The philosophy underlying Atlas Shrugged draws heavily from Aristotle and another unlikely source – Aquinas. The reason that Aquinas is an unlikely source is that Ayn Rand, the author, had little respect for religion: Ayn Rand was an atheist.
Aquinas relied heavily on the teachings of Aristotle; in fact, Aquinas’ teachings about the road to happiness were very close to those of Aristotle, but with one vital addition – love of neighbor. Aquinas believed that no one could reach happiness in this life without that love from another. This point is one of the many major hallmarks of the novel. In fact, only one character in the novel actually reaches happiness, the seven and final gallery of my book. In the book, that character is able to pass easily between the everyday world and the world of the virtuous.
Several of the book’s characters hear the call to adventure but decide to ignore it. Each of these characters is destined to a life of despair and loss in the everyday world. They will be forced to travel a very hard road in isolation. Such a character who has ignored the call to adventure is brilliantly presented near the end of the book.
Many of the book’s characters hear the call to the adventure, accept it, but fail in their quest, not being able to withstand the forces against them. Some of these characters die a violent death but with the knowledge that they gave their best to the adventure. Other characters survive the trials only to return to the everyday world to perhaps try again at a future time.
One of the more interesting set of characters are those who recognized the call, accepted the call, fought the trials and won, but are awaiting the entrance to happiness. These characters are described in great detail in the book. They are ones who are at the threshold of happiness awaiting the help of others in the everyday world to pull them from the adventure across the threshold back to the everyday world. These characters possess great boons or gifts for society, but ones available only if society aids them in their crossing of the threshold.
It is this group of characters that I would like to discuss in my next post. These characters are the ones that have made it to the sixth gallery of my book. It is in describing the lives and actions of these characters that Atlas Shrugged greatly adds to the understanding of the road to happiness.