Atlas Shrugged received largely negative reviews after its 1957 publication, but achieved enduring popularity and consistent sales in the following decades.
Her previous work on a proposed (but never realized) screenplay based on the development of the atomic bomb, including her interviews of J.
Robert Oppenheimer, was used in the portrait of the character Robert Stadler and the novel's depiction of the development of "Project X".
To do further background research, Rand toured and inspected a number of industrial facilities, such as the Kaiser Steel plant, rode the locomotives of the New York Central Railroad, and even learned to operate the locomotive of the Twentieth Century Limited (and proudly reported that when operating it, "nobody touched a lever except me").
and it contains Rand's most extensive statement of Objectivism in any of her works of fiction.
The book depicts a dystopian United States, wherein many of society's most prominent and successful industrialists abandon their fortunes and even the nation, in response to aggressive new regulations, whereupon most vital industries collapse.
The title is a reference to Atlas, a Titan described in the novel as "the giant who holds the world on his shoulders".
The significance of this reference appears in a conversation between the characters Francisco d'Anconia and Hank Rearden, in which d'Anconia asks Rearden what advice he would give Atlas upon seeing that "the greater [the titan's] effort, the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders".
With Rearden unable to answer, d'Anconia gives his own response: "To shrug".
The theme of Atlas Shrugged, as Rand described it, is "the role of man's mind in existence".
The book explores a number of philosophical themes from which Rand would subsequently develop Objectivism.
In doing so, it expresses the advocacy of reason, individualism, capitalism, and the failures of governmental coercion.