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Atlas Shrugged | Part 1, Chapter 6 : Non-Contradiction (The Non-Commercial) | Summary

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Summary

At her party on December 10, the Rearden Metal bracelet looks "like an ugly piece of dime-store jewelry" on Lillian Rearden's arm. Most of the guests support the proposed Equalization of Opportunity Bill, which would forbid "any person or corporation to own more than one business concern." They discuss the meaningless of life, the uselessness of reason, materialism's erosion of spiritual values, and their conviction that property rights shouldn't exist because "right is whatever's good for society."

Dagny Taggart speaks to Hank Rearden, who is cold and formal. James Taggart demands Francisco d'Anconia explain the "rotten swindle" of the San Sebastian Mines. D'Anconia says by having no profit motive, he has made "an honest effort to practice what the whole world is preaching." D'Anconia tells Rearden he came to the party to make him lose money, "eventually."

The guests discuss the pirate Ragnar Danneskjöld, wanted around the world for sinking shipments of goods. A woman says John Galt is the man who, having sighted Atlantis, the legendary sunken island "where hero-spirits lived in a happiness unknown to the rest of the earth," committed suicide by sinking his ship to reach it. D'Anconia believes this is the truth. Dagny, who is wearing a diamond bracelet, overhears Lillian ridiculing the Rearden Metal bracelet; the two women exchange bracelets. After the party, Rearden wonders why Lillian married him.

Analysis

Having eliminated competition, the government now seeks to restrict ownership with the Equalization of Opportunity Bill; it is an attack on Hank Rearden, who owns several businesses. The bill's name contradicts its true purpose: it is designed not to create fairness but to limit the rights of business owners.

The guests are members of the intellectual elite. Sharing the same moral code as those in power, they uncritically support the government's latest move. Their creative works further impress upon the public the values of faith, sacrifice, and the collective good to foster a positive public opinion of the government.

Ayn Rand describes the guests' faces; a face's beauty or strong structure signifies the moral character and emotional state of its bearer. Dagny notices "the faces [of Lillian's guests] looked like aggregates of interchangeable features." They contrast with Rearden's visage, with its "sharp planes ... and uncompromising clarity," making Dagny realize she came just to see Rearden; exchanging bracelets with Lillian Rearden symbolizes the value Dagny sees, and Lillian denies, in Rearden's character and his Metal. During the exchange, Rearden's face looks "as if something within him were mangled." Rearden feels conflicted as he recognizes the trade's significance.

Previously, the reader had reason to wonder if John Galt is Francisco d'Anconia's friend. Now Francisco says Galt is the explorer who found Atlantis. The first possibility is realistic; the second is so absurd, Dagny rejects it. The reader must consider whether both stories about Galt are true in some sense. Is it possible Galt found Atlantis and he is also Francisco's friend? If Atlantis is an ancient legend, how could Galt have found it on Earth? Can mythology be true in a metaphorical sense?

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