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Women of the Mind: Thoughts on Two Female Writers of American Literature

Updated on July 17, 2017

Miss Rand's Work

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An Interview with Miss Rand

The Worlds of Ayn Rand and Harper Lee

In the summertime when the grills and everything else seem hot, the time for relaxing and enjoying the freedoms that America has to offer is also the appropriate occasion for reading for the season. Just a week apart, two American novelists who have engrained themselves within the culture of the United States, Ayn Rand and Harper Lee, have their novels published in July 2015. Ideal, Miss Rand’s opus was released on July 7 and Miss Lee’s work Go Set a Watchman will be released one week later on the 14th. While what these women represent may be diametrically opposed to one another, the essence of both of their writings demonstrates a mutual respect for the universe each woman presents in her tales. While Miss Rand is no longer living to see Ideal published, Miss Lee at 89 will see her novel available to the people.

In Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), the central themes of innocence lost and losing battles play out in a Southern Gothic story about standing up for justice. Jean Louise “Scout” Finch’s sunny outlook despite witnessing bitterness and defeat in the novel strengthens the morality of the book. The trial of Tom Robinson and Atticus Finch’s stoic resolve to see a fair trial conducted is of monumental literary significance. The racist and irascible Mrs. Dubose’s struggle with chemical dependency is written to strike chords of emotional heft and sympathy for an otherwise despicable woman. But in Rand’s novels The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), the plot, theme, characterization and style differ tremendously. Instead of demonstrating that you should care about contemptible persons, Rand expresses the notion of men and women of profound virtue and the essence of the ideal man. She illustrates win/win situations and the Trader Principle. Howard Roark, the intransigent architect who never compromises on principles concerning buildings or love interests or John Galt who always exemplifies the role and efficacy of the human mind bring to the fore the possibilities of what great literature is offered. Even in her lesser novels, We the Living (1936) and Anthem (1938), Rand demonstrates the supremacy of reason and the utter importance of individualism. Characters like Equality 7-2521 and Kira Argounova fight for their right to exist amidst the crushing forces of collectives. With the publication of Ideal, the focus will be on the heroine, Kay Gonda who embodies the sense of life of a free spirit and a woman whose chief concern is herself without the sacrifice of others to herself.

Both authors have depicted in print the possibilities for female writers. If the idea of feminism has any meaning, it is in the works of both Miss Rand and Miss Lee that would give this movement credence. Mis Rand and Miss Lee each use the capacity of their thoughts to construct, develop, and display the content of much beloved stories, the world over. Both Miss Rand and Miss Lee show in their writings a strong sense of purpose in women and young ladies. Dominique in The Fountainhead drives the character vehicle which places her in opposition to Roark. Her willingness to break him in mind is a result of her view that no heroes can exist anywhere for the long term. Scout’s insistence on discovering Boo Radley is part of her intrepid adventure into the world of an abandoned man-boy. Dagney Taggart’s quest for a man of mystery in Atlas Shrugged is a fight to identify why the world around her is collapsing and the prime mover of the removal of the men of ability. In Miss Rand and Miss Lee, the purpose driven female characters propel the narrative and instruct it where to go. In accordance with literary standards, there is truly no depiction like Dagny’s as she represents a businesswoman concerned with facts and logic. With Miss Lee’s Scout, an inquisitive young lady who appears to be a reckless tomboy is the heart of the story. For their stories to function, these tellers fit females into the landscape and have achieved immense value. They have fashioned these characters and crafted them to coincide with their respective visions. These women have provided on the literary scene fresh takes on American life. Their clear eyed focus on each detail which their worlds showcase stems from their unwavering and unflinching capability to bear the truth. On their own terms, both Miss Rand and Miss Lee deliver on the promise to themselves to tell the world what it is about humanity that makes it remarkable, curious, and down right intriguing. From Scout’s insight into Atticus Finch’s determination and from Dominique’s propensity for attempting destruction to Francisco d’Anconia’s effortlessness, the novels of Miss Rand and Miss Lee burst with interesting characters. Their works boast some of the most intricate settings which are peopled with outstanding figures which wrestle with the big ideas.

To completely encapsulate these books, it would require an active brain bent on finding out what’s what and who’s who. It would require an inquiring mind that relishes in sorting out truths and the will to bring to those truths personal experience. In Go Set a Watchman, Miss Lee positions the young Scout as her birth name and a young adult. This perspective will undoubtedly lend an understanding into the world of this adored female character. With Miss Rand’s Ideal, the intense intelligence of Miss Rand will light brilliantly the life of Kay. As expected, Kay epitomizes the real life goddesses of the silver screen, Greta Garbo and a Katharine Hepburn in her youth. Her whole outlook on life and her desire to be sheltered from the pursuit of the authorities will apparently resemble no other heroine in Miss Rand’s oeuvre. With the release of these two titles, both Miss Rand and Miss Lee’s status among the male dominated canon will be in a position to increase their visibility in the literary world. While Miss Lee won the Pulitzer Prize and Miss Rand won no awards during her lifetime (posthumously, the Prometheus Awards recognized her novels Anthem and Atlas Shrugged for their science fiction elements) critics and supporters alike will have material to be challenged by and discussed at length.

Miss Rand will receive less press than that of Miss Lee not because she is no longer alive, but because her works imply radical changes to the current state of affairs. A discourse concerning Miss Rand’s novels is still relegated to libertarian and conservative circles, though Miss Rand was an Objectivist. Despite the intellectual sensibilities which Miss Rand’s works encompass, the gripping storylines and sensational plots help to give her works the appreciation which they deserve. Both writers dealt with morality and accomplished what they set out to do. For their outstanding characters, engaging plots, and everlasting themes, Miss Rand and Miss Lee deserve all the praise and adulation that the planet may afford. Their eternal grace and undying standards have stood the test of time. They will forever be women of the mind.

An interview with Miss Lee

Miss Lee's Work

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