Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rand and Romanticism

I have been reading We the Living by Ayn Rand, and I’ve probably already told most of you how much I love it. Here’s a little background: It’s set in 1925 in Soviet Russia. The main character Kira is an 18 year-old member of the bourgeois who strongly objects to the Soviet State.
 "It is a story about dictatorship, any dictatorship, anywhere, at any time, whether it be Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or- which this novel might to its share to prevent- a socialist America."- Ayn Rand

Early in the novel, Kira thinks back to a book about a Viking that she read as a child. For the Viking, there was “no boundary for the point of his sword” (Rand 37). The Viking “lived but for the joy and the wonder and the glory of the god that was himself” (37). Essentially, the Viking wasn’t the most moral guy around and obviously suffered from a bit of a God-complex. However, he lived for himself and according to the way he wanted to live. In a way, the Viking does reflect some principles of Romanticism. Having a boundary for his sword probably would have been better for a greater number of people than it had been without a boundary, but the Viking wasn’t focused on acting for the greater good. I realize that we don’t usually associate Romanticism with violent men running freely simply to fulfill their own individual desires- also to think of the Viking’s situation that way would also be taking Rand’s analogy far too literally. The Norton Anthology specifically states that Romanticism implies “a narrowing outlook from the stability of community to the ‘fulfillment’ of the individual.” I’d say the Viking’s outlook was pretty much zeroed in on his own individual desires.
 “’To a life,’ said the Viking, ‘which is reason unto itself’” (Rand 37).

By the way, it is very likely that I absolutely misinterpreted Rand’s intended use of the Viking and his story (or made a connection to Romanticism that she never intended to be made), which, in my opinion, is one of the great things about literature. 

1 comment:

Miranda Martinez said...

I really need to read "We The Living." It sounds like such a fascinating novel. I'm surprised I've never really heard of her before.