Atlas Shrugged | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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Atlas Shrugged | Part 2, Chapter 2 : Either-Or (The Aristocracy of Pull) | Summary

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Summary

By September, regulations have crushed the Colorado boom. As the best men continue to disappear, Dagny Taggart feels she is in a "race against an unknown destroyer." She has hired Quentin Daniels to work on the motor. The newsstand owner tells Dagny he knows of no factory on Earth manufacturing a cigarette bearing a dollar sign.

Hank Rearden and Kenneth Danagger arrange a secret sale of Rearden Metal in violation of the Fair Share Act. Rearden now has two secrets: his deal with Danagger and his affair. He feels if he can understand the connection between the two secrets, he will understand "every question of his life."

Cherryl Brooks feels indebted to her fiancé, James Taggart. While she believes he is a great man, she is aware Taggart uses her, a woman of much lower standing, to impress his cronies with his moral generosity. She accepted his marriage proposal uneasily but with determination to "live up to" the opportunity.

Their wedding has two types of guests: Washington men, who "represented a hand lowered to pull [Taggart] up," and businessmen, "who represented a back bent to let him climb." These men refer to the ever-shifting networks of alliances, obligations, and favors among them as "friendship."

Lillian Rearden tells James that Hank Rearden's presence is her wedding gift, as it signals to Taggart's cronies he has a "friendship" with Rearden. Dagny refuses to return the Rearden Metal bracelet, and Lillian implies that this points to something improper between her and Rearden.

Taggart begins a toast: "We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by—" then Francisco d'Anconia finishes his sentence: "by the aristocracy of pull." D'Anconia loudly explains Taggart made large secret investments in his company and traded favors to arrange a monopoly for d'Anconia Copper. D'Anconia tells Dagny the John Galt Line has reached its end; perhaps she'd like to ask him now who John Galt is? "Don't you remember that you dared [John Galt] to come and claim your Line? Well, he has," Francisco says.

D'Anconia tells Rearden by continuing to bear governmental interference, he is ignoring his own reason. He warns Rearden never to invest in d'Anconia Copper; the company is running at a loss. Rearden accuses d'Anconia of deliberate destruction. D'Anconia loudly announces his company's stock will crash the following morning. The rumor spreads, and the wedding party rushes out in a panic to sell their d'Anconia stock.

Analysis

Dagny Taggart, who intends to be the railroad's savior, is "racing against an unknown destroyer." She is now certain this destroyer is a single man.

Hank Rearden begins dealing secretly to get around governmental regulations, not realizing his secrecy is submission to the looter's code, or the philosophy of taking from others. Concealment in secrecy is an admission of guilt, which proceeds from disobeying an authority. A moral code, person, or government only has authority over those who consent to submit to it. By concealing his affair with Dagny, Rearden submits to Lillian Rearden's authority. Similarly, by conducting his business in secret, he submits to the government's authority.

By secretly investing in d'Anconia Copper, James Taggart unintentionally hands Francisco d'Anconia the power to destroy Taggart Transcontinental. Dagny wished for John Galt to come and claim her line without understanding the full meaning of her words or the nature of the fight she was proposing. Now that the end is near, Francisco offers to give Dagny a full and sincere, rather than partial or metaphorical, answer to the question, "Who is John Galt?" She doesn't ask, perhaps unwilling to be persuaded not to fight by the truth Francisco might offer. Rearden condemns Francisco's choice of deliberate destruction as the "easiest, most vicious way" out; he intends to keep fighting, believing the battle can be won.

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