I don't know what prompted me to read this book in the first place. I thought the cover was interesting, and the picture on it evoked in me a certain feeling of lifeless helplessness.
"Atlas Shrugged" seemed to me like a good idea to read, and I still strongly believe that it is, but now I have some apprehensions. I'm not going to stop reading it by any means, as it has become some sort of challenge that I want to surpass and watch come to fruition.
In the beginning of the story I was enraptured with Ayn Rand's detailed description of the internal workings of the human mind. The first character she introduces seems temporarily vital, and she attaches to him certain sentimental attributes. The first hint of humility that she portrays within him is in his memories of an enormous tree that grew and lived in the area in which he spent his youth. He had a fondness for the tree that gave him a sense of security; nothing could diminish its power and nothing could make it any less than what it actually was.
I naively identified with this very first character that was introduced into the book, because I too find sappy and romantic innotations within everyday objects that could most easily be taken for granted. For this character it was that majestic and seemingly indestructible tree, which was the focal point of this character's security and sense of self. There's a specific message encompassing the tree though, I think, one of futility and false reliability. I believe it is supposed to remind and teach the reader that nothing in the world is indefatigable; that emotional attachment should never take hold in living things.
As far as I have gotten in the book, I still have no idea what role this first character plays in the story. He seems to thus far be nothing more than a sort of messenger boy; a weaker character that feels so much more than the others like human. I feel such a sense of weakness in this character that it's almost offensive, and I'm coming to my point pretty quickly here, I hope.
The more I advance in this story, the more of a slight shock to my system it is. I finished a chapter of it a short while ago and I felt the need to close to book, to absorb the paragraphs I had read. I ran a bath and tried to clear my mind but in vain, the story still filled my mind with so many different methods of analysis that can be entertained. It wasn't until the water was drained that I realized in which way this book is affecting me.
As a side explanation: I believe that all forms of art can't have a direct and cemented meaning. People think too differently to look at the world through any artist's eyes and no one can entirely connect with an artist. People make up their own meanings for things that are expressed, not only because it's human nature, but also because they can; they have the desire and complete freedom to do so. There is also no way of determining exactly how a certain piece of art is going to affect the psyche of one person, nor an entire group of people. What I'm trying to profess here is that there's no way I'm going to be able to comprehend, in entirety, Ayn Rand's meaning or purpose when she wrote 'Atlas Shrugged'. All I can pull from this story is what it does to my mind and what my mind chooses to make of it.
Here's what it's doing to my mind thus far. Most of the characters in this book seem rather sociopathic. They don't feel things for people or for any of the usual yearnings of mankind. They find no meaning in anything other than metal, concrete, machinery, money. Material wealth is the only thing that drives these people in this story and it's the only thing keeping them alive. They're egotistical, maniacal and intellectual beyond means of description. These characters are put onto such a high pedestal that fear of heights seems completely necessary, and the weak minded, warmhearted people that find joy within each other are ants beneath their feet.
I fear that this book represents a certain stature that is against my nature entirely. It seems to portray that passionate people who feel enticed to do good for others, or at least, to feel for others, are delusional and incapable of success. It seems to want to send the message that the only way to succeed is to have a heart made of steel and to cast aside fellow human beings, simply because it is impossible for persons with such high intelligence to experience anything but pessimism and regret, surrounding the fact of mutual existence on the same planet as humans who find purpose and a reason for living other than that of materialism.
As I read this I feel like I'm quietly being mocked, but I don't want to stop reading. Yet.