Atlas Shrugged Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary

Ayn Rand

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.