Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Chain
Posted on 01/24/2009 12:15:04 PM PST by Publius
Hank Rearden watches the first heat of steel for Rearden Metal poured at his mill. Then he walks home, fingering a chain of Rearden Metal in his pocket.
At home he is greeted by his mother, his wife Lillian, his brother Philip and his friend Paul Larkin. The group makes fun of the fact that his mind is back at the steel mill and complains that all he cares about is money. Lillian, in a catty way, asks Hank to set aside December 10 for a party for their wedding anniversary.. Hank tries to tell them about the big event at the mill, but they dont care. He gives Lillian the chain, a bracelet, which is the very first thing made from that heat of Rearden Metal, while his mother makes fun of him. (The bracelet is to become a major plot point.)
Larkin takes Hank aside and tells him what a fine product he has but hints that there might be trouble. Hank has a bad press, is only interested in his steel and mills, and doesnt care about public opinion. Larkin hints that there may be a problem with Hanks lobbyist in DC but doesnt go into detail. (This is Wesley Mouch, but he is not identified by name.)
Philip Rearden says he is spending his time raising money for the Friends of Global Progress, and he is upset that rich people have no social conscience. Hank tells Philip to go down to the mill tomorrow and pick up a check for ten thousand dollars. Philip barely thanks him and actually reproaches him for not truly caring about the underprivileged. Hank says he doesnt care and was only giving the money to Philip to make him happy. Philip says that he has no selfish interest in the money but he wants the money in cash so that Hank Reardens tainted name cannot be attached to it.
Larkin tells Hank that he shouldnt have given the money to Philip, and Lillian sees the act as a display of Hanks vanity. She likens the bracelet of Rearden Metal to a chain of bondage.
Hank Reardens Living Hell
The first chapter gives the reader a view into the lives of Dagny, Jim, Eddie and Taggart Transcontinental, while the purpose of the second chapter is to introduce Hank Rearden, his mill, his history and the nest of vipers he calls a family. One searches in vain for redeeming qualities, and one wishes that Hank had thrown the whole lot out on the street before the first page. The parasites who live off his wealth have no respect for the man who keeps them in food and gives them a roof over their heads. A highly successful man is an object of pity and contempt precisely because of his success.
The Real Life Rearden Steel Plant
In my youth, I recall a family outing to Pennsbury Manor, the ancestral home of William Penn and family near Morrisville, PA. Along the way, near the Pennsylvania Railroads (now Amtraks) Northeast Corridor rail line, I recall a large steel mill owned by US Steel. I dont know if its still in operation, but its position with respect to Philadelphia is close to where Hank Reardens steel mill is located in the book.
Some Discussion Topics
This is really great that you’re doing this. I missed the initial post. Are you doing this weekly? I haven’t read the book in years, but was planning to pick it up again since it seems very timely right now.
Ping! The thread has been posted.
Our vote on posting frequency has gone as follows:
Voting is still open.
Post #3 has all the info you need. I’ve added you to the ping list.
I had not before considered that aspect of the bracelet.
I am thinking now that I likely rushed my way through the book last year. I'll make it a point to reread and attempt to stay with the threads.
I didn't get a notice and had to search for the thread by your name.
You get a glimpse of Reardon’s mom, brother and wife but have no clue about his father.
You just don't get grit, determination and that inner sense of accomplishment from no where. It didn't come from dear old Mom.
You are left wondering if Hank came through the ranks of “the school of hard knocks”, he was working in a mine at age 14... or if his family had previously been in the ranks of the moneyed elite.
Brother Phil and Mom certainly act as if they were reared in the laps of unearned luxury.
My goal in this book club is to get people to look beneath the surface to all the things going on at the different levels of the book. For all the problems with Rand’s prose style, this is a wonderful, thickly textured book.
I have your name on the ping list, and I copied and pasted everyone into the little “To:” box. I wonder if there are limitations as to how many people you can ping at one time.
Please add me to the ping list.
Bravo! An introduction to John Galt is a timely project in these trying times.
Please add me to the ping list. Thanx.
Probably nothing more than a glitch, I’m assuming every one is having the same issue with slowness in the system.
Timing for me is acting like dial up instead of bb.
Please Ping me.
I’m going to run a test this afternoon to see if the copy-and-paste brings everyone over. Because the post displays “...” after a certain number of characters, I don’t know if there is a way to make sure everyone is pinged when one hits the “Post” button.
Can you please add me to your ping list for this?
When I first read about Hank Rearden it motivated me to read a book first published by B.C.Forbes in 1917, “Men Who Are Making America Great”
Here are the first ten names in the Table of Contents:
George F. Baker
Alexander Graham Bell
James B. Duke
T. Coleman DuPont
How many of us today can even recognize these great men and what they accomplished? I read the book and I can't even remember without looking. And not a politician among them. Do our schools teach anything about them ? Ha!
Today we look to the Barney Franks and B.Obamas to save us...we have become a pitiful people !
To me that is the great enduring value of this great book...to remind us that true heroes can still exist.....but only strong men and women can make it so.
Phillip and Hank's mother seem resentful possibly because they live in a society that is conflicted about success and wealth. They may have to do a lot of fund-raising and support for the *oppressed* in order to justify their existence among the elite of their society. They get to live well, but they have to make it clear that they didn't engage in selfish money-grubbing to get to their position. Phil and Mom are living in the lap of unearned luxury, are insecure because of this, conflicted, as said above and this makes them unbearably passive aggressive. Poor Hank. If only he could pretend to be sensitive to the lower classes, the family could be absolved of their angst.
Lillian is too arch and coy to be borne. She likely could be mollified if Hank spent time at benefits and was a patron of the arts and benefactor of the poor, but Hank is driven, something their society abhors. Evidently, it is all right to *have* wealth, it just isn't seemly to work hard to earn it and one must ostentatiously give back. Both the generationally wealthy and the newly successful struggle with *accomplishment guilt*.
Hank's father does seem absent or perhaps he died from overwork in the mines or a mill. I disagree that grit, et al doesn't arise without DNA, a mentor or example. IMO, these are inborn, but not necessarily inherited, traits. There are plenty of children of the motivated and successful who could not be less interested in emulating their parents or grandparents and others who arise out of mediocrity to attain great heights.
Rand is given to overblown character portrayal, almost charictature. People only sometimes speak normally. Much of the dialog is declamation and that includes the internal dialogues. I do appreciate her physical descriptions of surroundings and the bit players. It is very noir, an apt physical setting for the decline and decay of the society she is illustrating.