I've read Atlas Shrugged, and every once in a while it seems like the plot stops while some character goes on for pages making some kind of speech. Then, just as the story is really picking up at the end, John Galt gets on the radio and talks for 60 pages! Is all that really necessary?
(There may be a few spoilers here, and I’m assuming you’ve read the book)
You have to ask yourself one very important question: exactly how important are ideas in this book? Objectivism holds that people are motivated by their basic premises. This means the philosophy that they hold in regards to what we would identify as all of the major branches of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.
What is wrong in the world of Atlas Shrugged (which is paralleled in our own world)? The answer is, of course, philosophy. The world is being destroyed by a destructive philosophy, and this is not merely the dominant ethics, but that all the philosophies held by people in the book are aimed at destroying the mind.
What the novel illustrates are these basic ideologies in action. It is a dramatization of what occurs when certain essential ideas are held by people. Hank Rearden is unable to be happy because he has accepted some of the evil within the dominant trend. All of the villains continually destroy themselves and each other based upon certain ideologies. For example, Francisco reveals the errors of the villains in their estimate of the meaning of money. They have effectually acted upon the idea that the profit motive is evil, and in so doing implemented policies such as Anti-dog-eat-dog, and the Equalization of Opportunity bill. His speech points out the flaws in their arguments, and his actions put them into play.
John Galt is the man who has made the entire world be directly confronted with their own philosophy. No longer can they hide behind the productive genius of men like him. They will be confronted with their chosen philosophy. His speech elucidates every good and bad philosophy demonstrated throughout the book.
Also, a huge mystery in the novel is: What on earth is John Galt saying to these strikers to convince them to strike?
All of these enormous moguls are simply leaving their industries out of the blue. This is not believable in any real way if there isn’t some huge motivating factor or massive realization within their thinking that allows them to understand their error. This is best illustrated with Dagny. Dagny is a very strong woman who cannot act merely on the word of others. Therefore, the abstraction of the death premise (which Galt explains in his speech) is only real to her when it is concretized in the form of a gun being held on Galt, but even this would not have been possible had she not come to understand the death premise. We have to assume Galt has helped these other businessmen come to this same realization through a very similar speech.
The essential answer is that a man’s fundamental philosophy is what helps him take actions. The book’s theme is “the importance of reason in man’s life,” and in order to demonstrate a world in which reason could be accepted, Rand had to demonstrate the importance of ideas in man’s life. This requires the theoretical dialogue and the action.
answered Sep 18 '10 at 21:01