Study Guide

Atlas Shrugged Happiness

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Goldfrapp's song "Happiness" fits rather well with this book. It's all about making choices and finding a nice crowd. It's also a rather tongue-in-cheek dig at cults, which is rather fitting for Galt's strike, but we'll get back to that one. In the song, and in the book, the pursuit of happiness hinges on positive choices and finding the right crowd of people to be with. But in Atlas Shrugged, happiness isn't just a by-product of an after-school special mentality. Instead, happiness is the ultimate goal of life and the sole responsibility of each individual. As Galt notes in his radio address, no one should live for other people and others' happiness. Happiness takes commitment and hard work. So, citing the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, Galt and his followers make the "pursuit of happiness" the main goal of life.

But you're just waiting for us to explain the cult thing, right? Well, Galt definitely embraces individualism and says that everyone has to make his or her own happiness in the world. That's all well and good, but Galt feels that his value system is the only way to achieve happiness. He wants everyone to realize how awesome his system is and join him, which sounds a bit like a cult if you ask us. But we'll let you fight that out amongst yourselves.

Questions About Happiness

  1. James is always arguing that people should make others happy, but does he practice what he preaches? Or does he really mean that other people should make him happy?
  2. Galt created his Atlantis hideaway as a place of refuge and happiness for others, not just himself. Does this at all contradict his championing of selfishness?
  3. In the book, are selfish pursuits and selfless ones at odds, or not?
  4. After their encounter in the Taggart tunnels, Galt tells Dagny that pain shouldn't define a person's life, happiness should. Do other characters follow this idea successfully, or is it just a nice idea that is almost impossible to pull off?

Chew on This

Dagny has a masochistic streak; she enjoys a certain amount of pain and suffering.

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