“Ideal” is a short story written by Ayn Rand. She wrote the story as a response to a particularly difficult period in her life; lack of success, dwindling savings and duplicitous ‘friends’ causing despair. As any writer would do, she took her disillusionment to paper, penning “Ideal”.
“Ideal” is the story of a famous actress in Hollywood who pulls a prank on the world in an attempt to test the mettle of a select group of men who claimed to have honor. The tale ends with the ruse itself backfiring, resulting in the death of the only man of character. It is a short story, not heavily edited and which she turned into a play after she realized that format would work better; a play which itself has never been produced.
For me the story is interesting because it shines a light on Rand’s state of mind when things were not going very well – when she was not ‘at the top of her game’. And it highlights the creative, perhaps natural frustration in the mind of a woman who has become one of the world champions of humanism, as she is forced to interact with real people. Rand was never a fan of idealists – in her philosophy a person must live out their beliefs in their daily life; else those beliefs were shown to never really have existed in the first place. Words were never enough. Nevertheless – as “Ideal” attempts to portray – for too many people, words do seem to be enough. For too many people, the hard reality of living their convictions is too often cast aside for the expediency of the moment, justified by a greater good or a lesser evil.
This book highlights well Rand’s disappointment in men who fall short of their own soaring rhetoric. “Ideal” is perhaps the antithesis to “We the Living”; while the latter is a story about the triumph of a woman against the odds, “Ideal” is a recognition of the occasional futility of life. If for that reason alone you should read it.