full title Atlas Shrugged
author Ayn Rand
type of work Novel
genre Mystery; romance; epic; philosophy treatise
time and place written 1946–1957; 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.
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.