Discussion Topics

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What are the physical and other characteristics, such as names and professions, of Ayn Rand’s sympathetic and unsympathetic characters? What purpose does she have in giving them these particular features?

How does Rand’s admiration for human beings as builders and creators show up in her fiction?

Rand’s novels often have long speeches by the characters justifying their actions. What purpose is served by these speeches?

Rand said that her purpose in fiction is to set forth a moral ideal. How do her heroes and their actions reflect a moral ideal?

How does Rand use her novels to contrast the values of individualism and collectivism?

How does Rand criticize prevalent social trends?

Other literary forms

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In addition to her three novels and one novelette, Ayn Rand published a play and several philosophical disquisitions. An early critique, Hollywood: American Movie City, was published in the Soviet Union in 1926 without Rand’s permission.


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Ayn Rand won the Volpe Cup at the Venice Film Festival in 1942 for the Italian motion-picture dramatization of We the Living, a novel about the failures of the Soviet system. She was awarded an honorary degree, a doctor of humane letters, by Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, in 1963, but this sole award does not reflect the significance of her influence on America’s philosophical and political economic thought.


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Baker, James T. Ayn Rand. Boston: Twayne, 1987. An academic’s brief but objective and highly readable treatment of Rand’s life and work. Includes a chronology, references, and a bibliography.

Binswanger, Harry. The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts. Los Angeles: Ayn Rand Institute Press, 1990. Written by a philosopher, this is a scholarly work focused on the connection between biology and the concepts at the roots of ethics.

Branden, Nathaniel. Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. A personal account by Rand’s disciple, organizer, spokesman, lover, and, ultimately, enemy. Includes photographs.

Branden, Nathaniel, and Barbara Branden. Who Is Ayn Rand? New York: Random House, 1962. This book contains three essays on Objectivism’s moral philosophy, its connection to psychological theory, and a literary study of Rand’s methods in her fiction. It contains an additional biographical essay, tracing Rand’s life from birth to her mid-fifties.

Britting, Jeff. Ayn Rand. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 2005. A readable biography of Rand’s literary and personal life but lacking in scholarly analysis.

Gladstein, Mimi Reisel. The Ayn Rand Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984. A compendium of the plots and major characters of Rand’s fiction.

Heller, Anne C. Ayn Rand and the World She Made. New York: Nan A. Talese, 2009. This volume sheds light on Rand’s personal life, including her marriage to actor Frank O’Connor, and her affair with psychologist Nathaniel Branden. Heller also discusses in detail Rand’s feuds with author William F. Buckley and with her sister who lived in Russia. Fans of Rand will find this biography fascinating. Includes photos.

Mayhew, Robert. Ayn Rand’s Marginalia. New Milford, Conn.: Second Renaissance Books, 1995. This volume contains Rand’s critical comments on more than twenty thinkers, including Friedrich Hayek, C. S. Lewis, and Immanuel Kant.

Peikoff, Leonard. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton, 1991. This is the first comprehensive overview of all aspects of Objectivist philosophy, written by the philosopher who was closest to Rand during her lifetime.

Pierpont, Claudia Roth. Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World . New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. Evocative, interpretive essays on the life paths and works of twelve women, including Rand, connecting the circumstances of their lives with the shapes, styles, subjects, and situations of...

(This entire section contains 515 words.)

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their art.

Rasmussen, Douglas, and Douglas Den Uyl, eds. The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984. A collection of scholarly essays by philosophers, defending and criticizing various aspects of Objectivism’s metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics.

Reisman, George. Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics. Ottawa, Ill.: Jameson Books, 1996. A scholarly work by an economist, developing capitalist economic theory and connecting it to Objectivist philosophy.

Sciabarra, Chris M. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995. The evolution of the author as a philosopher, of her dialectics, and of her objectivism, beginning with her early years. Includes a bibliography and photographs.

Torres, Louis, and Michelle Marder Kamhi. What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand. Chicago: Open Court, 2000. An amusing but respectful application of Rand’s definition to the body of twentieth century art.


Critical Essays