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
Ping to Chapter 2.
I just rec’d my “who is John Galt? tee shirt in the mail yesterday, can’t wait to see what conversations may develop when I wear it out.
There was no mention of George Westinghouse, so I assume he was dead by then.
Now that prompts a bit of thinking. Even today in British society, a gentleman is not a man who engages in trade -- that's so middle class, not upper class -- but a man who doesn't work for a living due to inherited wealth.
We haven't gotten that decadent yet, but in Rearden's family the British viewpoint seems dominant.
You are doing a great thing here, thank you! Please add me to your ping list.
I am the proud owner of a First Edition (1957 8th printing) hardback of “Atlas Shrugged”, excellent condition, no jacket. I paid a whole dollar for it at the SPCA second hand shop. What a find!
Please add me to the ping list. I first read a borrowed copy in 1975. Since buying my own copy in 1980, I’ve re-read it 3 more times (although, I confess, I skimmed the 90-page John Galt monologue on two of those occasions...)
Yes, Please add me to your ping list.
Thank you for taking the time to share all of this with us. I have read the book but it was many years ago. I’m sure that I didn’t understand all the ramifications of the work. It is great to be able to read the viewpoints of other Freepers.
I’d prefer once a week.
Once a week for me, too. I only have time for this on weekends.
Where do you get those?
I could use one if it has 3 pockets.
please add me to your ping list.
I only listed the first ten in the Table of Contents....but I just checked the book and sure enough Westinghouse is not listed....so you are probably correct that he was dead by 1917 in as much as Forbes says in the Intro. “....leaders of the present day...” But Westinghouse surely deserves to be ranked in any group of “Men who built America”
Thank you for the excellent work you are doing!
Thanks for the link....I’m on the Palin ping list but didn’t get this one.....F U B A R
"The air is as pure as the air above the Arctic. But you don't know how much longer you'll want to go on breathing it," Ayn Rand wrote in The Anti-Industrial Revolution, a collection of essays. The blue-collar industrial milieu had a vigor, a joy, a hopefulness. Immigrants were welcomed, and assimiliated through the medium of "Polock jokes." (My maternal grandparents were immigrants from Easter Europe.) That world is gone, and progress has been a mixed blessing.
That can't be good.
Thanks. Will try to get to the library Monday and get a copy. Is it online anywhere?
I don’t know, but I tend to doubt it.
The people who have not earned it and know that they have not earned it are the ones who are conflicted about their wealth. It's that way in the book, too.
Thanks again for setting this up.
I gave Atlas to my 91 year old, yellow dog democrat grandfather for Christmas. We’ve just started trading letters discussing the themes of the book. I will share anything good that comes up and will steal anything good off these threads to share with him.