- Thesis: Heroes and villains in “Atlas Shrugged” have different perceptions of money with the former trying to make it and the latter simply wishing to have it. The difference between these two views on money consists in heroes’ and villains’ knowing the real value of it, their possibility to earn money, and their moral principles and attitudes to morality in general.
- Knowing the real value of money
- Using the possibility to earn money
- Different principles of morality
“Atlas Shrugged” is a novel which was written by Ayn Rand in 1957. This novel operates with a number of notions which may puzzle the modern reader. It deals with the concepts of objectivism and human achievement exploring a number of other philosophical themes. “Atlas Shrugged” discloses different facets of the philosophy of Objectivism paying special attention to individualism, the failure of government, and the advocacy of reason.
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All the characters of the novel may be divided into the heroes and the villains with each of them having his/her own principles of morality and monetary values. In this novel Rand tries to emphasize the social gap between her characters illustrating the divergence of their attitudes towards money. Heroes and villains in “Atlas Shrugged” have different perceptions of money with the former trying to make it and the latter simply wishing to have it. The difference between these two views on money consists in heroes’ and villains’ knowing the real value of it, their possibility to earn money, and their moral principles and attitudes to morality in general.
Knowing the real value of money
To begin with, the main difference between the villain’s and the heroes’ view on money is that the latter know the real value of it, while the former do not. This is a common problem between people of different social ranks, because money, as a rule, defines not only the overall welfare of a person, but refers him/her to a definite social class. A number of people run away with the idea that those who have money do not value it.
This is absolutely erroneous, because those who keep to this idea make their conclusions on the basis of single instances. As stated by one of the heroes from “Atlas Shrugged,” Francisco d’Anconia, during a dinner party, “Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value” (Rand 370). In addition, this hero also noted that “Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them” (Rand 370). There is hardly any villain who can define the value of money in this way.
The heroes know how much earning of the money involves, how many people are engaged in the process of exchange, and how long it takes before the goods produced by people can be exchanged for money which further is exchanged for other goods. Villains, in their turn, believe that if a person already has money, it is not difficult to increase the amount of it. The main reason why the villains wish to “have” money is because they think that it does not take much to manage it when one already has it.
Even the heroes’ spending of money differs significantly from the villains’ disposing of it. The heroes invest the money to increase their profits, whereas the villains would prefer spending it to luxuries and something which would never be beneficial for the society. Perhaps, the villains do not know the value of money because they do not have enough of it; however, even in this case, it is purely their own fault, because everything depends on their desire to earn money, which they do not wish to do. Thus, villains’ not knowing the value of money makes their perception of it different from the one which the heroes have.
Using the possibility to earn money
Moreover, villains’ and heroes’ view on money depends on their possibility and desire to earn it. At first glance, this seems to be fair, because generally people believe that those who have an opportunity to earn money (for instance, people coming from wealthy families) will always be able to earn them, while those who are not well-connected do not have these possibilities. However, this issue becomes rather controversial if applied to “Atlas Shrugged.”
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This novel shows that earning money takes desire, rather than possibility. Heroes and villains in this novel come from different social classes, and this does not mean that heroes come purely from wealthy families. Thus, for instance, Hank Rearden and John Galt have working class backgrounds, but they are heroes together with Francisco d’Anconia and Dagny Taggart who come from wealthy families.
Even more controversial is the situation with the villains where Betty Pope and James Taggart are from wealthy families and Fred Kinnan belongs to the working class. This testifies to the fact that it is desire, not the possibility that makes people earn sufficient amount of money and shapes their views on money correspondingly. The desire to simply possess the money without making any effort to earn it is what most of the villains are driven with. Consequently, they believe that money is the root of evil. As applied to this book, such a perception of money by the villains derives from their trying to find the easiest explanation to the difficulties which they face.
The villains see everything on the surface and, just like they believe that stealing money is the easiest way to earn them, they think that naming the money the root of evil is the easiest way to fight all the problems which the world encounters. Perhaps, sometimes simplicity is the best way to solve a problem, but it is inapplicable in defining the root of evil. There is no doubt that money, like nothing else, gives a person power and self-confidence, but depriving people of money will not help in fighting with world problems; it will only aggravate the existing situation. Therefore, the villains’ view on money differs from the heroes’ one in the formers’ unwillingness to earn money with hard labor and their erroneous considering money as the root of evil.
Different principles of morality
Finally, the heroes and the villains have different views on money due to the differences in their moral principles. The basic theme of the novel “Atlas Shrugged” is the morality of rational self-interest, though Rand skillfully intertwines this theme with the one regarding monetary values. Nevertheless, the villains’ and the heroes’ difference in the views on money may lie namely in their morality.
From the perspective of moral principles, the heroes will always believe that it is unfair to take somebody else’s money simply because one has a desire to “have” them; in contrast, from the villains’ point of view, taking away money from somebody who has it is the only way of treating the person who has large amounts of money at his/her disposal. In other words, the heroes have moral principles and are reluctant to break them, whereas the villains do not admit that moral principles exist when it comes to money.
This is the case with “Atlas Shrugged” where the villains believe that “the words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality” (Rand 374), while the heroes state that “you can’t discuss morality in materialistic terms” (Rand 842). In addition, the heroes’ bounds between materialism and morality are clear; they keep to the point that making money in a way which is not contradictory to the law is morally correct.
The situation with villains is even more complicated. In “Atlas Shrugged” the villains wish to take away money from the heroes in order to eradicate what they consider to be the root of evil. To some extent, this may be regarded as the action beneficial for the community. However, the way it which it becomes beneficial goes against the common morality, though not necessarily against the villains’ moral principles. This means that difference in moral principles of the heroes and the villains accounts for their different attitudes towards money.
In conclusion, Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” puts forward an idea that the heroes and the villains have different perceptions of money. There exist several reasons why the former try to make money and the latter prefer to “have” it. First, the value of money is different for them, since the heroes know how much earning of the money involves and the villains do not. Second, the villains do not use all their possibilities to earn money in an honest way, which makes them believe that the heroes also get money undeservedly. And third, the villains and the heroes have different principles and different attitudes regarding the correlation between money and morality. This all makes their views on money different.
Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Penguin Group, 1996.