Private: Reading Group Materials » We the Living


Discussion Questions

  1. When Kira Argounova, the novel’s heroine, meets Leo Kovalensky, a handsome stranger who thinks she is a whore, why does she not correct him?
  2. The Communist war hero and much feared secret poljce agent Andrei Taganov is a pure proletarian, completely devoted to the Party’s cause. Why then does he lose respect for the Party—and why does he fall in love with Kira?
  3. In a society that outlaws profit, what secret business deal does Leo, an aristocrat, make with Pavel Syerov, an important Communist? Why? Who profits from it?
  4. How does the discovery by the secret police of one article of clothing in Leo’s room set the course for the resolution of the story?
  5. Although Communism’s ideal state, the USSR, has collapsed, many Communists are still undeterred: they argue that Communism is good in theory but was misapplied by Stalin in practice. By reference to events in We the Living, what arguments can you present in response to such a position? How would Ayn Rand respond?
  6. We the Living shows that under Communism the poor become much poorer. Some would argue that Communism fails the downtrodden because human nature is “not good enough.” How would Ayn Rand respond to this? Where does she place the blame for the misery wrought by Communism?

Biographical Material on Ayn Rand

Secondary Reading

  • Essays on Ayn Rand’s “We the Living”, edited by Robert Mayhew

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