Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Climax of the d'Anconias
Posted on 02/14/2009 11:27:03 AM PST by Publius
Eddie hands a newspaper to Dagny; it has a most interesting story. The Peoples State of Mexico, upon inspecting the expropriated San Sebastian Mines, discovers that they are devoid of copper and utterly worthless. Dagny asks Eddie to call Francisco at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel for an appointment.
What follows is an extended flashback into the childhood of Dagny, Eddie, Francisco and Jim at the Taggart estate on the Hudson.
Francisco got a job at Taggart Transcontinental before Dagny, working illicitly as a call boy at a station on the Hudson Line. Each intended to eventually run the family business. Unlike those dAnconias who increased the family holdings by a mere 10%, Franciscos goal was to double them.
Francisco went to Patrick Henry University of Cleveland, the most distinguished institution of learning left in the world, but Francisco did not find all the courses interesting. He made only two close friends at college. (A major plot point for later!)
One incident shaped the relationship between Dagny and Francisco. When Dagny suggested that she get poor grades in order to be popular, Francisco slapped her and she liked it.
Dagny began the competition with Francisco by taking a job as night operator on the railroad at a nearby station while only sixteen. She went through life without male admirers, and her idea of a good time was working on the railroad. After a formal ball, she noted that she could have squashed ten of the men she had met. It was in her freshman year at college that Dagny and Francisco became lovers.
Francisco not only went to college, but by playing the stock market he amassed enough money to buy the copper foundry where he had been working secretly at night. Following college, Francisco worked for his father. One night, meeting Dagny in New York, he said, Theres something wrong with the world. A few years later he told Dagny not to be astonished by anything he did in the future and asked her to leave the railroad and let it go to hell under Jims stewardship. He warned her that the next time they met, she wouldnt want to see him. Over the years Francisco morphed into a worthless playboy squandering the dAnconia fortune.
Returning to the present, Dagny goes to Franciscos room at the hotel and finds him playing with marbles on the floor like a child. Dagny has figured out part of what Francisco intended with the San Sebastian Mines swindle. He has hurt the looters government of Mexico and his American investors, but Dagny cant penetrate to the heart of what he has done.
Dagny administers a shock to Francisco when she brings up the Fifth Concerto of Richard Halley. Francisco avoids a direct answer and says that Halley has stopped composing.
Francisco lays out the reaction of the Mexican government, which had made promises to its people to be delivered by the confiscation of the mines. Now the government has to blame the greedy capitalists. The miners town he built was made of shoddy material and will be gone within a year. He has cost the railroad and his investors millions. Taggart Transcontinental will fail, and Ellis Wyatt will be the next to go under. He tells Dagny as she is leaving that she is not ready to hear the reasons behind what he is doing.
The Purpose of This Chapter
Weve met Dagny, Hank and their enemies. Weve heard about Francisco, but weve never met him. Now we find out about the long history of Dagny and Francisco, both in business and on a personal basis. We also find that Francisco is involved in some kind of project aimed at destroying certain people, companies and countries, but we dont know why. (This is the books plot.)
The Wayne-Falkland Hotel is based upon the real life Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.
The Taggart estate is based upon one of many Vanderbilt holdings, all of which were built by the descendants of Cornelius Vanderbilt of the New York Central. Commodore Vanderbilt himself lived modestly in lower Manhattan. Both Vanderbilt and James Jerome Hill were models for Nat Taggart.
Ayn Rand and Sex
There are no children in this book; the plot is about adults and adult matters. It is only in this chapter that we meet our characters as teenagers and we find Francisco and Dagny as lovers.
Franciscos slapping Dagny after that comment about doing poorly in school to gain popularity requires some history about the period. In that era popularity was considered more important than academic excellence. Smart people werent popular, which is why young Ronald Reagan hid his questing mind in the disguise of a backslapping athlete. Even as an adult, Reagan hid his cerebral qualities from others, which is why he was characterized incorrectly by Clark Clifford as an amiable dunce. Understanding this in its historical context, Dagnys comment to Francisco was not totally out of bounds.
However, when she is slapped, Dagny finds that she likes it. There is an undercurrent of precocious sexuality and sadomasochism in that slap. When she and Francisco lose their virginity together, the prose turns purple.
She knew that fear was useless, that he would do what he wished, that the decision was his, that he left nothing possible to her except the thing she wanted most to submit. She had no conscious realization of his purpose, her vague knowledge of it was wiped out, she had no power to believe it clearly, in this moment, to believe it about herself, she knew only that she was afraid yet what she felt was as if she were crying to him: Dont ask me for it oh, dont ask me do it!
This is Rands updated version of the aching need that appears in The Fountainhead. People who are devoutly religious become queasy at this passage and again when Rand waxes philosophical.
Isnt it wonderful that our bodies can give us so much pleasure?, he said to her once, quite simply. They were happy and radiantly innocent. They were both incapable of the conception that joy is sin ... She knew the general doctrine on sex, held by people in one form or another, the doctrine that sex was an ugly weakness of mans lower nature, to be condoned regretfully. She experienced an emotion of chastity that made her shrink, not from the desires of her body, but from any contact with the minds who held this doctrine.
Rand here disposes of the puritanical branch of Judeo-Christianity in a few well honed sentences. She not only supports the Dagny-Francisco relationship but condemns those who would criticize it in the name of a narrow, outmoded morality. Exceptional people the Creators make their own rules, which may well be a tip of the hat to Nietzsche.
But Dagny has had no other partners this far into the story, and it appears that Francisco has not either. Both remain true to each other, defining their own concept of chastity. This elevates sexuality into something sacred and transcendent, which is another theme of the book.
Patrick Henry University
Dont confuse this fictional school with the very real Patrick Henry College of Purcellville, VA.
One of the most enjoyable Marx Brothers movies was Horse Feathers, a 1932 musical comedy that revolves around the football rivalry between Darwin and Huxley colleges. The opening number has Groucho and a chorus of professors singing:
I don't know what they have to say
It makes no difference anyway;
Whatever it is, I'm against it!
Colleges of the Twenties were profoundly conservative institutions, hard as that may be to believe today. The concept of academic freedom was by no means guaranteed, be the professor tenured or not. The Great Depression was to change all that, and soon the economic theories of Karl Marx began to replace those of Groucho Marx. The great institutions of the Ivy League led the way.
It would appear that even during the Forties and Fifties, Rand held a low enough opinion of the Ivy League to locate her ideal university in Cleveland, an industrial city not known as a great seat of learning. In fact, the business of Cleveland was manufacturing.
Naming a university dedicated to reason to Patrick Henry, however, is just as problematic as naming a fundamentalist Christian college after the same man, which is what happened in Purcellville. Henry does not fit the stereotype of either a man of objective reason or of religious faith. His life and legacy are far more complicated.
Patrick Henry belongs to the same group as Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams, revolutionaries who lit the flame that George Washington kept from being extinguished. Like Adams, Henry had failed in business many times, but while Adams became a wizard at the art of political propaganda, Henry turned instead to the law. As a lawyer, Henry stood for home rule and economic self-determination, siding with the ancient British tradition of being taxed by ones own legislators. He further argued that colonial legislatures could not assign that right to Parliament. Because Parliament had long exercised a general right to tax the colonies, Henrys assertion was considered treasonous.
In addition to the above principles, Henrys intellectual justification for separation from Britain revolved around corruption. There is a tendency to look at that period of American history and see a halcyon era when corruption didnt exist. In fact, the colonial governments of early America were every bit as corrupt as some state governments today. Wherever there is a pipeline of government cheese, there are mice and rats attempting to divert some of that cheese into their private larders. For Henry, gold and silver were too important to be diverted into the mouths of grifters, looters and moochers, which is why he became the scourge of corruption in Virginia politics. He could personally fight corruption in Williamsburg, but the corruption in London was so entrenched it could only be fought by separation. Rand must have viewed Henry as an early American model.
Following the Revolution, Henry opposed the adoption of the Constitution, arguing that it gave the federal government too much power, and his opposition led to the Bill of Rights. Yet a decade later, he executed a complete turnaround and switched to the Federalist Party, backing Washington, Adams and John Marshall, and going so far as to argue that the Jefferson-Madison Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, supporting a states right of nullification, would lead to civil war. He died the same year as George Washington.
Some Discussion Topics
Ping! The thread has been posted.
Our First Freeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Theme
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Chain
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Top and the Bottom
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Immovable Movers
Attending the night school.
I have previously posted the advice to READ THIS BOOK, set it aside for three months, then carefully re-read it.
I add to my advice. As I recall the events of the last 3 weeks, I now urge the having of a giant ‘barf-receptacle’ at hand as you read.
The characters of Atlas Shrugged are in the seats of power in Washington. The “journalists” of Atlas shrugged populate the media. The ‘losers’ of the book are headlined in todays media. The ‘evil’ winners of the book are being vilified in today’s media and condemned in the halls of congress.
In other words, we are NOT reading Atlas Shrugged. We are LIVING Atlas Shrugged. Soon to come to a “World of Change” near you. Best of luck.
You got that right, FRiend...finished AS last month and I'm watching it unfold is truly unbelievable.
I’m just at the end - I’ve been bogged down in that long monologue of a chapter for about a week now.
It will be especially refreshing to go back and enjoy discussing these earlier chapters.
Atlas Shrugged was 50 years ahead of the curve.
Queen of the wooden, chapter-long soliloquy, that Ayn Rand was, worthy as her overarching themes were and are. Slog through it and try not to be too perturbed, lol. You'll be glad you did.
Ping to Chapter 5.
When we get to the soliloquys I’ll have some advice, one week in advance, for how to read them.
Sorry I’m missed these threads... please add me to your “ping” list... When do we get to the “Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog” legislation? I’m figuring that that’s just a few months down the road in the Obama Administration.
My apologies for the late post. I ended up completely rewriting my essay on Parick Henry, and that took up much of the morning here in Seattle.
We discussed that last week. Click on the links above for previous threads.
I just got my hardbound copy of Atlas Shrugged after so many people encouraged reading it. I heard about the “moochers” and immediately thought of ACORN, community organizers and Democratic voters.
I just pray I am not forced to defend my property from my hungry fellow countrymen.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.