Atlas Shrugged Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary

Ayn Rand

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 a cash payment because he does want people to think that he is in the service of Rearden Steel. Disgusted, Rearden promises that it will be in cash.