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FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Climax of the d'Anconias
A Publius Essay | 14 February 2009 | Publius

Posted on 02/14/2009 11:27:03 AM PST by Publius

Part I: Non-Contradiction

Chapter V: The Climax of the d’Anconias


Eddie hands a newspaper to Dagny; it has a most interesting story. The People’s 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 d’Anconias who increased the family holdings by a mere 10%, Francisco’s 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, “There’s 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 Jim’s stewardship. He warned her that the next time they met, she wouldn’t want to see him. Over the years Francisco morphed into a worthless playboy squandering the d’Anconia fortune.

Returning to the present, Dagny goes to Francisco’s 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 can’t 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

We’ve met Dagny, Hank and their enemies. We’ve heard about Francisco, but we’ve 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 don’t know why. (This is the book’s 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.

Francisco’s 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 weren’t 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, Dagny’s 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: Don’t ask me for it – oh, don’t ask me – do it!”

This is Rand’s 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.

”’Isn’t 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 man’s 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

Don’t 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 one’s 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, Henry’s assertion was considered treasonous.

In addition to the above principles, Henry’s 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 didn’t 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 state’s right of nullification, would lead to civil war. He died the same year as George Washington.

Some Discussion Topics

  1. The philosophical conversations among Dagny, Francisco and Jim at the Taggart estate reveal much about their characters and hold a lot of material for discussion. Francisco: ”So I want to be prepared to claim the greatest virtue of all – that I was a man who made money.” Jim: “Virtue is the price of admission.” Then there is Jim’s lecture to Francisco about selfish greed and social responsibilities. Dagny: ”Francisco, what’s the most depraved type of human being?” Francisco: “The man without a purpose.” Francisco: “The code of competence is the only system of morality that’s on a gold standard.” These snippets are better at conveying information than the long set pieces to come. Discuss the differences between these people and how the differences determine their characters.
  2. There have only been two couples engaging actively in sex in the book so far: Dagny Taggart with Francisco d’Anconia, and James Taggart with Betty Pope. Compare and contrast.
  3. ”The government of the People’s State of Mexico has issued a proclamation ... asking the people to be patient and put up with hardships just a little longer ... Now the planners are asking their people not to blame the government, but to blame the depravity of the rich...” Are there already echoes of this in today’s headlines?
  4. ”Who is John Galt?” It would be a spoiler to explore the rich irony of that question coming from Francisco. But based on what we know at this point, why is it a surprise to hear it from Francisco? How does it differ from everyone else who has said it?

Next Saturday: The Non-Commercial

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Free Republic; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: freeperbookclub
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1 posted on 02/14/2009 11:27:04 AM PST by Publius
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To: ADemocratNoMore; alexander_busek; AlligatorEyes; AmericanGirlRising; Amityschild; Andonius_99; ...
FReeper Book Club

Atlas Shrugged

Part I: Non-Contradiction

Chapter V: The Climax of the d’Anconias

Ping! The thread has been posted.

Earlier threads:
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

2 posted on 02/14/2009 11:28:13 AM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: Publius


3 posted on 02/14/2009 11:33:49 AM PST by mnehring
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To: Publius


4 posted on 02/14/2009 11:41:32 AM PST by DocRock (All they that TAKE the sword shall perish with the sword. Matthew 26:52 Gun grabbers beware.)
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To: Publius

Attending the night school.

5 posted on 02/14/2009 11:46:53 AM PST by gigster
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To: Who is Ayn Rand?

Ayn Rand interview, Wallace:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Ayn Rand interview, Donahue:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

6 posted on 02/14/2009 11:51:34 AM PST by I see my hands (_8(|)
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To: Publius; Mrs. B.S. Roberts

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.

7 posted on 02/14/2009 11:57:40 AM PST by CaptainAmiigaf ( NY Times: We print the news as it fits our views.)
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To: CaptainAmiigaf
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.

8 posted on 02/14/2009 12:02:56 PM PST by demsux
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To: Publius

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.

9 posted on 02/14/2009 12:34:44 PM PST by Savagemom (Educational Maverick (at least while homeschooling is still legal))
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To: demsux
Just finished reading it this past week.
I had started it 20 years ago, but circumstances prevented me from getting “into it” and it just sat.
The parallels to now are jaw dropping! I had no idea there was a reader's group for this book!
10 posted on 02/14/2009 12:39:24 PM PST by ozark hilljilly (I don't even think I think!)
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To: CaptainAmiigaf
I reread “Atlas” in 2000, during the California power crisis. There were several speeches made by public officials during that period that were almost word-for-word from the book. Governmental idiocy is a universal theme, so there will keep being cycles where the relevance of Shrugged is verified by events.
11 posted on 02/14/2009 12:40:15 PM PST by ArmstedFragg
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To: CaptainAmiigaf

Atlas Shrugged was 50 years ahead of the curve.

12 posted on 02/14/2009 12:46:07 PM PST by 6SJ7 (Atlas Shrugged Mode: ON)
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To: Savagemom
Ive been bogged down in that long monologue of a chapter for about a week now.

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.

13 posted on 02/14/2009 12:49:35 PM PST by RegulatorCountry
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To: ozark hilljilly

Ping to Chapter 5.

14 posted on 02/14/2009 12:56:42 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: RegulatorCountry

When we get to the soliloquys I’ll have some advice, one week in advance, for how to read them.

15 posted on 02/14/2009 1:04:16 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: Publius

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.

16 posted on 02/14/2009 1:04:54 PM PST by ReleaseTheHounds ("The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.")
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To: CottonBall

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.

17 posted on 02/14/2009 1:05:36 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: ReleaseTheHounds

We discussed that last week. Click on the links above for previous threads.

18 posted on 02/14/2009 1:06:42 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: CaptainAmiigaf; Publius

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.

19 posted on 02/14/2009 1:18:18 PM PST by Sender (It's never too late to be who you could have been.)
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To: CaptainAmiigaf
Unfortunately we do not have a magical redoubt to which to retire thus avoiding the wrath of the moochers when the looters can no longer bring "change."

I just pray I am not forced to defend my property from my hungry fellow countrymen.

20 posted on 02/14/2009 1:27:45 PM PST by Aevery_Freeman (Defend the Constitution - Shoot liberals on sight!)
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