I’ve finally started reading Atlas Shrugged. The following posts will be about Atlas Shrugged.
I find some people give the book criticism I don’t agree with, and that is part of why I want to express my thoughts.
The first topic is Hank Rearden and his infidelity. Should his cheating be judged as harshly as regular cheating? Some people seem to this his wife was the victim in all this, and he was a sociopath for treating her the way he did. I disagree.
First of all, I’m pretty judgmental about cheating. In my mind, it’s not okay to cheat if:
1.Your spouse got fat.
2.You got fat, and your spouse is reluctant to have sex with you.
3.You “drifted apart”.
It’s not okay to cheat if a problem arose, and you didn’t do everything you could to correct it. When something otherwise good has a flaw, you don’t just throw it out and get a new one. You try to fix it. And if nothing you do worked – then you can dump them, not cheat. I know some people would fight even harder to preserve a marriage, but I’m not a “stay married no matter what” kind of person. If you’re being abused, denied sex or cheated on, I wouldn’t judge you if you left – you only got one life, so live it. And there is only one situation where I find cheating totally okay – it is when you cannot get out of an unfixable relationship/marriage safely, or at all.
Hank Rearden marries Lillian because she was pursuing him while being hard to get, and because she seemed to like what he loved the most in life – his mills:
“It was Lillian’s austerity that attracted him – the conflict between her austerity and her behavior. He had never liked anyone or expected to be liked. He found himself held by the spectacle of a woman who was obviously pursuing him but with obvious reluctance, as if against her own will, as if fighting a desire she resented.”
“The look in her eyes, when she watched a heat of steel being poured, was like his own feeling for it made visible to him. When her eyes moved up to his own face, he saw the same look, but intensified to a degree that seemed to make her helpless and silent. It was at dinner, that evening, that he asked her to marry him.”
Although later, it turns out she’s neither into steel, nor into him. In fact, she makes him hate his own sexuality:
“She had never objected; she had never refused him anything; she submitted whenever he wished. She submitted in the manner of complying with the rule that it was, at times, her duty to become an inanimate object turned over to her husband’s use.
She did not censure him. She made it clear that she took it for granted that men had degrading instincts which constituted the secret, ugly part of marriage. She was condescendingly tolerant. She smiled, in amused distaste, at the intensity of what he experienced. “It’s the most undignified pastime I know of,” she said to him once, “but I have never entertained the illusion that men are superior to animals.””
This torturous marriage goes on for quite a while, and it looks like Lillian never says anything to Hank, unless it’s passive-aggressive and meant to tear down his self-worth. Critics would say that it’s all a result of Hank being workaholic and utterly uninterested in his wife’s interests, but I’m not so sure. Hank never pretended to like Lillian’s home decorating hobbies in the first place, while Lillian did act like she liked Hank’s steel business, when she really didn’t. I even dare to say was a subtle bait-and-switch.
I know I said one must work on the flaws in the marriage, but I also think some people should be avoided immediately after red flags start popping up. I think Lillian is one of them. Hank Rearden, for whatever reason, is simply too stupid to notice when he’s being eaten alive. Last time I had that problem, I was 7 years old. Something like 14 percent of people in my city have a personality disorder according to statistics. If someone feels off, they are probably not reasonable and you shouldn’t try to treat them like a reasonable person. You can’t make things work with those. Avoid.
But Hank has no sense of self-preservation, so he decided to endure the torturous marriage, believing he deserved it for having normal sexual desire. Bur he’s still human and wants a sexually healthy, willing woman, so he ends up cheating with Dagny Taggart. Ironically, it is his self-sacrifice that leads to cheating. If he were selfish, he’d dump the emotional vampire right away and never have to cheat.
So, was it wrong of him to cheat on his wife? Sort of. It was less of a crime against Lillian, and more of a crime against himself. The crime was tolerating torture and then taking the blame for trying to alleviate it. I don’t think you owe any sort of loyalty to someone who’s only there to hurt you. Even if you promised something to them, it’s pretty ridiculous to keep that promise while they are eating you alive.