Recently I read Francisco d’Anconia’s monumental speech about the virtue of money in Atlas Shrugged (pages 387-391 in my Signet 35th Anniversary Edition). In answer to someone who quips that “money is the root of all evil,” d’Anconia argues that the root of money is production, and the root of production is the reasoning mind. It is a speech well worth perusing, and it is often discussed.
On this reading, I was equally struck by the discussion that d’Anconia holds with Hank Rearden immediately after the speech. I have heard the claim that Atlas Shrugged encourages emotional repression. However, Ayn Rand presents some of her heros as emotionally repressed precisely to point out why that’s a problem. Rearden mentions some “fool woman.” D’Anconia replies:
That woman and all those like her keep evading the thoughts which they know to be good. You keep pushing out of your mind the thoughts which you believe to be evil. They do it, because they want to avoid effort. You do it, because you won’t permit yourself to consider anything that would spare you. They indulge their emotions at any cost. You sacrifice your emotions as the first cost of any problem. They are willing to bear nothing. You are willing to bear anything. They keep evading responsibility. You keep assuming it. But don’t you see that the essential error is the same? Any refusal to recognize reality, for any reason whatever, has disastrous consequences. There are no evil thoughts except one: the refusal to think. Don’t ignore your own desires, Mr. Rearden. Don’t sacrifice them. Examine their cause. There is a limit to how much you should have to bear. (page 394)
So, Rand points out, emotionalism, letting one’s emotions guide one’s life without rational oversight, stems from essentially the same error as emotional repression. That error is evasion, the pushing out of one’s mind relevant knowledge or questions. Because Rearden tends to evade certain types of facts, he becomes emotionally repressed. This leads him to actively help those who are trying to tear him down and to damn his own desire for romantic sex. In presenting emotional repression in certain characters, Rand is exploring the roots of such repression so that it can be overcome.