Sunday, 15 September 2019

Existentialism, Alienation, Sartre, and Ayn Rand

For the existentialist philosophers in the 20th century, alienation was a natural theme. In their writings they have talked about how the social pressures, mass culture, and modern technologies can alienate an individual from his surroundings. The existentialists were the first to deify the alienated individual as a man of virtue, rationality, and knowledge.

Ayn Rand’s fiction owes a debt to the existentialist deification of the alienated individuals.

In 1938, Jean-Paul Sartre published his novel Nausea in which the leading character is a tall, red-haired, alienated young man called Antoine Roquentin. In Rand’s 1943 novel The Fountainhead, the leading character is Howard Roark, a tall, red-haired, alienated young man. I am not sure if Roark’s name and physical characteristics are in any way inspired by Sartre’s Roquentin.

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