“Atlas Shrugged” was published in 1957 by Ayn Rand. It is her fourth and last novel. She considered it to be her magnum opus. It contains romance, science fiction, and mystery. The book also promotes Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.
The book is a dystopian story set in the United States. The industrialists reach a point where the tight regulations and taxes imposed by the government become more than they can endure. They all go on strike. Each leader of businesses and industry quietly leaves their lives to gather in a remote valley in Colorado to start their own Utopia. As the rest of the country collapses without them, they wait planning to return and rebuild the economy with reason, individualism, and capitalism.
Ayn Rand centered her story around the Railroad barons. She studied the necessity of shifting products from supplier to production. And demonstrated what happens when necessary cogs are removed. One of her main characters is a woman with a high position in business. This was an unusual role to place a woman in at the time in literature. Dagny was a strong woman who did not make decisions based on her love life. She was unapologetic in putting her work before her romances.
In her book, Ayn Rand asks the question, “What if all the creative minds went on strike?” The first intellectual to choose this course was John Galt. After that, others followed his example and asked “Who is John Galt?” to show their anger at the government and it’s restrictions on creativity.
Part One – Non-Contradiction
“Atlas Shrugged” opens with a bum asking the question of a well-dressed executive. He is Eddie Willers, the special assistant to the vice president of Taggart Transcontinental. He is walking towards his New York office and the question was, “Who is John Galt?”.
Eddie knows the question as a slang term for all that is despairing and indiscernible. After giving the bum some money, Eddie continues on his way. But, as usually happens this time of day, he begins to feel a sense of dread without reason. As he reasons himself out of his apprehension, Eddie makes note of the failing businesses he walks past on his way to see the president of the railroad, Jim Taggart. There has been another wreck on the Rio Norte Line.
Eddie says repairs must be made quickly, Jim says they will have to wait for steel from Orren Boyle’s Associated Steel. When Eddie suggests they go with another steel provider, Jim tells him Boyle is a good friend and needs the business. Eddie points out the businesses they could lose because of the holdup. They already lost the business of Ellis Wyatt, who has found a way to revive the oil trade, to Dan Conway, the owner of the new Phoenix – Durango railroad. When Eddie brings Jim’s sister into the conversation and what she said, Jim cuts him off with, “Damn my sister!”.
Eddie leaves the office and runs into Pop Harper who has been the chief clerk for Jim Taggart’s father. Pop is trying to repair a typewriter and starts to tell Eddie about the futility of life. He ends with. “Who is John Galt?”
Dagny Taggart is on a train heading back to New York after checking out the Rio Norte Line. She hears a beautiful tune and discovers the brakeman is whistling. When she asks what it is, he tells her it is Richard Halley’s Fifth Concerto. She tells him that Richard Halley only wrote four concertos the brakeman becomes evasive.
Later when Dagny is woken from a deep sleep by the train stopping, she goes to investigate. The engineer has stopped for a red light that signals danger on the track. Dagny orders him to continue, and then says to herself she plans to promote an employee she trusts named Owen Kellogg.
In a meeting with her brother, Jim, Dagny tells him that she has decided to cancel the order with Orren Boyle and ordered a new kind of steel from Rearden Metal. Jim is furious. He wants to keep the order with the smaller company and doesn’t trust an unproven metal. After some more arguing, Jim agrees.
Back in her office, Dagny makes some inquiries for Halley’s Fifth Concerto. She is told he dropped out of the music world eight years earlier. Next Owen Kellogg comes to see her, but before she can offer him the promotion, he quits. When she asks why he says, “Who is John Galt?”.
Hank Rearden is watching Rearden Metal being poured. Afterward, he walks home thinking about the ten years he has spent working on this metal. He also thinks about his years in the mine and working to reach ownership. When he gets home, he finds his wife, his brother, Phillip and Paul Larkin, an old friend who is unsuccessful in business. Even though he apologizes for being late, he knows he can’t share his achievement with his family, they insult him and his devotion to his job. When he gives his wife a bracelet made from Rearden Metal, his mother says it is a selfish gift, because another man would have given his wife diamonds, which would make her happy. Paul Larkin reminds him to worry more about the lobbyist he has hired for Washington and less about his individualism. His wife thinks he keeps them around so he can dominate them.
In a dark bar, four men are having a discussion about business. Orren Boyle is complaining about his competition, Rearden Steel. Jim Taggart says he will use his influence to get Washington to make Rearden give up his mines. Paul Larkin says he will take the mines from Rearden and give them to Boyle. Taggart wants Boyle to use the National Alliance of Railroads to push Dan Conway out of Colorado so he can regain control. Wesley Mouch, who is Rearden’s “man in Washington” or lobbyist. Jim agrees to find him a post in Washington for his help against Rearden. The conversation moves to Mexico and the railroad Jim has built, the San Sebastian Line. Mexico is threatening to nationalize his line, but Boyle tells him not to worry about it. All the trains on that line are old.
Later Jim confronts his sister on the condition of the Mexican rail lines. She says that she transferred the funding to Rio Norte line since the Mexican line will soon be nationalizing. He argues that he intended it for the good of the Mexican people, and to reap the profits from the d’Anconia copper mines. She argues that Francisco d’Anconia isn’t producing copper since he has become a playboy.
Eddie Willers has lunch in the Taggart cafeteria. He sits with a grease-stained worker and begins to gossip. He gripes about the decline of the railroads and the world. He does feel good about the Dagny and what she has planned for the Rio Norte Line, though. The man asks him about Dagny and seems interested in her personal life.
McNamara, the new contractor, has quit. When Eddie informs Dagny, he can’t tell her why the man left or where he went. Nationalizing of the railroad and the copper mines goes through in Mexico. When Jim goes before the Board of Directors he takes credit for Dagny’s decision for removing equipment from Mexico before it nationalized.
When the National Alliance of Railroads sets up the “Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule” it forces the lesser railroads to go with the decisions of the larger railroads. Dagny realizes that now she won’t be competing against Dan Conway. She wants him to fight, but he says he is too tired. Then he tells her to get the Rio Norte Line running quickly. It is the only way to save Ellis Wyatt. When Wyatt comes to see her, he is frantic, threatening to bring her rail road down with him if he doesn’t get help. She agrees to get him the transportation he needs in time.
Dagny meets with Hank Rearden. She tells him to step up production to nine months instead of twelve. They are both attracted to each other because they are meeting on level ground. He thinks they are both world movers.
Mexico tells Dagny the mines were dead. She is furious and confronts Francisco d’Anconia. They used to be lovers and he broke it off years ago. She is hurt because he invested in a bad mine on purpose losing money for his investors, including her brother. He tells her he is fighting against her and her railroad. When she asks him why, he tells her she isn’t ready to hear the answer and doesn’t have the courage yet.
At the wedding anniversary party of the Rearden’s many of the main characters make an appearance. Rearden didn’t want to attend, but does out of duty. He is grumpy and cold to Dagny. Friends of his wife who are intellectuals discuss the evils of the big businessmen, especially the railroads. When Francisco shows up, Rearden warns his wife to keep the man away from him, but he searches him out.
He says that he came to the party to meet Rearden. He listens to the message Francisco is telling him, especially when he asks Rearden why he carries so many people, he replies it is because they are all weak, and he doesn’t mind the burden. Francisco responds that they aren’t weak, they use his guilt as a weapon against him. When a woman at the party says that she thinks John Galt was a millionaire who discovered Atlantis. Dagny scoffs at that, but Francisco says he believes it. Dagny notices Lillian’s bracelet and admires it. Lillian says she would gladly exchange it for diamonds. So when Dagny offers her diamond bracelet in exchange, Lillian accepts. Rearden, standing near his wife, tells Dagny her trade was not necessary.
The reconstruction of Rio Norte is underway but full of problems. Never the less, Dagny and Reardon keep the project on schedule. Ellis Wyatt helps behind the scene. Rearden wants to use his steel to replace an old bridge in Colorado, and Dagney thinks it is a great idea.
Later, while having a cup of coffee in a diner in New York, Dagny hears some men complaining about the decay of the morality of the modern people. Someone asks, “Who is John Galt?”. A bum says his was an explorer who discovered the fountain of youth.
When Dr. Potter from the State Science Institute offers to buy the rights to Rearden’s new metal so he will slow down production, which is putting other smaller businesses out of business, he refuses. So, they publish a statement warning against possible dangers of his metal, without basing their statements on fact.
This causes Taggart stocks to crash, their contractor quits and the Brotherhood of Road and Track Workers make people refuse to use Rearden metal. Jim Taggart disappears. Dagny goes to the State Science Institute to investigate. Dr. Stadler tells her the metal is a great discovery, but the institute won’t support it because they can’t come up with anything that will compete with it.
When Dagny finds Jim, he is frantically trying to save his railroad. Since everyone is afraid of using Reardon Metal, Dagny offers to quit Taggarts, and start her own company to finish the job. After she shows the world the metal works, she will return to Taggarts with the finished railroad line. She plans to name her company the John Galt Line.
Dagny finds investors for her company from the Colorado industrialists and Rearden. The Legislature passes the Equalization of Opportunity Bill. This bill forces Rearden to give up his mines. He can’t reach his ‘man in Washington.’ Rearden sells his ore mines to Paul Larkin and his coal mines to a businessman from Pennsylvania. He uses the money to help Taggart keep his company afloat so he can survive long enough to be his long term customer.
The John Galt Line opens and is a success. The bridge built with Rearden’s metal is strong, too. People are glad to have something succeed and feel optimistic about the future. Dagny and Rearden become lovers.
Rearden is disgusted with himself and her to for having sex. She says she is proud of what they did and wants him to come to her for sex anytime. Meanwhile, Jim meets a poor, young shopgirl who thinks he was the successful Taggart with the John Galt Line. He lets her believe it, then takes her back to his apartment.
When Rearden and Dagny take an investigatory drive, they find a ruined plant in a ruined town. Inside the plant they discover, a motor designed to run on static electricity left to rot. They search for the inventor so he can rebuild it.
The government becomes more and more involved in businesses. Controlling the production of Rearden metal, and the relocating of businesses to Colorado. Paul Larkin doesn’t deliver the ore to Rearden, but instead to Orren Boyle, as arranged by Jim Taggart earlier. Rearden begins to acquire the ore he used to get from his own mines that he was forced to sell to Larkin, through illegal deals.
Dagny continues to search for the inventor of he motor. She discovers the plant collapsed because of bad management. It was run on the same plan that made Fransisco’s mine’s go bankrupt. People are paid to their need, not what they earn, and the hardest workers support the people who don’t work. In her search she finally comes to a man who is supposed to know the inventor. It is Hugh Akston, who was a famous philosopher working now as a cook in a diner. He gives her a cigarette that is stamped with the sign of a dollar. He does know the inventor, but won’t give her the name.
In New York Dagny learns about all the bills that are damaging to the big businesses. They also are taxing Colorado more than other states. When Dagny gets to Colorado, she discovers Ellis Wyatt burned his oil fields and disappeared. He left a sign saying, “I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It’s yours.”
Part 2 – Either – Or
As the Colorado economy collapses, the industrialists begin to disappear. Oil and coal become scarce as their manufacturers vanish. Trains begin to slow down, pulling less and less. Taggarts profits climb higher and higher because he gets subsidies from the government. Meanwhile, Dagny keeps searching for the inventor of the motor.
With the Fair Share Law, Rearden is forced to supply metal to any one asking for it. He has trouble meeting all the orders. Men who have influence with the government move to the front of the line and the more legitimate orders are left without. The government sends a young man as a Deputy Director of Distribution who will monitor who gets orders and how much. Rearden’s men call him “the Wet Nurse”.
When a rep from The State Science Institute want some of his metal for Project X, Rearden refuses and tells him to just steal what he wants. Rearden realizes the “Looters” need his acquiescence, but he will never give it.
Dagny believes there is some kind of destroyer taking the brightest and most productive minds. She hires Quentin Daniels to reconstruct the motor. Rearden sells a larger order to Ken Dannager than the law allows.
Jim marries the shopgirl. Lillian tells Jim her wedding gift is bringing her husband, as it will appear her husband is afraid of him. Then Lillian tells Dagny she wants her bracelet back and thinks that wearing it will invite rumors. Dagny asks if she means it will look like she and Rearden are having an affair. Lillian denies it, but Rearden makes her apologize to Dagny anyway. He is clearly on Dagny’s side and not his wife’s.
Fransisco, who is at the party also, overhears a remark that money is the root of all evil. Fransisco disagrees. He says that money represents the greatest good. He says the only evil is refusing to think and that is what Rearden is doing. He says that he will show Rearden a better way. The next morning all his stockholders will discover all the mines have been destroyed by poor management. His stock will collapse. This creates a panic, and many of the guests lose investments, especially Jim.
Rearden and Dagny’s affair picks up, and Lillian begins to suspect it. Dr. Ferris from the State Science Institute threatens Rearden if he doesn’t give them the steel for Project X, he will tell the police about his illegal deal with Ken Dannager. Rearden refuses to give in to blackmail, so the and Dannager are indicted. As is gets closer to their court date, Dannager decides to retire.
Fransisco visits Rearden at his mill. He wants to know why Rearden lets the “looters” take advantage of him and condemn his accomplishments. He says that Reardon should have gotten amazing benefits for his useful invention. But, instead, his hard work has only benefited the “looters”. Then he asks Rearden if he saw Atlas, the god who is supposed to be supporting the world on his shoulders, straining, losing his strength, with blood dripping from his shoulders, what would he say to him.
Rearden doesn’t know and asks what Fransico would say. His reply is, “Shrug”. But, before he can finish his explanation why he would give that answer, an alarm goes off, and Rearden rushes to find out the problem. Rearden and Fransisco both work side by side to repair the damage to a broken furnace. Rearden asks Fransisco if he wants to continue is questions, his reply is, “I won’t ask it, Mr. Rearden. I know it”.
At Thanksgiving dinner, Rearden begins to see his family from a realistic point of view. He sees that he has endured years of condemnation from them without any respect. He tells them he will no longer accept their “moral code” above his own.
Rearden remains strong in his convictions throughout his trial. He tells the judge that he will not offer a defense because the trial is a joke and he is not guilty. The metal is his invention and he will not apologize for making a profit on it. The judges have no recourse, especially when the audience applauds him. They give him a five thousand dollar fine and drop the sentence.
Rearden visits Fransisco in his hotel room. They begin to discuss sex and Fransisco tells him that a man’s choice in lovers is a direct result of his self worth. If it is low, the women he chooses will be low, if it is high he will only choose a goddess. Then he tells Rearden that he only loved one woman in his life. Rearden tells him that he has gained control of his metal and has ordered copper from Fransisco’s mines. Fransisco frantically tries to stop the order telling him that he told him not to do that. Then he tells Rearden, “For the time you are going to damn me when you’re going to doubt every word I said…I swear to you – by the woman I love – that I am your friend.”
Three days later the ship carrying the copper Rearden ordered was captured by pirate, Ragner Danneskjold and sunk. Without the copper Rearden can’t meet Taggart’s orders, who then can’t repair the rail line, so the economy declines quickly. Colorado becomes destitute and Dagny is forced to close her Rio Norte Line so she can divert the Rearden metal to repair the main line.
Washington tells Jim that he will have to give Wesley Mouch a few kickbacks to get the permits he needs. Francisco asks Dagny how much longer she plans to waste her time with a company that doesn’t appreciate her talents. She replies that she will never abandon the railroad.
Jim is feeling the pressure from the politicians and the “looters”. He needs some information on Rearden in order to trade it to the government reps so they can gain control of him. He asks Lillian to dinner and she says she will help him. Lillian discovers who Rearden’s mistress is and wants him to end the affair. He says he would rather see Lillian dead than end his affair with Dagny.
A group of politicians and businessmen meet to discuss a new law that is supposed to save the economy. Directive 10-289 states that workers must remain at the jobs they have or go to prison, and businesses must remain. Also, all patents and copyrights must be turned over to the government in the form of Gift Certificates. There will be no new inventions and each company must produce the same amount as last year, no more, no less. Prices and wages will not change, and every citizen is required to spend the same amount as the previous year. The State Science Institute will be the only research department in operation. The Bureau of Economic Planning will put a Unification Board in play that will enforce all laws and their rulings are final. They know that Rearden will fight for his patent, but Jim says he has something that will control him and wants Mouch to raise his freight rates in exchange before the freeze begins.
When she hears about the new directive, Dagny joins the ranks of the many that resign their jobs. She goes to her lodge in the country. Meanwhile, the Wet Nurse who is supposed to keep Rearden in line is changing his viewpoint. He doesn’t report Rearden’s illegal activities. Dr. Ferris threatens to reveal Rearden’s affair with Dagny if he doesn’t sign over his patent. He tells him Lillian told them about the affair, and he will ruin Dagny’s reputation if he doesn’t sign his patent over. Rearden blames himself for not divorcing Lillian years earlier and signs it over to protect Dagny.
Rearden moves out and tells his lawyers to get him a divorce and not give his wife anything. One night Rearden meets a man who gives him a gold bar. He says it is payment for all the taxes he paid through the years to a corrupt government. The man’s name is Ragnar Danneskjold. Although Rearden wants nothing to do with the man, he lies to the police to protect him.
A disaster happens when an important politician is on Taggart’s new super train, Comet. The diesel engine can’t be fixed and the only engine available is a coal burner. It can’t go through Taggart’s Tunnel, but a drunken engineer agrees to take the coal burner through the airless tunnel and they asphyxiate. Suddenly, an army munitions train slams into Comet causing an explosion and collapsing the tunnel.
Meanwhile, Fransisco has come to Dagny and professes his love for her and explains that he and all the other industrialists in the country have withdrawn from the world, but before he left, he stayed long enough to destroy his copper mines, leaving nothing for the “looters”. He wants her to join him. Although she is angry at him for purposely destroying his business, she is about to leave with him, when she hears about the tunnel disaster. Her instinct kicks in and she runs to help. Soon she has the trains running and admits to Rearden that the looters are using her love for the railroad and his love for his metal to control them.
Fransisco tries to get Dagny to go quit her job and go with him again. When he discovers that she is with Rearden, he is surprised, as is Eddie when he learns about it. We learn that Eddie is in love with her, too. When he tells his lunch buddy that she is going to see Quentin, who says he won’t keep working on the motor because he doesn’t want the ‘looters’ to have it, the man leaves suddenly.
While Dagny is traveling cross country on the Comet, she meets a hobo. He used to work for Twentieth Century Motor Company where she and Rearden found the motor. He tells her the story of how the company failed. The good workers were punished with working more while the workers who worked less and hid their abilities received promotions. The learned how to manipulate the system. He said the first person to quit was John Galt. He swore he would find a way to end all the absurdity of the businesses and put a stop to the motor world. So when the factories began closing they all thought it was his doing. This brought on the phrase, “Who is John Galt?”.
The train stops suddenly and can’t continue because the crew disappears. Dagny takes a plane to find Quentin. But, when she lands she learns he just left on another plane. She worries that he has been taken by the destroyer and follows in a plane that crashes in the Colorado mountains.
Part Three – A is A
Dagny regains consciousness and looks into the face of John Galt. He was the pilot of the plane she had been following, he is also the inventor of the motor. She learns that she is in a remote Colorado valley owned by a banker. All the powerful and intelligent are there, including Fransisco. This is where they have all disappeared to . They have built a city with businesses all powered with Galt’s motor. They have a special ray screen that keeps the valley hidden from the world. She discovers that the oath 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”. Until a person gives the vow and means it, they can’t stay in the valley. Galt tells Dagny they are all on strike, a mind on strike.
Every June every member of the community comes together, but the rest of the year some of the members go into the outside world. Dagny agrees to stay for a month before she makes up her mind. She works as a maid for Galt to earn her keep.
Owen Kellogg arrives and tells Dagny that the world thinks she is dead. Since no one is allowed to communicate with the outside world, she can’t let Rearden know she is alive. Soon Dagny realizes she is in love with Galt, and he loves her. He has been watching her for years. Even though Dagny is happy in the valley, she must return to fight for her railroad. Galt goes also so he can watch and wait for her. She promises to keep their secrets and is led away blindfolded.
Project X is finally revealed. It is a weapon that kills all living things in its radius using sound waves. Dr. Ferris says it is necessary since the population is becoming hard to control. Mouch thinks it is an instrument of peace.
Dagny tells Rearden she is alive, and she finds out the Railroad Unification Bill has passed. The profits from the railroads are to be shared, with the railroad that owns the most track getting the most profit. This makes Taggarts railroad the most profitable because he owns the most track. Trains are rerouted as favors for influential friends.
Jim makes Dagny appear on the radio to tell the world she did not desert the railroad. At first she refuses, but when Lillian tells her if she doesn’t do the report, Lillian will tell the world about her affair with Rearden, Dagny agrees.
She goes on the radio and tells the world about her affair with Rearden. He comes to her later and tells her that he loves her, but he knows she loves someone else because she used the past tense when talking about their affair. She tells him she is in love with John Galt, and he suspects where she has been.
Argentina is declared a People’s State and d’Anconia Copper is to be nationalized so Taggart moves his investments around and is due to make even more money. He wants to celebrate, but his young wife has learned what a bad person he is and refuses him. She leaves and goes to Dagny, who says she will help her. Lillian arrives at Jim’s apartment and wants him to stop Rearden from divorcing her. When he tells her he can’t, she has emotionless sex with him.
Jim’s wife finds out about his infidelity and he refuses to divorce her so she is stuck with him. He says he married her because she was worthless and would adore him, but she tells him the reason he married her was to destroy the dream she had of pulling herself out of the gutter. He slaps her and she leaves the apartment only to run into a social worker who tells her that her problems are because she is selfish. She jumps off the bridge and drowns.
The country starts to fall apart. The rich and powerful are the only ones who succeed and they divert the trains for their own good, causing a wheat crop in Minnesota to rot while other states starve. The farming businesses fail, and the copper mines are destroyed so production is stopped.
While trying to handle another problem with the trains, Dagny sees Galt. He asks her not to seek her out because it might get him killed.
The government is tightening the holds on Rearden’s company more each day. He is charged for phony taxes. His family tell him he can’t disappear like the other industrialists because he has no money. This is when he realizes why his company has been failing.
Rearden finally understands that Taggart, Mouch and Boyle are planning on keeping him working while they reap the profits. They expect him to keep working because he loves his job and is good at it.
There is a riot at Rearden’s mill. Rearden is attacked but saved by Fransisco who has been working there since he destroyed d’Arconia Copper. The Wet Nurse is killed because he won’t help the rioters against Rearden.
Rearden vanishes. The output of steel almost stops. The country panics and gang violence takes over the streets. Even though the newspapers tell a different story, society is collapsing. Trying to calm the country the papers announce The Head of State is going to go on air to address the crisis, but Galt takes over the broadcast. He tells the American people about the strike of the mind and how the government has effected the state of the nation. Galt talks about integrity, honesty, independence, and justice. All the morals and principles to make the country and mankind stronger. He wants people to accept reality to seek knowledge instead of avoiding it, and to reclaim the concept of objective reality.
After the broadcast the search for Galt intensifies. Dagny rushes to him because of her fears. He tells her she was followed and she must act like he is her enemy so she can’t be used to control him. The looter try to get Galt to work with them in a dictatorship, but he refuses. At gunpoint they make him perform actions but he refuses to think of them. The newspapers say that he is working with the government but the people know better. When they make him appear on television, he shows the gun at his head.
Civil war starts in California, and the Comet can’t move. Dagny gets a letter from Fransisco asking her to let him know if Galt is in danger.
Dr. Stadler knows he will not get Galt to their side, and even if he does he is out of a job, so he decides to gain control of Project X. But, Cuffy Meigs, another unscrupulous man, is already there. They fight over it and it goes off, killing people for hundreds of miles.
The leaders in Washington are getting desperate. Dr. Ferris suggests torturing Galt. Dagny hears of this and finally calls Fransisco. As she is leaving to meet him, she receives word that the blast destroyed the Taggart Bridge. For the first time, she chooses love over work. She tells Fransisco she is ready to go on strike and say the oath.
The torture of Galt is with electrodes. Dr. Ferris plans to continue the torture until Galt tells him his secret plans to be an economic dictator. When the machine breaks down, Galt offers advice on how to fix it, and the operator wakes up to his role in this and runs from the room. Jim becomes so determined to see Galt stopped that he finally wakes up to his role as a terrorist, screams and collapses.
Dagny, Rearden, Fransisco, and Dannesskjold rescue Galt. Then they escape on Fransisco’s plane and fly to Colorado. Meanwhile, in the desert, the Comet has broken down. Although the passengers are rescued by a caravan of covered wagons, Eddie refuses to leave the train.
Now that the economy has collapsed the industrialists in the valley are ready to return to the world and begin the rebuilding process. They want to reset the world with a better set of morals.
Dagny Taggart – an early feminist. Dagny is the vice president and sister to the owner of Taggart Transcontinental. She has worked to get to the position she is in and is the backbone of the company. While her brother is cheating and manipulative, she tries to keep a strong work ethic. Unfortunately, she puts work before everything else. Whenever there is a problem in the company Dagny is the first person everyone contacts. She is reliable and fair to her employees. When her brother takes advantage of her hard work, she never stands up for herself, which is a blow to feminism, but typical for the time period the book was written in. She has an affair with a married man without feeling any remorse for it, and then falls in love with Galt. But, she does not let her love or her relationships to dictate her choices in life.
Hank Rearden – a steel baron who is also a genius. Hank develops a new kind of steel that is a better quality that what is developed. He and Dagny spend time trying to find new ways to better the world through industry. Hank is in an unhappy marriage, and is disrespected by his family at home. He accepts their emotional abuse so when the government chooses to take advantage of him, too, he accepts that for longer than most would. His work ethic and moral standards are high and he breeds the same standards in his workers, who love and respect him. He feels guilty about his affair with Dagny, but soon realizes that he is worthy to love her. When she chooses to love Galt, he is understanding, and leaves his failing business to join the strike.
John Galt – many years ago John Galt worked for a factory that made motors. He invented a revolutionary motor but was unable to introduce it to the world because of mismanagement in the company he worked for. John is an intellectual genius who took a look at the world around him and saw the logical conclusion without a drastic change, so he went on a strike of the mind. He led a group of like minded people on a revolution that started with a simple removal from the work force. His group consisted of unhappy executives and big businessmen who wanted to get the government out of their lives so they could create without the restrictions.
Galt goes undercover at Taggart Transcontinental and falls in love with Dagny without letting himself be known. For ten years he works with her in the shadows. When she is finally allowed to see him, she falls in love with him, too.
Francisco d’Anconia – Fransisco was Dagny’s first love. The two of them were in a relationship when he began to see what the looters were doing to his company. He realized the only way to save his company from them was to make it fail. So, he broke up with the love of his life, and began life as an irresponsible playboy. He squandered his fortune and left his copper mines to be run the same way the factory John Galt worked in was run. He became the most active recruiter Galt had to his revolution.
James Taggart – he is the president of Taggart Transcontinental and Dagny’s older brother. He is manipulative and seeks to destroy anything that is productive. Jim makes his wealth through the work of others. He takes credit for his sister’s accomplishments and shifts the blame on her for his mistakes. He drives his wife to suicide by abusing her emotionally.
Ayn Rand Biography
Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982) was born in Russia where she attended school then immigrated to the United States in 1926. Rand began writing at a young age and was writing screen plays at the age of nine. Her father was a successful businessman and pharmacist. He owned the pharmacy and the building it was located in.
Rand attended school with the younger sister of Vladimir Nabokov, Olga. As children the two girls argued politics with Rand on the side of republican ideas. The October Revolution changed the life of Rand’s family. Her father’s business was destroyed and they were homeless. The family fled to the Crimean Peninsula. She graduated high school at sixteen while living in the Crimea. After the Russian Civil War was over, they moved back to Russia.
Rand was among the first women to be allowed to attend college in Russia. She enrolled in at Petrograd State where she studied social pedagogy and philosophy. There she was introduced to the works of Plato and Aristotle. She also studied Nietzsche. Rand was multi lingual, able to read in French, German and Russian so she absorbed the works of many other great authors such as Hugo and Rostand.
Just before graduating Rand was purged from the college with a group of ‘bourgeois’ students and was reinstated and allowed to graduate due to complaints from some foreign scientists that were visiting the college at the time.
After graduating college in 1924 with a degree in history, Rand went on to study at The State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad. While there she wrote her first published work, an essay on a Russian actress and found her nomenclature to write with. She chose Rand which may be a nod to her birth name, Rosenbaum and the first name of Ayn which would be Hebrew (she was Jewish) for eye.
In 1925, Rand came to America to visit relatives and fell in love with the country. She wanted to pursue her dream to become a screen writer and was lucky enough to have relatives in Chicago that set her career in motion. She moved to Hollywood where she took odd jobs and was discovered by Cecil B. DeMille. He gave her a job as an extra in his film, The King of Kings. That is where she met her husband, Frank O’Connor, an aspiring young actor. They married in 1929. Rand obtained citizenship in the United States in 1931. She was never able to get immigration papers for her mother and sisters to emigrate, too.
In 1932 she made her first sale of a screenplay to Universal Studios. The screenplay was Red Pawn, a spy thriller. Her first success as a novelist was with “The Fountainhead”, a dystopian novel. Rand’s next major novel was “Atlas Shrugged”. A novel about moral philosophy. It promoted Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. A tenet that believes that reality exists independently of consciousness, and that people can use logic and moral purpose to find happiness. The idea is to deal with external things and not lay stress on emotions. She believed that reason was the best way to acquire knowledge.
Since Rand’s death interest in her work continues to increase. In 1987 the Ayn Rand Society was formed to discuss her ideas. Her work lives on in colleges and universities around the world.