Who was Ayn Rand?
Ayn Rand (original name Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum) was a Russian-American writer and philosopher. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system, she named Objectivism.
Her commercially successful novels promoting individualism and laissez-faire capitalism were influential among conservatives and libertarians and popular for generations of young people in the United States from the mid-20th century.
She was born in February 1905 to a Russian-Jewish bourgeois family living in St. Petersburg. She was the eldest of three daughters. Rand later said she found school unchallenging and began writing screenplays at age eight and novels at age ten. She was educated in St. Petersburg and moved to the United States in 1926. She died on 6th March 1982, in New York.
Following the Russian Revolution, universities were opened to women, allowing her to be in the first group of women to enrol at Petrograd State University. At 16, she began her studies in the department of social pedagogy, majoring in history. At the university, she learned about the writings of Aristotle and Plato and came to see their differing views on reality and knowledge as the primary conflict within philosophy.
The arrival of a letter from her cousins in Chicago allowed her to leave Russia on the pretext of gaining expertise that she could apply in the nascent Soviet film industry. Upon her arrival in the United States in 1926, she changed her name to Ayn Rand.
Following a chance encounter with Cecil B DeMille in Hollywood, it led to her working as a movie extra on the set of his 1927 film The King of Kings, where she met actor Frank O’Connor. They married in 1929, and she became an American citizen in 1931.
She sold her first screenplay, Red Pawn, to Universal Studios in 1932.
She wrote a play that opened on Broadway in 1935. After two early novels, both of which were initially unsuccessful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. Fourteen years later, in 1957, Rand published her best-known work – the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterwards, until she died in 1982, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own periodicals and releasing several collections of essays.
Rand described Objectivism as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”.
You can watch Ayn Rand introducing Objectivism on video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VSBGu7-1rU
The Objective Standard
The Objective Standard says this about Objectivism:
“It is widely believed today that our moral, cultural, and political alternatives are limited either to the ideas of the secular, relativistic left—or to those of the religious, absolutist right—or to some compromised mixture of the two. In other words, one’s ideas are supposedly either extremely “liberal” or extremely “conservative” or somewhere in between. Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, rejects this false alternative and offers an entirely different view of the world.
“Objectivism is fully secular and absolutist; it is neither liberal nor conservative nor anywhere in between. It recognizes and upholds the secular (this-worldly) source and nature of moral principles and the secular moral foundations of a fully free, fully civilized society.
“Morally, Objectivism advocates the virtues of rational self-interest—virtues such as independent thinking, productiveness, justice, honesty, and self-responsibility. Culturally, Objectivism advocates scientific advancement, industrial progress, objective (as opposed to “progressive” or faith-based) education, romantic art—and, above all, reverence for the faculty that makes all such values possible: reason. Politically, Objectivism advocates pure, laissez-faire capitalism—the social system of individual rights and strictly limited government—along with the whole moral and philosophical structure on which it depends.
“Rand described Objectivism as “a philosophy for living on earth.” The reason why it is a philosophy for living on Earth is that its every principle is derived from the observable facts of reality and the demonstrable requirements of human life and happiness…” 
What is Atlas Shrugged about?
Google books (here) describes Atlas Shrugged:
“Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand’s magnum opus: a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller—nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.
“Who is John Galt? When he says that he will stop the motor of the world, is he a destroyer or a liberator? Why does he have to fight his battles not against his enemies but against those who need him most? Why does he fight his hardest battle against the woman he loves? You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the amazing men and women in this book. You will discover why a productive genius becomes a worthless playboy…why a great steel industrialist is working for his own destruction… why a composer gives up his career on the night of his triumph… why a beautiful woman who runs a transcontinental railroad falls in love with the man she has sworn to kill.
“Atlas Shrugged, a modern classic and Rand’s most extensive statement of Objectivism—her groundbreaking philosophy—offers the reader the spectacle of human greatness, depicted with all the poetry and power of one of the twentieth century’s leading artists.”
Atlas Shrugged is a trilogy of American science fiction drama films. The series, adaptations of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel, are subtitled Part I (2011), Part II (2012) and Part III (2014); the latter sometimes includes Who Is John Galt? In Part I, railroad executive Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) and steel mogul Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler) form an alliance to fight the increasingly authoritarian government of the United States. In Part II, Taggart (Samantha Mathis) and Rearden (Jason Beghe) search desperately for the inventor of a revolutionary motor as the U.S. government continues to spread its control over the national economy. In Part III, Taggart (Laura Regan) and Rearden (Rob Morrow) come into contact.
What was The Fountainhead about?
The Fountainhead, published in 1943, was Ayn Rand’s first major literary success. The novel’s protagonist, Howard Roark, is an uncompromising young architect (said to be based on Frank Lloyd Wright—as he confronts conformist mediocrity) who battles against conventional standards and refuses to compromise with an architectural establishment unwilling to accept innovation. Howard Roark follows his own artistic path in the face of public conformity. Ellsworth Toohey, the architecture critic for The Banner newspaper, opposes Roark’s individualism and volunteers to lead a print crusade against him. Wealthy and influential publishing magnate Gail Wynand pays little attention, approving the idea and giving Toohey a free hand. Dominique Francon, a glamorous socialite who writes a Banner column, admires Roark’s designs, and opposes the paper’s campaign against him. She is engaged to an architect, the unimaginative Peter Keating (Kent Smith). She had never met or seen Roark but believed he was doomed in a world that loathed individualism. Wynand falls in love with Francon and exposes Keating as an opportunist.
Ayn Rand wrote The Fountainhead as a tribute to the creative freethinker. The Fountainhead became a 1949 American black-and-white drama film from Warner Bros. produced by Henry Blanke, directed by King Vidor and starring Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey, Robert Douglas and Kent Smith. Today, The Fountainhead has achieved the status of a modern classic. It is taught in college literature and philosophy courses, as well as in high school English classes. The Fountainhead continues to be an example of its own theme: the struggle for acceptance of great new ideas in human society.
You can watch a trailer of The Fountainhead, here. The picture, featuring Patricia Neal and Gary Cooper, is a screen clip from the trailer.
Rand’s Life Purpose
In Rand’s own words, her first and greatest love, her “life purpose”, was “the creation of the kind of world … that represents human perfection”, while her interest in philosophical knowledge was “only” for the sake of this purpose. Rand’s first and most autobiographical novel, We the Living (1936), set in the Soviet Union, was published but only after many rejections, owing to widespread sympathy for the Soviet “experiment” among the intellectuals of the time.
We the Living was quickly followed by the dystopian novel, Anthem (1938) in the year of my birth, written as “a kind of rest” from her work on the next major book, The Fountainhead (1943). The Fountainhead, also published after many rejections because of its individualism, and panned by critics, soon became a best-seller by word of mouth. The Fountainhead brought Rand international fame, and Atlas Shrugged (1957) sealed it for her.
Quotes by Ann Rand
“If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.”
“Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness.”
“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”
“I could die for you. But I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, live for you.”
“To say “I love you” one must know first how to say the “I”.”
“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”
“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
“The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.”
“Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world–to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.”
“The smallest minority on Earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”
“The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity.”
Sources and Further Reading