By Catherine Petruccione


Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was a Russian born novelist and philosopher who is most famous for writing The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.  These two novels are strong tributes to similar themes on the power of the individual and the continuing struggle of creativity and excellence over mediocrity and apathy in society.   This theme became a crusade in the wake of Ayn Rand’s writing, with followers forming societies such as The Atlas Society and The Ayn Rand Society, which adopted Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and still exist today (for a definition of Objectivism, visit the website of The Ayn Rand Society at (http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_intro


“Who is John Galt?” was a question repeated across the country in the book Atlas Shrugged, referring to the enigmatic male hero, whose identity is discovered only after an extended quest by Dagny Taggart, the heroine of the novel.   Galt, an ingenious inventor whose work was thwarted by the greed and dysfunction of a bureaucratic society that designed to reward mediocrity, begins taking actions from behind the scenes to prove a point: that if the creative accomplishments of self-motivated individuals are removed from the world, the world falls apart.


Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957 and has seemed timely to me no matter the era in which I have read it, which says a lot for the novel.  For instance, the last straw for the character John Galt is when he is foiled in his effort to produce his design for a revolutionary new motor powered by static electricity, in spite of the fact (or because) it has the potential to completely replace the gas combustion engine and has the power to change the world.   Sounds more relevant than ever, doesn’t it?


The Fountainhead was Rand’s first big success (published in 1943) and was made into a decently adapted (screenplay was done by Ayn herself) Warner Brothers film starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal in 1949.  The main character here is Howard Roark, a brilliant architect who refuses to compromise his ideals, even when it costs him money and fame.  Roark’s work is always under threat from “second-handers,” the ubiquitous others who are either afraid or jealously unwilling to recognize the quality in the creations of their fellow men.  Dominique, the female heroine who becomes involved with Roark, abandons her once dearly held ideals of individualism but eventually returns to them to find fulfillment and happiness.  


Because of her Russian roots and exposure to the effects of Communism, Ayn Rand understandably worshiped the ideas of capitalism and  self-reliance.  Although readers may not agree with all of Ayn Rand’s philosophies, there are large and undeniable truths in her writing.  Her books are well worth reading and will probably be valued, read and re-read for generations to come.


Selected Published Works by Ayn Rand

(from The Atlas Society website:  http://www.atlassociety.org/cth--1672-AynRandBibliography.aspx



We the Living.  New York: Macmillan, 1936.  Second edition, New York: New American Library, 1959. 60th anniversary edition, New York: Dutton, 1995. Paperback edition, New York: New American Library, 1996.

The Fountainhead.   Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1943. 50th anniversary edition, New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1993. Paperback edition, New York: Signet, 1996.

Anthem.  Los Angeles: Pamphleteers, Inc., 1946. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1953. 50th anniversary edition, New York: Dutton, 1996. Paperback edition, New York: Plume, 1999.

Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957. 35th anniversary edition, New York: Dutton, 1992. Paperback, New York: Signet, 1996.

The Early Ayn Rand: A Selection from Her Unpublished Fiction. Ed. by Leonard Peikoff. New York: New American Library, 1984. Includes short stories, plays, and selected excerpts of material deleted from her novels.


Night of January 16th. New York: World Publishing, 1968. Paperback edition, New York: Plume, 1987.

Ideal. (Published in The Early Ayn Rand.)

Think Twice. (Published in The Early Ayn Rand.)



Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man’s values, it has to be earned.

 ~ Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged