Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 506
Dagny Taggart, the head of operations of Taggart Transcontinental, a railroad company. She is described as beautiful, but with a face that is too cold and eyes that are too intense. Her brother, James Taggart, accuses her of having no feelings. Dagny is willing to tell people what to do and to take responsibility, qualities that become important as society collapses during the course of the story.
James Taggart, her brother, who recently has become president of Taggart Transcontinental. He is thirty-nine years old but appears to be fifty. James is concerned about social responsibilities, both his own and those of others.
Henry (Hank) Rearden
Henry (Hank) Rearden, a steel magnate. He is forty-five years old and has been told that his face is ugly because it is unyielding and is cruel because it is expressionless. Like Dagny, he does not feel pity. Hank admires Dagny and enjoys competing with her concerning the prices they charge each other. After the successful first run of the John Galt Line, they become lovers.
Lillian Rearden, Hank’s wife. She is beautiful but disappointing because of her eyes, which are vaguely pale, neither gray nor quite brown, and empty of expression. She tells Hank that it is egotistical for him to believe in right versus wrong because no one can know what is right.
Eddie Willers, Dagny’s assistant. Eddie likes to look in store windows to see the products of work; he enjoys the sight of a prosperous street. As a child, he had spent summers on the Taggart estate with Dagny and James. Asked what he would do when he grew up, he answered, “Whatever is right.” At the end of the novel, he refuses to give up hope of keeping Taggart Transcontinental running as it used to.
Francisco d’Anconia, a wealthy playboy and copper magnate. He was Dagny’s lover when they were teenagers. He destroys his fortune with the intent of ruining those who try to profit by his efforts.
Ragnar Danneskjöld, a pirate with pure gold hair and a face with no feeling. He seizes ships containing relief supplies.
John Galt, a rebel and mythic figure. He leads the “strike” of intellectuals against the “looters” who attempt to live on their efforts.
Ellis Wyatt, a Colorado oilman served by the Rio Norte Line of Taggart Transcontinental. He switches to a competing line because of its more reliable service, prompting James Taggart to push for the “anti-dog-eat-dog rule” for the railroads.
Philip Rearden, Hank’s brother, always in precarious health but for no apparent reason. He is chronically weary and insists that Hank works too hard. He acts on behalf of various social causes and gets Hank to donate money anonymously, as he does not want Hank’s name, as a greedy capitalist, to appear on contributor lists.
Wesley Mouch, Hank Rearden’s representative in Washington. He becomes a powerful bureaucrat.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 283
The main character of the work is Dagny Taggart, vice president of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad. She is one of the producers, one of the great minds, and the book revolves around her desire to solve two mysteries: where the men of ability are vanishing, and what happened to the inventor of a motor that runs on static electricity and could power the world. She slowly clears up both mysteries, as well as coming to the realization that she, too, understands why the producers are leaving.
In addition to the memorable characterization of Dagny Taggart, Rand delineates dozens of other characters expertly. She is particularly apt at expressing their thoughts and feelings. The reader is able to follow the progressive decay of society, for example, by noting the progressive decay of James Taggart and his band of looters, or of the true villain of the novel, Dr. Robert Stadler. Stadler is equivalent to Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead (1968), the man of great ability who is unable to abide by what he knows to be right. His fall — working with the dictatorship, rather than dropping out of sight — and eventual destruction are as tragic as Wynand's, perhaps even more so, because he had taught the three ring-leaders of the intellectual strike about the value of the human mind.
The cast includes a number of memorable minor characters: a bum stowed away on Dagny Taggart's private rail car; Cuffy Meigs, a ludicrous fascist; a faithful railway employee — described in only a few sentences — who is forced to send a trainful of people to almost-certain death. These characterizations add depth and detail to the world that Rand has constructed, and serve as further illustrations of her philosophy.
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