ayn Rand Institute, n.d. Accessed May 5, 2009. <http://atlasshrugged.com/book/history.html>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Branden B, The Passion of Ayn Rand, ca. 1985
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Entry for Atlas Shrugged," Internet Movie Database, accessed April 21, 2009. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0480239/>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Leiendecker H, "Atlas Shrugged," ASPEC Writers' Workshop, n.d. Accessed May 5, 2009. <http://www.eckerd.edu/aspec/writers/atlas_shrugged.htm>
  5. Chambers W, "Big Sister Is Watching You," National Review, December 28, 1957. Hosted at National Review Online, published January 5, 2005. Accessed May 1, 2009. <http://www.nationalreview.com/flashback/flashback200501050715.asp>
  6. Branden N, "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand," audio presentation, 1984. Transcript hosted at <http://www.nathanielbranden.com/catalog/articles_essays/benefits_and_hazards.html>.
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