Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Literary Timeline Six Novel Ideas My Favorite Novel Elements of the Novel Top Novel Lists About the Program
Navigate through 200 years of the American Novel using scrollable tools and pulldown menus.
Use these pulldown menus to read more about novels, authors & movements.
Atlas Shrugged Return to Timeline
Atlas Shrugged
ATLAS SHRUGGED, by Ayn Rand
"Who is John Galt?" Readers of Ayn Rand's novels will recognize the question as both a figurative expression of despair and an allusion to a major character in her best-selling novel, ATLAS SHRUGGED. Since its publication during the Cold War, ATLAS SHRUGGED has been a mainstay in libraries and bookstores across America.

Dagny Taggart is the protagonist through whom the events of the story unfold. Dagny is a beautiful, successful, intelligent woman who must save her family's company, Taggart Transcontinental, from tremendous political, economic, and familial difficulties. She relies on her idyllic belief in the ultimate good nature of others when she is faced with financial and industrial challenges. Unfortunately, she is one of a dying breed. She is surrounded by conniving opportunists who seek to gain political power and amass fortunes through the exploitation of other people's labors.

Dagny ultimately joins the cast of heroic characters (John Galt, Hank Rearden, Francisco D'Anconia) who willingly remove themselves from the personally and professionally suffocating world in which they are being abused and manipulated. As the hard-working thinkers and doers in the society steadily disappear, the corrupt government implodes, to the detriment of its most conniving members and the society at large. The strike against the government is a rebellion against coerced self-sacrifice and a statement that thinking and producing are the only acts that can sustain a society.

The ideals developed throughout the novel reflect Ayn Rand's intense opposition to Communism, the effects of which she experienced directly as a child growing up in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution.

Previous | Next

The American Novel