Skip over navigation

Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions & Essay Topics

full title ·  Atlas Shrugged

author · Ayn Rand

type of work · Novel

genre · Mystery; romance; epic; philosophy treatise

language · English

time and place written ·  19461957; Unites States

date of first publication ·  1957

publisher · Random House

narrator · The story is told by an anonymous third-person narrator.

point of view · The narrator speaks in the third person, focusing mainly on Dagny and Rearden, but following all the characters. Characters and actions are described subjectively; the narrator offers insight into the inner emotions and thoughts of the characters as well as their outward activities.

tone · On the surface, the story is narrated in a detached, objective tone, but Rand’s underlying attitude toward modern society is bitterly ironic and satirical.

tense · Past

setting (time)  · Unspecified point in the second half of the twentieth century

setting (place) · The United States

protagonist · Dagny Taggart

major conflict · Dagny must try to keep her railroad from collapsing before she can find the destroyer who is systematically removing the men of the mind from the world.

rising action · As the dangerous collectivist policies of powerful looters plunge the country into chaos and the destroyer claims more men, Dagny begins to doubt her commitment to the railroad.

climax · Dagny follows the destroyer, John Galt, and discovers the vanished men, who urge her to join their strike of the mind; she is torn between love for her railroad and the rationality of their position.

falling action · The looters imprison Galt, revealing their true evil nature, and Dagny realizes she must join the strike; she and the other strikers rescue Galt in a gunfight.

themes · The importance of the mind; the evils of collectivism; the need to integrate mind and body

motifs · Rhetorical questions; motive power; bridges

symbols · The sign of the dollar; the bracelet; Wyatt’s Torch; Atlas

foreshadowing · Paul Larkin warns Rearden to watch his “Washington man,” Wesley Mouch, who will rise to power after betraying Rearden and ultimately try to destroy Rearden Steel. Francisco describes his mismanagement of the San Sebastian Mines as the result of following politically popular ideas. Later, the large-scale destruction of the economy naturally follows from the looters’ devotion to these ideas. Francisco warns the looters that their complex political and economic structure could be destroyed by someone’s simply naming the exact nature of what they are doing. In his radio speech, Galt does just this.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us