Atlas Shrugged Summary and Analysis of Part I, Chapters I and II


Chapter I (entitled “The Style”), the first in the ten chapters which consist of Part I (“Non-Contradiction”), presents a few of the major actors in the story. The first character is Eddie Willers, a no-nonsense man who works for Taggart Transcontinental Railway. He is on the street in New York, and is questioned oddly by a vagrant. “Who is John Galt?” Eddie gives him a cent, and avoids the question which the beggar asks: “Why does it trouble you?” At this moment in the story the reader does not understand why a random beggar would ask “Who is John Galt?”, or why such a concern would disturb this simple workplace worker.

Willers enters into the Taggart Transcontinental building, to the president’s office. James Taggart, who runs the railway, is described as an unattractive, vacillating male. The reader learns, through Eddie’s flashbacks, that Eddie and James Taggart (Jim) were youth friends, which Eddie’s family had worked for James’s dad and grandfather. The issue Eddie provides to James is interested in Taggart’s Transcontinental Rio Norte Line, a brand-new line in the western United States. The line is currently not making money. The two males argue about the new track ordered for the line, which James has actually ordered from a good friend’s steel business. The company has actually failed to deliver the track for lots of months, and Eddie firmly insists that James order track from a various company, Hank Rearden’s. Rearden Steel would be able to deliver the rails rapidly. James refuses, mentioning his relationship with the first steel company’s president Orren Boyle, while grumbling that Rearden gets all the railway organisation and it would be fairer to spread his company around. There are financially rewarding chances (such as the Wyatt oil fields) on the Rio Norte line, and Eddie sees James’s refusal to accelerate the improvement as reckless stupidity. The issue is a lot more immediate considering that there is a distinct possibility that the Mexican federal government will nationalize the part of the Rio Norte line which lies within their borders.

The argument grows heated, and Jim and Eddie disagree about Jim’s sis Dagny’s viewpoint about the Rio Norte line. Willers leaves Jim’s office, and has a short encounter with Pop Harper, the head clerk. The old guy is negative about the business’s outlook, and ends Eddie’s and his exchange with the question “Who is John Galt?”

The scene shifts to a Taggart railway cars and truck speeding throughout the nation toward New York. In the day cars and truck sits Dagny Taggart, who is fighting sleep though she has actually been up for two nights. She hears the music of a Richard Halley symphony (she believes), and it takes her a couple of moments to recognize that the music is really the whistling of the young brakeman at the end of the automobile. Dagny asks the brakeman what symphony of Halley’s the music is, and the young man responds that it was the 5th. There were just 4 symphonies of Halley’s ever composed known to the general public.

Dagny finally drops off to sleep, and when she wakes the train is stopped. She goes outside to see what the matter is, and discovers the train stopped at a red light on a siding. The light appears to be broken, and if this train, the Taggart Comet, sits a lot longer it will not make it to New york city in time. The Comet has never yet been late. Dagny talks to the engineer and the conductor and learns that it is most likely simply incompetence on someone’s part that is causing the hold-up. Dagny authoritatively directs the engineer to “Continue with caution to the next signal.” (16) In the beginning the males don’t acknowledge her in the dim light, and when they ask who she is, she merely states “Dagny Taggart”. The railway employees then do as she says, keeping in mind as she departs “That’s who runs Taggart Transcontinental”. (17) Due to the fact that of Dagny’s quick decision-making, the Comet reaches New York Terminal on time. She makes a psychological note to change the inexperienced Ohio Department supervisor (who probably is accountable for this error) with her own hand-picked man out of New york city, Owen Kellogg.

In New York, Eddie and Dagny remain in Jim Taggart’s workplace challenging him about the crisis on the Rio Norte line. Dagny is not enduring any of Jim’s obfuscations, so she notifies him that she has actually ordered the needed rail from Rearden Steel. Jim sputters his objections, especially over the reality that the rail is to be made of a new alloy, Rearden Metal, rather than steel. This untried metal is offered rapidly, and Dagny trusts Hank Rearden enough to purchase a big quantity of it. Jim will have none of it, saying this deal should be approved by the board. As soon as once again Dagny takes duty for a dangerous however well-reasoned choice, when she takes ownership of the order of Rearden metal. The conflict in between brother and sister ends with some unsightly remarks from Jim about his sister’s insensitivity.

In her own office, Dagny has a discussion with Owen Kellogg. He is leaving Taggart Transcontinental, and she pleasantly inquires as to the reasons. Owen refuses to inform her why he is leaving, and he denies her offer for a promotion to run the Ohio Department. Though she informs him she will pay him a good deal to remain, he refuses, ending the interview cryptically with “Who is John Galt?”

In Chapter II “The Chain” the first pouring of the brand-new alloy, Rearden Metal, is occurring at the Rearden Steel plant in Philadelphia. The alloy’s creator and the owner of Rearden Steel, Hank Rearden, is elated at his 10 years’ work pertained to fulfillment. A tall, gaunt, expressionless guy, Rearden sees the “heat” (the term for a putting of liquid metal) with fascination, and then walks off toward his home, bringing with him a crude chain bracelet for his better half, made of the first pouring of the alloy.

At home, his other half, his mom, and his bro (all of whom he economically supports) are waiting on him. Paul Larkin, an unsuccessful businessman and old buddy of Hank, is likewise there. There is an uncomfortable exchange in the living-room, where each of these people, other than Paul, tease Hank or criticize him in an underhanded method. Considering that Hank is late and has actually missed a dinner at which the household had had company, they make remarks about him being an unimaginative workaholic, a paradox when he has actually had such a victory today with a metal of his own creation. Lillian, his wife, asks him to be house on a particular date for a celebration she plans to throw. Hank says that he can not potentially dedicate to a date so far in the future– he might need to be away on business. Lillian placidly advises Hank that the date that she is requesting for is their wedding event anniversary. He relents without revealing guilt, and accepts December tenth for the party.

Hank provides Lillian the metal bracelet, about which she makes insultingly witty remarks. “You indicate … it’s totally as valuable as a piece of railroad rails?” (36) Since Hank has actually not revealed the type of emotion she desires him to about the anniversary party, Lillian does not express gratitude or satisfaction at the significance her present, which is the first usage of the alloy that Hank has labored so long to produce.

Hank’s good friend, Paul, advises him that his outright capitalist aspirations (his “only objective is to make steel and to generate income” 39) have actually made him out of favor in the business world. Paul, who knows something of company in spite of his own failures, recommends Hank to work with a public relations specialist to help him with Rearden Steel’s image.

Hank then talks with his brother, Philip, who has vague ambitions of raising money for blatantly deceitful charitable causes. Though Hank sees no usage for Philip’s kind of futile philanthropy he nevertheless assures Philip the 10 thousand dollar examine his company requires. This has the impact of making Philip feel emasculated, but he takes the cash anyway. Philip, remarkably, demands the cash in cash. Throughout all these conversations Hank’s mom makes deprecating remarks about Hank’s selfishness and unfeeling nature.


“The Theme” definitely does present a style of the novel: cynicism. The bum on the street and Pop Harper both have “cynical indifference,” which Eddie Willers notifications in their eyes. James Taggart nags Eddie to believe more about relationships rather than earning money, however he is really simply an ineffective executive who conceals behind sham sympathy. James presents a picture of practically ludicrous incompetence masquerading as a social conscience. The essential thing to note here is that the sympathy or fellow-feeling that the majority of characters display is false or misdirected– Rand has not exposed characters, yet, who have a sincere regard for humankind (other than the cursory care Eddie and Dagny have shown.) Rand shows the people who have an interest in getting a task done and making money (Eddie, Dagny, Hank) as smart, clear-eyed, unsentimental characters, while those who spout platitudes about caring about others (Jim, Philip) are alarmingly unskilled males who do much more harm than excellent. While the scenarios are rather exaggerated (it is hard to think of the head of Rearden Steel and an effective developer being this badly treated by the family he entirely supports, for instance) the concept is that the world is run by effective, pragmatical people whose goals are completely self-centered, but who, by their actions, create industries and art for all individuals of the world. These individuals, Rand is stating, are treated severely by the jealous, non-successful people (such as Philip, Jim Taggart, Mrs. Rearden, and their ilk) due to the fact that they do not comprehend the basically altruistic nature of the others’ self-centered objectives.

This concept will be broadened later in the unique, however for now we are presented to the “manufacturers” and their “items.” The characters thus far introduced as the effective, no-nonsense type of individuals who are required to run the world are: Eddie Willers, a straightforward guy who knows his own restrictions, and likewise how to ally himself to power and do the ideal thing; Dagny Taggart, a female in a guy’s organisation who similarly sees no need for belief in order to be effective; Owen Kellogg, a dedicated railroad staff member who is unwilling to describe his inspirations; and Hank Rearden, a well-meaning but incredibly driven innovator and steel business owner. Richard Hadley has actually been referred to as a musical genius who only just recently got popularity, but who has actually been appreciated by Dagny Taggart (and apparently others) for some time. He has not yet been presented personally– only the product of his genius, the bare whistling of a melody (a style) of his by a railroad staff member is enough to be recognized by Dagny, without additional embellishment or accreditation. The products (in Dagny’s case the result of the on-time train since of her excellent choice and quick action, Hadley’s musical style, and Rearden’s brand-new metal alloy) will become of vital value in later chapters, and will end up being, in Rand’s thought system, a key ideas in her theory of objectivism.

“The Chain” go back to this concept of the result being the important thing, rather than the objective. The one minute of sentimentality that Hank Rearden reveals– his production of the first “heat” (that is, putting) of his new alloy was made into a linked-chain bracelet for his better half. In some individuals this might be considered a poetic and romantic expression of love; the sharing of an accomplishment of one’s own and a tribute to a loved one, however it is rebuffed cruelly by Rearden’s superficial partner. It is fascinating how Rearden’s expression of sentiment (the item of 10 years’ hard work on a possibly crucial industrial product) is not supported by his family and is, in truth, buffooned, however Lillian Rearden’s likewise emotional insistence on a party on the date of their wedding anniversary is completely supported by the everyone in the space. Rand is trying to reveal that people maltreat successful movers of the world severely, and misunderstand their motives. Both Dagny (and, by extension, Eddie) and Hank have their worthy efforts denigrated, and their good decisions criticized. It is a basic literary device to produce sympathy in the reader for characters who are maltreated by other characters; in the very first chapters both Dagny and Hank meet resistance. Also, we are presented in this chapter to “the chain” around Hank’s neck– the hangers-on of his brother, wife, mother, and friend, all of whom are non-producers.

The characters around Hank and Dagny are depicted as less than genuine, or even less than completely human. For example, Paul Larkin looks at Hank “with the eyes of a hindered dog” (33 ). Lillian Rearden, who should be lovely but isn’t rather, has eyes that are “lifelessly empty of expression” (Ibid). Hank’s mom, though she is unkind to him, demands living with her son in his home. She is extremely doing not have in motherly sensation. Hank thinks that it is only his success that binds her to him, not love or affection. “His success, he had thought, indicated something to her, and if it did, then it was a bond in between them, the only bond he acknowledged” (37 ). Philip, Hank’s sibling, is depicted as base and understanding– his actions are called “childishly outright” and “helplessly crude” (41 ). James Taggart, who must be the directing light of Taggart Transcontinental and, as its president, have the ability to make the hard choices that would make his company run effectively, is believed by Dagny to dislike to “to deal with Rearden since Rearden did his job with superlative effectiveness; but she would not conclude it, since she thought that such a feeling was not with the humanely possible.” Any individuals different than, or not straight supporting, Dagny and Hank are thought about weak, ineffective, insincerely emotional, and even perverse.

Rand’s style is one that tries to be transparent, and mostly prospers in this book. The discussion, though in some cases stilted (specifically in the longer speeches of Hank or Dagny) rings real as far as diction and rhythm. There is an absence of mid-century slang, which would have made the text appear dated, or perhaps often muddled. Rand moves well from action to action, and beginning in medias res with Eddie on the street in New york city is a good touch. The novel beings with “Who is John Galt?”, which at first seems like an abstraction, indicated to encourage a line of philosophical questions, however Rand surprises us with it coming out of the mouth of a real-life bum on the street. The truth that Rand takes till middle of the very first chapter to describe that “Who is John Galt” is a rhetorical concern, implying a concern that no one can answer, is smart, too. It appears to the reader that there is more to it, and there is.

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