145 of 155 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2000
I have read Atlas Shrugged many times and I was pleasantly surprised by this cliffs notes summary and analysis of the book. It includes a short biography of Ayn Rand while the bulk of the book is spent on a detailed going over of Ayn Rand's plot, theme, and characters. It is fascinating to read an intelligent analysis of these characters. This is in-depth analysis and covers characters all the way from Hank Reardon to Gwen Ives. The gems of the book are the two critical essays; The Role of the Mind in Human Life and the Role of the Common Man in Atlas Shrugged: the Eddie Willers Story. There is even a little Atlas Shrugged quiz at the end...What is the theme of Atlas Shrugged? This book is written by an Objectivist author and is definately worth buying.
127 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2002
If the value of CliffsNotes was only to help readers discover with clarity what a particular author meant to convey in their novels, this book on _Atlas Shrugged_ would be trash. The reason is that Ayn Rand, more than any other author, wrote perfectly lucid novels about which no clarification is needed.
However, these books (of which I've only read a few) do offer another value that makes this one especially, not trash, but a book to be treasured. What they offer is this: the CliffsNotes books condense often-lengthy, important works of art so that they can be grasped--and remembered--with ease. And, as _Atlas Shrugged_ comprises some thousand plus pages with enough action and subplots to rival any novel by Hugo or Dumas, this value can perhaps never be more evident than with this new addition to the CliffsNotes series by Andrew Bernstein.
Cognizant of the task at hand, Dr. Bernstein condenses the entire book in a solid nine pages. From there, he lays down who the characters in the book are--as well as their relation to one another. And, after that, the reader is given a host of "critical commentaries" on each of the books thirty chapters which summarize what happened, pose questions to the reader that will be answered later, and reveal a number of instances where Miss Rand's overall theme can be seen.
Any person who is reading _Atlas_ for the first or second time ought to find these commentaries very helpful in understanding and appreciating the book. Unfortunately, as someone who has read the novel many times, I had to read many of the author's observations with a bitter-sweet sense of joy. ("Bitter" because I wish such a book was around when I first started reading Rand's novels and "sweet" because one finally is.)
Complete, undiluted happiness did not have to wait long however. Immediately after the "critical commentaries" is a section on the most important characters giving a detailed analysis of each. Then, at the end of the book, are two magnificent essays--one on the overall theme of _Atlas Shrugged_ and another on Miss Rand's portrayal of the common man which tells why the book's main "common man" (Eddie Willers) has an unresolved fate at the end. These two essays were a nice finishing touch for the book, making even a self-titled "veteran" reader like myself glad to have read it.
Taken all together, from the brief biography of Miss Rand at the beginning to the quizzes and projects to stimulate learning at the end, this book proves that Dr. Bernstein was the right man to pick for the job. And so, my gratitude goes out to the author and this last word of advice goes out to you, the person reading the words I've written here: "get this book whether you are reading _Atlas_ for the first time or not--as a supplement to Miss Rand's magnum opus there's nothing better on the market."
2,921 of 3,268 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I want to say from the beginning that one does not need to agree with a philosophy to appreciate it. Obviously most of the critics and some of the supporters have never read this work. One need not approve of communism to give the Communist Manifesto a high rating but it is certainly a must read.
Ayn Rand's philosophy is known as objectivism. It is essentially having a objective reason and purpose for every action you commit.
Atlas Shrugged is one of two major novels that outlines her entire philosophy while trying to show how it would be applied. That is why this book deserves a 5 star rating. Any philosopher can give generic ideas with no application. Rand puts it all on the line to show exactly how she means her philosophy to be interpreted.
The student of philosophy will be able to understand her philosophy quite clearly after reading this. If you agree with her philosophy you should encourage others to read this book. If this book is so clearly wrong then you should encourage others to read it so they will see how clearly wrong it is. Those that want it burned or object to others reading it know that she offers some very strong arguments for a position they clearly do not want to be true.
This book takes place probably around the 1950s. It is centered around the industrial sector of the U.S., the only government that has not become a People's State. The main character in this book is Dagny Taggart. She is a no-nonsense VP of Operations for the largest railroad in the world. She is intelligent and is solely driven to keeping her RR as the best.
The times are dim and getting dimmer. In the beginning the country is in a recession of sorts and it is up to Taggart and others like her to save the country. There are two problems that are preventing her from doing this. One, the government seeks more and more control when it should be stepping away. Second, the men of industry are disappearing one by one just when they are critically needed. No one knows where they go off to.
In the sense of a novel this is a good one. It is suspenseful and intriguing. Everyone can identify with the characters in this book. Most of the antagonists have been left rather shallow. That is on purpose. They are supposed to represent certain elements of society. This book can get dry at times. One man has a 60 page speech that can seem a little preachy at times but is wholly necessary within the context of the novel.
Ayn Rand is perhaps the best known and widest read philosopher of the 20th century. If you have any interest in philosophy or economics then this is a must read. Don't fear her teachings. An open mind is a dangerous thing to some people.
The most important thing to remember is not to take everything you read here as dogma. Think for yourself and apply whatever ideas make sense to you and ignore that which you don't like. Think for yourself. I think Rand would object to anyone blindly following her philosophy without actually believing in it. No one says you can't be charitable to others. Just make sure you do it of your own volition and not because it is expected of you or because you feel guilty.
74 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2001
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is a terrific condensation of Ayn Rand's masterpiece on the morality of capitalism, and it glows with author affection. Dr. Andrew Bernstein is sometimes called an "Ayn Rand evangelist," but he prefers to describe his activities using a more sober expression, "rational proselytization." His Cliffs distillation accurately captures the gist of Atlas Shrugged, the plot and the philosophy, and his post-chapter analyses offer the sort of illumination that comes only from deep knowledge of, and unbridled enthusiasm for, the subject matter.
Atlas Shrugged is, for many, a difficult book to get into; I know people who say they've attempted to start it five or six times. Given that Atlas is vastly richer than the Cliffs Notes version, my recommendation is for the reader to explore the Cliffs Notes and Atlas Shrugged simultaneously, chapter by chapter, first reading a condensed chapter and then the real thing.
And if you ever get the chance to see Dr. Bernstein in person, go for it. He's a captivating and witty speaker, a genuinely inspiring Ayn Rand evangelist.
952 of 1,123 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
An earlier reviewer struck an important vein when mentioning that academia and media have left this novel largely untouched, while it has continued to be read via word-of-mouth recommendations. Why? Rand is provocative; the novel engenders both deep respect and vitriolic opposition. Why?
To begin with, this is not an ordinarily structured novel; it is an overt statement of a philosophy. The plot, like many of those employed by Shakespeare, is not wholly original. (See an older book entitled "Secret of the League"). In any event, Rand uses the complex plot allegorically as a vehicle for describing her own unique philosophy and its consequences. Rand's philosophy, and it is clear enough upon reading, is a synthesis of Aristotelianism with more modern "humanistic" concerns, in the greatest and original sense of the term. Rand ties Aristotle's basic conceptions of logic to the workings of egoism and capitalism. She rejects Nietzschean irrationalism, Kantian ethics, and the kind of Pragmatism championed by Dewey. Her suggested replacement for these constructs is a body of thought which recognizes and responds to human needs and values, economic conditions, political necessities, and logical imperatives, even if incompletely at times. Oddly, her critics continue to tout her as little more than a "pop-philosopher". On to her book.
Atlas Shrugged is a fountainhead of skilled dialogue and monologue. Francisco's speech on "money" is insightful, and honest. Some prosaic passages, like Galt's enormous speech near the novel's end, could have used some editing. Nonetheless, such passages are meant to (and succeed in) conveying a rather thorough philosophy. Also adept at employing dialogue, Rand leaves cutting snippets and short verbal gems throughout the book. She distinguishes perceptively between 'what people commonly say' and 'what those words often covertly are intended to mean.' This making-bare is done through the frankness of her protagonists, some of which mere foils to reveal more probing insights. Those who would call her characters "shallow" may be correct if judging by contemporary literary standards which praise personal texture and ambiguity. Rand seems more interested in the kind of moral tale woven by the great Greek dramatists, in which characters are primarily vehicles of ideas.
It was once said that the purpose of philosophy is to start with something that everyone takes for granted, and to end with that which noone will believe. Rand uses Atlas Shrugged to achieve this kind of ideational journey. No shallow fanatic, her novel is a work is also a great psychological study of the motives of several common ideas, values, and ethical standards. She constructs in Atlas Shrugged a powerful critique of collectivism, that thought which says "We are our brother's keepers."
I suppose one reason for the novel's continued popularity is that most readers are far too intelligent to be comforted by other kinds of books whose authors want them to think they are profound because they are difficult to grasp. Zservedah once called "clear prose the conceptual tool of conservativism." Readers are probably tired of being asked to find beauty in the Emperor's clothes, in works of art which are ugly, and in books which are pessimistic. Atlas Shrugged is unabashedly lucid and candid; it is refreshing to find such confident and clear writing in this age of self-doubt, relativism, and academic obscurity.
You will be a richer person for having read it.
Are some of Rand's adherents sycophantic? Certainly. Yet if her philosophy were the kind of "cheap trash" critics claim it to be, why the vehemence of her opposition?
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2002
I've pushed my way through many years of school without buying a single Cliffsnotes. I found it funny that my first purchase would be for a book I choose to read on my own accord. Rand's novel can't be praised enough, but I also have to give the Cliffnotes for the novel their fair due. This little book was a great help in gaining a better understanding of this massive novel. I really enjoyed the in depth character analysis, the tight summary of the book, and the critical essays offered at the end. If I were to write a paper on the book, I would definitely gain from having these notes. More importantly, by reading the book chapter by chapter, then going to the Cliffnotes and reading along to cover what I had just read, I was able to get through a work that covers a TREMENDOUS amount of ground, with a huge scope, and not get lost. After gaining as much as I did from using the Cliffnotes as a study tool while reading this novel, I made sure to pick up the Cliffnotes for "Fountainhead" so I could do the same for that book. I will definitely give consideration to purchasing Cliffnotes for my longer, more challenging future reads.
773 of 928 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Atlas Shrugged is a good book, definitely entertaining and thought-provoking. With over 500 reviews here, there's not much I need to add to that. Although I don't like this book nearly so much as I did when I was 18, I still think everyone should read it.
My criticism of the book and of Rand's philosophy of Objectivism(the two are nearly inseparable) is that the psychology and the relationships are entirely divorced from reality.
If you're inclined to use Rand's characters as models for your own behavior -- something that's at least as bad as modeling your manners on those of sitcom characters -- then check out "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand: A Personal Statement" by Nathaniel Branden. This essay is posted on the web.
Like a lot of people, I read Atlas Shrugged -- and all Rand's other fiction and non-fiction -- while young and so was provided with an outlet for my teen angst and with fuel for those all-night bull sessions in college. (Kids without jobs, and philosophy professors with jobs, can debate for hours whether or not the world exists.) Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead also gave me a lot of silly ideas about dating that I fortunately outgrew. And when I got to the business world, I learned just how unreal Rand's world is.
A lot of people who read Atlas then decide that they also are misunderstood geniuses and act accordingly. Like Rand's characters, they imagine themselves to be absolutely right and the rest of the world to be absolutely wrong. I witnessed one Objectivist applying this to his job. He was smart and competent and young -- and convinced his way was the only way. He refused to listen to his coworkers, his bosses or his employees. He treated them all the way Rearden would treat any "looter" foisted on him in his own company. And, although his manager tried for a long time to teach him to deal with the real world, he ultimately found himself shown the door. He was still convinced that he had been absolutely right. For how could he possibly have anything to learn from other people? What was the point of listening to all these dimwits with their stupid ideas? Like John Galt, he was a law unto himself.
A few reviewers have mentioned how disgusted they were by the "rape scenes" in the novels. Most of these scenes are just consensual rough sex, except for the Dominique/Roark scene from The Fountainhead. Here again is an example of how Rand's characters fail to translate to real life. In the novel, the sex was NOT rape. Roark did a bit of quick mind-reading and untangled some complicated psychological problems in order to free Dominique's warped love and sexuality. (In Rand's novels, "no" really does mean "yes.") Like I said, this does not apply to real life.
Most of Rand's sex scenes are adolescent and laughable. I'm sure the editors of Cosmo would love to know Dagny's secret to (can I say this on Amazon?) never-fail simultaneous orgasm. Then again, those often produced post-coital philosophical speech-making by the men so maybe it's better left undiscovered.
"Love" in Rand's novels is equivalent to hero worship. This is fine if you take the novels as allegory, but not if you take them as realism. Rand intended her characters to be the latter. Dagny is in love with a man before she's ever met him, because he's the most brilliant mind to exist this century, if ever. Never mind such things as personality or compatibility. He's the greatest man in the world and she's the greatest woman, therefore their response to each other must be love. (This, incidentally, is how Rand justified her adulterous affair with Nathaniel Branden.) Instead of finding their own loves, at least other three men are left to pine for Dagny for the rest of their lives. She represents their highest value; how could they love another? (Branden moved on.)
In short, you'll be missing a lot by NOT reading this book. But you'll miss even more if you decide to mold yourself into a Rand character.
1,034 of 1,244 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2005
I thought I'd be ambitious and write an actual review of the novel, rather than a review of Ayn Rand or her philosophy, Objectivism. Although I hold both in high regard, I think any disrespectful ad hominems need no response.
First let me tell you what this book is not. Atlas Shrugged is not a novel depicting ordinary people in ordinary situations. It is not here to tell you what is - it is here to tell you what could be and should be. That is why so many find the characters unbelievable, unreachable, even childish in their idealism.
As for the ideal itself, it is personified in the productive giants of (then) modern America. Dagny Taggart does railroads, Francisco D'Anconia does copper mines, Hank Rearden - steel. For centuries, men have asked what would happen if the working class went on strike; Miss Rand asks, what would happen if the men of industry went on strike.
What would happen if Atlas, a man whose shoulders held a world damning him a robber baron, shrugged? This is not a novel for the chronic skepticists who dismiss strong convictions as dogmatism, nor for the pessimists who proudly declare that they "grew out" of Miss Rand's "naive optimism."
For everyone else, though, I recommend Atlas Shrugged highly.
671 of 811 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've never seen any point in all the "read this! buy this!" stuff of customer reviews, but I felt compelled to respond after stumbling across all of the tripe posted here by the vehemently Anti-Rand. I noticed that one of the major complaints is the length of the book. This amuses me; I would hope that anyone who thinks themselves intelligent enough to argue the psychological premises of this book would be past the childlike complaint of "It's too long!"...when did reading become "work"? I thought we'd outgrown that, children... I am seventeen years old and I just finished reading this book for the third time. I wouldn't say that it changed my life so much as it reaffirmed my existing view of life as I always knew it should be. when reading this, or any of rand's other work, I am always tempted to underline, to highlight the countless passages in which she has described all of the vague notions that I could never quite put into words. I am baffled by those who call her characters "shallow" and "one-dimensional"; I have never encountered any characters in literature who are as deeply affected by the world around them as Dagny, Rearden, Galt, etc. (Their actions alone should be sufficient proof of this...did you people actually read the novel? How can you overlook an entire plot?). Others complain that the novel's premises are "too black-and-white", saying that no one could actually go to such emotional extremes "in real life". Is it any wonder, then, that such people completely miss the point of this novel? This is probably the most important book I have ever read. My only regret is that I did not purchase the hardcover copy (my paperback has become quite tattered). Pay no attention to the outbursts of one-star reviewers...I seriously doubt that they have any idea what they're talking about.
One more thing: when did passion become a sexual offense? All of these "rape" comparisons annoy me. The term "rape" refers to consent, and the characters in this book are obviously willing. They are intense, yes, but violence and rape are not necessarily the same thing. I didn't know people could be so easily confused...such are the times, I suppose.
276 of 333 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ayn Rand's message is not subtle and she does not mince words, yet the novel is elegantly written with a passion and idealism that would seem stilted if there were not so much substance to those words. What is the meaning of life? Who do you live for? Who SHOULD you live for? Why? These are the questions that Rand attempts to answer (for whom is your choice), using (1) heavy-handed but logical arguments, and (2) the wonderfully flawed, yet perfectly human characters who encounter problems and dilemmas very similar (too similar?) to those found today. Reason, morality, and integrity are the true heroes of this novel, no faith required, no religion necessary. In a society where relativism and mysticism are unconsciously accepted tenets of so many people values, this novel provides and ARGUES (a lost art these days ...but I digress) another point of view.
For those (such as myself) religiously inclined, Rand comes even more highly recommended, for I have found that reason and faith are not mutually exclusive concepts, and reconciling the two has led me at least to a more complete philosophy of life, where morality is guided by my own reason and principles, not by faith or the opinions of others. Perhaps this book will start you down the same road and the journey for you will be similarly rewarding.
And if for no other reason, read it so you understand greedy capitalists :)