North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › A laid back conversation about We the Living...

A laid back conversation about We the Living...

Taryn
TarynCC
Lubbock, TX
Post #: 10
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I haven't seen many new threads on here in the last week or so since I have been diligent about checking. I think most people are probably silently watching the debate going on (undoubtably the most mature debate I have ever seen on a public chat forum) so I thought I would start something new.

I finished reading We the Living last week and I find myself in somewhat of an emotional wreck. (Spoiler warning: if you haven't read the book I don't want to ruin it for you--but I recommend you spend a couple of days with it and see what you think!)

It is not so much that I have a little girl's fantasy of happy endings with rainbows and butterflies (although I won't deny it fully) but I have been wondering what Ayn Rand intended me to take away when Kira was shot. Her forward says that she did not want to tell the world what conditions were like in Soviet Russia, but any country under the rule of communism. And not just that, she also wanted to warn Americans against socialism, and I assume she wanted to show what a country like that was bound to become. So by Kira's death I suppose she wanted to illustrate the strangle hold that communism has over its victims.

Does Kira dying show that once a country allows itself to be ruled by communism there is no escape? That, the inability to make your own escape route, seems to be a bit of a contradiction to her fundamental beliefs (not to mention Rand got out herself). However, as all of us know, contradictions do not exist and we need therefore only check our premises. So why does she fail in her flee for freedom?

Maybe the point we are supposed to come away with is not that she was unable to escape, but that she TRIED to escape. Sure she dies in the end, but at least she died trying to live as opposed to the others she left behind who live only by allowing themselves to be slowly murdered. And not only were they allowing it, but they were making the murder weapon and wrapping it nicely before handing it over to their murderers.

Sometimes at the end of a novel, especially older ones, the main character will die while others live. It is often considered a "Christ-story", meaning of course that one character died to allow the others to live (Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a great example). But that is not the case with Living since no one is able to go on living because of her death.

So, what do you think? Why did Kira die and how do you feel about it? Or any other thoughts you may have on the book (I for one have many more...)

Taryn
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 149
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I think she was trying to show that when all freedom is taken away, the good can not survive. It was the final punctuation point on the evil that collectivism is and how it destroys. I don't think the story would have been the same if she were allowed to live.

How would you rank this with the rest of her fiction?

- Travis
Dan
dbclawyer
Allen, TX
Post #: 67
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I agree with Travis. Allowing Kira to live would contradict the theme of the story: life is not possible under a totalitarian system. Regardless of how it kills, it kills.
Taryn
TarynCC
Lubbock, TX
Post #: 11
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Of her four works of fiction I would have to say that We the Living is at the bottom of the list for me. Not because I didn't enjoy reading the book, but because she was much younger when she wrote it, she didn't have as much experience, and her philosophy wasn't as clear.

For instance, I hated the relationship between Kira and Leo. Why does she stay with Leo and drag him along with her after he had given up on himself? Because she loves him? That is certainly not the message that Ayn Rand normally sends. Even the way they start their relationship bothered me; an end like their's is really all you can expect when you think you love someone after three brief visits and then jump in the sack, regardless of the type of government you live under.

So, yes, it is my least favorite of the four--The Fountainhead will always be my sentimental favorite, Atlas Shrugged changed my life, and Anthem to me is what would happen at the end of an Atlas movie after the subheading - Fifty years later -

Thanks for your posts, you were both more articulate and clear than I was able to be.

Taryn
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 205
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I read We The Living first, because I wanted to read her fiction in the order she wrote it.
I loved it; but I didn't read it to gain any philosophical value from it, so maybe that helped. To me, she did a great job of portraying how communism can destroy the best in people.

I didn't really like how Kira dealt with Andre; but what she did was an example of how some people who were normally good did foolish thngs. That really rubbed me the wrong way, and I was hoping Leo would be an appropriate end, personally. (I have read others claim she wasn't wrong in her dealings with Andre but I think she was. I don't think there was any excuse for it.) I think the book gives a great insight into how Rand must have felt living in Russia during all this political and social turmoil. It made me understand so much more why she loved America and freedom so much, and hated altruism. She addresses a little bit in the forward of the book when it was re-released in the 50s or 60s about how proud she is of it and why.

I was disapointed when she died, but how she died was appropriate, and I don't think it was a tragic death at all, but really heroic in the end. "Life, undefeated, existed and could exist." That sums it up for me. I found the book to be awe inspiring.

I thought it was great book anyway. I think if Kira lived, she would have made it to NY, and gotten her act together. She just learned her lesson too late (with Leo). She took action, and unfortunately didn't get out. But she did take action, and saw that it would have been possible. I don't think she died in vain. It was better for her to die trying to get out of there and live a free. better life, than stay there.

I enjoyed the book a lot, more as a political piece of fiction and autbiographical "backdrop" for Rand than fiction for her philosophy.
Taryn
TarynCC
Lubbock, TX
Post #: 12
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Very well said, thank you. I agree with just about everything you said, except I am one of the ones who, I can't say approve of Kira's dealings with Andrei, but I understand them. I thought she did a great job of showing Kira trying to get money or a safe passage for Leo any way she could, and selling herself to Andrei was just her last option. Where I had the problem with the story was when she continued sleeping with Andrei after Leo had come home and even without taking any money. Why sting him along when she no longer needed to? Maybe Ayn Rand just knew she was going to need him again at the end of the book to save Leo yet again and so she decided to complicate the plot a bit more. Plus, Kira obviously had feelings for Andrei, so it helps to think that she was doing it for herself, also.

Where I went wrong in reading this book was doing it right after finishing Atlas Shrugged. Reading them in the order she wrote them would have been a better idea.

Taryn
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 150
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Of her four works of fiction I would have to say that We the Living is at the bottom of the list for me. Not because I didn't enjoy reading the book, but because she was much younger when she wrote it, she didn't have as much experience, and her philosophy wasn't as clear.

For instance, I hated the relationship between Kira and Leo. Why does she stay with Leo and drag him along with her after he had given up on himself? Because she loves him? That is certainly not the message that Ayn Rand normally sends. Even the way they start their relationship bothered me; an end like their's is really all you can expect when you think you love someone after three brief visits and then jump in the sack, regardless of the type of government you live under.

Most people I ask respond the same way. I was just curious if I could find someone else that has the same opinion as me. As fiction, I actually find We The Living to be her best work. I think it's because in her other fiction, the characters are very extreme, and for good purposes in getting her philosophical points across, but they are mostly writen to present her philosphy. In We The Living the characters are more true to life; they are somewhat flawed, they make the kind of mistakes you'd expect out of people, they struggle to find a way to survive in an oppressive, irrational world. Philosophically, it's not the best, but just as a story of fiction, in my opinion, it's the best of her fiction.

- Travis
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 206
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I regret she didn't write more fiction. I do wish Atlas Shrugged was 300 pages less if it meant we could have even just another short novel by her.
But I guess that is a sign of a good writing, leaving you wanting more? Not out of incompleteness of the story, but just desire for more of his or her creations. I feel the same way about Agatha Christie.

I haven't read the Night of January 16th yet, or her collection of short stories. Hopefully I will get those in the coming months.
Dan
dbclawyer
Allen, TX
Post #: 68
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There is a collection of Rand's early works called, strangely enough, The Early Ayn Rand. My favorite is "Red Pawn".
Taryn
TarynCC
Lubbock, TX
Post #: 13
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Thanks Dan, I am going to check that out.

Even as just a work of fiction I enjoy her two longer ones better. Well, the philosophy still plays in to why I like them more I suppose, it is difficult for me to separate the two. But I enjoy that the characters are extreme, that is the fictional aspect that I admire. As someone who (attempts) to write fiction I would find creating a hero to be the more difficult task.

Needless to say, though, her writing- all of it -always impresses me beyond explanation and makes me think about myself and my life in a way that nothing else ever has. What can I say, I'm a devoted fan.

Alright, time to go relax and try to recoup from a $400 textbook bill.....

Taryn
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