As the player wanders the sea soaked halls of Bioshock’s Rapture it is hard not to be awed by the beautifully produced art deco interiors and the mammoth bronzed statues of the patron of this utopian society, Andrew Ryan. The art and style of Rapture is juxtaposed with the sickness and eventual death of the underwater city itself. The 1960’s style advertisements for tobacco and alcohol somehow fit nicely along with graven images of hands pulling off the chains that Ryan believes the “parasites” above ground have placed on free enterprise and, in turn, humanity. This is an example of how Bioshock uses the city of Rapture as a character to impart the story of how this Objectivist society went from utopia to tribulation in a few short years.
Andrew Ryan created his sacred city to stand in contrast to what he believes went wrong with American capitalism. He believes that American society’s move towards socialism, through Roosevelt’s New Deal, and it’s predilection for ethical behavior in business have lead to a point where the producers, inventors, and businessmen have been enslaved in the chains of “socialism” and America’s capitalistic origins have been watered down so much that Ryan’s only option was to “create” Rapture.
As you explore Rapture you see how this Ayn Rand style Objectivist society that Ryan built up has failed; the plastic surgeons who didn’t think a nose job was quite enough, the artist who uses those around him (physically or mentally) to produce his art which is of questionable quality, and the grifter who wanted to take his piece of the pie by any means necessary. At every point in the story we are told to believe that Andrew Ryan’s ingenuity, money, and vision built the city of Rapture, but through audio-logs, the predominant storytelling mechanism, we find hints that there are citizens who realize that they are the ones who built the city; they are the ones who maintain this man’s vision of utopia. We find out later what happens to the poor in Rapture to keep this notion that an Objectivist utopian society can be sustained by the rich, without help from the poor.