Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Dagny Taggart, the head of operations of Taggart Transcontinental, a railroad company. She is described as beautiful, but with a face that is too cold and eyes that are too intense. Her brother, James Taggart, accuses her of having no feelings. Dagny is willing to tell people what to do and to take responsibility, qualities that become important as society collapses during the course of the story.
James Taggart, her brother, who recently has become president of Taggart Transcontinental. He is thirty-nine years old but appears to be fifty. James is concerned about social responsibilities, both his own and those of others.
Henry (Hank) Rearden
Henry (Hank) Rearden, a steel magnate. He is forty-five years old and has been told that his face is ugly because it is unyielding and is cruel because it is expressionless. Like Dagny, he does not feel pity. Hank admires Dagny and enjoys competing with her concerning the prices they charge each other. After the successful first run of the John Galt Line, they become lovers.
Lillian Rearden, Hank’s wife. She is beautiful but disappointing because of her eyes, which are vaguely pale, neither gray nor quite brown, and empty of expression. She tells Hank that it is egotistical for him to believe in right versus wrong because no one can know what is right.
(The entire section is 506 words.)
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The main character of the work is Dagny Taggart, vice president of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad. She is one of the producers, one of the great minds, and the book revolves around her desire to solve two mysteries: where the men of ability are vanishing, and what happened to the inventor of a motor that runs on static electricity and could power the world. She slowly clears up both mysteries, as well as coming to the realization that she, too, understands why the producers are leaving.
In addition to the memorable characterization of Dagny Taggart, Rand delineates dozens of other characters expertly. She is particularly apt at expressing their thoughts and feelings. The reader is able to follow the progressive decay of society, for example, by noting the progressive decay of James Taggart and his band of looters, or of the true villain of the novel, Dr. Robert Stadler. Stadler is equivalent to Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead (1968), the man of great ability who is unable to abide by what he knows to be right. His fall — working with the dictatorship, rather than dropping out of sight — and eventual destruction are as tragic as Wynand's, perhaps even more so, because he had taught the three ring-leaders of the intellectual strike about the value of the human mind.
The cast includes a number of memorable minor characters: a bum stowed away on Dagny Taggart's private rail car; Cuffy Meigs, a ludicrous fascist; a faithful railway employee...
(The entire section is 283 words.)
In his conversations with Hank Rearden (whom he eventually converts to Galt's revolution), Francisco serves as the author's mouthpiece, preaching the Objectivist philosophy in many areas of human life, from industry to sex to psychology. He is a brilliant businessman and heir to the largest and oldest company on earth, d'Anconia Copper, which originated in Argentina but has expanded over several generations to all the parts of the world. Superbly intelligent, ingenious, energetic, and determined, Francisco is Dagny's childhood friend and first lover; the two of them share the concept of a world of invention and productivity, and both believe in the inherent morality of capitalism.
About his family, Francisco says, "None of us has ever been permitted to think he is born d'Anconia. We are expected to become one." In that sense, Francisco is also a self-made man: he worked in the mines since childhood and independently acquired his first copper mine at the age of 20, parallel with his college degree. At the Patrick Henry University he befriends two brilliant students with whom he forms a trio of prodigies, the future leaders of the John Galt revolution. As part of his fight, Francisco has the difficult task of sacrificing his family business so that it does not become a tool in the communist system of corruption. He conducts a gigantic coverup to present his company as still successful, while he invests in dry copper mines and even sabotages the productive...
(The entire section is 242 words.)
The identity of this character is the element of mystery in the novel from the first line: "Who is John Galt?" As the existing world order collapses, Galt arrives as a mythological figure, the savior with a master plan: he is the leader of the movement that works to destroy corrupt communist rule in America. Long before Galt appears in the novel and his revolution announces itself, his name becomes a part of the slang, popularized among everyday people: it represents apathy, fear, and the futility of their life in the status quo.
A self-made man and a brilliant student of science and philosophy at the Patrick Henry University (along with Francisco d'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold), Galt realizes that his world can only be saved through the destruction of communism and reinvention of capitalism. After he persuades his aforementioned school friends to join his cause, Galt and his small but quickly growing army get to work to find and "convert" as many people as possible to their revolutionary ideology.
The rebels gather the competent and the creative members of the society into a sabotage operation: Galt's disciples simply leave their work and get petty jobs instead, thus making once productive resources, factories, and industries absolutely useless for the political parasites. Then, Galt forms a new world under the sacred sign of the dollar, a capitalist Atlantis where everything is earned by one's own work.
Galt is the man of the...
(The entire section is 320 words.)
Henry Rearden (also known as Hank) is a self-made businessman, the embodiment of the rags-to-riches American dream who starts at the societal bottom and reaches the top with hard work and dedication. Hank begins to work in steel mills at the age of fourteen, and makes rapid progress thanks to his sense of leadership, responsibility, and skill. At the age of forty-five, he owns Rearden Steel and several related businesses; also, he spends ten years of his life in experiments for Rearden Metal, which promises to revolutionize modern metallurgy. Hank has the society working against him, however, including his parasitic family and his manipulative wife, Lillian, who lives to control him. He allows their abuse because they manage to persuade him that his ascetic devotion to business is inhuman; Hank is told all of his life that desire, be it professional or physical, is the lowest of all vices. Also, he believes that his enemies are harmless and that it does not bother him to carry a few social parasites on his back.
Hank falls in love with his business associate Dagny Taggart and befriends the libertine businessman Francisco d'Anconia, who slowly prepares him to stop supporting the society that abuses him. As the communist regime begins to feel the approaching economic collapse of the country, the so-called looters begin to rely more and more heavily on the work of the competent individuals, including Hank. Rearden Steel is decimated through various...
(The entire section is 309 words.)
Dagny, in Rand's words, is both her epitome of an ideal woman, and "[her]self, with any possible flaws eliminated." She is resolute, intelligent, ambitious, adventurous and strong; in her thirties, she is the vice president in charge of operation who actually runs Taggart Transcontinental, the family business inherited by her weak and indecisive brother. In the existing social system, Dagny is a threat because she functions on the principle of capitalism: she works for her money, takes chances on new and possibly profitable inventions (such as Rearden Metal), and values her workers and business partners on the sole basis of their job performance. The railroad is Dagny's purpose, her life's work, and her pride, but although her competence and toughness earn her respect of her workers, the communist supporters (including her brother) condemn her as selfish, unfeeling, unfeminine, and materialistic. At the same time, however, they rely on her skill to provide the services they are not capable of carrying out.
Since her childhood, Dagny was aware that the family railroad was to be her life; she excelled in her engineering studies and worked her way up in the company, where nobody expected her to be so successful in running the place. An uncompromising capitalist with firm moral beliefs, Dagny can only love men who share her views: her childhood friend and first lover, Francisco d'Anconia; her business associate Hank Rearden; and finally the leader of the...
(The entire section is 321 words.)
Dagny's older brother James Taggart (also known as Jim) is an example of a failed individual by Rand's standards. Jim is the president of the railroad who got the position on the basis of tradition instead of merit. He is a weak, indecisive, malevolent man who fears change and responsibility. Therefore, the ideology of the existing political order works for him, and he supports the directives that make him better off than his competitors. The corruption ultimately hurts his company along with the rest of the country's economy, but he does not mind as long as nobody blames him.
Jim hates and fears his sister and her friends and considers them cruel users of the people, but he is also aware of their powerful ability to make the industry work, which he cannot do. He joins the communist majority and takes pleasure in seeing Dagny suffer under the legislative regime he supports, the degradation of others is his only source of self-confidence. He even marries a poor salesgirl to have someone who would always look up to him.
(The entire section is 178 words.)
A famous philosopher, "the last advocate of reason" and a renowned teacher at the Patrick Henry University; John Galt, Francisco d'Anconia, and Ragnar Danneskjold were his students. Galt persuades him to leave the society that rejects reason and to join his cause, and Akston accepts, moving deep into the countryside and opening a small diner. In Galt's Utopian refuge, Akston dedicates all of his intellectual power to educating others in the philosophy of reason.
The president of Associated Steel, Boyle works closely with the government to ensure his success in business. He bribes politicians to eliminate his competition, especially the steel industry owned by Hank Rearden. Boyle can sell defective steel because it is the only product on the market; however, constructions of his material collapse and people get killed. Boyle is an illustration of corruption in industry.
A salesgirl at a dime store who catches Jim Taggart's eye because she naively considers him a national hero. Before Cherryl realizes that Jim has been taking credit for all of Dagny's visionary achievements at the railroad, the two are married. Her husband uses her to gain popularity as a man of the people who embraces the working class.
A petty politician whose arrogance and ignorance leads to the disaster in the Taggart Tunnel.
(The entire section is 1114 words.)