As told in Atlas Shrugged, Atlas carried the world on his shoulders. But in the Greek Myths, Atlas stands on the earth and holds up the sky. In the statues that represent Atlas, the big round thing on his back represents the heavens, which, because of the apparent circular motion of the planets around the earth, were conceived of as being round. Some tellings of the Atlas myth have him carrying both the earth and the heavens on his back, but this appears to be a modern retelling; further research might confirm this.
- Character names
Some of the character names are, or appear to be, puns, or have some other significance.
Ragnar Danneskjold - sounds like 'Dane's Gold', a tribute paid by the medieval English to the Vikings to bribe them into being peaceful.
Robert Stadler - sounds like the German word for state, Stadt. Dr. Stadler is a statist, in that he believes it appropriate and necessary for the state to fund scientific research.
John Galt - the name of a 19th century Scottish novelist, though this is apparently coincidental. Galt is close to 'Geld' and 'gold'. The name was probably used because it had to be such that it could become proverbial - this would not be possible with a long, awkward name.
Common street crime is conspicuously absent in Atlas Shrugged. Characters walk the streets with no thought of being mugged or attacked.
- Historical figures and events
Atlas Shrugged takes place in a world with a different history from our own, but there are some historical figures and events that are mentioned.
- Aristotle (Section152): Francisco d'Anconia wrote a thesis on the influence of Aristotle's theory of the Immovable Mover.
- Dark Ages (Section161): Ragnar Danneskjold's piracy is likened to something out of the Dark Ages.
- Inquisition (Section152): Sebastian d'Anconia flees Spain to escape persecution under the Inquisition.
- Middle Ages (Section161): It is said that Ragnar Danneskjold hides in the Norwegian fjords as the Vikings did in the Middle Ages.
- Nero (Section152): Francisco d'Anconia compares himself to the Emperor Nero.
- Patrick Henry (Section152): The eponym of Patrick Henry University.
- Vikings (Section161): It is said that Ragnar Danneskjold hides in the Norwegian fjords as the Vikings did in the Middle Ages.
In Section152, Francisco lists the various buildings constructed for the workers of the San Sebastian Mines, and notes how they are all poorly built and can be expected to collapse, except for the church. "The church, I think, will stand. They'll need it," he quips. Since the other things are things of value - houses, roads, etc. - it is ironic that only the church was built to last; to Rand and her heroes, a church is of no real value.
Almost every nation in the world except the United States is refered to as "The People's State of...", and they are all, apparently, the recipients of relief supplies from the United States. In conversation, people casually refer to them as "The People's State of..." rather than just, say, France or Norway. It is obvious that people would not refer to countries by their formal names in casual conversation - we don't call Canada 'The Republic of Canada' or Germany 'The Federal Republic of Germany' - so by having her characters do this Rand is exercising her dry wit.
The sympathetic characters of Atlas Shrugged do not tell lies. Even when they are clearly trying to conceal something, they do not rely on overt falsehood, even when it is obvious that they could do so without being found out. There are a few exceptions.
- In Section112 Brakeman tells Dagny Taggart he does not recall the name of the song he was whistling or where he heard it.
- In Section141 Francisco d'Anconia tells the press he came to New York because of a hat check girl and the liverwurst at Moe's Delicatessan.
- In Section151 we learn Dagny Taggart once lied to her mother about a cut to her lip that Francisco had given her. This was the only lie she ever told.
- In Section152 Dagny Taggart asks Francisco d'Anconia if Richard Halley has written a fifth concerto. He is evasive and tell her that Halley has stopped writing. Is this a lie?
- In Section161, Hank Rearden tells Dagny that he was the one who invited Bertram Scudder to the Rearden's anniversary party. It was actually Lillian who invited him, and Rearden had been furious about it.
- People's States
Almost every nation that is mentioned, other than the /United States, is referred to as a People's State. These include: - The People's State of England - The People's State of France - The People's State of Mexico - The People's State of Norway - The People's State of Portugal - The People's State of Turkey
In Section152 Francisco tells Dagny he named the San Sebastian Mines after his ancestor Sebastian d'Anconia, a man they both honor deeply. This, to Dagny, is blasphemy - the only kind of blasphemy she understands.
- Social classes
Rand is sometimes called an elitist. This claim is probably accurate if we allow for the fact that Rand had her own standard of eliteness. She did not favor the rich over the poor, or the high-born over the low-born. She favored the men of virtue over those who lacked virtue. Throughout Atlas Shrugged, virtue is equated with creative ability.
Different social classes are represented among both the heroes and the villains of Atlas Shrugged. Among the heroes, John Galt and Hank Rearden are from working class backgrounds, while Dagny Taggart and Francisco d'Anconia are from wealthy families. Among the villains, Fred Kinnan is from a working class background, while James Taggart and Betty Pope are from wealthy families.