Atlas Shrugged: Rearden Family Values

Atlas Shrugged, p.38-48

After a long day at the mills, Hank Rearden returns home to his family. And holy cow, but the ensuing scene is an appalling glimpse into Ayn Rand’s mind. She manages something truly remarkable: she writes so as to portray Rearden as thoroughly rude, thoughtless, and self-absorbed, while at the same time making it clear that she expects us to identify and sympathize with him and not with his family, who all seem to have very reasonable complaints.

Waiting for him at home are his mother, his wife Lillian, his brother Philip and a family friend, Paul Larkin. His wife says – correctly, from all textual indications – that he’d promised to join them for dinner that night, but stood them up without even a note of apology or regret:

“Why, darling,” she said in a bright tone of amusement, “isn’t it too early to come home? Wasn’t there some slag to sweep or tuyères to polish?”
…”I’m sorry,” he answered. “I know I’m late.”
“Don’t say you’re sorry,” said his mother. “You could have telephoned… You promised to be here for dinner tonight.”
“Oh, that’s right, I did. I’m sorry. But today at the mills, we poured—” He stopped; he did not know what made him unable to utter the one thing he had come home to say; he added only, “It’s just that I forgot.” [p.38]

Rearden’s mother is upset with him because a friend of hers was there for dinner earlier that night, a woman who wanted to meet her famous industrialist son, but who ended up leaving disappointed. It’s strongly implied that this isn’t the first time this has happened:

“You’re not interested in any of us or in anything we do. You think if you pay the bills, that’s enough, don’t you? Money! That’s all you know. And all you give us is money. Have you ever given us any time?” [p.40]

The text says that Rearden reacts to this accusation with a “heavy, murky feeling” of disgust. And yet, again, Rand herself tells us that his mother is absolutely correct, because she says of Rearden: “He felt nothing for them now, nothing but the merciless zero of indifference” [p.43].

But the most astonishing part is what comes next. Lillian wants to throw a party: “I know that you’re so very busy, but it’s for three months from now and I want it to be a very big, very special affair, so would you promise me to be here that night and not in Minnesota or Colorado or California?” Rearden initially refuses to participate at all, saying, “You know that I can’t tell what urgent business might come up to call me out of town.” But she persists:

“The date I had in mind was December tenth, but would you prefer the ninth or the eleventh?”
“It makes no difference to me.”
She said gently, “December tenth is our wedding anniversary, Henry.”

When she says this, Rearden’s family is all watching him “as if they expected a look of guilt” – as well they might. But all they get from him, instead, is “a faint smile of amusement”.

“All right, Lillian,” he said quietly, “I promise to be here on the night of December tenth.” [p.41]

Not even a word of apology, much less a glimmer of acknowledgement that this date should matter to him too! His only response is a long-suffering sigh of reluctant agreement, granting what the text calls “her victory”. (If Randians see their personal relationships in the same zero-sum spirit as a business contract, that would go a long way toward explaining passages like this.)

Finally, to close out the scene, Hank announces that he’s brought his wife a gift. It’s a bracelet made from the first pouring of Rearden Metal: “The links were heavy, crudely made, the shining metal had an odd tinge, it was greenish-blue.” [p.41]

Now, this may be technologically significant, and doubtless it’s personally meaningful to Hank Rearden. But it’s clearly not a romantic gift – Rand herself tells us that it’s heavy and crude! – and yet, he presents it as if he expects Lillian to treat it as one: like “a returning crusader offering his trophy to his love”. And then he’s befuddled when his brother and mother, quite accurately I think, both call him “conceited” for it.

So, to summarize: Rearden only cares about running his business and making money; he feels nothing for his wife and family but empty, merciless indifference and has no interest in their lives. He works such long hours they almost never see him, he repeatedly breaks plans with them, and on the rare occasions he does talk with them, it’s mostly in monosyllabic grunts. He gives his wife a piece of industrial metal as a present. He forgets the date of his own wedding anniversary, and refuses even to feel embarrassed about it when reminded. And he’s supposed to be the hero we admire and sympathize with, while his wife and family are portrayed as shrill nags and greedy parasites whom we should despise.

It’s such a perfect emblem of Rand’s bizarrely warped worldview that she expects readers to accept this. Given the way Rearden is introduced, in any other book or movie he’d be the distracted and obsessed workaholic who learns the error of his ways and recommits himself to his family by the final act. That’s a hoary cliché – but it’s a cliché because the vast majority of people believe that family and friendship are more important than work, and treat someone who thinks otherwise as a sign of distorted priorities.

Rand not only doesn’t hold that view, it doesn’t even seem to occur to her that any of her readers would either, which is why she doesn’t try to make her protagonists less unappealing. If she’d wanted to make Rearden more clearly in the right, she easily could have. For example, she could have written his family as greedy and ungrateful, always demanding more wealth and luxury from Hank no matter how many comforts he furnishes them with. But that isn’t the case. If anything, their only complaint is that they want to spend more time with him!

This is a more fleshed-out vision of the same philosophy expressed by Dagny, who, as I mentioned earlier, doesn’t see the point of climbing mountains, rescuing people from burning buildings, or doing anything except running a corporation. None of Rand’s protagonists have any close family, any real friends (as opposed to business associates), or any hobbies or interests outside work, which consumes every moment of their waking lives.

This isn’t human; it’s basically the worldview of an assembly-line robot. And what’s worse, anyone who does display normal-human-being behavior, even their own mothers, they treat either with uncomprehending bafflement or sneering contempt. Ayn Rand expects us to view this as supremely noble and admirable. I think any motionally healthy person would disagree.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • James_Jarvis

    I’ve read read Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead. I just occurred to me that Rand’s heroes never have children. This is significant. Anyone who has ever had children knows that the one thing children value most is your time and attention. They are also utterly dependent on their parents during their early years of life. I shutter to think what it would like to have Dagny and Rearden as parents.

  • Pulse

    If we begin with the assumption that Rearden honestly, deep down doesn’t give a damn about his family, then his behavior toward them is perfectly predictable. You strongly imply that there is something egregiously wrong, even inhuman, with this attitude, and most readers also should be similarly disturbed. Rand, however, spends the rest of the book in an attempt to show how this lack of empathy can be justified.

    Justification aside, however, Rearden doesn’t value his family, he has no obligation to value his family (unless you wish to argue otherwise), and thus he sees no reason to pretend to value his family. He indulges in the bare minimum requirements of social niceties and instead favors honesty regarding his true values, through his actions if not his words. Throughout the course of the book he swings even farther toward the honesty end of the spectrum.

  • busterggi

    So basically Rand found psycopaths heroic.

  • GCT

    If we begin with the assumption that Rearden honestly, deep down doesn’t give a damn about his family, then his behavior toward them is perfectly predictable. You strongly imply that there is something egregiously wrong, even inhuman, with this attitude, and most readers also should be similarly disturbed.

    Yes, we should see something wrong with sociopathy. Rand may attempt to justify this, but she does not.

    He indulges in the bare minimum requirements of social niceties and instead favors honesty regarding his true values, through his actions if not his words.

    Well, that’s a nice way of saying that he’s an asshole who treats other people like dirt.

  • Azkyroth

    You strongly imply that there is something egregiously wrong, even inhuman, with this attitude, and most readers also should be similarly disturbed.

    No, he did not imply it, he stated it explicitly. Weren’t you reading?

    Rand, however, spends the rest of the book in an attempt to show how this lack of empathy can be justified.

    THAT’S THE PROBLEM, STUPID.

    Justification aside, however, Rearden doesn’t value his family, he has no obligation to value his family (unless you wish to argue otherwise)

    Define “obligation.” No one can or should throw him in jail for it, except for something like physical abuse, but that doesn’t mean him failing to do so isn’t deeply fucking wrong. And at absolute minimum, he does owe it to them to be honest. For instance, if he doesn’t care about his wife, why does he pretend to by staying married?

  • Pulse

    And at absolute minimum, he does owe it to them to be honest. For instance, if he doesn’t care about his wife, why does he pretend to by staying married?

    Precisely, and by the end of the book he realizes this error and leaves her.

    The question that Rand is asking is, “Why must a man value his family?” Your answer, “failing to do so [is] deeply fucking wrong.” Why?

    I’m not saying I disagree with you, but it’s a legitimate question and can’t be easily dismissed as a “bizarrely warped worldview” no matter how many people are turned off by it.

  • GCT

    The question that Rand is asking is, “Why must a man value his family?”

    Ah, no. The question Rand is asking is why should a man value other human beings and empathy. Her answer seems to be that sociopathy is not only OK, but preferred.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russell.glasser Russell Wain Glasser

    If this were an isolated case where Rearden has a family he doesn’t give a shit about, and they are so especially bad among humans in general that he shouldn’t give a shit about them, that’s one thing.

    The problem is that Rand makes it clear throughout the book that she’s sees about 95% of humanity as falling in that category. Awesome, self-loving, workaholic ubermenschen like Dagny, Hank, and John Galt are shown to be a very stark exception to most people. But it’s the train crash scene that stands out in my mind. Rand makes a point of lovingly describing completely random people on the train, room by room, as subhuman fuckups who indirectly caused the train crash and therefore deserved it in some cosmic sense.

    It’s early in the book still; Rearden’s family is just an early example of this general undercurrent of scorn and disgust against most people.

  • LouisDoench

    It’s not just that the heroes don’t have any children, there are hardly any children in these stories at all. Rand, and a lot of the libertarians in her species, seem to completely dismiss the entire concept of childhood or parenting. We never see the Taggert’s parents, or ever even see them mentioned. Rand’s characters appear fully formed adults, like Athena from Zeus’s brow. Both Dagny and Rearden essentially start their careers as children/mini-adults.

    One of the reasons this is particularly appalling is that a society based on these principles will ultimately fail to replicate itself. Children are the ultimate parasites, I know, I have three of them. They will take years of training to become even the most basic of “producers”. How does the Randite plan on spending the 14 years or so it takes before we can send little Hank off to the iron mines?

  • Pulse

    Rearden’s family is just an early example of this general undercurrent of scorn and disgust against most people.

    I agree. Rand, through her characters, does clearly show scorn and disgust against most people, and in response we (Adam Lee and most commenters here) show scorn and disgust against Rand’s heroes. For me, however, that is insufficient. I believe that Rand’s work deserves better treatment than an itemized list of every instance of scorn and disgust being volleyed either way. So far this is all I have seen from Lee’s review. (Edit: I don’t actually wish to argue this claim.)

    Rearden is (as another commenter put it) “an asshole who treats other people like dirt.” Fine. But he doesn’t treat everyone like dirt, just the great majority of people toward whom he feels scorn and disgust at worst and indifference at best. He shows great admiration and congeniality for those whom he values. Rand has a reason (justified in her mind) for portraying him this way. Instead of simply labeling him a sociopath and dismissing his point of view (ad hominem), I’m advocating for critically assessing his motivations for soundness.

  • GCT

    Here’s a question for you. When you go to a restaurant, do you treat the wait staff like a bunch of sub-human slaves that are there to do your bidding? Do you treat them like they aren’t fit to lick your shoes? How about people you pass on the streets? How about your own family?

    Why should the default be disdain? Why should we aspire to have no empathy? Should I treat you like shit until you are able to prove to me that you are worthy of being treated like a human being?

  • busterggi

    But they deserve it for not being as self-centered as him.

  • GCT

    It’s been a long time since I read this book, and I don’t remember, but does Rand explain how things got this way between Hank Rearden and his family? In an earlier post, you showed how Rand never explains how the moochers got the upper hand on the capitalists. Were they asleep at the wheel or something? We don’t know. Was Hand asleep at the wheel? Did the ubermensch get tricked into marrying this sub-human woman that actually likes him and wants to spend time with him?

  • Xovvo

    The very first thing Rearden forges from the new metal alloy that he’s spent the last decade of his life trying to make *isn’t* a romantic gift? Really?
    That the links are heavy and crude is really more to the difficulty of making fine rings when you’re working from large stock (as it turns out, smithing is hard guys)–but the the thing is, it’s a gift to his wife that carries the most meaning and sentiment that Rearden can put into it–and Lillian’s first reaction is to insult it.
    To anyone who asks about it. (Spoiler alert: While she has the occasional sympathetic moment, Lillian’s kind of a toxic person. Rather emotionally abusive if memory serves).

    But more than that, Rearden’s family is by and large emotionally manipulative and almost entirely unsupportive (or at best completely indifferent) to his biggest passion.

    Also, reducing that to merely his “work” and calling him a “workaholic” kinda trivializes just what it is Rearden is doing. Nevermind how awesome the process of making a metal alloy is in the first place–he’s making one that may very well become the dominant metal on the market for it’s superior qualities; what’s more, he has for the last 10 years been working towards the realization of an Idea he’s had, that he can kinda see how to go about doing, and would be monumentous if he succeeds.
    The Engineer with a problem that…*interesting* to solve is probably going to be a bit stuck on it. Especially when their aren’t enough hours in a day.

  • Pulse

    Here’s a question for you. When you go to a restaurant, do you treat the wait staff like a bunch of sub-human slaves that are there to do your bidding? Do you treat them like they aren’t fit to lick your shoes?

    No, I treat them with neutral, nonjudgmental indifference at first, and I adjust my attitude based on the service they provide a paying customer. If they do a good job, I pay them extra in the form of a tip. If they don’t, I don’t.

    How about people you pass on the streets?

    I pass them on the street.

    How about your own family?

    I love my family, and we have a long history of mutual cooperation toward shared interests. We enjoy each other’s company, and we help each other out in every way we can.

    Why should the default be disdain?

    Is it? Is that even Rearden’s default? Or is he just jaded by the characters with whom he has spent several years of his life?

    Why should we aspire to have no empathy?

    We have yet to reach the part of the book that discusses that question. I feel unfit to address it here.

    Should I treat you like shit until you are able to prove to me that you are worthy of being treated like a human being?

    No. There is a broad gulf between polite indifference and active disdain when confronting a complete stranger. Not even Rand advocates for the latter.

  • Azkyroth

    Reciprocity. Mutual benefit. Satisfying emotional needs. Common humanity. Genetic concerns.

    You’re now going to ask why any of those are important, right? Can’t you just load a different browser window and have some tissues handy, like a reasonable person?

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    The fact that you regard tipping as optional reveals pretty much everything we need to know about how you actually treat waitstaff.

  • Paul S

    You have no idea how right you are. One person in the real world she admired was William Edward Hickman, a man who kidnapped the 12-year-old daughter of a wealthy banker, demanded a ransom, killed and mutlated the girl anyway and then stitched her body back together to collect the ransom money. Rand admired his complete lack of concern for society’s values and the well-being of other people when seeking out his goals; such traits she lated incorporated into her protagonists.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/William_Edward_Hickman

  • Pulse

    Reciprocity. Mutual benefit. Satisfying emotional needs.

    Randian Objectivism, right there.

    Common humanity. Genetic concerns.

    Contributing factors that influence emotional needs.

    So we are agreed.

  • Adam Acuo

    Rearden is not the hero of the novel. It is important to understand this to appreciate the role that he plays in the story. He is a brilliant and motivated business man and engineer who understands and acts upon the facts as they exist in the business world, yet in his personal life he associates with and accepts people that despise him believing that that is the way that things are, that he is flawed and that he deserves to be beaten up for it. From this perspective, he is an emotionally stunted man. His story arc is focused on him identifying the reasons behind his success as a business man and the journey of self discovery that leads him to understand why he succeeds in business while failing in his personal life. Far from Rand using this scene to create a sense of sympathy for Hank Rearden, she uses it to accentuate this dichotomy by placing it immediately after his discovery of Rearden metal, the greatest success of his career. It sets the stage for the developments to come. Hope that cleared things up for you. It’s a simple story but very complex since it goes against the prevailing wisdom of our time.

  • David Cortesi

    Here’s another way to look at this: as adolescence. Rearden’s attitudes are like those of a teenager: getting absorbed in a fun project and forgetting a social commitment, then not having the words to apologize; feeling utterly alienated from his family and unable and unwilling to articulate it — yet unable to make a clean break. Presenting a crude piece of original work, having it misunderstood, and not being able to understand why nor having the insight to communicate its value to him.

    What’s missing from a full portrait of a bright, conflicted 16-year-old is the usual guilt and self-incrimination. That’s not there because Rand thinks self-centeredness and lack of empathy are positive qualities. In an earlier comment I think I described Galt’s “strike” as a teenage snit raised to epic scale. As your deconstruction continues I think it might be useful to follow this theme of Rand’s use of a fundamentally adolescent world-view as a character motif. And as one of the features of the book that makes it work for younger readers.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Yes-explicitly so. In 1928 Rand wrote of her admiration for one William Edward Hickman, convicted of kidnapping, murdering and dismembering a young girl, because he didn’t care what other people thought of him, in her view. True, she didn’t actually endorse his crimes, but the fact that a person such as this got her admiration gives you an idea of Rand’s mindset.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Rand also never had children (by choice) and Dagny doesn’t get pregnant despite having unprotected sex multiple times in the novel. I guess it’s lucky for any kids she’d have, like you said.

  • Indigo

    Uh…isn’t the point of a gift – much less a romantic gift – to give the other person something *they* want? Yes, making great sacrifices and working like a slave can be romantic – if you’re explicitly sacrificing *for* your loved one. “I did it all for you” doesn’t apply in this case. Rearden clearly doesn’t give a crap about his wife, and his “gift” to her doesn’t say “you inspire me” or “I couldn’t have done this without your support”. It says “this is the most awesome thing I have ever done, and I want you to wear a symbol of it, even though to you it represents the reason I neglected you for months/years”. His “gift” is all about him.

    And yes, I know. You don’t get why anybody would ever make enormous sacrifices for another person or why you should ever thank someone for putting up with your crap/helping you achieve your dreams. I just hope you’re not married.

  • Agrajag

    context-dependant. Waitstaff earns $25/hour+ in my location and tipping genuinely -is- optional.

    In locations where waiting-salaries are so low that tips are required to bring the salary up to a reasonable level, I agree that by default you should tip.

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    Sorry, that was really US-centric of me, wasn’t it? I agree that it should be optional in places where waitstaff already receive a living wage; I wish it was that way everywhere.

  • Izkata

    If it was for their birthday or most other holidays, sure. This, on the other hand, sounds like a spur-of-the-moment gift, with Rearden giving his wife a piece of his life’s work. From the first pouring at that! It’s a physical representation of those Valentine’s cards we so freely give away: “You’ve stolen my heart”, all that romantic stuff people *say* they love.

    If she cared about him, and not simply manipulating him, she would have certainly appreciated what it represented.

  • Izkata

    While I have in general agreed with your interpretations in the prior posts, I can’t help but think you’ve completely misunderstood Rearden’s character, based on the quotes in this post. (Although, keep in mind I have not actually read the book in question – I’m basing this entirely on these posts)

    Hank Rearden is a geek.

    He loves his job, because he’s found a way to get paid for his personal passion. As someone who is similar, it is extremely easy to get carried away when a project nears completion – you’re seeing what you had previously only imagined become a tangible thing. You get excited, you forget about less pressing (forgetting dinner because you’re not actually hungry) or more trivial matters (anniversaries happen every year). And it’s only later when confronted with it that you realize how silly it’s going to sound when stated aloud – which is why he stopped himself and simply said “It’s just that I forgot”, which is literally true but not the whole picture.

    My family is identical. They have zero understanding of what my job is like (software developer with a barely computer-literate family), so they don’t understand how I can miss dinner working on a computer. Well, from my perspective… I just spent several hours hunting through the code for a bug, learning new things, gaining new understanding – and finally understand what the problem is so that it can be fixed. I’m not just typing at a computer. Why is this behaviour so acceptable when it’s someone working on a painting, but not with other creative endeavours?

    So Rearden’s just spend what feels like forever anticipating this moment of satisfaction, and he has a physical object that represents completion of a goal. Which he gives to his wife as a gift. We generally only say these things on cards at Valentine’s day, but Rearden means it: He actually gave a one-of-a-kind object to the person he cares about – and she shuns it. I would *definitely* call her the heartless one.

    So his wife doesn’t seem to care about him, else she would have at the very least said “it’s nice” then hidden it away. His bubble was burst, and he probably doesn’t want to deal with her at the moment. How can you blame him for momentarily forgetting when their anniversary was – or just dismissing it as not important, the same as she did for his gift?

    His “faint smile of amusement” was nothing more than “Oh, so you care more about appearances than about me. Great.”

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    No, this is another of those background things that’s never well explained. I believe it’s vaguely alluded to, later on, that Rearden married Lillian when he was younger because he thought that’s what he was supposed to do, but there’s really no explanation of how she ever caught his eye in the first place or what it was he ever saw in her. Nor is it ever explained how his relationships with his family came to the low point they did.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    Rearden clearly doesn’t give a crap about his wife, and his “gift” to her doesn’t say “you inspire me” or “I couldn’t have done this without your support”. It says “this is the most awesome thing I have ever done, and I want you to wear a symbol of it, even though to you it represents the reason I neglected you for months/years”. His “gift” is all about him.

    Yes! Well said.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    And it’s only later when confronted with it that you realize how silly it’s going to sound when stated aloud – which is why he stopped himself and simply said “It’s just that I forgot”, which is literally true but not the whole picture.

    Well, that can be true in real life, but Rearden doesn’t think it’s silly. This isn’t a momentary lapse of judgment or the temporary excitement of a new project; from all indications, he’s consistently treated his wife and his family this way for years.

    So his wife doesn’t seem to care about him, else she would have at the very least said “it’s nice” then hidden it away.

    That is what she does. At first she mocks him – rather gently, if you ask me – by saying it’s wonderful that he gave her a piece of jewelry made out of the same stuff as bridge girders and truck engines. But she’s still reasonably gracious about the whole thing. Here’s how Rand describes it:

    “No, it’s sweet,” said Lillian. “It’s charming.” She dropped the bracelet down on the table. She got up, put her hands on Rearden’s shoulders, and raising herself on tiptoe, kissed him on the cheek, saying, “Thank you, dear.”
    He did not move, did not bend his head down to her. [p.42]

    Even when she does show appreciation for his gift, he still reacts by giving her the cold shoulder!

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    Yep! Rand’s attitude toward children – or more precisely her lack thereof; on the rare occasions she mentions them, she never treats them as anything but miniature adults – is definitely something I’m going to get into more later.

  • ORAXX

    It doesn’t stop with Hank Rearden, Rand’s heroes, to an individual, are sociopaths, bent on destruction. It somehow escapes the notice of the “conservatives” who love her, that John Galt, elected by no one, was doing all he could to destroy the United States, just because he thought the elected government got it wrong.

  • Azkyroth

    I have no idea whether we’re in agreement or not because you won’t make an explicit statement of your position, you’re mostly playing the three-year-old’s “Why?” game with those who have the courage and integrity to assert something. I very much doubt we are in any but the most superficial agreement, however, if you identify as an Objectivist.

  • Azkyroth

    …what makes you think that’s escaped their notice?

  • Agrajag

    Yeah, I agree. Of course a consequence is that eating out is (much) more expensive here, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for a society that’s nice also for those on the lower rungs of the social ladder. So a BigMac *does* cost double here, but on the flipside you can work at McD and earn $4500/month.

  • smrnda

    I’m a software engineer so I’m in a line of work that *might* have been one Rand would have written about, but I still find her protagonists annoying, juvenile and self-absorbed. They’re bad caricatures done by a bad writer. Rand tries really hard to put her explicit value judgments into the writing, which is bad writing.

    But back to me – yeah, I did write some apps once, but if I was going to get my partner something special, I know that *she is not going to want some of my code.* I also know that I shouldn’t stand people up. Yeah, I can argue that my work is important, but I can tell time and use a phone. I also realize that being a person who is TOTALLY DEDICATED TO ONE THING ONLY is a great way to be really boring. It’s true there are real genuine geeks out there, but most of them at least show some interest in things like movies that have a little broader appeal.

    A lot of people I know don’t do what I do for a living. I can avoid shop-talk long enough to function with other people but part of this is that doing my job isn’t an ego boost for me; I don’t think it makes me better, more special, or part of some elite subculture, it’s a job. I don’t wear it like some badge of special honor and I can accept that other people might not be that interested in what I do.

    On obligations to your family – Rearden has got them since he went out of his way to get married and have kids. If he didn’t want obligations, then he shouldn’t have done these things. If the argument is they’re just leeching off him, well, from their perspective, he could probably be replaced by any guy with a 9 to 5 that will pay the bills who might actually be around a bit. True, the new alloy might be a big hit, but as a father/husband he seems pretty replaceable.

    Overall, Rand isn’t alone in being unable to depict characters with children, but it kind of shows a person who is basically ignoring one of the biggest and most important things that goes on in the world – raising up future generations. I don’t have kids, but if I wrote a book, quite a few characters should since otherwise we’re pretty much too far away from ‘realism.’

  • Bdole

    Only tangentially related observation:
    Has anyone else noticed that democrat ex-presidents tend to devote themselves to public service after their tenure is over? I see Bill Clinton engaged in all kinds of projects and Jimmy Carter’s pulling out the last of the guinea worms in far flung fields after having built habitats for the humanses.
    What the hell are the Bushes doing? Both generations? The most recent fucker got a library named after him. How much time has that guy spent reading, do ya think?
    Many conservatives and Rand are cut from the same cloth. Those concerned about the world beyond their kith and kin seem to be of a different kind.

  • Indigo

    Er…no. Gifts are good or bad depending on how the recipient, not the giver, feels about the item. The bracelet is symbolic of Rearden’s work. If his wife hugely admired his work, like Dagny does, and was happy to support him in his success, then yes, the bracelet would be a wonderful gift and very romantic. But she doesn’t. Rightly or wrongly, she views the metal as something that takes him away from her and makes her feel insignificant. She doesn’t want a reminder of how much more he cares about his work than about her. Either he’s so distant from her that he doesn’t know this, which makes him a pretty crappy husband, or he knows she wouldn’t like the bracelet and had it made anyway, which makes him an even worse one.

  • GCT

    Some of us are polite and friendly instead of indifferent and cold until the other person earns it.

  • GCT

    IOW, if he spent as much time and effort in his personal life as he does his business life, then he could have a personal life that he enjoys? Oh wait, no that doesn’t work for Rand.

  • Adam Acuo

    Rand created Hank Rearden to highlight the dichotomy between one’s personal and professional life and to explore the psychology of the “work-a-holic”. Rearden believes that personal relationships are based on sacrifice and that by sacrificing himself and his interests that he is expressing his love. Clearly, taken to its extreme, relationships based on the view that you are “sacrificing” yourself leads to the type of emotionally stunted, detached and screwed up scene that is the subject of the above post. Rearden’s journey is to discover why he accepts certain premises in his personal life that he would never accept in his business life and to discover that true love does not require one to sacrifice themselves to others – love needs to be a win-win situation. Rearden does not know this at this point in the story.

    As I said, Rearden was created as a flawed character – you seem to be of the view that Rearden should have been perfect from the start… if he was, there’s no need for his story arc.

  • phantomreader42

    Rearden is not being labeled a sociopath to dismiss his point of view. He is being labeled a sociopath because his point of view shows a lack of empathy, and a lack of empathy is a defining characteristic of a sociopath. Rearden is being called a sociopath BECAUSE HE ACTS LIKE ONE!
    You may, for some bizarre reason you have not stated, believe that a lack of empathy is somehow a good thing. But that does not change the fact that a lack of empathy is a defining characteristic of a sociopath, and that Rearden, by displaying this characteristic, is acting like a sociopath. If you don’t like having that word applied to Rearden, quit whining about it and demonstrate some way in which the label is INACCURATE. As far as I can see, you have not even attempted to do so.

  • GCT

    Rand created Hank Rearden to highlight the dichotomy between one’s personal and professional life and to explore the psychology of the “work-a-holic”.

    All the other Capitalist Superheroes are work-a-holics too.

    Rearden believes that personal relationships are based on sacrifice and that by sacrificing himself and his interests that he is expressing his love. Clearly, taken to its extreme, relationships based on the view that you are “sacrificing” yourself leads to the type of emotionally stunted, detached and screwed up scene that is the subject of the above post.

    How is he sacrificing himself? He doesn’t give two shits about his family and feels no need to even pretend.

    Rearden’s journey is to discover why he accepts certain premises in his personal life that he would never accept in his business life and to discover that true love does not require one to sacrifice themselves to others – love needs to be a win-win situation. Rearden does not know this at this point in the story.

    And, how is it going to be win-win when he wants to spend time with someone who is equally devoted to the office and she wants to spend time with him when he can’t leave the office?

    As I said, Rearden was created as a flawed character – you seem to be of the view that Rearden should have been perfect from the start… if he was, there’s no need for his story arc.

    No, I seem to be of the view that Rand’s ideas of what makes flaws and perfection are very skewed…towards sociopathy.

  • ThatOneGuy

    She does explain it. In fact, explaining the answer to that question is the plot of the book.

  • ThatOneGuy

    Indigo, Lillian Rearden said the exact same thing in the novel – and it was used as part of her characterization as an emotional parasite.

  • Adam

    You’re saying it’s a bad gift because she doesn’t admire him or support his success, even though she completely depends on him and his success. So he should’ve given her something to reward her hatred of him, and that would’ve been a “good gift” by your definition. That’s a pretty sick and disgusting sentiment.

  • Adam

    Adam Lee, you are SOOOO correct. When a man works all day and comes home to be insulted by the people who don’t work but spend his money every day, he should find even more ways to do what they want in exchange for more ingratitude. You say he didn’t join them for dinner – but he did, since it was in his house and he paid for the dinner. He is with them always, since he provided the clothes covering their bodies. You say he takes no interest in their lives, because he doesn’t sit around talking bullshit with them. But they take no interest in his life, because they never show up to help him at work. So does that make them equally selfish? It might, if he was getting anything from them. But they are the ones getting everything from him while belittling him to his face, and you expect us to view this as supremely noble and admirable. Millions of men experience this kind of exploitation and emotional abuse every day from their hateful wives, and people like you hold your pinky up while you sip a latte and blame the men, so you can feel the emotional assurance of an invisible mother patting you on the head for protecting her against the bad man’s dangerous ideas which disagree with hers. It’s part of your religion, to hate and tear down those who threaten the unquestionable word of your comforting mother goddess.

  • Demonhype

    Not to mention the fact that, in my experience, this kind of person who also says “based on the service” has ridiculous standards for “proper” service, usually based on them expecting the waitstaff or other low paid peon to be deferential to them as if to royalty, licking their very nuts if they demand it, and if at any point or in any part the service fails to meet their inhumanly exacting personal standards, they deny that person their wages. Because tips are not extra–tips are wages, and if you don’t like that fact you need to lobby to force the restaurants to actually pay full wages to their staff. Then you can tip or not as your heart desires without being a warped self-centered SOB who would deny an overworked and underpaid worker the money they earned, their actual wage for their time (and also steal money from their already-lean pockets due to Uncle Sam taxing them on “expected earnings” and not on the wages/tips they actually received), because they either had a bad day or because they failed to telepathically download your self-righteous list of demands and expectations from service people and therefore failed to be the automaton and lackey you feel you deserve.

    And no, I have never worked as a waiter and I don’t think I ever would. I’ve already got enough of a bottom-feeding customer service job, and take enough abuse as it is, but I appreciate that my customers, no matter how self-centered or entitled they happen to be, can never deprive me of my wages by withholding tips in a fit of pique that my service wasn’t up to their impossible standards. I used to think that if I died and went to hell, it would be a lateral move, then I found out about the realities of waiting tables and realized that it could get worse. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

    Yes, I tip “bad” service, even if I only tip the going rate (I round it to about 20%, but I think it might be 18%, and while I suppose some world-class bad service might motivate me to do the harder math I have never ever had service quite that bad, and in every case I could tell–because I’m not a libertarian sociopath with no empathy or ability to see things from another person’s POV–that the person was likely having a bad day or was in some sort of pain or having some kind of personal problem), and anything above that is extra for excellent service. And until our country eliminates the whole “tipped” thing and makes sure ALL workers are paid a fair and steady basic wage for their services that is what everyone ought to do. At least, everyone who isn’t a self-important sociopath.

  • Demonhype

    Holy hell, I couldn’t even earn that working in an office around here, even before taxes!

  • Demonhype

    I wish I could upvote this a million times! What is it with these people and their problems with definitions? We’re calling him a sociopath because that is what he is by definition.

    I think xe just doesn’t want to have to come out and state that being a sociopath is a good thing, because being a sociopath has such a negative cultural connotation, it’s like saying it’s a moral thing to be a psychopath. Saying “it’s a good and moral thing to lack empathy for other people” sounds so much NICER, doesn’t it?

  • Agrajag

    To be clear, that amount would be pre-taxes. But even after taxes, you’d be at atleast twice the level of welfare, and at a level where a normal and decent life is possible.

    I don’t much like the tips-instead-of-reasonable-salary model, because time and time again it’s been shown that tips are *not* all that much influenced by performance, but *are* heavily influenced by things which should not matter. White folks get more tips than black folks. Attractive people get more tips than less attractive people and so on.

  • Daan

    I think you made a mistake here. The gift of Rearden doesn’t look romantic, or as if it’s worth a lot, but for him, it is. Rand is trying to show the difference between the mentality of Rearden en the rest of his family. To him, it’s the first piece of metal ever poured and it’s of great value. His wife doesn’t think anything of it because she does not understand how much effort Rearden put into it and why the result is so important. To her, it’s just metal. Dagny however wears it with pride because she knows what the metal stands for.

  • http://www.smat.us/ Smattus

    Regarding children – there was something in the Atlantis section where Rand describes a woman being a mother. There’s some vague suggestion that the woman might not be completely without moral value. But this was clearly something Rand simply didn’t understand. From what I’ve read of her personal life, she understood the notion of lovers, but not the notion of family.

  • Iphigenia

    I just read this section, and Rand has Paul Larkin give helpful advice despite his schlubby appearance and lack of business acumen. He warns Rearden to keep an eye on his lobbyist (who is shown betraying Rearden in the very next scene) and that people aren’t buying Rearden’s superior products because of Rearden’s bad reputation (he recommends that Rearden get some better PR). Rearden politely ignores Larkin’s advice and he and his business end up suffering for it. Yet even though Larkin is right, we’re not supposed to like him or take him seriously.

  • Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

    Not that I would expect everyone reading the novel to pick up on these things, but please keep in mind that Hank is supporting his entire family by working at a job he loves — and they despise him for it. Rearden’s family has absolutely no concern for him or his well being whatsoever, they just live off him and decry that he works in a steel mill and has no social concern for others. But it is a sacrifice to support those who resent you and are not pleased with what you do in life, and Miss Rand was very much against self-sacrifice of Hank supporting a family that had no positive regard for him, as we find out in the scene quoted from and from the rest of the novel. To his family, Hank was just a work mule and not to be treated any differently than a work mule, so long as he kowtowed to their concerns while never mentioning his own concerns. If you want to know the secrete to Atlas Shrugged it is simply this: DO NOT SUPPORT YOUR OWN DESTROYERS! and it is quite clear throughout the story that Hanks family is out to destroy him in the only means they have available — by chipping away at his self-esteem one cut at a time to make him bend to their will even though they know that without his support they would all be beggars living off the streets.

    So, if you are going to be writing about Atlas Shrugged and the heroes within, at least make some attempt to understand what she said in those pages because she presents a whole new outlook on morality and your conventional views on family life and how it ought to be just doesn’t live up to her greatness. Read and then re-read “The Virtue of Selfishness” to better understand her morality and why it is a morality for living on earth.

  • J-D

    An odd thing: you and Rand agree that Hank Rearden is doing the wrong thing; Adam Lee and Rearden’s family also agree that he’s doing the wrong thing. So what’s the disagreement about?

    The author of _The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists_ also wished to convey the message ‘Do not support your own destroyers!’ and yet drew radically different conclusions from Rand’s. Read it and then re-read it before you do any more sermonising.

  • Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

    Actually, no, I think Rearden is doing the wrong thing only with regard to the fact that he is supporting his own destroyers. What he should have realized was that his family members were not for his values — not for his work nor his personal values — and told them to get out of his house. If you have read the novel, then you will realize this is the conclusion he comes to by the end of it, and he makes no effort to continue to support his family once the strike is on and he decides to join Galt in Atlantis. So, no, I don’t have an agreement with you that Hank is wrong to treat his family the way he does, aside from the fact that he should have kicked them out of his life at the beginning of his career once he realized they were all against his success.

  • MrSubtle

    That’s actually not true. In Atlas Shrugged there is a brief scene in which she has a little cameo of herself living in Galt’s Gulch with children of her own.

    Rand was asked about the lack of children in her books and she answered that since the themes of her books were essentially adult in nature there was nothing to be added by including children as important characters. I am sure that if she had written a novel about education or family she would have included some children, but she didn’t.


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