Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
“Who is John Galt?” asks a man who is walking along the streets of New York City, noticing the grime on the buildings and the cracks in the skyscrapers. Every fourth store is out of business, with windows dark and empty. For some unknown reason, talented people are retiring and disappearing. Pessimism and hopelessness rule.
Dagny Taggart, vice president of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad (TTR), aims to repair the crumbling Rio Norte line that serves the booming industrial area of Colorado. The state is one of the few places in not only the United States but also the world that is still prosperous, largely because of Ellis Wyatt’s innovative ideas about extracting oil from shale. Other countries have become socialist states and are destitute.
James Taggart, Dagny’s brother and president of TTR, tries to prevent his sister from getting new rail from Rearden Steel, the last reliable steel manufacturer. Industrialist Hank Rearden has developed a promising new alloy, but one that does not have the approval of most metallurgists. James would rather give the business to his friend, Orren Boyle, head of the inefficient Associated Steel. TTR’s financial problems worsen when its San Sebastian line is nationalized by the Mexican government. The line, which had cost millions of dollars to construct, had been expected to serve copper mines that are run by an Argentine, Francisco d’Anconia, the world’s wealthiest copper industrialist and a...
(The entire section is 1521 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Atlas Shrugged is the fullest expression in fiction of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. The novel begins sometime in the near future. Technology and fashion are close to what they were when Rand wrote the novel, but private property has been abolished in most countries, now called “People’s States.” Shortages, delays, and excuses are commonplace. The United States still maintains some freedom, but the government increasingly dictates terms to producers through planning boards and economic directives. A few notice that gifted people in business, the sciences, and the arts are vanishing.
The novel’s opening line, “Who is John Galt?” introduces Rand’s theme: the value of the productive individual. John Galt institutes a strike by the world’s best minds against a collectivist social order. While Galt is the book’s spirit, the main plot line focuses on Dagny Taggart, the vice president of Taggart Transcontinental, whom reviewer Mimi Reisel Gladstein has called “probably the most admirable and successful heroine in American fiction.” Another important character is Hank Rearden, a self-made steel magnate. The novel’s villains ruin the world by confiscating the wealth of the productive.
Dagny, aided by Hank Rearden and his new company Rearden Metal, tries to save her foundering railroads by rebuilding one of the company’s abandoned lines (which she renames the John Galt line) into Colorado, one of the few states...
(The entire section is 739 words.)
Part 1 Summary - Non-Contradiction
Atlas Shrugged opens in a devastated New York City with crumbling buildings, empty stores, and closed businesses. It is a vision of an impoverished country in a communist world system, which slowly but surely destroys national and foreign economy alike. As capable, productive workers and business owners are devastated by bureaucratic machinations, they begin to abandon the existing order one by one and mysteriously disappear. In the meantime, the political and industrial parasites support each other and live off of the creative and productive "giants" who remain and must support them on their shoulders. The apathy of the people is summed up in a new slang expression, "Who is John Galt?" which conveys hopelessness, fear, and a sense of futility, as well as everything unachievable and imagined.
In the first part of the novel, Rand introduces several industries that keep the weakened communist system from failing. Taggart Transcontinental, the economic artery of the United States on which all the other industries depend, is the largest and most reliable railroad in the country. Although Jim Taggart is the official president, it is his competent and capitalist-minded sister Dagny Taggart who actually runs the business. When a part of the railroad collapses, Dagny decides to rebuild it with the new and publicly condemned Rearden Metal, a revolutionary alloy lighter and stronger than steel. Hank Rearden, the inventor, is the self-made owner of Rearden...
(The entire section is 490 words.)
Part 2 Summary - Either-Or
In the second part of the novel, the decay of the national economy continues. Francisco d'Anconia, Dagny's childhood friend and former lover, seems to be running the family business of d'Anconia Copper straight into ground after many generations of flourishing success. Francisco befriends Hank and leads him to a conclusion that, in an unjust and abusive society, his work is worthless because it can only be used by parasites for their own survival and further exploitation. When Hank is put on trial for selling more Rearden Metal to a customer than the state regulations allow (in efforts to keep a supplier in business), he clearly understands the idea of a noble man's guilt used as a weapon of obligation against him. However, the society still holds some reins on Hank: when his wife Lillian finds out about Dagny, she uses the information to establish herself higher in the hierarchy of corruption. Hank is blackmailed into giving all the rights to Rearden Metal to the State Science Institute, to be used in Project X—a destruction device based on sound waves and as powerful as the atomic bomb.
In the meantime, another set of laws is passed that takes away almost all the rights of individuals in the community; however, by this time even those who decide which laws to pass are becoming anxious because the resources are running out. Under the new pressure imposed by the laws, Dagny quits her job and goes to a cabin in the countryside. In her absence, a terrible...
(The entire section is 440 words.)
Part 3 Summary - A is A
Dagny awakens in a damaged plane after a rough landing into a well-hidden valley in the mountains; the valley is the seat of Galt's new world. Galt takes her on a tour of the place: all of the capable social "dropouts" gather here to establish their own free enterprise system. Ragnar Danneskjold, a notorious pirate on the outside, works as the new world's internal revenue service with the goal of returning to the competent all the wealth they have lost to the corrupt system. The motto of the valley is "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." The members of this community are on a strike of the mind, denying the most precious human resource to the outside society which opposes it. However, Dagny cannot stay in the new paradise, although she feels that she has fallen in love with Galt; instead, she returns to the decaying outside world to continue fighting alongside Hank for its preservation.
The country is falling into despair due to the overwhelming economic crisis; Lillian tries to use Hank's affair to blackmail Dagny into reassuring the nation in a radio address, but Dagny turns the tables and instead reveals the blackmail on the radio. Another national broadcast is scheduled, this time to be given by the head of the state, but the airwaves are taken over by Galt who, in a lengthy speech, explicates his philosophy and beckons those remaining to escape and never let...
(The entire section is 347 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary
“Who is John Galt?” That is the question asked by a homeless man of Eddie Willers, who is returning to his office at Taggart Transcontinental, the largest railroad company in the United States. Eddie is special assistant to the vice president at Taggart Transcontinental.
The homeless man's question bothers Eddie, though he insists that it does not. On his return to the office, Eddie goes to see James Taggart, the president of the railroad company. Eddie tells him that the Rio Norte Line has had another wreck. Taggart brushes it off, but Eddie insists that in order for the railroad to survive, the line must be replaced with Rearden Steel. Taggart insists on using Associated Steel, which is run by a friend. Taggart Transcontinental is losing customers, most notably Wyatt Oil. As he leaves, Eddie stops at Pop Harper’s desk. Pop has worked for Taggart Transcontinental since the previous generation. He is trying to fix a typewriter, but without success. He says it is no use. Things are breaking down all around him. To highlight his frustration, he asks Eddie, “Who is John Galt?”
Taggart’s sister, Dagny, is the vice president of the company. She is returning from examining the Rio Norte Line when the train she is on stops at a red signal. Leaving her compartment, Dagny walks to the front of the train where the cabin crew is standing. They tell her that they will not move as long as there is a red signal: those are their orders. Eventually they recognize Dagny as the one who runs the railroad. She overrides the engineer’s concern and gets the train moving again. She overhears the brakeman whistling a tune, which he says is Halley’s "Fifth Concerto." Dagny, an expert on Halley, knows that Halley composed only four. Back in New York, Dagny announces that she has ordered the rails to be replaced by Rearden Steel, using their lighter, cheaper alloy called Rearden Metal. Taggart objects to Dagny’s authoritarian tone, refusing to submit this request to the Board.
Owen Kellogg enters Dagny’s office. He has come to tell her that he is quitting, in compliance with her request that he tell her if he ever considered a change in employment. Dagny tells Kellogg that she had intended to make him the supervisor of the Ohio Division. She begs him to stay. Kellogg does not even consider the offer before turning it down. When she asks about his future plans, Kellogg says that he has none. She asks him why, and he...
(The entire section is 432 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary
Henry Rearden watches as his foundry pours the first batch of Rearden Metal. He looks back on his past: he has grown from a teenage boy working in the mines to a rich captain of industry. He walks home, fingering a bracelet he had made for his wife. The bracelet is the first thing composed of Rearden Metal.
At home Rearden is greeted by his wife, Lillian; his mother; his brother Philip; and Paul Larkin, an old friend. His mother chides him for missing dinner; his wife is contemptuously supportive. Rearden apologizes for being late, but he is met with their insults, even though they live off the fortune he has made. Seeing the bracelet, Mrs. Rearden states that her son should have brought his wife diamonds instead of something that is symbolic of the massive ego that she feels Rearden has.
Rearden is overcome with a sense of despair and exhaustion, unsure of what his family wants from him. His mother rebukes him for not being at home to help his wife make an important decision. Lillian says that she simply wants his help in planning a very important party that will take place in three months. Rearden objects that he cannot possibly know what emergency might come up that he will have to attend to. Lillian states that she is making an appointment with him for the party, knowing that he never breaks an appointment. When she mentions some possible dates, Rearden is indifferent. Lillian then tells him the party is to be held in honor of their anniversary. Rearden refuses to feel guilty, but he promises that he will be there.
Paul Larkin tells Rearden that he should get a public relations expert to fix his public reputation. Rearden replies that he does not care what people think. Phil states that people will think that Rearden is concerned only with making steel and money. Rearden replies that he is. Rearden then asks why he should be concerned about other people. Phil asks him, “Who is John Galt?” as a reminder that it is pointless to ask questions that have no answer. He tells him to get a lobbyist in order to influence the government. Rearden is a strong individualist, however, which is the major source of the problem.
Philip begins to talk about some of the charities with which he is involved. One of them, the Friends of Global Progress, is desperate for ten thousand dollars. Rearden tells him to call his office, and Philip will be given ten thousand dollars. Philip asks if the donation could be...
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary
Orren Boyle of Associated Steel, Jim Taggart, Paul Larkin, and Wesley Mouch (who is Rearden’s lobbyist in Washington) sit in a bar in “casual” conversation. Boyle is complaining that his company has been dropped by Taggart Transcontinental in favor of Rearden, who has the advantage because they own mines as well as factories. Taggart promises to get laws passed so that Rearden will lose his mines. Boyle is pressured to get his friends to push out Dan Conway of Phoenix-Durango, which has presented stiff competition to Taggart. Mouch sits silently, but Taggart promises to find him a job in Washington if he will stay silent about these plans. Taggart asks about the San Sebastian Line, which is serviced by one wood-burning train a day. Boyle says that the rumors of the rail lines being nationalized are not true and that he has a two-hundred-year deal with the Mexican government.
Dagny had known at the age of nine that she wanted to run the railroad company. At sixteen, she began working as a night operator for one of the stations. She gradually pushed her brother’s friends out of the way to be made Vice-President of Operations, a position that she sincerely craved. Taggart asks her why she is running shoddy engines on the San Sebastian Line. Dagny replies that she is moving as much valuable property out of Mexico so that when the lines are nationalized, there will not be anything worthwhile to loot. Dagny had been against this line from the beginning, but her brother had been manipulated by Francisco d’Anconia (a wealthy Argentinean businessman/playboy) into building it for access to d’Anconia’s copper mines in Mexico. However, the mines have not yet produced any copper. Taggart says that the lines were built to encourage industry among the Mexican people. Dagny replies that they are not industrious and are costing Taggart Transcontinental daily. When Dagny leaves, she stops to talk to the old news vendor, who discusses the changes that he has seen over the years. He shrugs it all off by asking, “Who is John Galt?” Dagny is irritated by the question for some reason.
Eddie Willers eats in the company cafeteria. He speaks with a work-strained laborer, complaining about the decay of the world, as well as the railroad. They discuss the Rio Norte Line, which Eddie believes is the company's last hope. He is counting on Dagny to repair the line back to a condition worthy of a Taggart train. He tells the worker that...
(The entire section is 439 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary
Eddie tells Dagny that McNamara, their contractor, quit and disappeared. Though inwardly despairing, Dagny promises that they will find another contractor for the Rio Norte Line. Leaving the office, Dagny walks the streets of New York and back to her apartment. She puts on Richard Halley’s Fourth Concerto and notices in the newspaper that Francisco d’Anconia is in town. He is involved in a sex scandal that is about to break wide open, and he says he has come to see the farce.
James Taggart hurries his mistress out of his apartment so that he can dress for the Board of Directors meeting where he intends to corral Dagny. Right before the meeting, however, he receives a call from Mexico informing him that, just as Dagny had warned, the Mexican government nationalized the railroad lines. It has also nationalized d’Anconia’s copper mines, which means that the Argentinean business man has lost millions.
At the board meeting, Taggart takes complete responsibility for Dagny's own foresighted actions. At the National Alliance of Railroads, the committee passes the Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule, which ostensibly is a means of self-regulation in reducing competition among the railroad companies, but in fact puts Dan Conway’s Phoenix-Durango Line out of business. Dagny is furious with Taggart when he informs her. She talks personally with Dan Conway, urging him to fight it. Conway, however, is willing to go along with the majority vote and makes plans to retire. Dagny admits that she would have entered into competition with him in Colorado but had decided not to on the premise that there was business enough for both. He tells her to get the Rio Norte Line up and running as soon as possible because Wyatt Oil needs that line. Ellis Wyatt, who owns Wyatt Oil, comes to see Dagny and demands that since Taggart Transcontinental was the one responsible for eliminating Phoenix-Durango, she must provide transportation for him within nine months. If she does not, her company will fall along with his. She promises him that he will have his transportation within nine months. Dagny goes to Henry Rearden, telling him that the rail she had ordered for twelve months must now be delivered in nine. Rearden quietly assures her that he can deliver it. He tells her that he is impressed with her, as she is with him. Rearden tells her that it is people like them who will pull the world through these troubling times.
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary
Eddie shows Dagny the newspaper article that describes the rage of the Mexican government when they discovered that the San Sebastian mines that they had seized were worthless. She tells Eddie to call d’Anconia for a meeting. Eddie reminds her that this is “Frisco d’Anconia,” her former lover. Dagny is not concerned.
Dagny reflects on her childhood with Francisco. The son of a wealthy Argentinean businessman, Francisco was reared all over the world so that he would feel a sense of ownership over the entire planet. Every year, he also spent time with the Taggarts. He ignored James and devoted his attention to Dagny and Eddie. Francisco admitted he liked Dagny simply because she would one day run Taggart Transcontinental.
While Francisco attends college in Ohio, he buys a decrepit copper mine, which does not please his father. After spending some time in Montana, Francisco returns to New York as the head of the branch offices there. He and Dagny become lovers, though they do not see each other often. One night, Dagny awakens and sees Francisco lying rigid as if in great pain. He tells her to prepare for what she will hear about him in the future. She is confused, but he will tell her nothing else. Over the years, Dagny hears of Francisco's playboy lifestyle and how he visibly wastes money.
When Dagny arrives at Francisco d’Anconia’s hotel room, she finds him playing marbles to expend his restless energy. She asks him why he has deliberately left the Mexican government worthless mines. She wants him to fight against the looter governments of the world, not play games with them. D’Anconia tells her that it is worse than that: he "built" a modern settlement for the prospective mine workers, but in fact the buildings and roads were worthless and would fall apart within months. He bought the mines specifically to loot investors such as James Taggart. Though he lost fifteen million dollars of his own, Francisco feels satisfaction that he deprived others of many more millions. Dagny is confused that he could be this depraved, especially against her own railroad company. It is not only the Taggarts who are harmed, but also Dan Conway (who ran the only decent railroad left) and Ellis Wyatt. He dismisses all this with the question, “Who is John Galt?” Dagny lashes out at him for using what she says is “gutter language.” He tells her that he hopes that one day she will have enough courage.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary
Henry Rearden remembers at the last minute that he promised to attend the anniversary party planned by his wife. Rushing home, he throws on his dinner clothes and walks into the gathering. The guests are mostly people Lillian assumes to be his friends but are not. Most are intellectuals who support government regulation over such things as literature and industry. They believe that such oversight will in fact lead to greater competition.
James and Dagny Taggart arrive together, though James is inconsequential next to his “famous” sister. Another surprise guest is Francisco d’Anconia, whom James confronts about the San Sebastian copper mines. D’Anconia tells James that he was simply doing what the rest of the world is preaching: he created jobs for the benefit of workers, not to produce any product, an argument that frustrates James. D’Anconia approaches Rearden; he accepted the invitation to the party just so that he could meet Rearden. Rearden unwillingly becomes interested in D’Anconia’s conversation. D’Anconia asks Rearden why he tolerates the leaches that feed off of his labors. Rearden replies that he does not mind it.
In response to a guest’s use of the phrase, “Who is John Galt?”, a woman claims to know someone who actually met Galt. She tells the party that John Galt discovered the lost city of Atlantis sunken in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Dagny, ever irritated by the mention of John Galt, dismisses the story, but Francisco responds to it.
Lillian is wearing the gift from her husband, a bracelet made from the first pouring of Rearden Metal. Thinking it tawdry, she has decorated herself with jewels and precious metals to provide a contrast to the cheap-looking green-blue metal. She says that she would gladly exchange it for a diamond necklace. Dagny approaches and takes a diamond bracelet off her own wrist and gives it to Lillian. At first shocked, Lillian eventually trades, placing the diamonds on her wrist but telling Dagny that she can have it back whenever she wants it. Dagny says nothing and walks away, feeling for the first time a stab of feminine vanity: she wants to be seen wearing the bracelet of Rearden Metal.
After the party, Rearden enters Lillian’s bedroom. He says nothing but looks at her, thinking that he has not actually desired her since the first week of their marriage. Since then, he has viewed her (as she has viewed herself) as an inanimate...
(The entire section is 432 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary
Dagny visits Colorado, where the Rio Norte Line is being rebuilt. There is trouble, however, because the factory equipment is inadequate for forming material from Rearden Metal. She orders the material to be made, no matter the cost. Ellis Wyatt has been working on the site, a sign that he has forgiven Dagny. When Hank Rearden appears, he suggests that the bridge, which has been judged to be too expensive to replace, should be repaired instead with Rearden Metal. Dagny agrees, grateful for Rearden’s partnership. She asks him for a ride in his plane back to New York, but he tells her that he is going to Minnesota. When she goes to the airport, the attendant tells her that no flights are available for two days. He also expresses his regret that she did not catch a flight with Rearden on his plane, since he is going to New York that night.
On the way to a dinner, James Taggart and Dagny discuss the public's distrust of Rearden Metal. Dagny decides to skip the dinner and gets out the car, walking along a run-down section of New York. She stops at a diner, where a tramp tells her that men are just animals without dreams or hope. A young man agrees, stating, “Who is John Galt?” The tramp claims to know John Galt, that he was an explorer who found the fountain of youth.
Dr. Potter of the State Science Institute meets with Henry Rearden. Potter asks Henry to take Rearden Metal off the market. Rearden questions Potter, asking if he thinks that the metal is faulty. Dr. Potter refuses to commit to a definite answer: he says that if the metal is faulty, it is a public menace; if the metal is good, it is a social menace. He tells Rearden that he cannot allow a company to be too successful at the expense of other companies. He offers to buy the company with government money. Rearden refuses, and the State Science Institute issues a warning against using Rearden Metal. Taggart Transcontinental stocks crash, and unions forbid their laborers to work on the Rio Norte Line.
Dagny visits Dr. Stadler of the State Science Institute, who says that he is impressed with Rearden Metal but will not go on record publicly with his opinion. He tells Dagny of three former students: Francisco D’Anconia, Ragnar Danneskjold (who is currently upsetting the world through piracy), and one other who disappeared into mediocrity.
Dagny tells her brother that in order to save the company, she will take a leave of absence and build...
(The entire section is 523 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary
Eddie Willers apologizes to his friends in the underground cafeteria for not being there lately. He has been made Acting Vice-President of Operations, though Dagny Taggart is the one who is actually making the decisions, even as she is building the John Galt Line. Eddie describes the exhalation that he sees in Dagny because of the work she is doing. Not much has been known about the John Galt Line simply because it is a success.
Dagny, working late in New York before she returns to Colorado, notices the shadow of a man at the door of her office. She expects him to knock, but instead he jerks backward and leaves, seemingly in some battle with himself.
Rearden sells his mines to Paul Larkin in order to circumvent the Equalization of Opportunity Act. He also extends Taggart’s loans, since they are unable to make payroll. He tries to reach Wesley Mouch, but learns that Mouch has resigned from his position with Rearden and has been named the assistant coordinator of the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources.
The head of the Union of Locomotive Engineers informs Dagny that he will not allow any of his engineers to run an engine for her. When Dagny wants him to agree to a contract that no union member will ever be employed by Taggart Transcontinental, he balks. Dagny tells him that she will call only for volunteers. When she does, every engineer in the company volunteers to drive the locomotive over the new bridge of the John Galt Line. At a press conference, Dagny tells the reporters the profit she plans to make from her investment in the railroad, which they find shocking. She also announces that the first train will run on July 22, and she suggests that they attend with cameras...just in case the bridge that they have been predicting will collapse actually does so. She herself plans to be on the train, as does Henry Rearden. At the opening of the line, a reporter calls out to Dagny, “Who is John Galt?” Her reply is, “We are!”
The first run on the John Galt Line is a resounding success. Along the line, Dagny sees the children of Taggart workers, as well as retirees of the company, standing at every mile post. The train arrives at Wyatt Junction to a crowd of people. Ellis Wyatt invites Dagny and Rearden to spend the night at his house. In a final act of triumph, Dagny and Rearden make love.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 9 Summary
Dagny and Rearden wake up in bed together after a night of violent sex. Rearden tells Dagny he has nothing but contempt for her for what they have done. He does not love her, but he needs her and that repels him. Dagny is at first shocked and then bursts out laughing. She tells him that she is more depraved than he is and is willing to be the object of his lust. She considers her greatest achievement is to have made love to Hank Rearden.
James Taggart accepts the praise of the Board of Directors, claiming credit for the success of the John Galt Line. On his way home he encounters a store clerk, Cherryl Brooks, who recognizes him from the morning newspapers. She gushes about how the papers say James was the guiding force behind the John Galt Line but kept it secret. James accepts this and invites Cherryl to go home with him. James expresses his contempt for Rearden, though Cherryl has an equally high opinion of that man. James thinks about taking Cherryl to bed but decides against it and walks her home. She tells him that any other man would have tried to seduce her. When James asks if she would have succumbed if he had tried, she gets embarrassed and leaves.
When Dagny and Rearden return to New York, they escape all the sudden publicity to Dagny’s apartment, where they make love. Rearden asks her what other men she has slept with. She refuses to answer other than to say there was only one, and she did indeed enjoy making love to him.
The John Galt Line is reabsorbed into Taggart Transcontinental. Dagny and Rearden talk of building a transcontinental rail line of Rearden Metal. Rearden asks Dagny if she still has the bracelet of Rearden Metal for which she traded a diamond bracelet with his wife. She still does have it, but she says it will rouse suspicion if she wears it. He asks her to wear it.
They go on vacation together and eventually wind up in Wisconsin. The countryside is destitute; the residents live in poverty. They visit an abandoned Twentieth Century Motor Company factory and discover a model of a motor that is designed to run off static electricity it draws from the air. Rearden and Dagny see this as a means to revolutionize all of industry. They take the model, intent on finding the inventor and putting it to work.
(The entire section is 412 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 10 Summary
Wesley Mouch, the new head of the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources, promotes several new laws that are ostensibly designed to equalize interstate trade. The maximum speed and length of trains are to be limited. The number of trains run in Colorado must not exceed the number run in any other state. The output of Rearden Metal by Reardon’s plant must not be greater than the output of other plants and must be shared equally with all. Colorado would be closed to the influx of relocating companies. Rearden discovers that Paul Larkin had not shipped the ore to Rearden’s plants but had instead sent it to Orren Boyle, as per an agreement Boyle had made with James Taggart. Left with no other option if he intends to stay in business, Rearden begins to acquire ore through illegal channels.
Dagny begins a furious search for the inventor of the static-electricity motor. She learns that the Twentieth Century Motor Company had been sold to two different people and had been tied up in court for years. She tracks down Lee Hunsaker, who bought the company from the heirs of Jed Sternes. Hunsaker tells her of Midas Mulligan, who refused to grant him a loan, so Hunsaker sued him, demanding that he not be discriminated against because of need. Hunsaker won his suit in an appeal, but Mulligan (and all his millions of dollars) disappeared.
Dadny finds the family of Jed Sternes and learns that the company went into bankruptcy because workers were paid according to their need, not according to their production. Next she learns that the chief engineer was William Hastings, who died five years previously; Dagny contacts Hastings’s widow and learns the address of someone who might know the whereabouts of the inventor of the motor. She discovers him working as a cook in a diner in Wyoming. He is Hugh Akston, the famous philosopher who taught Francisco d’Anconia, Ragnar Danneskjold, and one other person whom he says is not important. He gives Dagny a cigarette that is stamped with a dollar sign.
Dagny calls Eddie Willers in New York and learns that a special tax has been levied on the state of Colorado, effectively killing all industry in the state. She fears for Ellis Wyatt’s welfare and tries to contact him. As she approaches his oil fields, she sees a wall of flames. Wyatt has set fire to his entire operation and disappeared, leaving a sign stating that he has left it as he found it, available to anyone who...
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary
Dr. Robert Stadler of the State Science Institute is irate at the publication of a book by the Institute promoting the derivative theory that reasoned thought is nonexistent but is simply the result of chemical interchanges in the brain. Following Ellis Wyatt’s destruction of his oil fields, an oil shortage grips the nation. Fewer people drive cars, and Dagny Taggart is forced to cut back on train operations. Many companies go out of business entirely. The government steps in and imposes oil rationing, which forces a return to coal as the major source of energy. Taggart Transcontinental has only one train left that uses oil; the rest run on coal. The heads of industry begin to disappear, voluntarily quitting their positions and vanishing from the sight of the public and their families. Somehow, James Taggart convinces Washington to grant him subsidies to stay in business; in fact, the company’s profits begin to soar.
Having failed to locate the inventor of the motor, Dagny tries to find someone who can make it work. Each scientist she approaches states that it is impossible—it should not be attempted because succeeding would damage the self-esteem of other scientists. She meets with Dr. Stadler, who is interested but does not know anyone capable of replicating the motor. He does remember one person, Quentin Daniels, who had turned down a position with the State Science Institute. He urges Dagny to contact Daniels.
A government official visits Rearden and orders him to provide Rearden Metal equally to all who need it, according to the Fair Share Law. Rearden considers the man a looter and refuses, especially because there is not enough metal to go around, which has resulted in people’s illegally acquiring it by buying others’ shares. The State Science Institute orders the metal for a mysterious Project X but refuses to reveal what the project actually is. Suspicious, Rearden refuses on the grounds that he believes they are building something that will result in his own destruction, and no society requires a person to build the weapons that will be used to murder him.
Rearden has lost interest in sex with Dagny, but he buys her an outrageously expensive ruby necklace that he wants her to wear exclusively for him. She says he rose in her estimation the moment she knew he lusted after her. When Rearden’s estimation of his own self returns, so does his desire for Dagny.
(The entire section is 408 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary
Dagny notices that all the nation’s leading industrialists are disappearing, so she tracks down and hires Quentin Daniels to work on the motor. She knows he works at the Utah Institute of Technology, but she is shocked to learn he is just a night watchman. Daniels explains that there are no research centers that are producing anything worthwhile, so he uses the UIT to provide himself a place to do his own research unwatched. He agrees to work for Dagny but at a low monthly wage; he says he will not take her money until he produces something worthwhile. When he does, he will demand a high percentage of the profits. Dagny agrees. Daniels will continue at UIT to work on the motor. She sends him a check every month, and he sends a detailed report.
Rearden feels frustrated by the government’s limitations on his production, so he sells Ken Danagger more Metal than the current law allows.
James Taggart is marrying Cherryl Brooks, the sales clerk he met some months previously. He had not demanded that she sleep with him, which she appreciates but which puzzles her. He takes her to a party, but she feels he is disappointed by the impression she makes on his friends. He proposes marriage, which she accepts after thinking that he was making fun of her. Cherryl is overwhelmed by the press coverage and would gladly escape until the wedding if James offered her the funds to do so, but he does not.
Lillian Rearden demands that Rearden accompany her to the wedding, and he does so reluctantly. He avoids making eye contact with Dagny. Cherryl confronts Dagny and tells her that she does not intend to maintain warm family relations—she says she is now Mrs. Taggart, the woman of the family. Dagny replies that she sees herself as the man of the family, which is a deliberate insult to James. Lillian has a face-off with Dagny as well when she sees Dagny wearing the bracelet of Rearden Metal. She asks Dagny to give it back but Dagny refuses. Lillian warns that people will think Dagny and Rearden are having affair. Rearden demands that Lillian apologize to Dagny.
Francisco d’Anconia crashes the wedding reception and speaks of the fallacy of the argument that money is the root of all evil. He points out that money is the result of a person’s effort and creativity, which is not evil. He exchanges money for the products of other people’s efforts. To prove his point, he spreads a rumor that d’Anconia Copper Mines...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary
Following the reception, Lillian says she is going to take the train home. Rearden refuses to accompany her, stating that he has business in the city the following morning. He goes to Dagny’s apartment and apologizes for coming to the reception with his wife. Dagny says there is no need for forgiveness; she has always accepted the fact that he is married and feels content with things as they are. When Rearden returns to his hotel room the next morning, he finds Lillian sitting there. She had felt sure he was not coming back to the hotel because he has a mistress somewhere. She does not know who the mistress is, but she assumes it is some low-class girl who is content to fulfill Rearden’s animal passions without love. She tells Rearden that she will never grant him a divorce and give up her social position.
Dr. Floyd Ferris visits Rearden to tell him that if he does not fulfill the metal needs of Project X, Ferris will expose Rearden as a criminal for giving metal to Ken Danagger beyond the allotted quota. Rearden refuses even if it means jail time, and the two men are formally indicted.
Eddie Willers eats lunch with his worker friend in the cafeteria. He mentions that he is worried about Dagny, who believes there is a “destroyer” out to cripple the nation. Dagny wants to save Danagger and goes to see him. She is kept waiting several hours; Danagger’s secretary tells her that an unexpected visitor arrived to talk to Danagger. When Dagny is finally admitted into the office, Danagger seems at peace and announces that he is retiring. Dagny knows the destroyer has been there and begs Danagger not to disappear. Danagger insists that he is through. He is leaving his coal company to whoever wants it just as Ellis Wyatt left his oil field.
As Rearden looks over his metalworks, Francisco d’Anconia arrives unannounced. He chastises Rearden for believing that self-interest is wrong. Rearden has always condemned himself for his virtues rather than his vices. Rearden’s efforts and production that have enabled people to support themselves. D’Anconia asks Rearden what Atlas should do as he is holding the world on his shoulders if he feels he is weakening. When Rearden says he does not know, d’Anconia tells him that Atlas should shrug. A siren blares, signaling a break in the line and interrupting their conversation. A furnace has burst, spewing molten metal across the floor. D’Anconia and Rearden manage to...
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary
On Thanksgiving, Rearden dines with his family but has finally decided he will no longer accept their moralizing. When his brother Phil states that Rearden of guilty of greed, Rearden tells him that it would be better if he would leave and live life on his own rather than live off Rearden’s money, which he finds so distasteful. Phil begins to backtrack; he says he was speaking in general terms about politics, not against Rearden himself. When Rearden gets up to leave, he tells Lillian he is going to New York, and she understands that he is going to his mistress.
The following day, Rearden stands trial for his “crime” of selling Rearden Metal to Ken Danagger. Rearden refuses to participate in the trial. He will not state his plea, nor does he recognize the legitimacy of the court to condemn him for selling what is rightfully his. He sways the crowd to his side to the point that the judge warns them that he will clear the court if they continue. Rearden says he cannot be tried for being a success at his business. First the public condemned him for putting Rearden Metal on the market; now they condemn him for withholding it. The judges back off, explaining that they are not taking what belongs to Rearden or keeping him from running his business; they are simply trying to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at acquiring the metal they need. The court fines Rearden $5,000 but suspends the sentence. The courtroom breaks out in cheers, with individuals begging Rearden to save them. Rearden looks among the crowd for Francisco d’Anconia, but he is not there.
After the trial, d’Anconia comes to see Rearden, who asks d’Anconia how he can waste so much time chasing women when he has so much intelligence and talent. D’Anconia explains that the women a man has sex with are indications of his moral code. If he chooses immoral women to bed, he himself is immoral. But if he chooses a higher class of companion, he reveals himself of greater worth. Despite the number of women he has had, he has been in love with only one woman. Rearden tells him that he has secretly bought a large supply of copper from d’Anconia mines to make a large order of Rearden Metal. D’Anconia is furious and reminds Rearden that he had warned him not to buy any d’Anconia copper. A few days later, Rearden understands when he learns that the ships bearing the copper he had purchased have been pirated by Ragnar Danneskjold.
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 5 Summary
Due to the loss of copper, Rearden Steel is not able to fulfill its orders for the first time in its history. Without the steel, the railroad lines cannot be rebuilt and repaired. Without the railroads, goods cannot be delivered. Without the goods, businesses fail. The country sinks into starvation and depression. The Rio Norte Line has very little business even though it has the most stable line. Colorado, where the line is located, suffers more than any other place in the country.
The Taggart Transcontinental Board of Directors holds a meeting to discuss the situation. When it appeals to Dagny, she claims to have no opinion and no proposal to save the company. She points out that the decisions previously made by the board have resulted in the chaos. They did not listen to her then, so she refuses to participate in the discussion now. In the end, the decision is made to close the Rio Norte Line and use the rails to repair the transcontinental line, which is the more crucial line of the two. To get the permits from Washington, however, James Taggart has to make some deals with Wesley Mouch.
Dagny sees Francisco d’Anconia waiting for her in the lobby as she leaves the board meeting. D’Anconia questions her motives for remaining with a company that does not appreciate her. Dagny tells him she would do anything to keep the company together.
James Taggart continues to make deals with the government, which is trying to deal with the worsening economic failings of the country. With the anticipation of a new law, James is asked find a way to hold Rearden off. James calls Lillian and asks to meet her for dinner in New York. When James explains the situation to her, Lillian agrees to find something that will aid the government in working around Rearden, who has become a legendary figure in public opinion. She decides to meet Rearden at the train station. When she learns that he does not have a compartment, she realizes that he is most likely with his mistress. Lillian sees Dagny Taggart disembark and realizes that Dagny is Rearden’s mistress. She is shocked, and Rearden notices this when he meets her. She cannot conceal her feelings and demands that he give up Dagny. Rearden refuses. Lillian can either divorce him or keep up the sham of their marriage as they have been doing, but he will not leave Dagny. Bitterly, Lillian agrees.
(The entire section is 414 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary
James Taggart travels to Washington to join with others involved with the government to discuss the future course of the nation. Mr. Thompson, the Head of State, is also present. They decide to enact Directive 10-289 to theoretically stop the economical decline. There are several severe implications of the Directive: all workers must remain in their present positions, neither resigning nor being fired; all businesses and industries must remain in operation; all patents and copyrights will be turned over to the government; no new devices or products may be produced or sold; all businesses will sell the same amount of goods and services as they have been selling; all people will be required to spend the same amount of money as they had previously; all wages and prices will be frozen; all decisions will be made by the Unification Board. Fred Kinnian, the head of the Amalgamated Labor of America, expresses concern that if conditions are frozen during this national emergency, there will be no means of economic recovery. The others dismiss this thought. In addition, there will be no more research performed except by the State Science Institute because it is attached to the government. The one concern is Henry Rearden. James Taggart promises that he will deliver Rearden and his patent on Rearden Metal to the government.
At her office, Dagny receives a call from Francisco d’Anconia, who tells her to look at the papers. Eddie Willers brings in a copy and she sees the news about Directive 10-289. She is furious. She storms into James’s office, throws the newspaper in his face, and announces her resignation. She says she will not be a slave or a slave driver. She tells Eddie what she has done, and Eddie regrets that he cannot bring himself to resign as well. Dagny plans to retreat to her cabin in the Berkshires.
Laborers at Rearden Steel begin to resign in anticipation of the government takeover of the company. The Wet Nurse begs Rearden not to sign over his patent. Dr. Ferris arrives with the “gift certificate” that will transfer ownership of the patent. He expects Rearden to sign. When Rearden refuses, Dr. Ferris says his affair with Dagny Taggart is well known and will be published in such a way as to destroy the reputations of both. Rearden does not want to have Dagny’s name drawn through the mud for him, so he signs the gift certificate, transferring ownership of Rearden Metal to the government.
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary
Eddie Willers meets his worker friend in the cafeteria. He talks about the state of the country and how laborers are walking off their jobs and roaming the countryside. Because quitting a job is illegal according to Directive 10-289, these laborers are labeled “deserters” and are imprisoned if caught. Since Dagny resigned her position as Vice-President of Operations, James Taggart has filled the post with his friend, Clifton Locey. Locey is bringing Taggart Transcontinental down because he refuses to make decisions to keep the railroad running safely. Eddie’s friend tells him that he will be going away for a while.
Rearden leaves his home. He tells his brother and mother that his secretary, Miss Ives, will make sure their bills are paid. He asks them to inform Lillian that he does not want to see her again. Despite the distance, Rearden walks to Philadelphia to see an attorney who will get him a divorce from Lillian without alimony or property settlements. As he is walking back, Rearden meets a stranger on a dark road. The stranger gives him a bar of gold and says it belongs to Reardon—it is part of the money the government has been stealing from him through income taxes. The stranger finally reveals himself to be Ragnar Danneskjold, the pirate. Ragnar explains that he does not take money from private or military ships but only those owned and operated by the government. He tells Rearden that there is a large bank account waiting for him whenever he needs it. Rearden is uncomfortable with this, but when a police car stops beside them and asks if they have a seen a strange man fitting Ragnar’s description, Rearden lies and says the man next to him is his new bodyguard.
A train carrying Kip Chalmers, a high-level politician, to a rally is stranded when the engine derails. Chalmers demands that a new engine be sent, but none of the railroad engineers want to take the chance of entering the eight-mile tunnel ahead with a coal-burning engine. Chalmers pressures the only engineer who has not quit to drive the train into the tunnel. The train is filled with passengers, each of whom holds a personal philosophy that supports the collective over the individual. As the train enters the tunnel, the coal fumes suffocate all the passengers; their last sight is the light of Wyatt’s still-burning oil fields.
(The entire section is 402 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary
Dagny stays at her retreat at Woodstock in the Berkshires, New York. She avoids thinking about the railroad as much as she can but often wakes up in the night worrying about it. One day she hears the sound of a car over the music coming from her radio. She hopes that it is Rearden, but it is Francisco d’Anconia. He has come to convince her to join him in his own exile. He tells her that, twelve years before, he was the first industrialist to walk away from his company. But he does not disappear as the others have done; he stays to destroy to keep it from the looters. Dagny cannot understand how he could destroy something he loved, but d’Anconia tells her that it is because of his love that he has been working to take it apart piecemeal. His loss of her, he tells her, is what has bothered him the most. Over the radio, Dagny and d’Anconia hear the news of the train accident in Colorado. After the train stopped in the tunnel, another train crashed into it. It exploded and destroyed the tunnel beyond repair. Despite d’Anconia’s pleas that she let it go, Dagny rushes back to New York.
At the offices of Taggart Transcontinental, James Taggart sits with his letter of resignation in front of him on the desk, ready to sign should it prove necessary. He has not responded to the emergency; to do so would place the responsibility on him. He calls in Eddie Willers and demands to know where Dagny is. Eddie refuses even though Taggart says he is harboring a criminal who walked away from her job against Directive 10-289. Eddie is firm in his resolve until Dagny shows up at the office, at which point he dissolves in tears.
Dagny quickly takes charge, designing a new route for the transcontinental line even though her actions are illegal according to the strictures of Directive 10-289. Wesley Mouch calls her. He welcomes her back on the job and promises to help her in any way he can to deal with the crisis; he is even willing to bend the laws if need be. She asks to speak to Mr. Weatherby, Mouch’s assistant. Dagny tells Mr. Weatherby that she will no longer talk to Mouch but will communicate only through Weatherby. She then calls Rearden to tell him she is back. He tells her that he gave in and signed the gift certificate. Dagny tells him that she has effectively given in as well by returning to Taggart Transcontinental.
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary
Dagny stands at the window of her apartment with Manhattan Island spread before her; she thinks it looks like a sinking ship. Francisco d’Anconia arrives, which does not surprise her. He no longer has the look of a playboy. He has come to talk to her about the accident. He realizes that he cannot stop her from returning to the railroad, but he still tries. She will stop only when she realizes that her work is in the service of man’s destruction. He reminds her that he is in effect her enemy and that he plans to destroy that which she loves. Dagny asks d’Anconia if he is one of the destroyers. She wonders if it was he who was in Ken Danagger’s office before she came to convince him not to leave. He denies it. He says that the other industrialists who have disappeared are dead to her whether they are still alive or not.
Rearden opens the door using his key. He stops when he sees d’Anconia; he immediately draws a conclusion about his presence there. D’Anconia is also surprised when he realizes that Rearden is sleeping with Dagny. Rearden slaps d’Anconia’s face, knocking him back onto the coffee table. D’Anconia grips the edges of the table to keep himself from striking Rearden. Rearden asks him if he was speaking of Dagny when he said he had only ever loved on woman. D’Anconia admits that he was, and then he leaves. Rearden asks Dagny if d’Anconia was the first man she had slept with. She says he was. Rearden seizes her, throws her onto the couch, and makes love to her in the manner of taking final possession of her.
Later, the apartment’s assistant manager arrives with a special delivery letter that had come while Dagny was gone. She sees it is from Quentin Daniels. She reads it and then rushes for the phone, handing the letter to Rearden. The letter says Daniels is quitting because he is not willing to work in a country where he is considered a slave. He plans on staying at his job as a night watchman until someone tells him it is illegal for him to quit. He will continue with his research on the motor but will not reveal its secret, even to her. Dagny is finally able to reach Daniels and begs him to stay where he is until she can speak with him. He tells her that it is pointless, but he agrees to give her a chance. She leaves to catch the train to Utah that night.
(The entire section is 441 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary
As Dagny crosses the plains, she is depressed by the desolation she sees along the way. At one stop, she sees the conductor pull a tramp off the train. There is some quiet dignity about him that impresses Dagny, so she invites him into her private car. He explains that he has been traveling around without holding a job long over the past several years. He was a factory worker, but all the factories kept closing not long after he was hired. He introduces himself as Jeff Allen and tells Dagny that he used to work at the Twentieth Century Motor Company in Wisconsin, where she had found the motor. He tells her of the Starnes heirs, the owners of the factory, and their new policies. The workers were told to work according to their abilities but were paid according to their needs. The workers were to vote on whose needs were to be met first. Soon, a subtle resentment began to build up. Production began to drop, so a new plan was instituted in which a worker who was not producing enough would have to work extra hours without pay. Morale plummeted as the honest workers felt punished, and dishonest workers began to manipulate the system. Finally, one man stood up and said that he quit. He would leave and stop the motor of the world. The man’s name was John Galt. It was Allen and the other workers who started the phrase, “Who is John Galt?” as all the factories began to close, presumably as the result of John Galt’s efforts.
When the train suddenly stops, Dagny checks on the engine crew, who have disappeared. This has become a common occurrence as the railroad workers protest the strictures of Directive 10-289. Dagny discovers that Owen Kellogg, a former Taggart employee, is also on the train. He claims that he is on vacation and refuses to run the engine. Dagny and Kellogg walk to a phone at a post a few miles down the line and call the nearest station. The night operator refuses to send out a crew until Dagny threatens him and tells him he will be fired. She accepts full responsibility. Dagny is shocked when Kellogg offers her a cigarette with the dollar sign on it. She asks him where he got them, but he will not tell her; he simply states that someone makes them for his friends. He eventually gives her the pack, which she puts in her purse.
Not having luck procuring help for the train quickly enough, Dagny walks to a nearby airfield and rents a plane. When she lands, she discovers that Quentin Daniels has just taken off in...
(The entire section is 464 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary
Dagny regains consciousness and finds herself lying in a field of grass in a mountain valley. She is looking up at a face that strikes her as free from guilt or pain. He addresses her by name and then introduces himself as John Galt. When she asks where she is, John Galt tells her she is at Taggart Terminal. Dagny is unable to walk, so John Galt carries her to his small home and places her in the guest room. On the way, Dagny sees a large golden dollar sign. John Galt tells her it is a joke by Francisco d’Anconia, a symbol of what the valley stands for. The valley is protected by rays invented by John Galt, who also invented the motor. She meets Hugh Akston (who greets her) as well as Midas Mulligan, the banker who owns the valley. She learns that this is where all the vanished men have gone. They have each become part of a community and are doing something other than how they made their fortunes or reputations.
John Galt explains that he has been watching Dagny for some years. She is the first person who has seen this valley before deciding to move here. Quentin Daniels brings a car for John Galt to use to give Dagny a tour. Daniels apologizes for breaking his word to Dagny; he simply forgot when John Galt came for him. As Dagny tours the valley, she learns that each inhabitant is someone who has left the world of business, science, or academia and come here to form a self-supporting community. Each earns money from the product of his labor, but it is not subject to taxes or any other form of “looting” by a central government. She sees the building where the motor is kept. Above the door is written:
I swear by my life and my love of it that I will not live for the sake of another man, nor ask for any man to live for mine.
This is the official oath of the community, and taking it is a requirement for anyone who wants to live here. Dagny and John Galt join other residents that evening at a dinner hosted by Midas Mulligan. John Galt explains that they are all on strike. Other laborers have gone on strike, withholding their services until demands are met. These people are withholding the products of their minds. They have been the ones who have held the world up on their shoulders through their knowledge and capabilities.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 2 Summary
The next morning, as Dagny is cooking breakfast and John Galt is out checking on the ray screen, a stunningly beautiful man bursts in the door. He stops when he sees Dagny but expresses his pleasure that she has decided to join them. She explains that she is a “scab,” meaning that she is there but does not belong. He tells her that he has been watching her progress for some years. When John Galt returns, he introduces the man to her as Ragnar Danneskjold. Dagny is shocked to face the infamous pirate in person, but he explains that he has only stolen from those who steal from others. He tells her that the others in the valley (known usually as Galt’s Gulch) do not approve of his means of protest. He tells Dagny that he has a bank account for her from which she can draw at any time. She refuses and offers to be John Galt’s cook and housekeeper for wages. John Galt tells Dagny that this is the morning when he, Ragnar, and Francisco meet for their annual breakfast. This is also the month when any community members who live outside the valley come back for a vacation to learn from the others in the profession they have abandoned.
Owen Kellogg arrives a few days later; he is surprised that Dagny is alive. He tells her that everyone on the outside world has presumed that she died in a plane crash, but there is still some effort to find the wreckage. He personally called Henry Rearden to tell him the news. The next day Francisco d’Anconia also arrives, overjoyed to find Dagny there. He again professes his love for her and knows she will always love him even if she chooses another man. John Galt tells her that she cannot send a message to Rearden, even if she does not include a return address.
Over the next several days, Dagny falls in love with John Galt, and he with her. Despite this, they cannot be together because she has not agreed to join in the strike and live in the valley permanently. She also believes that John Galt will hide his feelings out of consideration for Francisco d’Anconia. John Galt tells her that no one stays in the valley by compulsion, but each one must make the decision to leave his life behind and join the strike of the mind. Dagny is not sure what she should do and waivers the entire month she is there. Finally she decides that she cannot give up her fight to save the railroad. As long as there are people who desire to live, she will not desert them. John Galt tells her that they are not really...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 3 Summary
Dr. Robert Stadler is invited to a demonstration in a field in Iowa. Viewing stands have been constructed for the viewing. Dr. Floyd Ferris reveals Project X, which is a sonic ray weapon. He uses it to demolish a farmhouse and some goats. The crowd is horrified, as is Dr. Stadler, whose research has been used to build this weapon. He points out that the world is at a standstill because of the economic crisis and does not have the resources to wage war. Dr. Ferris says the weapon is for maintaining internal peace, to control American citizens who are threatening the security of the government.
Dagny finds a small-town reporter and tells him to publish the news that she is alive and on her way back to New York. When she returns she calls Rearden, who is still in the Rocky Mountains trying to find the wreckage of her plane so he can retrieve her body. She learns from Eddie Willers that the government has passed a Railroad Unification Plan, in which the government will control all railroads and the profits shared out equally among the different railroad companies according the mileage each company maintains. Because Taggart Transcontinental owns the most track, it stands to make the largest profit. The trains are being rerouted to do favors for friends of government officials.
James Taggart tells Dagny that she will appear that night on a radio program and calm the fears of the public as to the government takeover, but she refuses. Lillian Rearden arrives and orders her to appear on the program. Lillian says she was the one who convinced Rearden to sign the gift certificate giving Rearden Metal to the government, under threat of revealing his affair with Dagny. She tells Dagny she will do the same if she refuses to appear on the program. Dagny agrees.
That night on the program, she announces her two-year affair with Henry Rearden and explains that the government and others used this to blackmail both of them to accede to their demands. The microphone is cut off, and then the radio station manager announces that there has been some technical difficulty and the station will remain off the air until it is corrected.
Dagny tells Rearden that she is in love with John Galt, though it is impossible for them to be together. She does not reveal where she has been for the past month, but she tells him that John Galt is real and that he is the inventor of the motor.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary
James Taggart learns that Argentina will be declared, like most of the other major nations, a People’s State and will thus nationalize d’Anconia Copper Mines. He buys stock in a new company so he will have control when the State seizes the mines. This, with his other investments, ensures that he will have a major influence in every State in the Southern Hemisphere. On the way home, he gives a tramp a one hundred dollar bill because it is the only thing in his pocket. The tramp is as indifferent to this as James is.
When he returns to his apartment, he asks Cherryl for some champagne so they can celebrate. She is indifferent to the celebration, having lost all admiration for James since their marriage. She begins to ask questions of people involved in Taggart Transcontinental and learns that it was Dagny, not James, who runs the company, especially the John Galt Line. She expresses her disgust to James. He tries to belittle her for coming from the slums and tells her that she is ungrateful for all he has done for her. She puts on her clothes and leaves the apartment, not wanting to stay around James any longer.
Cherryl shows up at Dagny’s apartment. She apologizes for the things she said at her wedding, even though she knows she does not deserve forgiveness. She realizes that Dagny is everything she thought she loved in James. Dagny accepts her apologizes and states that they are sisters by choice, not by Cherryl’s marriage to James. She tells Cherryl that giving to those who do not deserve the gift is an evil. The only good is justice. Cherryl feels that Dagny is the only one who really understands her, and she returns to James’s apartment.
James is in a violent mood when Lillian Rearden arrives at his apartment. She wants him to help her prevent Rearden from divorcing her because this would leave her homeless and poverty stricken, but he has no power to do so. She spills her drink on herself and James tries to wipe it off, which leads to the two of them having passionless sex. Cherryl returns home and overhears them. She hides in her bedroom until Lillian leaves and then confronts James. He does not care and tells her that he will not allow her to divorce him. He married her only as an act of charity. He strikes her, and she runs out into the street. She has nowhere to go, so she keeps running until she reaches the river and jumps in.
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 5 Summary
Because of the copper shortage, the nation’s infrastructure begins to break down. Telephone lines cannot be replaced. Cuffy Meigs is the sole decision maker of what constitutes an emergency, and he will take no action. Dagny transfers some of the company’s copper to California, which is one of the few states where oil is still produced. James begs Dagny to do something. He says that if he is miserable, it is her fault. If people suffer, it is blamed on those who could alleviate their suffering but do not. He had planned to surprise her with the news of his control of D’Anconia Copper, but just as soon as the company was nationalized, every property and material that belonged to D’Anconia Copper was destroyed. Rearden is surprised when he learns that Dagny has actually met Ragnar Danneskjold.
Philip, Rearden’s brother, approaches Rearden for a job. When Rearden refuses because Philip has no valuable skills, Philip berates him for not caring for his brother. Rearden replies that Philip does not really care for his brother (meaning Rearden himself) either. The Wet Nurse tells Rearden that he wants to give up his job as government inspector and do real work at Rearden Steel. Rearden at first mocks and says he would gladly give him a job but the Unification Board has made it illegal for anyone to quit or to hire. The Wet Nurse understands and warns Rearden that the other government people are planning a new set of restrictions and are infiltrating the steel mills.
Because of the failure of railroad cars to be delivered on time, the nation’s harvest of grain cannot be sent to market. The farmers begin to riot, destroying trains, government buildings, and eventually their own farms. The cars that Taggart Transcontinental needed to move the country’s food supply had been directed by Cuffy Meigs to Louisiana for a soybean project that failed.
A wire breaks in the signaling system of the railroad. To keep the trains running, Dagny sends men out along the line with lanterns, and she sends written messages of when to signal. As she walks along the line of men, she sees John Galt among the workers. She leaves and goes through the tunnels; John Galt follows her. They make love, and Dagny confesses that she is in love with him. John Galt tells her that this is how he has been watching her, by working for her for ten years. As he leaves, he warns her not to try to find him because that will put him in danger from...
(The entire section is 438 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 6 Summary
The workers at Rearden Steel request a raise; however, they do not present their request to Rearden himself but to the Unification Board. Rearden learns of it only indirectly. He also learns that the Unification Board has denied their request. When the newspapers report that the Rearden Steel workers are near destitution and that their request for a wage increase has been denied, they fail to mention who exactly turned down their request—they allow the assumption that Rearden did it. Rearden receives a notice that his bank accounts have been “attached” (garnished) for three years’ worth of unpaid back taxes (which is a false accusation). He agrees to meet with the Unification Board on November 4.
The same day, his mother calls Rearden and says she desperately needs to see him. He arrives at her home to find Philip and Lillian also there. His mother tells him that they have not received their allowance check because of the attachment and are short of money. Rearden points out that he is short of money as well. Mrs. Rearden begs for her son’s forgiveness, but Rearden sees forgiveness as pointless. Philip says that Rearden cannot leave without money. At this, Rearden realizes the purpose of the attachment. It is to prevent his escape as the other industrialists have escaped.
At the meeting with the Unification Board, Rearden is unmoved by their requests that he produce as much Rearden Metal as he can on the promise that the money will be put in a Steel Unification Pool and divided at the end of the year according to the number of open furnaces in each steel mill. Rearden tells them that his ovens produce more than do those of Orren Boyle, who has more furnaces. He will thus operate at a loss to support Orren Boyle. He realizes that they are counting on the fact that he will keep on producing steel because it is what he loves.
At the mill, the workers go on strike and riot. Rearden sees the Wet Nurse, who has been shot. The Wet Nurse tells him that he had tried to stop the striking workers. Rearden finally calls the Wet Nurse by his name, Tony, and holds him as he dies. Then Rearden is attacked and knocked unconscious. When he regains consciousness, he tells of someone killing his attacker and shooting into the rioting crowd, killing several. Rearden’s “savior” enters: it is Francisco d’Anconia, who tells Rearden that he has been working for the steel mill and acting as Rearden’s bodyguard since...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 7 Summary
A panicked James Taggart tells Dagny that Henry Rearden has vanished. The steel industry collapses and the economy goes into a tailspin. To calm the chaos, newspapers begin to print stories with differing accounts of Rearden’s disappearance to give the semblance that the powers that be are in the know. Dagny receives a note: “I have met him. I don’t blame you.” Rearden must have met John Galt.
To quiet the fears, the Head of State Thompson plans on addressing the nation by radio. Just minutes before the broadcast, the radio signals fall silent all across the nation. It appears that some kind of transmission is blocking them. At 8:00, when Thompson was supposed to speak, a voice comes on and announces that it is John Galt speaking. He tells the people there are three reasons to live: reason, purpose, and self-esteem. A man’s mind is the source of all knowledge. When the men who worked with their minds disappeared, the world obviously collapsed. There is no such thing as original sin. It is only through the choices a man makes that he can be called human. Therefore, a man’s mind is the only authority to which he should submit, and he should trust his own reason. The highest good is to serve oneself. Those who trust in a supernatural entity such as God have submitted to the minds of the others around them, not their own minds. Those who trust in the state have done so as well. Morality is not imposed from the outside but from the choices one makes for oneself.
John Galt identifies himself as the first man who has followed this code of ethics, this belief in oneself as the highest good, without guilt. These are his virtues, and he calls on others to follow his example. He warns them that the looters are taking civilization not just back to the pre-science era but to pre-language, when reality was ignored. A is always A, John Galt says. Accepting this will free the people from the control of the looters. He urges them to free themselves and trust themselves. He pleads with them not to sacrifice the best in the world to those who are the worst. He asks them to join him in taking the pledge by which he has run his life:
I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
(The entire section is 409 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 8 Summary
Panic erupts in the radio station following John Galt’s broadcast. The men disagree whether they should resume regular broadcasting without comment or make a statement so the public will not think the state has endorsed John Galt’s message. Dagny tells them they should give up, step aside, and let free men live their lives. The men discuss the next course of action in relation to John Galt.
Eddie Willers tells Dagny he has known John Galt for years and did not realize it. Galt was the worker with whom Eddie always spoke in the cafeteria. Dagny tells him he will not see John Galt again. Thompson tries to calm the country following the broadcast and calls out to John Galt to come to negotiate with the government. Thompson asks Dagny if she knows where John Galt is, but Dagny does not.
Dagny tracks down John Galt’s dwelling place in a tenement. He tells her that the men who followed her will arrive within a half hour to arrest him, as he had previously told her would happen should she try to find him. She is horrified by what she has done, but he tells her she must pretend to be on the other side and identify him as the John Galt they want. He shows her the motor he is using to create energy, then he locks the door to the room in which he keeps it. When the men arrive, Dagny identifies John Galt as their target. John Galt tells the men to keep Dagny away from him. They break into the locked room, where they find only the ashes of the motor, which has self-destructed.
John Galt is held prisoner at gunpoint while Thompson tries to convince him to take autocratic control of the nation’s economy. John Galt tells him it won’t work, but Thompson insists that he can have anything he wants if he will just save the nation. John Galt says that, because Thompson has a gun pointed at him, he can make him to do anything except use his mind for him. The newspapers falsely report that John Galt has agreed to save the nation, but the public does not believe it. The government announces triumphantly that they have created the John Galt Plan. At the ceremony announcing the plan to a television audience, the camera swings to John Galt, who leans to one side to reveal a gun pointed at him. He shouts, “Get the hell out of my way!”
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 9 Summary
Dr. Stadler sees the John Galt Plan broadcast and hears Galt cry, “Get the hell out of my way!” Stadler decides he wants no part of the government. He drives to the testing site of Project X, where the sonic ray is stored. At the entrance, no one knows who he is. It is clear that another group has taken over the site. Dr. Stadler learns that Cuffy Meigs is now in possession of Project X. Dr. Stadler and Meigs fight over the controls and accidentally set it off. The machine, the building, and everything and everyone within a hundred-mile radius is destroyed.
Dr. Ferris decides it is best that John Galt be tortured into taking over the country as an economic dictator. Dagny hears about this and frantically tries to call Francisco d’Anconia. Dagny is on her way to meet him when she learns that the Taggart Bridge has also been destroyed, cutting people off from escape. An engineer desperately begs her to tell him what they should do. She says she does not know. She finds d’Anconia and repeats John Galt’s oath that she will never sacrifice her life for another man nor ask another man to sacrifice for hers. She then joins the other industrialists and goes on strike.
At the State Science Institute, John Galt is strapped naked to a table and rigged with electric probes. Dr. Ferris tortures him, ordering him to state what plans he has for taking over the economy of the nation. John Galt remains speechless. The machine malfunctions unexpectedly, and John Galt tells the operator what he needs to do to fix it. The operator rushes from the torture chamber, finally understanding what is happening. James Taggart takes over the machine, but Henry Mouch warns him not to kill John Galt. James says he does not care; he wants to hear John Galt scream. However, it is James who begins screaming. He catches a glimpse into his own inner self and sees that he wants John Galt to die even though he knows that he will soon die afterwards. He has long had an urge to defy reality by destroying it. It was John Galt’s greatness that he wanted to destroy. Faced with this reality, James is unable to accept reality and collapses. Mouch and Ferris decide they must never try to discover what it was that James saw. They carry James out of the room, promising John Galt that they will be back.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 10 Summary
Dagny approaches the guard at the door of Project F, where John Galt is being tortured. When the guard refuses her admittance, she says she is there on the order of Mr. Thompson. The guard argues that he has no orders to accept orders from Mr. Thompson. Dagny questions him as to his understanding of her identity, which he confesses he knows. She tells him that he has the choice of either letting her in or being shot. He breaks down, unable to make a decision, so Dagny shoots him. Francisco d’Anconia joins her, as do Hank Rearden and Ragnar Danneskjold. The other guards are tied up. They enter the project and are confronted by one of the other guards, who leads them to where John Galt is being held. D’Anconia and Rearden enter the lab to find eight more guards. There is a gunfight, and Danneskjold breaks through the window. When the guards are overpowered, Rearden and the others find John Galt. Galt tells them he is all right. The torture was rough but endurable. He dresses and they escape to d’Anconia’s plane, which is hidden nearby. As they take off, Danneskjold radios the other men from Galt’s Gulch, who had travelled to New York to join the fight if they were needed. As the plane flies over the city, the lights go out and New York is destroyed.
Eddie Willers travels on the Comet across the transcontinental railway west of the Mississippi. He is coming from San Francisco, where he had worked to re-establish the rail connection. When the train stops in the middle of the wilderness, Eddie sends one of the crew to a track phone to contact Division Headquarters. The man returns to say that Division Headquarters does not answer. As they look out the window, they see a wagon train: people are traveling by wagon with all their belongings. The Comet’s passengers load up in the wagons to reach the nearest town. Eddie refuses to leave the Comet even after he learns that the Taggart Bridge, the only link across the Mississippi, has been destroyed. He lies down on the tracks in front of the train.
At Galt’s Gulch, Rearden, Dagny, and the others sit in their homes in the twilight. The group makes plans for the future. Now that the government of looters has been destroyed, it is safe for them to return to the outside world—to begin the world anew.
(The entire section is 415 words.)