Study Guide

Hugh Akston in Atlas Shrugged

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Hugh Akston

If John Galt is the father of the strike, Hugh Akston is its grandfather. Dr. Akston is a highly paternal presence who instructs and guides all the young strikers. It's his intellectual and moral guidance that helps inspire the strike in the first place. His role as the book's primary father figure helps reinforce one of the book's major themes: that people choose and create their own spiritual families, which are more important than actual blood ties.

Family Ties

Hugh Akston considers himself the father of three sons – Galt, Francisco, and Ragnar – and he notably does not use the phrase "like sons" when he speaks of them. To Akston, the three men are his sons in all the ways that matter:

"You asked me whether I was proud of the way my three sons had turned out. I am more proud than I had ever hoped to be. I am proud of their every action, of their every goal – and of every value they've chosen. And this, Dagny, is my full answer." The sudden sound of her first name was pronounced in the tone of a father. (

Akston here reveals his willingness to expand his family. He includes Dagny in his family circle as one of his children, and as John's future wife. Dr. Akston here ties into the book's ideas about how families are chosen, as a product of shared values. He represents the kind of family Dagny wants to have, to the point that she rejects her own blood connections and all they connote:

Dagny regretted at times that Nat Taggart was her ancestor. What she felt for him did not belong in the category of unchosen family affections. She did not want her feeling to be the thing one was supposed to owe an uncle or a grandfather. (

Blood families here carry with them an obligation, which goes against the values of Galt and Akston, who prefer choice. Akston's values, which he has imparted to and shares with Galt, make him the natural and spiritual father of Galt, Francisco, and Ragnar. Galt and Akston frequently make very similar philosophical statements; their value systems are totally aligned.

Age of Reason

That's an example of us trying to be clever. See, the Age of Reason is a term people use to talk about the European Enlightenment, a period in the 18th century when lots of philosophers ran around preaching about how cool reason is. Dr. Akston is definitely depicted here as a champion of reason.

"Hugh Akston!" the attractive young woman gasped. "But you couldn't have, Senor d'Anconia! You're not old enough. I thought he was one of those great named of...of the last century."

"Perhaps in spirit, madame, not in fact."...A young man said, astonished, "I thought Hugh Akston was one of those classics that nobody studied any more, except in histories of philosophy. I read an article recently which referred to him as the last of the great advocates of reason."

This passage helps to set up the strong link between Akston and reason, which other characters like Galt reference throughout the novel. But this passage also introduces us to another crucial aspect of Akston's character: the idea that he belonged to an earlier age, a time when reason was prized. In this way, Akston is linked to the idea of legends of a heroic past age, like Nat Taggart. Akston is also linked to the idea of living legends, which includes figures like Midas Mulligan, who seem to have no place in the modern world of the looters.

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