Atlas Shrugged Summary and Analysis of Part I, Chapters III and IV

Summary

“The Top and The Bottom”, Chapter III, opens in an unusual bar. It is referred to as the “most pricey barroom in New York”, and it is embellished in the style of an underworld dive. It is dark and unpleasant, though it sits on top of a sixty-story structure. In it 4 guys relax a table: Orren Boyle, the president of Associated Steel; James Taggart; Paul Larkin, the old good friend of Hank Rearden we met in Chapter II; and Wesley Mouch, who operates in Washington for Hank Rearden. The conversation is led by James and Orren, who alternately bluster about how civic task is the responsibility of all service, and how the San Sebastian line will assist fulfill this task. This line is being built in Mexico ostensibly to carry away the wealth of copper coming from the brand-new– however as yet non-productive– copper mines of the San Sebastian mountains begun by Francisco d’Anconia.

Near completion of the meeting Orren remarks to James that there is a superannuated wood-burning engine running the one passenger train on the line, put there by James’ sister Dagny to save expenses. Orren rather embarrasses James by this revelation, for he did not know the situation on that line even though he is the president of the railway. It is evident from this meeting that the four men are in some kind of conspiracy, perhaps versus Hank Rearden.

The chapter continues with Dagny musing about how she wished to run Taggart Transcontinental when she was nine years old. She and Eddie had been of one mind about this. They had always, as children, believed the railroad was the most essential thing in their lives, and their only objective for their the adult years. Dagny, who was thought about selfish and conceited in her self-confidence and industry-focused goals, began work as a night operator for Taggart at the age of sixteen. By contrast, her brother James started work at twenty-one, in the general public Relations Department. Dagny succeeded with operational and mechanical things, and her dad acknowledges, albeit tacitly, her competence. Nevertheless, when Mr. Taggart passed away, he offered the presidency over to James due to the fact that he is a man. He said cryptically, nevertheless, to Dagny “There has constantly been a Taggart to run the railroad” (52 ). Dagny comprehended his significance: though James may be the male token, Dagny had the skills to keep the railway running, and her father wanted her to do simply that.

Francisco d’Anconia’s brand-new copper mine was behind James’ first brand-new policy at Taggart Transcontinental, the building of the San Sebastian line in Mexico. Dagny had opposed it, however the work started. Francisco is an amazingly wealthy Argentinean playboy, and thus far his business acumen had been undoubted. On the strength of his mine alone– and Jim’s worthless platitudes about assisting their “Mexican neighbors”– the line was constructed by Taggart Transcontinental for thirty million dollars. Nevertheless, at this time The People’s State of Mexico is a communist nation, and the mine and the railway line were given special property rights in a nation which had no property rights. It was a dangerous proposition from the start.

Back in the Taggart office, Dagny leaves to go home after a battle with her sibling about the old coaches on the San Sebastian line. Dagny strolls house through the basement terminal where she admires the statue of her forefather Nat Taggart, the creator of Taggart Transcontinental. She muses on the achievements of her forefather, and stresses over the future of Taggart Transcontinental. Meanwhile, Eddie Willers takes his modest night meal in the staff member’s cafeteria. He talks to a train employee about the how the Rio Norte Line will conserve the railway, and also imparts to him that Dagny Taggart’s only interest outside of the railroad is the music of Richard Halley.

Chapter IV, “The Immovable Movers” opens with Dagny Taggart facing another problem. Her specialist MacNamara has stopped the job Dagny had hired him to do on the Rio Norte Line. The situation with the building has actually reached a crisis point. Dagny walks home through the big-city night, and witnesses the destruction of the culture of the society in which she lives. She witnesses a male strong-arming an inebriated girl out of a bar, on to a sordid experience. The best-selling book in the store windows is called The Vulture Is Molting. The music of the day is a cacophony of terrible noises. Dagny purchases a newspaper and goes home to listen to the music of Richard Halley, which is so various than the chaotic dreck she has actually heard on the street. She reviews the life of Halley, who, after years of battle lastly ended up being a success. On the night of his accomplishment, when his music was lastly appreciated, he retired from writing music and was never ever seen once again. She reads the paper, seeing the latest reports of Francisco d’Anconia’s depravity, and grieves the man Francisco utilized to be.

The scene modifications to Jim Taggart’s apartment. Jim is nursing a headache the early morning after a tryst with his present girlfriend, Betty Pope. She is an unsightly girl, who “takes a look of condescension derived from the reality that she came from one of the absolute best households” (70 ). The two are not in love, and in fact seem to like each other really bit. Jim and Betty seem to sleep together out of some practice, or to perform some ritual that other individuals do merely because it is considered typical. They discuss the goings-on at Taggart Transcontinental, and Betty displays her extreme dislike of Dagny. Later on that day Jim Taggart addresses his Board of Directors, who are nervous about the nationalization by the State of Mexico of the San Sebastian line. Dagny had actually suggested that extremely few trains be run on that line because of the threat of nationalization; now that scenario has actually happened, Jim takes the credit for Dagny’s great decision-making. Orren Boyle and Jim now know that Francisco d’Anconia has lost a lot of cash on the San Sebastian nationalization, and they are extremely surprised that he would let himself be duped like this. Jim wants to see Francisco, but he is rejected due to the fact that Francisco states that Jim tires him.

The National Alliance of Railroads passes the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule, which triggers Dan Conway’s small but effective railway, the Phoenix-Durango, to go out of business. The guideline is seemingly developed to avoid profiteering, but it has the result of restricting the freedom of businesses to such a level that they fail. This is the start of a long decline for the transportation industry in the United States. Dagny tries to convince Conway to fight, however he is so confused and disillusioned that he believes that the Alliance has the right to make his company fail. This upsets Dagny, because she does not comprehend why Conway won’t fight the Alliance.

Ellis Wyatt, the oil mogul, appears at Dagny’s workplace just as she is making a consultation to meet Hank Rearden. Wyatt states that he is here to see Dagny because he has heard that she is the “brains in this rotten clothing” (81 ). Wyatt is angry about the Alliance’s destruction of the Phoenix-Durango, a railroad he has actually relied on in the past. He demands that Taggart Transcontinental run trains as his organisation needs, because he is now forced to deal with them in an environment of non-competition. Dagny guarantees him that he will get the transport that he needs to move his oil, and her action, with its lack of excuses, momentarily stuns the oilman. The two agree, and Wyatt leaves.

Hank and Dagny have a conference about the delivery of Rearden Metal to construct Taggart’s Rio Norte line. The train is entirely in Rearden’s power, and is obliged to pay a greater price to get its rails on time. The first delivery of Rearden Metal rails is being packed outside Hank’s office window, and Hank and Dagny watch and appreciate this important moment. They talk about the metal’s residential or commercial properties, and that the rails might take train speeds up to 2 hundred and fifty miles an hour. While they are spellbinded with the material success of the new metal, Rearden discusses that they are a “… number of blackguards” (87) for not having spiritual goals. Dagny does not respond to, not understanding what he suggests, and he ends their discussion pointedly by stating “… whatever we are, it’s we who move the world and it’s we who’ll pull it through.” (88 )

Analysis

While much of the strategy of the males collected at the costly cave-like bar (in the start of Chapter III) is not overtly specified, it is clear that this group of Washington and market insiders is planning some sort of unreasonable (or maybe illegal) cartel or interest group. They seem to think that they can work underhandedly toward their own goals, while spouting aloud (and making others think) things like what Orren Boyle says, “The only reason of personal property … is civil service” (45) and “After all, personal property is a trusteeship held for the advantage of society as a whole” (46 ). These sort of declarations of circular logic are permitted to stand, without being described or challenged by the group. Rand, originating from a nation in which personal property rights were destroyed by a Communist revolution (Russia,) is wary of any violation of home rights, so a declaration such as this is a loaded one. That it is mentioned by a captain of industry (Boyle is the head of Associated Steel) this early in the book is particularly damning. It reveals that even the people who must be protecting property rights (individuals who earn money, and ought to for that reason want to keep it) are duped into the present ideology which is overwhelming most of individuals of the nation. That business is nothing however greed, and something as unclear as “public well-being” is the goal, Rand is saying, is dangerous in the extreme.

Foreshadowing about the San Sebastian mine takes place in Chapter III, also. Everyone at the table is persuaded that the mines will, ultimately, become hugely successful, based exclusively on the reality that Francisco d’Anconia is the one who has bought and is trying to mine them. The extreme hypocrisy and ineptitude of all the players in this scene is revealed by the fact that none of them has any knowledge of mining or the mining organisation, or appears to care about learning anything substantive about d’Anconia’s mines. They are simply interested in benefiting from d’Anconia’s awaited success, without having actually earned anything themselves. Jim’s absence of understanding about the devalued service on his own train line demonstrates how little he is involved in the real service of the company of which he is president. These males are held up by Rand as examples of venality and incompetence, and the reality that they are all in positions of power is an ominous sign for the country.

Rand leaves no doubt as to the sort of people these are, and even telegraphs their baseness and insignificance by their names. Orren Boyle’s name creates visions of an unfortunate skin condition, and Wesley Mouch’s name might not be more obvious (he becomes, later in the novel, one of the main “looters” or “mooches” in the federal government.) Paul Larkin, who the reader knows is a buddy of Hank Rearden, has a name which provides the impression that he is slacking off work (something he certainly does later in the novel when he fails to run effectively the iron ore mine Hank Rearden is forced to give to him) and “larking” instead of working. None of these characters, consisting of Jim Taggart, are characterized in a round way; they are just different-named examples of males who live off of other’s work and brains. These characters stay this way throughout the novel (with the small exception of Jim), and can be thought about nearly interchangeable “looters” in Rand’s plot.

Some of Dagny’s back story is revealed in these chapters, and the reader learns that she has worked her way up in Taggart Transcontinental, unlike her brother. There is certainly a feminist stream running through Rand’s story, as she keeps in mind that Dagny had to work much harder for a lesser position than her sibling, simply because she is female. This is not the feminism of later years of ladies authors, nevertheless, or perhaps of Virginia Woolf, since Dagny is far too sexualized by the author (and most of the men around her) to stand as a conventional feminist heroine. With all her accomplishment and hard work, she still has to maintain a spotless sexual track record, and be appealing enough for the males around her to feel comfy dealing with her. Dagny achieves success in spite of her womanhood, not because of it. While it can be argued that this is simply a character trait, and not a commentary on feminist idea as an entire, Rand is as concerned with Dagny as a sexual being as she is a businesswoman. The same can not be said about other male characters in the unique (Francisco and Hank excepted,) and Rand has no other examples of effective businesswomen in any position of power in the book. Add to that Dagny’s increase in a company whose name is the same as her own; it could be argued quickly that Dagny would never had the privilege of an engineering degree, and the chance to rise in Taggart Transcontinental at all, if she were not a Taggart herself. Rand is not, in this unique, an iconoclastic feminist; Dagny is the exception that proves the guideline. Organisation, for Rand (and for the world at the time this novel was published) is practically totally run by men.

Dagny’s past as a somewhat emotionless, driven child, and Francisco’s decrease from the most appealing service heir in the world to “the most stunningly useless playboy on earth” (53) is exposed in this chapters. The connection between these 2 characters is yet to be explored, but a similarity in the characters is already apparent. Both of them were born into families of long-held wealth and influence, and both of them acknowledged early their own capability and drive. More of their history will be recounted in later chapters.

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