The final novel written by Russian-born American philosopher and author Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged is a controversial and widely popular work. According to a 1991 Library of Congress report, it is considered the second most influential book after the Bible in the lives of its readers. A complex combination of mystery, love story, social criticism, and philosophical concepts, the 1,100-page novel embodies the author’s passionate celebration of individualism, free will, capitalism, logic, and reason.
Set in an imaginary America in a communist world, Atlas Shrugged is a sharp critique of a corrupt communist system and its damaging effects on areas as various as love, science, and industrial productivity. The novel’s main protagonists, Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden, are capitalist-minded industrialists, “Atlases” who carry the collapsing national economy on their backs. Things change, however, when the mysterious John Galt begins a revolution against the existing order, believing that the parasitic society would destroy itself if its competent and hard-working members would simply stop working. But first, the protagonists must learn how to let go of the ties of obligation, responsibility, and guilt connecting them to the abusive community in all aspects of their lives.
As Rand said to her biographer, Nathaniel Branden, the novel explains her philosophical principles in a dramatic action story combining “metaphysics, morality, economics, politics and sex.” Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged with a sense of mission; she said, “[A]fter Atlas I was no longer pressured, my lifelong assignment was over.” Despite tremendous popular success-the novel sold over 5 million copies by 1984-Rand believed she had explained her philosophical views clearly enough and did not write another word of fiction for the rest of her life