On December 5, 1933, Congress ratified the 21st Amendment and repealed Prohibition. While Ayn Rand personally rarely drank alcohol, she opposed the government ban. She even applauded Americans who broke the law and “began drinking on principle in the face of Prohibition.”
Rand wrote a number of memorable scenes that featured drinks with friends. While she wrote about drunkenness in a negative light, typically drinks among intimates served as counterpoint to unresolved conflicts.
In We the Living, Rand’s first novel, Andrei Taganov skips a Communist Party meeting to take his lover Kira Argounova to the rooftop garden of the European Hotel. Andrei, who has been a Communist Party member his entire life and who fought on the front lines of the October 1917 revolution, has just admitted to Kira that he has been wrong about everything: “I know, then, that a life is possible whose only justification is my own joy–then everything, everything else suddenly seems very different to me.” Kira, concerned that Andrei’s self-realization may be too late and too risky, tries to divert the conversation, suggesting that they have drinks. Andrei orders the drinks, but remains oblivious to the danger and earnestly offers a toast to his new life: “He watched the glow of the glass at her lips, a long, thin, shivering line of liquid light between fingers that looked golden in its reflection. He said: ‘Let’s drink a toast to something I could never offer but in a place like this: to my life.’”
In The Fountainhead, a complicated love triangle emerges when Dominique, that is, Mrs. Wynand –Gail Wynand–and Howard Roark have drinks in the Wynands’ penthouse apartment. Gail Wynand has just hired Roark to design the house that Wynand wants to build for Dominique. Wynand is in love with his wife–and he loves as a friend Howard Roark (a bromance in modern parlance). Dominique is in love with Roark. Roark is in love with Dominique, and he loves as a friend Gail Wynand. When the drinks arrive, the three of them are together for the first time, and Dominique is beside herself:
The butler entered, carrying a tray of cocktails. Holding her glass, she watched Roark take his off the tray. She thought: At this moment the glass stem between his fingers feels just like the one between mine; we have this much in common. . . . Wynand stood, holding a glass, looking at Roark with a strange kind of incredulous wonder, not like a host, like an owner who cannot quite believe his ownership of his prize possession. . . . She thought: I’m not insane. I’m only hysterical, but it’s quite all right, I’m saying something, I don’t know what it is, but it must be all right, they are both listening and answering. Gail is smiling, I must be saying the proper things. . .
In Atlas Shrugged, when James Taggart marries Cherryl Brooks, Dagny Taggart isolates herself from the guests at the reception by conspicuously not celebrating with a drink. Dagny, whose connection to her brother is a purely formal one, wonders aloud to Hank Rearden whether the party is more a pretense than a celebration:
“‘I don’t know . . . I’ve always expected parties to be exciting and brilliant, like some rare drink.” She laughed; there was a note of sadness in it. “But I don’t drink, either. That’s just another symbol that doesn’t mean what it was intended to mean.” . . . She added, “Perhaps there’s something that we have missed.”
Like the marriage of James and Cherryl, Prohibition was a disaster. Thus the significance of the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition shouldn’t be lost on anyone: One less unjust law on the books! Even Dagny Taggart could drink to that.
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