Atlas Shrugged Part 3, Chapter 5 Summary

Ayn Rand

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 government “looters.”