Laina's Reviews > We the Living

We the Living by Ayn Rand
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Oct 16, 2011

really liked it
Read from October 16 to 23, 2011

Remember, dear reader, how misleading a star-review can be. I beg you. Boy oh boy do I have a lot to say about this book. I read it for my ACT prep class (AKA a scholarship essay), and I wasn't expecting to like "another communist book." I had already suffered through Animal Farm, and I was tired of the whole "communist thing."

My goodness. What a brat I am. In all fairness to be, I think Animal Farm should be avoided more in teaching our students about communism. It is very dumbed down, as is the point I believe, but I do not think it is nearly as effective as books such as We the Living when it comes to proving the flaws of communism.

We the Living is about more than communism, though, which is what makes it so much more infinitely better that Animal Farm. It not only goes against Communism, but it proposes a different philosophy, labeled on the back of the book as "objectivism."

I'll get into that a little later though.

Let me start with what I loved about the book. It simply came down to the actual writing for me. This book was breathtaking. The writing style was fluid, yet somehow jerky. It was like a motion picture in the way it was set up: a series of snapshots and scenes displayed on after the other. The language was rich-- it was one of those books that you felt like you were eating a rich desert with each sentence that entered your brain. The mood Rand set up was easily caught. I'm still depressed, and I finished the book hours ago. The plot moved along and made sense, and for such a long book, it did not drag. The characters were complex. I don't pretend to understand them. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the writing for me was the narration. It was third person, but it was not necessarily omnicient. Kira was obviously the main narrative voice (I hope you understand what I mean by that), yet she remained to me, the reader, almost a complete mystery. Her motives were not clear. Her emotions were hard to pin down, and I could never guess what she would do next. I was in awe of the novel Rand so cleverly crafted.

I also felt like the book was informative and correct, which I appreciate in novels. I felt like I had been thrust into the middle of Petrograd (it turns to Leningrad during the course of the novel), and I understood more fully than I have ever understood in my life the suffering those people underwent, and even moreso, the trap they were caught in with no hope of escape. What an incredibly sad, yet I fear accurate, picture Ayn Rand painted.

Now for the things that I cannot endorse in this book. Obviously, it was a little more explicit than the type of novel I usually like to indulge in. I felt like there were several unnecessary descriptions. Okay, LOTS of unnecessary descriptions. My biggest disagreement is one I don't yet understand, though. Ayn Rand corrected a HUGE misgiving I had, and I am grateful to her for that. You see, I had before thought that Communism, while note realistic to practice, was actually a wonderful idea. In theory, it worked great, but it simply could not be pulled off by such weak creatures such as mortal men. This book made me realize my ignorance. Communism, even the idea of communism, is NOT a sound idea. The idea that a person exists solely for the state and that individuality should be crushed is not one I agree with, and that is the essense of communism. I am glad to have that ignorance demolished. Rand propses a different philosophy however, and this is where I am running into issues. "Objectivism." I'm hesitant to condemn it because of my own ignroance as of right now, but from what I read in "We the Living," I do not agree with it. I watched one life after the other be destroyed, and I could not decide if this was an intentional symbol of communism, or if it was supposed to portray objectivism. No one in the book ends up happy. No one. Each person who tries to strive towards one goal gets distracted, and then they are destroyed.

Obviously I endorse individualism. I am American (and a teenager) after all, yet I think Rand tries to take it too far. I noticed that those who focused on living for someone other than themselves were the ones that ended up destroyed. I cannot agree with the philosophy that in order to be successful and happy we must live only for ourselves and our personal goals and gains. Is that not communism only on an individual level? Like I said, I could completely be misunderstand what Ms. Rand was tryign to say. I am open to any thoughts and discussion.

I'll try for a quick wrap up to this dis-jointed review. Would I suggest this book? Oh yes. The writing is phenomenal, but more than that, I think it gives insight to grief, and death-- not only of the physical type. It is intriguing, heart-wrenching, and thought-provoking. I will put a disclaimer up towards the moral behaviors of the characters. It was hard for me to read, but I don't think the bad outweighs the good this book could possibly do for an individual.
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