Atlas Shrugged: Should We Condemn Hank Rearden for Cheating on His Wife?

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.

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33 Responses to Atlas Shrugged: Should We Condemn Hank Rearden for Cheating on His Wife?

  1. Liz says:

    It has been about 20 years since I’ve read Atlas Shrugged (I read it twice in its entirety). From what I remember, I think Hank Rearden was totally justified.
    His marriage contract was fraudulent. Bait and switch, as you mentioned…she did not care for him at all. Fortunately they didn’t have children, which made it a pretty tidy situation (Ayn Rand generally left children out of her utopian pieces, if she hadn’t they wouldn’t be utopian).

    • I wonder if children could not be made a part of Rand’s world without ruining anything? I don’t see why. Raising kids is a job lots of people are passionate about.

      Btw, I do think her ideals have limitations. But I tend to view them like Newton’s theories – pretty reasonable, until variables get extreme.

      • Liz says:

        I don’t think children (or the infirm, or mentally unbalanced, to name a few other types) would fit well in Rand’s world. Raising kids might be a “job” folks are passionate about (and if they aren’t they would make very poor parents) but parenting, and raising a family in general isn’t so much a job as a lifestyle where biological imperative compells one to put others before oneself. It doesn’t fit into Rand’s objectivist philosphy very well and from what she has mentioned of children I get the impression she viewed them as resource-sucking leeches…which of course they are, but that doesn’t matter when one is a parent.

      • It’s not something you feel you put before yourself, if your happiness depends on their wellbeing. Same way, I think Hank Rearden viewed Rearden Metal as his baby. He spent 10 years and sunk a lot of money into it. It all he wanted was money, he’d find quicker ways to profit. I believe children is a similar type of project – they are very precious to you, and they take a long time to become of any use at all, but in the end, they do 🙂

      • Liz says:

        “I believe children is a similar type of project – they are very precious to you, and they take a long time to become of any use at all, but in the end, they do”
        I REALLY like what you say here, but the reality is…humans aren’t like things. They aren’t projects that one might put your blood and guts into and mold according to (whatever).
        You could put everything into your progeny and they disappoint, at the end of things.
        I don’t think that will be MY particular experience with any of my sons (thank God), but I’m lucky in that way. I’ve made choices so the odds are in our favor, but again…No one knows how his or her progeny are going to come out. I have done everything within my power to produce a certain outcome, and so far so good.
        They are their own people, at the end of things. And that’s the way it should be.

      • Well, projects don’t always work out the way you want them, either. Even if you put your blood and guts into them. Heck, even Rearden Metal doesn’t quite work out, since the vultures immediately descend on it, either wanting to stop it or to take it for themselves. There is a risk in any large project. But if you love it, you don’t worry as much as you would if you didn’t really care for it. I believe this is why people have kids, or invent/create inventions/art 🙂

  2. theasdgamer says:

    First of all, I’m pretty judgmental about cheating. In my mind, it’s not okay to cheat if:

    1.Your spouse got fat.

    If a woman gets fat, most men will lose sexual desire for her. Since getting fat is under a person’s control in almost all cases, married women who get fat have implicitly failed in their vows. “To have and to hold” implies that one will not allow oneself to become undesirable to one’s spouse. This vow is even more basic to marriage than is exclusivity. If the most basic vow is violated, then secondary vows like exclusivity become moot.

    Hence, if a woman lets herself get so fat that she is sexually undesirable, then the exclusivity vow is moot and there is no cheating by the man. Of course, letting yourself go is itself cheating your spouse.

    I realize that my argument will be unpopular with women, but it’s very reasonable.

    • Eric says:

      What if it’s the husband who’s a fat pig like this guy? Or does his ‘Game’ entitle him to sex anyway?

    • Interesting point of view. The reason I don’t share it is because becoming fat is reversible, while cheating is not. A lot of people don’t realize how much they are hurting their marriage that way, and can change their feelings once they see the bad effects.

      • theasdgamer says:

        Being fat is itself cheating. You can’t undo the time when you were unattractive to your partner.

      • Oh? Will they forever see you as that fat person, even when they look at your new skinny self? Sounds unusual.

      • theasdgamer says:

        You misunderstand. The time is lost. It can’t be recovered. If you make yourself unattractive, you have cheated your spouse and failed to uphold your most basic vows.

      • Oh, I see. I still don’t buy it though, as this reasoning can be used to cheat for any reason. I don’t think people get fat purposely, like the way people cheat. There is a lot of fatlogic going around, telling people weight gain just happens, or it’s genetic, or that 95% of diets fail. I think a lot of people don’t even realize they are overweight, or that they are eating more than they should. I can’t equate falling for these delusions and knowingly cheating. Same way I can’t equate betaization with cheating, although it makes the man unappealing or even repulsive. I believe those are mistakes that could be forgiven if they are corrected, not something one should immediately retaliate to, by knowingly cheating.

      • theasdgamer says:

        A woman letting herself get fat is itself a 5h1t test. Because she has options and her man doesn’t.

        You still fail to address my point that letting yourself get fat is cheating and breaking your most basic vow.

        I don’t buy your argument that “it just happened.” Women are VERY conscious about their figure. If they are strongly attracted to a man (he has options), then they will makes sure that they don’t get fat.

      • “A woman letting herself get fat is itself a 5h1t test. Because she has options and her man doesn’t.”

        I think it could be true in many cases. It could be a sign that the woman doesn’t care about you and it could be a part of the bait&switch. I wouldn’t bother staying with such a woman. But I don’t think it’s always so. Thinking it’s “ok” or “I’m not that fat” and becoming complacent could also be the reason.

        “Women are VERY conscious about their figure.”
        That’s what they say on TV, but I’m not sure I believe in it anymore. There is no anorexia epidemic, but there is an obesity epidemic. And I think many people really don’t know they are fat, at least judging by this study:

      • theasdgamer says:

        Women become complacent because she isn’t chasing the man. He lacks options and is unattractive.

        A woman who is chasing an attractive man will always Always ALWAYS be concerned about her figure.

      • theasdgamer says:

        I question that article. My BMI is 27.7, but I’m not likely overweight. I am quite muscular, especially in my legs. I could stand to lose 15 lbs., but that’s not that much.

      • By BMI standards, you’re overweight alright, and by your own judgement, 15lbs overfat. See that? Fatlogic works, lol. Now go here and question what you believe about weight: (although I don’t like this subreddit 100%, I think they blast through a lot of delusions).

      • theasdgamer says:

        Also, there’s a lack of empathy in your comment for men who have a higher sex drive than you women do. Men suffer more from sex denial than do women.

      • I don’t deny that. But I also believe that it’s harder to turn a man completely off than a woman, by becoming less attractive. That’s why it’s usually the men who complain about lack of sex in marriage.

      • theasdgamer says:

        A woman who is more than 4 SMV points lower than a man will be unattractive to him. Some men are pickier, so let’s say 3 SMV points. I can go as low as a 5 if I have beer goggles and I’m really horny, maybe. I probably need a 6+ since I don’t drink much–preferably a 7+ to get motivated enough to act. If a woman is fat, she’ll be a 4, tops. A 3 if she’s a whale. Some women can be 20 lbs. overweight and still be a 6.

      • Eric says:

        The problem is that Gamecocks believe (like Feminists do) that genders are inherently mutually antagonistic, and that sex=love. The belief that female beauty fades through an act of intentional volition is just a variation of femihag justifications for No-Fault Divorce, with the genders reversed.

        Men are more visual; but normal men respond to what they value; which is why a girl with an average SMV gets a high-SMV man far more often than the other way around. The reason fat, unkempt women are unattractive is because they don’t respect themselves enough to attract a man—neither do sluts, though, because of their character.

      • theasdgamer says:

        Intentional volition? No, Eric, you misunderstand. A woman despises her man first for supplicating her, then she gains weight because she doesn’t care about pleasing him.

        Supplicate God, not women.

      • theasdgamer says:

        Eric, what is a slut? The average woman will have 6+ partners before she dies–CDC.

        Don’t pedestalize women. They are as capable of sexual sin as men. All women are potential sluts.

        You don’t understand how women’s libido works. Around an attractive man, a woman’s libido will spike. The libido of men is on by default. Women’s libido is responsive, by contrast. They don’t seek sexual sin like men do, because women don’t have a libido that is always on. However, women will let their libidos take control when their libidos respond to attractive men.

      • Eric says:

        Women who are satisfied don’t fight with men. Game teaches men to pedestalize and supplicate feminist women—it teaches men to cave in to women’s worst instincts instead of bringing out their better ones.

        Feminists teach women to suppress their libido among attractive men. Women are taught that all men are pigs and all sex is rape, so they seek sex with thugs and metrosexuals and even lesbians purely for release because they’re taught to hate men. Normal women bond with men with whom they’re sexually attracted.

      • theasdgamer says:

        Eric said, “Women who are satisfied don’t fight with men. ”

        You are pedestalizing women instead of attributing sin to them. Women can fight with men just because they are on the rag. Or because the repairman was late. Or because the girl on the soap opera was cheated on by the man on the soap opera. Or because she has a hang nail. Etc.

        Eric douched out: “Game teaches men to pedestalize and supplicate feminist women”

        If this is true, then you have been buttfucked by half the men in San Francisco. Seriously, you have zero credibility when you make stupid statements like this. Game is about being persuasive–no more and no less.

        Eric vomited: “it [Game] teaches men to cave in to women’s worst instincts instead of bringing out their better ones. ”

        More douchebag pedestalization by Eric. Grow a pair, bro. [shakin’ ma haid] Women aren’t impressed by this bilge.

      • Eric says:

        What do you mean ‘attributing sin to them’? Are you arguing here that only one gender has the capacity to sin? Regardless; Christians are to help one another avoid sin; St. John tells us this done through love and not through fear, or manipulation.

        And look who’s talking about incredible and stupid statements. How does one persuade without seeking common ground? To do this with Femihags one has to accept Feminist premises; i.e. gender wars, relationships without love, &c. If Femihags teach women to go against their instincts and Game reinforces those teachings.

        A real relationship is not competitive; it’s complimentary. Both genders bring out the better natures of the other. Game and Feminism teach they are mutually antagonistic. And BTW, the homos believe in gender antagonism too.

  3. Eric says:

    Ayn Rand’s characters always came across to me as somewhat cold. When I read Atlas Shrugged, I didn’t really get the impression that Lillian didn’t like Hank’s business, but that she lost interest in it. She actually seemed to have more of an emotional connection to him than to her. Rearden dumped her; and he didn’t even connect well with Dagny either, since she ended up dumping him.

    • Liz says:

      Interesting, Eric. I didn’t get that impression about Rearden’s marriage at all.
      Maybe I need to reread. It has been a long long while.

    • “Rearden dumped her; and he didn’t even connect well with Dagny either, since she ended up dumping him.”

      Spoilers, dammit!.. Well, I sort of knew it already 🙂 But yes, I must admit the love and the sexuality in Rand novels is not my cup of tea. There is too much violence, not enough gentleness. But I guess Rand liked it that way.

      As for Hank and Dagny, I’m not sure I’d call it romantic love (at least so far, I haven’t finished the book yet). They are more like good friends, but with benefits. They like banging each other, and doing business with each other.

  4. Liz says:

    Have you finished the book? 🙂

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