Given the resurgence in popularity of Ayn Rand's classic novel Atlas Shrugged, I thought I would publish this list of Atlas Shrugged characters in graphic form, comparing and contrasting them according to their ability- graphed along the x-axis and their morality- graphed along the y-axis.
Men of extreme talent and unwavering moral courage are heroes in Rand's estimation. They include John Galt, Francisco D'Anconia, Ragnar Danneskjold, Ellis Wyatt, Richard Halley, Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggert, and many others. Atlas Shrugged includes however, a picture of people who lack the creative ability of these heros, but match their moral certitude and steadfastness. These include Dagny's assistant, Eddie Willers and James Taggert's temporary wife, Cheryl Brooks. On the other hand, people who lack ability and morals are moochers and looters, who live off the strength of others and consider others as means to their own meaningless, bare survival. These include James Taggert, Philip Rearden, the Starnes heirs, and Wesley Mouch among others. Last of all, there are the men of competence who lack the morality to be heroes. They are instead cowards like Mr. Mowen and Dr. Stadler.
Naturally, John Galt- being the ideal man- is in the very upper right corner of the graph. He is a man of unmatched ability and his motor invention operated off of a new theory of energy, turning all conventional scientific understanding on its head while simultaneously providing humanity with a revolutionary device that would increase human productivity and standards of living by several orders of magnitude. Additionally, John Galt is a man of fierce, uncompromising morality. He understands completely and explicitly, the nature of reality, human beings, and a moral human society, and he exemplifies his clearly understood principles. Though we may not all be men and women of prodigious ability, Ayn Rand believes we all can and ought to be moral human beings. Instead of being envious, parasitic, and destructive, she urges us in her writing to admire excellence, strive for our very best, and never consider the life of another human being as something we can dispose of freely for our own benefit. These are the premises of a well-ordered, civil society.
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