"Who Is John Galt?"

ok - i’m still relatively new here.

Why is this question used so much?

Why is this funny?

(seriously) Who IS John Galt?


To learn the answer to that question, I’ll refer you to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. However, I must warn you, it’s a very long book which speaks Rand’s philosophy (philosophical egoism/libertarianism). It’s a pretty good book, though.

I sold my soul to Satan for a dollar. I got it in the mail.

Well, yeah. But she annoyingly doesn’t tell the reader who he is until about two thirds into the book. It begins with the line ``Who is John Galt?’’ and the question’s repeated by various characters throughout. It’s essentially a question that doesn’t have a meaning, until we meet the guy, and then he causes the collapse of society, and everyone lives happily ever after.

``Beware of elaborate telescopic meat; it will find its way back to the forest.’’
– William S. Burroughs, Tom Waits

When I first read the book, I always wondered if Americans really did use this phrase as an example of an unanswerable question or whether she just made it up. Did the phrase exist before the publication of the book (1950’s).

By the way John Galt was the name of a toy manufacturer in the 70’s. They used to make magnet sets.

From Issue #86 (Summer, 1991) of The Match!, Don Holbrook, in a review of The Passion Of Ayn Rand, writes:

"The one great service that Barbara Branden has done here, is to point out Rand’s literary antecedents. Her inspiration came, in fact, from pulp magazines of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, and what makes this truly significant is that Rand herself never did point it out. In actuality she concealed it; but rather than relegating such reading to the realm of entertainment, she actually copied it under the signature of a serious writer of literature, which results in novels that are very hard for some of us to take seriously on the level at which they are offered. The books contain, for instance, pirates, gutless thugs, cigar-chomping publishers, and bodice buster sweaty lover-men, fresh from the quarry, to rape the squealing-with-pleasure heroine.

“I never knew before that Rand had been such a big fan of the pulps, but finding this out at last clarified the genesis of much of her work. In fact, I did some checking around and came up with an original bit of research of my own, which nobody until now has remarked on, so far as I know: The March, 1938 issue of the pulp magazine, Operator Number 5, contained a story entitled ‘The Siege that Brought the Black Death,’ in which a typical pulp hero appeared, an old ship-captain who knew every ripple of water in the upper and lower bay, and could guide a ship with his eyes blindfolded. He was white-haired and had one wooden leg, and Ayn Rand must have read about him in one of her many pulp perusals because his name was John Galt.”

Isn’t John Galt the first cousin of Keyser Soze? :smiley: :smiley:

Wrong thinking is punished, right thinking is just as swiftly rewarded. You’ll find it an effective combination.

(Having not read Atlas Shrugged in a few years) … John Galt was an incredibly talented supergenius who, at the very last second, turned his gifts away from the world because the world was not worthy of them (or something like that).
He vanished into total obscurity and was only remembered as a rhetorical question passed around by commoners … “Who is John Galt?” was the stock response to unanswerable statements about the futility and absurdity and hopelessness of modern life.
It’s not “funny” per se, more of a faux-hip literary reference.

I’m a loner, Dottie … a rebel.

Not true! The book has three sections, and in the middle of the first section, she explains who John Galt is! You must have missed it!

“They’re coming to take me away ha-ha, ho-ho, hee-hee, to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time… :)” - Napoleon IV

All right:

In the fiction I’ve read by Ayn Rand, the world is in a state of pro-socialist decay and collapse. Very dark.
(side note: she criticized people for succumbing to the Western mindset that society is forever descending from a glorious past, saying that the world is at the peak of an ever-rising ascent, it’s the best it ever has been, then in all of her books, things are descending…)
Anyway, in Atlas Shrugged, Europe has already fallen to Socialism, and America is slowly succumbing. A few incredible people blaze out as beautiful, self-interested Capitalist Superhumans. The question ‘Who is John Galt?’ starts the book and the tone of the question is failing despair.

The question started in a factory in Michigan that started on a Communist program (everyone gets paid the same, lives in a perfectly equal community, et cetera). The only employee of the factory to speak against the plan is a young engineer (brilliant, beautiful man) who says “I’m going to stop the motor of the world” and walks out. He was John Galt.

He then stops the motor of the world.

I sold my soul to Satan for a dollar. I got it in the mail.

You got that faux-hip part right.


In the first section, she describes his educational background. Toward the end of the second section, she explains how “Who is John Galt?” became such a catchphrase. Galt is formally introduced at the start of the third section.

He actually appears anonymously throughout the book, but the reader isn’t told that until the start of his speech.

It wasn’t Michigan, it was the Twentieth Century Motor Company of Starnesville, Wisconsin. Galt was described as tall and thin. When he left, he was inventing a motor that ran on static electricity.

And yes, it’s a very long book. An index would be helpful for researchers.

BTW, the dedication in my paperback copy reads, “To Frank O’Connor and Nathaniel Branden.” Toward the end of 1968, Rand had Branden removed from the dedication in all subsequent printings. Does that make my copy collectible?

“A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back, he ever wants to see a cross?” – Bill Hicks


Just got an offer from Omaha Steaks Inc. Their address? 10909 John Galt Blvd., Omaha, Nebr.

So now we know the answer to both who and where is John Galt…

And his favorite protein.

This street was named by real estate developer Ron Abboud, a Rand fan. He seems to have not been well liked by at least a couple of his friends and employees.

Anyone remember Eric Starvo Galt?

No Googling. Hint: a pseudonym.

Hmm, looks like I should reply here (even if this is a zombie thread).

My username IS indeed JohnGalt. Here’s why: back in the day when I worked on IBM mainframes, most user names were limited to eight characters. I had just started reading Atlas Shrugged on a business trip (the stranger in the seat next to me said that it’s a GREAT BOOK!), and the name struck me as being interesting and also eight characters.

As I’m finishing the book, and after many eye-rolls, I found the book itself to be interminable, especially the John Galt speech. I had to skip a few pages to get past it.

So although I still have the same user name, I sincerely have no affection for the ideas in the book. I’ve often considered changing it, perhaps to “NotJohnGalt”.

I wonder if “The other, of course, involves orcs” breaks the user name rules. :slight_smile:


Since this is about a work of literature, let’s move it to Cafe Society (which didn’t exist when this thread was created).

I remember Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Any relation?