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Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary
devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
The literary device of rhetorical questioning frequently
draws attention to key thematic elements. The most obvious example
is the unanswerable “Who is John Galt?” The question takes on many layers
of meaning: as a slang reference to hopelessness and futility, as
a source for speculation about the mythical figure who may have found
Atlantis, and finally as a public response to Galt’s radio broadcast.
Stadler’s “What can you do when you have to deal with people?” is
another recurring rhetorical question that takes on different meaning
based on context. For example, Stadler’s disillusioned question
is turned against him when Floyd Ferris uses it to coerce him into
speaking at the demonstration of Project X.
Motors are everywhere in the novel. The revolutionary
motor built by John Galt embodies the power to harness energy and
move things with it. Metaphorically, the motive power of the world
is in the rational mind, and when the mind is withdrawn, the “motor
of the world” begins to stop. In a real sense, motive power is essential
to Dagny, who continually searches for decent locomotives to pull
Bridges serve to represent the great things that can be
accomplished by the application of the mind. Rearden’s design for
the bridge on the John Galt Line, the first to be made from Rearden
Metal, shows a creative solution to a problem that he takes joy
in solving. Similarly, the great Taggart Bridge, which links the
East and West in a single transcontinental line, represents the
product of Dagny’s grandfather Nathaniel’s tireless effort and ingenuity.
The destruction of the bridge in the Project X disaster demonstrates
that the products of the creative mind are no longer appreciated
or understood, and the end is near.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Atlas Shrugged!