This post is based on two essays that I originally wrote six years ago, edited to fit your screen.
This summer I read everything that Ayn Rand wrote, fictional and nonfictional. I had read all of her nonfiction before, so that was mostly review, but I had never touched her fiction. Her four prominent fictional works are We The Living, Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged, which are the ones I’ll be addressing here.
Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in the early 20th century and lived through the Soviet revolution as a young adult. By the late 1920s she had escaped to the United States and started writing a decade later. Her work was clearly directed against Karl Marx, Soviet Stalinists, and their guiding philosophical principles.
Historical context is important because Rand was not writing in a vacuum, but addressing a particular philosophical movement. Like many thinkers, what Rand opposed shaped the things she supported. Her works make sense when read with people like Marx, Harold Laski (the basis for the character Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead), or Plato in mind. Rand intended her philosophy, Objectivism, to be a grand unifying theory, but it only addresses her immediate world…