Quotes from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982) is a 1957 novel by the controversial author known for her Objectivist philosophy. Atlas Shrugged was her fourth and longest novel, her last major work of fiction, and the one she considered her magnum opus. She went on to focus on nonfiction after its publication. Here we’ll explore a selection of quotes from Atlas Shrugged that give a taste of its style and substance.

The novel takes place in a version of the United States where private businesses are suffering due to harsh regulations and laws. Lovers Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon struggle to fight against looters who are aiming to profit from their productivity.

In their struggle to protect their business, they discover that a strange man named John Galt is attempting to persuade other business owners to leave their companies as a strike against the looters. Towards the end of the novel, the strikers use Galt’s philosophy of reason and individualism to create a new capitalist society.

Though reviewers have always been mixed on the book’s literary merits, Atlas Shrugged was rated No. 1 by Modern Library’s 1998 online poll and number twenty out of one hundred novels in 2018 by PBS Great American Read television series.

Rand used this novel to share her ideas on free enterprise, competition, money and love. Though it did receive a large number of negative and rather sarcastic reviews after being published, it also earned lasting popularity and had ongoing sales in the following years. Today, the novel is still making appearances in the classroom as the Ayn Rand Institute donates four-hundred thousand copies to high school students each year. 

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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
An original  1957 review of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
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“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists … it is real … it is possible … it’s yours.”

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“If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.”

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“We are on strike against martyrdom—and against the moral code that demands it. We are on strike against those who believe that one man must exist for the sake of another. We are on strike against the morality of cannibals, be it practiced in body or in spirit. We will not deal with men on any terms but ours—and our terms are a moral code which holds that man is an end in himself and not the means to any end of others.”

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“To the extent to which a man is rational, life is the premise directing his actions. To the extent to which he is irrational, the premise directing his actions is death.”

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“People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked …The man who lies to the world, is the world’s slave from then on …There are no white lies, there is only the blackest of destruction, and a white lie is the blackest of all.”

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“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.”

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“I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle.”

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“All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.”

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“A man’s sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions … He will always be attracted to the woman who reflects his deepest vision of himself, the woman whose surrender permits him to experience a sense of self-esteem. The man who is proudly certain of his own value, will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer — because only the possession of a heroine will give him the sense of an achievement.”

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“Never think of pain or danger or enemies a moment longer than is necessary to fight them.”

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“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.”

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“Let me give you a tip on a clue to men’s characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.”

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“She did not know the nature of her loneliness. The only words that named it were: This is not the world I expected.”

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“I never found beauty in longing for the impossible and never found the possible to be beyond my reach.”

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“What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing? Every living thing must grow. It can’t stand still. It must grow or perish.”

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“He was seeing a long line of men stretched through the centuries from Plato onward, whose heir and final product was an incompetent little professor with the appearance of a gigolo and the soul of a thug.”

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“The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.”

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“But he still thought it self-evident that one had to do what was right; he had never learned how people could want to do otherwise; he had learned only that they did.”

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“Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.”

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“Logic rests on the axiom that existence exists. Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.”

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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand on Amazon

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“Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death.”

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“By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.”

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“The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.”

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“Reality is that which exists; the unreal does not exist; the unreal is merely that negation of existence which is the content of a human consciousness when it attempts to abandon reason. Truth is the recognition of reality; reason, man’s only means of knowledge, is his only standard of truth.”

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“A process of reason is a process of constant choice in answer to the question: True or False? — Right or Wrong?”

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“That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call ‘free will’ is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character.”

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“This, in every hour and every issue, is your basic moral choice: thinking or non-thinking, existence or non-existence, A or non-A, entity or zero.”

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“All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.”

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“To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of non-existence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes.”

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Ayn Rand

More on the life of Ayn Rand
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Skyler Isabella Gomez is a 2019 SUNY New Paltz graduate with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Black Studies. Her passions include connecting more with her Latin roots by researching and writing about legendary Latina authors.

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