Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest - Ayn Rand Institute

About this Award: 

Have you read one of Ayn Rand’s thought-provoking novels? Now’s the time! Enter the Ayn Rand Institute's Atlas Shrugged essay contest for your chance to win thousands of dollars in scholarship prize money. 



$10,000 (1st place, 1 award)

$2,500 (2nd place, 3 awards)

$500 (3rd place, 5 awards)

$100 (Finalist, 25 awards)

$50 (Semifinalist, 50 awards)


Number of Awards Available: 




November 7, 2022


Region of Study: 



Level of Study: 

High School - Senior Year, College Undergraduate; Graduate


Eligibility : 

The Atlas Shrugged essay contest is open to all high school, college, and graduate students worldwide.


Essay Required?: 



Essay Details: 

Select one of the three following topics:


1. In the world of Atlas Shrugged, material goods that many of the characters take for granted become increasingly difficult to obtain as the plot progresses. Identify several examples of such goods, and explain how the novel accounts for their disappearance. Describe the economic and the moral-philosophical forces at work in their disappearance. Are there significant parallels with the shortages our world has witnessed in the last few years? Explain any similarities and differences (using contemporary examples).

2. Throughout Atlas Shrugged, there are both literal and figurative references to motors and motive power. Describe three examples of this that occur in the novel, and explain their meaning in the context of the scenes they are taken from. How does this meaning relate to the wider philosophical themes of the novel?

3. Among the many advocates of the “morality of death” he targets in his radio speech, John Galt reserves special criticism for the “mystics” who declare that man’s duty is “to crawl through years of penance, atoning for the guilt of his existence to any stray collector of unintelligible debts.” Name and describe at least two of the doctrines about human nature that Galt says these mystics use to encourage this moral outlook. Then illustrate their impact by choosing a character from Atlas Shrugged who struggles with these doctrines. (If one character struggles with both doctrines, you need only discuss one character.) What types of behavior do the doctrines encourage? What are the consequences for the character(s) in question? How is this struggle resolved?


Essay must be no fewer than 800 and no more than 1,600 words in length, double-spaced. Spelling errors and/or written corrections (by anyone) found on the essay will count against the final grade and should be omitted before submission.


Essays will be judged on whether the student is able to argue for and justify his or her view—not on whether the Institute agrees with the view the student expresses. Judges will look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized. Winning essays must demonstrate an outstanding grasp of the philosophic meaning of Atlas Shrugged.


One entry per student per contest.


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