The Visual Power of Ayn Rand’s Fiction
sentation. In a note on
, for example, she writes: “The keypoints which will have to be
(in concrete events,
merely byimplication and exposition): The nature of the
prime movers’ martyrdom
.That must be
.” (396) Thus, Rand’s insistence that abstractions mustbe shown by means of concretes means essentially that they must be drama-tized.The idea of showing as dramatization is, of course, by no means origi-nal to Rand. Historically, it dates back at least as far as to Plato’s distinction inthe
between direct narration (
) and mediated narration(
)—a distinction which in modern theory is usually rendered as anopposition between showing and telling.
But it was only in the early part of the twentieth century, chiefly as a result of the influential writings of HenryJames and Percy Lubbock, that showing was elevated into a popular literarydoctrine. Lubbock especially, who in his book
The Craft of Fiction
(1921)pronounced that “the art of fiction does not begin until the novelist thinks of hisstory as a matter to be
, to be so exhibited that it will tell itself,” set off a vogue for an “objective” or “impersonal” mode of narration that asked theauthor to minimize his presence in the story by dramatizing the events ratherthan narrating them.
That is, the author should as far as possible avoid such“intrusive” forms of narration as summaries, commentary, and description sowidely practiced by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novelists like, for ex-ample, Henry Fielding, Jane Austen, and Victor Hugo and present the eventsmainly through dramatic scenes, stripped of all signs of authorial interven-tion.
Although Rand never makes any explicit reference to this modernistvogue for dramatic or scenic showing, she quite clearly absorbed some of itsbasic tenets—as suggested by the following statement: “Fiction is an atheisticuniverse: you are the God who is creating it, but there must not be any God inyour writing.” (
103) However, contrary to some of the more extremeadvocates of this view, who believed that the most effective story was one inwhich the author had been totally “effaced” from his work, apparently exer-cising no mediation at all (as Hemingway’s short story “The Killers” exempli-fies), Rand cultivated a less purist form of scenic presentation. What shesought to avoid was the kind of overt commentary in which a narrator inter-feres in his personal voice to explain or evaluate the events, or to discourseupon philosophical, historical, or scientific topics only slightly relevant to thestory. On a less intrusive level, however, Rand permitted certain forms of authorial mediation, aiming at an art of showing marked by a narrator whosepresence can be perceived in several respects.First, although Rand’s scenes are quite numerous, dominating hernovels, she does not rely exclusively on dramatization but chooses (like earliergenerations of novelists) to alternate between scene and summary, practicing