“Who Is John Galt?” Law Student John Thorpe Answers and Wins $20,000

As the moment of truth approached, John Thorpe, a law school student at Arizona State University, tried to forget about the Atlas Shrugged essay contest he entered in early 2015. John had spent weeks carefully rereading the novel and poring over his essay in the hopes of taking home the coveted first prize. As the announcement deadline approached, however, he couldn’t help but recall the two previous years he went home empty handed.

John was convinced this year would be no different. That is, until he received a phone call from an unknown number; it was ARI calling to inform John that this was his year. He was the 2015 Atlas Shrugged essay contest winner. John’s prize — $20,000 in cash. Contest judges even declared that his submission was one of the best in the contest’s sixteen-year history.

John says, “I was completely blindsided — it was a little unreal, and I had to let it sink in. I’m just really happy to have won.”

John read Atlas Shrugged for the first time during his freshman year and entered the contest in 2010 and again in 2011. He entered a third time because he needed money to help pay for law school.

While John’s winning essay responded to the question “Who is John Galt,” he wrote two essays on two different topics before deciding to start from scratch and tackle this topic. “I initially avoided the question for fear of not having enough to say about it,” he admits.

John will tell you he relished reading Rand’s masterwork and exploring her ideas on a deeper level by writing about them. He is most keenly interested in the themes of Greek mythology and the esthetic components Rand applies in the world she paints in Atlas Shrugged.

The following is an excerpt from John’s winning essay. His complete essay can be read here.

Beginning with its title, Atlas Shrugged is rife with mythological parallels. To understand the significance of these parallels, however, it is important to identify where they end. Some myths uphold heroes who act altruistically: Atlas holds the world on his shoulders and Prometheus suffers horribly for giving mankind the gift of fire. Other myths focus on the demise of heroes who use their gifts in selfish or “antisocial” ways: Phaethon’s ambition almost sets the world on fire; Aesclepius’ skills in medicine threaten to put Hades out of business. John Galt transcends the myths in that he does not act altruistically, he does not let society punish him for his selfishness, and he successfully deprives society of its victims.

ARI’s annual essay contest on Atlas Shrugged began in ­­­­1999 and attracts more than 1,600 contestants worldwide annually. In 2016, ARI will award over $57,000 in cash prizes to the winners of the contest.

For more information about ARI’s upcoming essay contests, visit aynrand.org/students/essay-contests.