Plot Summary of
by Allan Gotthelf
I prepared this summary for my own use many years ago, when I was a graduate student, to help me see the flow of the story as a whole.
Because it was done for myself, some of it is in “shorthand”, i.e. in incomplete sentences and with just enough information to jog my memory
about those pages of the novel.
It was not meant for general consumption and certainly not as a substitute for reading the novel; but you might
find it useful, as I have, in giving you a picture of the whole at a glance, and in reminding you of incidents and issues you’d forgotten.
You’ll recall that within each chapter there are several sections, or “sequences” as Rand called them, which are separated by two
asterisks from each other.
I have numbered each sequence within a chapter below.
Also, after each chapter title I have given the number of the
page (in the large “trade” edition) on which the chapter begins.
Part I: NON-CONTRADICTION
The Theme (3)
(1) Eddie Willers, walking to the Taggart Transcontinental building to see James Taggart (JT), meets a bum, sees
NYC in twilight, thinks of the oak tree incident.
He and JT talk about the Rio Norte Line, which is in trouble, and
Orren Boyle, and Ellis Wyatt.
Eddie leaves, meets Pop Harper, who expresses a sense of futility and doom.
(2) Dagny listens to brakeman whistling a symphony of triumph, which brakeman says, then denies, is Halley’s
5th concerto - though he only wrote four and retired.
Waking up, she finds train on a siding, no one willing to act
because the blame will fall on him; she gives orders to proceed - the trainmen recognize her with respect.
wants to give Owen Kellogg, young assistant who runs the terminal, the job as superintendent of the Ohio
..it’s so hard to find good men.
(3) The Comet enters the terminal, Dagny excited at the tunnel which is done in essentials, leaves the train
whistling the theme of Halley’s 5th, the brakeman looking at her tensely.
(4) Eddie Willers is Dagny’s assistant.
They are in JT’s office.
She wants to rebuild the Rio Norte Line to
compete with the Phoenix-Durango, so she’s ordered rail from Rearden, of Rearden Metal, a new alloy that no one
is buying but which she judged to be superlative.
JT vacillates, talks of humanitarian motives for not using the
best, wants to avoid responsibility for such a decision, while Dagny effortlessly takes it, confident and firm.
leaves, checks with Halley’s music publishers to discover that Halley disappeared some time ago, and never wrote
a 5th concerto.
Then Owen Kellogg comes to her to resign; he won’t tell the reason, though he says he still loves
Why is he leaving?
“Who is John Galt?”
The Chain (27)
(1) The first heat of Rearden Metal is being poured, Rearden is watching, expressionless.
He has worked on the
alloy for 10 excruciating years in the lab, at ovens, at his desk; he has been told it can’t be done, but he fought on