Atlas Shrugged

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Self-will so ardent and active that it will break a world to pieces to make a stool to sit on.
Richard Cecil
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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)

  • Who is John Galt? (first words)
  • Evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from us.
  • I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
  • It is not advisable, James, to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener.
  • There might be some sort of justification for the savage societies in which a man had to expect that enemies could murder him at any moment and had to defend himself as best he could. But there can be no justification for a society in which a man is expected to manufacture the weapons for his own murderers.
  • Rationality is the recognition of the fact that nothing can alter the truth and nothing can take precedence over that act of perceiving it.
  • He did not know whether the impossibility of acting had given him this sense of loathing, or whether the loathing had made him lose the desire to act. It's both, he thought; a desire presupposes the possibility of action to achieve it; action presupposes a goal which is worth achieving. If the only goal possible was to wheedle a precarious moment's favor from men who held guns, then neither action nor desire could exist any longer. Then could life? he asked himself indifferently. Life, he thought, had been defined as motion; man's life was purposeful motion; what was the state of a being to whom purpose and motion were denied, a being held in chains but left to breathe and to see all the magnificence of the possibilities he could have reached, left to scream "Why?", and to be shown the muzzle of a gun as sole explanation?
  • The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it.
  • The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.
  • There is no necessity for pain--why, then, is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept its necessity?--we who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom?
  • Haven't I? -- he thought. Haven't I thought of it since the first time I saw you? Haven't I thought of nothing else for two years?. . . He sat motionless, looking at her. He hear the words he never allowed himself to form, the words he had felt, known, yet had not faced, had hoped to destroy by never letting them be within his own mind, Now it was as sudden and shocking as if he were saying it to her…Since the first time I saw you…. Nothing but your body, that mouth of yours, and the way your eyes would look at me, if…. Through every sentence I ever said to you, through every conference you thought were so safe, through the importance of all the issues we discussed…. You trusted me, didn't you? To recognize greatness? To think of you as you deserved -- as if you were a man?
  • Love is our response to our highest values.
  • She thought suddenly that she was wrong about his lack of emotion: the hidden undertone of his manner was enjoyment. She realized that she had always felt a sense of light-hearted relaxation in his presence and known that he shared it. He was the only man she knew to whom she could speak without strain or effort. This, she thought, was a mind she respected an adversary worth matching. Yet there had always been an odd sense of distance between them, the sense of a closed door; there was in impersonal quality in his manner, something within him that could not be reached.
  • She was twelve years old when she told Eddie Willers that she would run the railroad when they grew up. She was fifteen when it occurred to her for the first time that women did not run railroads and that people might object. To hell with that, she thought---and never worried about it again.
  • So you think you're sure of your opinions? You cannot be sure of anything. Are you going to endanger the harmony of your community, your fellowship with your neighbors, your standing, reputation, good name and financial security--for the sake of an illusion? For the sake of a mirage of thinking that you think? Are you going to run risks and court disasters---at a precarious time like ours---by opposing the existing social order in the name of those imaginary notions of yours which you call your convictions? You say that you're so right? Nothing is right, or ever can be. (These words are from one of the novel's villains.)
  • Rationality is the recognition of the fact that existence exists, that nothing can alter the truth and nothing can take precedence over that act of perceiving it, which is thinking...
  • Love is the expression of one's values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives from the virtues of another.
  • Why ask useless questions? How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky? Who is John Galt?
  • I'll give you a hint. Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.
  • For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors - between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.
  • [Robin Hood] was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I'm the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich-or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.
  • If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders - What would you tell him?
I…don't know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?
To shrug.
  • We can never lose the things we live for. We may have to change their forms at times, if we've made an error, but the purpose remains the same and the forms are ours to make.
  • There is no necessity for pain; why then is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept it's necessity?
  • He still thought it self evident that one had to do what was right. He never learned how people could want to do otherwise, he had only learned that they did.
  • His attitude was not 'I can do it better than you', but simply 'I can do it'.
  • Two things were impossible to him: To stand still or to move aimlessly.
  • He had never known fear, because against any disaster he had held the omnipotent cure of being able to act.
  • I am the man who loves his life. I am the man who does not compromise his love or his values.
  • Why have we left it all to fools? It should have been ours.

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