“Who is John Galt?” The question, which begins Atlas Shrugged, is used rhetorically, in the place of “Who knows?” Through the first half of the novel, various legends about him are advanced. Approximately halfway through the book, the reader discovers that there is in fact a John Galt, the leader of a revolt of intellectuals unwilling to let the products of their effort be taken by others except in fair trade.
The massive novel (more than eleven hundred pages) begins as Eddie Willers, an assistant working in operations at the Taggart Transcontinental railroad, tells its president, James Taggart, that the Rio Norte Line is falling apart. James does not want to rebuild it, focusing instead on his pet project, the San Sebastián Line into Mexico. He and his board of directors see the line as a way to help Mexico and to profit from the San Sebastián copper mines run by Francisco d’Anconia. Dagny Taggart, James’s sister and the head of operations, insists on repairing the Rio Norte Line and on using Rearden Metal, a new, unproven product, for the rails. At the same time, James gets an association of railroad executives to pass the “anti-dog-eat-dog rule” to hold down competition.
As Dagny predicted, the San Sebastián Line and the copper mine are nationalized by the Mexican government, causing a huge financial loss for Taggart Transcontinental and investors in the mine. D’Anconia in fact intended it to fail, as he did...
(The entire section is 568 words.)