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Each of the characters in Ayn Rand's novels stand more as a symbol of an ideal rather than a fictional person. Philosophically, they represent an idea that they choose to exhibit. However, Ayn Rand gives these characters physical appearances that mirror who they are. The antagonists have uglier, more repulsive looks, and the protagonists are beautiful and attractive. Dagny Taggart and Dominique Francon are obviously the most physically attractive characters Ayn Rand ever created. The President of the United States in Atlas Shrugged, if I remember correctly, was described later on in the book as a socialist with a "forgettable face."

What does this say about real life? Do the physical traits of the characters reflect their philosophy, or is Ayn Rand simply trying to paint the readers an image? All of the protagonists and members of Galt's Gulch are described as being exceptionally attractive, while the villains are generally described as pudgy. Is Ayn Rand trying to say that being talented, hard working, and passionate makes you attractive, and not the other way around?

asked Aug 06 '12 at 15:08

Collin1's gravatar image


edited Mar 03 '15 at 14:19

There are things that you can't change (heights) and there are things that you can (weight). I think you can see evidences that often (not always) there is a connection between mental health and physical health.

With that said, Ayn Rand's characters are heroes...in spirit as well as in physical.

(Aug 14 '12 at 15:06) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

I've always thought that it's not as much the actual physical appearance that is so remarkably different (although that, too, since of course, she's not writing naturalistic fiction), but the description. Many of the characters aren't described as classic beauties or perfect Adonises, if you look only at the content of the description. But the choice of words and tone make it read very appealing.

(Mar 15 '15 at 18:04) FCH FCH's gravatar image

In this way, it does mirror real life: I can see a beautiful woman, find out that she is a slut, and never see her appearance the same way. Or I can find a plain girl, fnd out that she is a brilliant and passionate person, and only ever see a beauty from then on.

For men, it works the same way.

(Mar 15 '15 at 18:04) FCH FCH's gravatar image
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What does [romanticized fiction] say about real life? ... is Ayn Rand simply trying to paint the readers an image?

Romanticized fiction does not "mirror" real life, like a photograph or journalistic report or "how to" self-improvement manual. The connection to real life is far more abstract than that, and is specifically value-oriented. But a story has to present itself in concrete terms, which includes physical descriptions of the scenes and characters. What kind of physical appearance, then, most clearly expresses an image of highly purposeful human action, highly competent and intelligent, with little wasted motion or superfluous personal qualities? My understanding is that that is all Ayn Rand is trying to do with her physical character descriptions. She's "trying to paint ... an image," as the questioner puts it, but an image that best expresses the abstract essence. Note that in real life, Ayn Rand herself was neither tall nor slender nor particularly gorgeous compared to other women, although many have commented on the attentiveness of her eyes and the expressiveness of her emotional reactions whenever she was intensely studying something and/or delighted or angry at something or someone.

answered Mar 03 '15 at 21:54

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Aug 06 '12 at 15:08

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Last updated: Mar 15 '15 at 18:05