Attention: **Spoilers ahead!**
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
– Ayn Rand
No Gods Or Kings. Only Man
– Andrew Ryan
The comparisons are seemingly endless. Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism is referred time and time again throughout the engaging legend of Rapture, a city built for man, in BioShock. Through Rand's most notable work, Atlas Shrugged, she asks the question of what would happen if all the world's best minds went on strike? It explores the consequences of rational self-interest or, in other words, the pursuit of happiness. And in many ways, so does BioShock.
Andrew Ryan is the man behind Rapture, and its demise.
Andrew Ryan dreams of a world where limits are inexistent, and man can do as he please with no higher power to stop him in his tracks. Science, industry, and Art are given the fruit of the loom to flourish and blossom into the best work the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, the idea didn't work out too well.
"One night, lightning struck the oak tree…It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel. The trunk was only an empty shell; its heart had rotted away long ago." This is a passage from Atlas Shrugged that seems to mirror that of Raptures broken state. The main relation between these two works is the striking imagery. As the player takes a tour of Rapture, they are also taking a tour of the consequences of self-interest.
New Year's 1959 is the night the war started in Rapture.
The opening of BioShock is extremely surreal. The game opens its eyes to remnants of a plane crash in the ocean. Pieces of the old world float past broken and lost, such as a snapped necklace, or chunks of a plane. The world all around is a sea of fire, with a gleaming beacon of safety off in the distance with its door open. The game plays on the theme of trickery and deception, using Greek references, as also physical references in the story.
The mechanic of Atlas' character plays with that trickery found in the story of Hercules' twelve labors, when Atlas tried to con Hercules' into taking the weight of the world off his shoulders. Atlas tricks the player into feeling a sense of comeradery, until you find out he is using you for personal gain.
This famous statue shows Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
A notable piece of imagery is the first moment Jack indulges in plasmids. He injects the the needle directly into the tattoo of a chain on his wrist. This scene could suggest a theme of breaking through of something or freedom from the limits of man himself.
Rapture is an event in which Christians believe will meet Christ himself, or get close and personal with him. This is interesting because the name of Ryan's city goes back to the theme of taking higher beings down to man's level.
This painting depicts the event of Rapture.
There are tons of these examples scattered throughout Rapture; be it wine bottles, diaries, or posters. The levels that make up Rapture are full of references that go back and forth with Objectivism and Greek mythology. These two archives for references come together to make the wonderful story-telling what it is.