“The concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” says Ayn Rand in the appendix to Atlas Shrugged – One of her best works on the theme.
I didn’t quite understand the meaning the word before I read Ayn Rand. My first reading, last year was 'The Fountainhead.'
We have Howard Roark, a spirited, assertive individual who loves making buildings. So much that he considers what he builds a part of him. Vain and stubborn at times, he struggles because of the society’s inability to recognize art. Expelled from school, brought down to the streets; bombarded with all sorts of legal, moral and ethical weaponry society can produce. Let’s see how much he takes in!
Common opinion has become the standard and those who give people what they want even though it’s not what they need (or deserve) are the ones that rule. Peter Keating. A perfect example to the most ‘brilliant’ in a herd. Today’s most commonly seen sight.
And then Gail Wynad – somewhat of a realist. An idealist who made his fortune by telling people exactly what they wanted to hear. As the story progresses the reader is given a whole new perspective of life, one that could possibly lead to his questioning his very basic ethics. Enter Ellesworth Toohey, a masterpiece of a character whose intentions – malicious or selfless, are suspended in a state of ambiguous animation till almost what seems as the end, is a treat.
The one main female character in the book – Dominique Francon, probably the most interesting and the most complex. Each one of her actions connotes something different. She’s the one character you see as a new person every time you see her.
The best villain is the one who does not think he is one. And that’s what makes him ‘the best.’ Nobody is right or wrong here. It just has you stare hard at the face of the society; gives you a ringside ticket to the circus of life and tells you to decide what you want to be.
Normally I would finish reading a 700 page book within a day or two. But believe me; I took a whole month to finish this one. It was not just because of the intricate storyline, but also how well the feelings of her characters and ours resonate in sync. After every chapter, sometimes after a paragraph, I took long breaks to ponder upon and think of all that it could have possibly meant. No wonder her manuscripts got rejected so many times for being 'too good'! It’s philosophically heavy and you might need to spend some time on it but trust me when I tell you, every moment is totally worth it.
Another thing is, the beautiful but yet diverse ways in which her characters think. I must say, she really gets into the skin of the character concerned. The reader is confused and awed not knowing which character he truly supports. My friend once joked that if Roark lived today his passion for his craft would probably make him a hacker! There is no hint of partiality or influence of another character when she builds up a solid support story for one. Reflecting upon the profundity of the parallel paths each of the two lead characters take, their adventures, their rise and fall, the awesome climax is the recipe for a perfect masterpiece. A timeless classic, that one.
I can’t tell you if you’ll like it or not. I’ve seen some people saying they loved it and others left absolutely confused but I can say this, it’ll most definitely be a stirring moment in your life.