Atlas Shrugged | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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Atlas Shrugged | Quotes


He ... had never accepted the creed that others had the right to stop him.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 3

As Dagny Taggart looks worshipfully at the statue of Nathaniel Taggart, her ancestor and Taggart Transcontinental's founder, the narrator describes the traits that made him great. True to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, Nathaniel set a goal and moved toward it, never letting anything or anyone get in his way, never asking for loans or favors. He got people's support by telling them his railroad would make big profits, not by appealing to the public good. He staked his life on the railroad, and he made it a success.


I've hired you to do a job, not to do your best—whatever that is.

Dagny Taggart, Part 1, Chapter 7

Dagny Taggart is reprimanding a contractor working to repair the bridge on the Rio Norte Line. He has stopped the work due to worn-out drill heads. The contractor makes excuses, saying it's not his fault the work is delayed, and he's doing the best he can. Dagny's response is emblematic of her work ethic and the ethic she expects from her employees. The contractor says such an attitude is "mighty unpopular."


When we deal with people, considerations other than truth enter the question.

Dr. Robert Stadler, Part 1, Chapter 7

When the State Science Institute issues a groundless public statement condemning Rearden Metal, Dagny Taggart visits Dr. Robert Stadler, the institute's head, and asks him to share with the public his positive opinion of the Metal based on his scientific understanding. Dr. Stadler's response is typical of his tendency to hide the truth to keep his job, a corruption at the root of his immorality.


What are they, your mills—a holy temple of some kind?

Hank Rearden's mother, Part 1, Chapter 7

Hank Rearden refuses his mother's pleas to give his brother a job. He says Philip Rearden would be useless as an employee and points out he's not running a "whorehouse." His mother's contemptuous, sarcastic response makes Rearden realize his mills are, in fact, sacred: they are the material product of his vision and his morality, a temple of man's achievements.


It was the greatest sensation of existence: not to trust, but to know.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 8

During the inaugural train ride of Taggart Transcontinental's John Galt Line, Dagny Taggart feels "safer than she ever had." She can see clearly what is ahead of her and has full knowledge of her course. She is completely in control of her own life, unlike those who are blindly "pulled into the unknown" by a power outside themselves.


Love is our response to our highest values—and can be nothing else.

Francisco d'Anconia, Part 2, Chapter 4

Francisco d'Anconia tells Hank Rearden he is not a playboy; that was just a ruse to conceal his real purpose. Francisco says a man who is certain of his own value does not need to seek validation by sleeping with an endless string of women. Such a man seeks one woman who "reflects his deepest image of himself."


Who will tell us the truth? Who will save us? Oh, who is John Galt?!

Eddie Willers, Part 2, Chapter 9

Eddie Willers, addressing the nameless railroad worker with whom he is dining, expresses his despair at the nation's hopeless situation, created by the lies and machinations of a corrupt, overreaching government. He calls out for a savior, using the question, "Who is John Galt?" to signify his frustration. Unbeknownst to him, the man he addresses is John Galt, who has taken it upon himself to save the country by telling it the truth.


To hold an unchanging youth is to reach ... the vision with which one started.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 1

The narrator describes Dagny Taggart's realization, during her second day at Galt's Gulch, that time is circular rather than linear. Recalling the story that John Galt found the fountain of youth, she realizes Galt's Gulch is a metaphorical fountain of youth. It is a place where great men can leave behind the larger society, which tries to corrupt their vision and convictions, to live in the kind of society they envisioned as children.


All work is an act of philosophy.

Hugh Akston, Part 3, Chapter 1

At Galt's Gulch, Hugh Akston explains that it is not self-contradictory for a philosopher to undertake practical work, as he has done by working as a cook and running a cigarette factory. A man's moral code permeates whatever type of work he undertakes. Work is the lived expression of an individual's guiding philosophy, and the two cannot be separated.


The world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values.

Dagny Taggart, Part 3, Chapter 2

Dagny Taggart tells John Galt she started her life with a "single absolute": her determination to live according to her highest standards. For that reason, she will go back to fight for the valley and fight to be worthy of Galt. It will be an act of rational self-interest.


Joy is the goal of existence, and joy is not to be stumbled upon, but to be achieved.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 3

The narrator shares Hank Rearden's thoughts as Philip Rearden, his younger brother, accuses him of never having felt anything. Philip believes there is no such thing as joy, only suffering or an absence of suffering. He thinks Hank has never suffered; thus, he must never have felt anything at all. Hank, however, believes in joy and feels contempt for Philip's self-righteousness and embrace of pain as a way of life.


I don't want to be loved for anything. I want to be loved for myself.

James Taggart, Part 3, Chapter 4

Cherryl Taggart tells James she once loved him for his ability—or what she thought was his ability. He encouraged her to believe Taggart Transcontinental's greatness was due to his actions, not Dagny's. James Taggart insists he deserves love simply for being a person, not for any of his virtues, abilities, or actions. He claims love is its own cause, and to love someone for their virtues isn't true love. True love, he says, means loving someone for his or her faults and weaknesses. He has no shortage of them.


They possess ... a mode of consciousness superior to reason.

John Galt, Part 3, Chapter 7

In his speech to the nation, John Galt describes how those who seek to control others claim the authority to do so. They pretend to have inside access to knowledge unavailable to those who rely on their own reason. This lie is reflected in the way power works in American society: a small group of bureaucrats, businessmen, and lawmakers rule the country by using their influence over one another to achieve their own selfish aims at the expense of the public welfare they purportedly protect.


The root of that legend exists ... in the past of every man.

John Galt, Part 3, Chapter 7

Speaking to the nation, John Galt reflects on mythologies about a paradise lost in the distant past, such as the Garden of Eden and Atlantis. He insists the lost paradise in these legends is not metaphorical; it refers to the "radiant state of existence" most individuals leave behind in childhood, when they are educated out of trusting their own reason and begin to trust external authority instead. Galt believes paradise is available to all who reclaim their own reason as the highest authority of their life.


The road is cleared .... We are going back to the world.

John Galt, Part 3, Chapter 10

John Galt and Dagny Taggart stand on a mountain looking at the crumbled world before them. Galt has achieved his goal: society has entirely collapsed, and the way is clear for the people of Galt's Gulch to leave the valley and create a new society based on rational self-interest, where government exists only to protect individuals' rights and people are free to work and to create according to their own vision.

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