The Literary Art of Ayn Rand
so much of the literature of the twentieth century, her novels are an outstand-ing exception. They are at once a continuation of the Romantic tradition and asignificant departure from the mainstream of that tradition: she is a
. “Romantic”—because her work is concerned with
, with theessential, the abstract, the universal in human life, and with the projection of man as a heroic being. “Realist”—because the values she selects pertain tothis earth and to man’s actual nature, and because the issues with which shedeals are the crucial and fundamental ones of our age. Her novels do notrepresent a flight into mystical fantasy or into the historical past or into con-cerns that have little if any bearing on man’s actual existence. Her heroes arenot knights, gladiators or adventurers in some impossible kingdom, but engi-neers, scientists, industrialists, men who belong on earth, men who function inmodern society.“Things as they might be” is the principle of Realism: it means thatfiction must stay within the bounds of reality, and not indulge in fantasiesconcerning the logically or metaphysically impossible. “Things as they oughtto be” is the principle of Romanticism: it means things objectively possible andproper to man, things which he
As a philosopher,Rand has brought ethics into the context of reason, reality, and man’s life onearth; as a novelist, she has brought the dramatic, the exciting, the heroic, andthe stylized into the same context.Just as in philosophy she rejects every version of the soul-body di-chotomy: theory versus practice, thought versus action, morality versus hap-piness—so in literature she rejects the expression of this same dichotomy: thebelief that a profound novel cannot be entertaining, and that an entertainingnovel cannot be profound, that a serious, philosophical novel cannot have adramatic plot, and that a dramatic plot-novel cannot possibly be serious orphilosophical.
is an action story on a grand scale, but it is a con-sciously philosophical action story, just as its heroes are consciously philo-sophical men of action. To those who subscribe to the soul-body dichotomy inliterature,
is an anomaly that defies classification by conven-tional standards. It moves effortlessly and ingeniously from economics to epis-temology to morality to metaphysics to psychology to the theory of sex, on theone hand—and, on the other, it has a chapter that ends with the heroine hur-tling toward the earth in an airplane with a dead motor, it has a playboy cru-sader who blows up a multi-billion dollar industry, a philosopher-turned-piratewho attacks government relief ships, and a climax that involves the rescue of the hero from a torture chamber. Notwithstanding the austere solemnity of itsabstract theme, her novel—as a work of art—projects the laughing, extrava-gantly imaginative virtuosity of a mind who has never heard that “one is notsupposed” to combine such elements as these in a single book. To those who