Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Non-Commercial
Posted on 02/21/2009 8:12:02 AM PST by Publius
Hank Rearden, forgetting about his anniversary party, is sent home by his secretary and dresses for the party. He reads an editorial about the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, which will forbid any businessman from owning more than one business. He has paid Wesley Mouch a lot of money to stop this and cannot believe it will pass the National Legislature.
Hank goes downstairs in time to hear Simon Pritchett state that man is nothing but chemicals with delusions of grandeur. He also says that there arent any objective standards and that the purpose of philosophy is to prove that there isnt any meaning to life.
Balph Eubank pontificates on the state of literature, which should be to show that the essence of life is suffering and defeat. He suggests an equalization of opportunity bill for authors. Mort Liddy challenges this, but Eubank believes that no book should be allowed to sell more than ten thousand copies, thus forcing people to buy better books because there will no longer be any best sellers. Only those who are not motivated by making money should be allowed to write.
Bertram Scudder, author of a vile and slanderous article about Rearden, speaks in favor of the Equalization of Opportunity Bill to Philip Rearden and Betty Pope, who both support it. Philip has no problem with the government trimming Hanks fortune. They are joined by Claude Slagenhop who argues that if the people are in need, they should seize things first and talk about it later.
Dagny Taggart walks in, and she is breathtaking. She tells Hank that this is a celebration of the first sixty miles of Rearden Metal track. Hank is strangely formal, as though he and Dagny have never met. Dagny is disturbed by his treatment of her.
Eubank and Jim Taggart speak about Dagny, whom Eubank sees as a perversion caused by the age of machines; Dagny should be home weaving cloth and having babies. Hank is enraged to see that Bertram Scudder is drinking in his house, but he is even more upset when Francisco dAnconia walks in.
Francisco gravitates to Eubank and Pritchett. Eubank wants a government subsidy for the arts. Francisco delivers a delicious slam against Pritchetts nihilism with a smile.
Jim takes Francisco aside to discuss the San Sebastian debacle, about which Francisco intends to do nothing. He tells Jim that the mines and rail line have been seized by the will of the people, and how dare anyone go against the majority? Everything Francisco did in Mexico was intended to follow the dominant precepts of the age. The mining engineer was chosen because of his need, workers received wages for producing nothing, and not a penny of profit was made. What could better epitomize the philosophy of Jim Taggart?
Francisco takes Hank aside and manages to read Hanks innermost thoughts. He explains to Hank that he is carrying all the freeloaders in the room, and they have but one weapon against him. Hank gives him a tongue lashing about the Mexican business, and Dagny cannot believe that Francisco is taking it without fighting back. Francisco leaves, telling Hank he has learned what he needed to learn about him.
Dagny draws Hank into conversation, but Hank is still absolutely rigid, as though he had never met Dagny before. Dagny offers to slap Bertram Scudder. But Hank cant keep his eyes off her bare shoulder.
Dagny overhears a conversation among some elderly people about their fear that the darkness will never leave. One old woman speaks about detonations heard out in Delaware Bay. The official explanation is Coast Guard target practice, but everyone knows it is the pirate Ragnar Danneskjøld evading the Coast Guard. Several European peoples states have put a price on his head, and he has captured a ship with relief supplies slated for the Peoples State of France. His ship is better than any in the navy of the Peoples State of England. The government has asked the newspapers to enforce a blackout on reporting about him. He was once a student at Patrick Henry University. (Major plot point!)
Who is John Galt? one asks, and Dagny walks away. But the old woman follows and tells Dagny of the legend of John Galt, a variant of the legend of Atlantis. Dagny doesnt believe it, but Francisco says he does and tells Dagny the story is true. They spar, but when Francisco looks at Dagny and says, What a waste, Dagny walks away, realizing that Francisco has read her mind.
The last straw is when the radio comes on, and she hears Liddys bastardization of Halleys Fourth Concerto. As she prepares to leave, she hears Lillian Rearden speaking disparagingly about the bracelet of Rearden Metal she is wearing. In a fury, Dagny offers to exchange her diamond bracelet for Lillians Rearden Metal bracelet. Lillian takes the offer, and Hank suddenly turns solicitous to his wife and bitterly cold to Dagny.
Hank, in his wifes bedroom, asks that she not invite these people again to the house.
The Purpose of This Chapter
We meet the friends of Philip and Lillian Rearden, a veritable rogues gallery of New York intellectuals; the overwhelming impression is one of uselessness and nihilism. Francisco is probing Hank, and Dagnys relationship with Hank hits a bad spot. Something is going on, but its impossible to figure it out yet.
The New York Intellectuals
Intellectuals in general held differing but strong opinions of Ayn Rand.
After her Hollywood years, Rand came to New York and settled there for the rest of her long life. She had her own group of followers, whom she dubbed The Collective as a joke aimed at Marxism. Alan Greenspan was one of them.
Rand no doubt rubbed shoulders with New Yorks intellectuals of the Left, and the dominant group at that time dubbed itself The New York Intellectuals. (How original!) This group defined itself as socialist and Marxist, but not pro-Soviet. They wrote for Partisan Review, Commentary and Dissent, any of which may be the real life version of Bertram Scudders The Future. (Today, one would point to magazines like Mother Jones or The Nation as candidates.)
The names of these intellectuals are a Whos Who of that era, and some of them are still alive today. Among them were Lionel Trilling, Diana Trilling (his wife), Alfred Kazin, Delmore Schwartz, Harold Rosenberg, Dwight Macdonald, Mary McCarthy, Irving Howe, Saul Bellow, Daniel Bell, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Most of them were Jewish. Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz moved right in later years and formed the core of the neo-conservative movement. Proving that some people just live too long, Susan Sontag spent her last years as a relentless self-parody, finally skewered by Camille Paglia in a brilliant essay.
One enjoyable parlor game is to look at the rogues gallery of intellectuals at Hank Reardens party and guess whom they were based on.
Typical of Rand, these characters drip banality and evil years before Hannah Arendt joined those words in her essay about Adolf Eichmann. More will join their ranks in future chapters.
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
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Climax of the dAnconias
Can you add me to your ping list, please?
I’m so glad you’re doing this.
Please add me to your ping list. Thanks! (don’t know the rules, but I have read the book, just last summer)
The only rule is to avoid spoilers.
Your synopsis’ and discussion topics are really helpful, thank you. It’s eerie to be reading Atlas Shrugged and hearing the national news and comparing the perspectives.
Balph Eubanks comment about Dagny having babies strikes a false note. In the Fifties...
Perhaps this is an insight to Rands past.
Since the age of the character is not always obvious, could this be an ideal from an earlier time, indicating the speed of the social change?
But Hank cant keep his eyes off her bare shoulder.
that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.
Recalling Dagny's visit to Rearden's office, the jade vase was the only object that tied the outside world to him. Perhaps it is one piece of the outside that had some connection (the color of his steel) and thus allowed it in his office. The description of the Rearden home did not have any such item in it. Until Dagny....
Add me to the list, too, please. Thanks
I’m so happy I came across your thread. Could you add me to your ping list? I am going out to buy the book today after work, can’t wait to read it!
In a proper world, I’d have had you as a Literature teacher when I was a freshman instead of the jerk that I actually had.
Wasted a semester reading “important” black authors.. I put fiction down for 15 years and determined never to read another “important” book.
I didn't see it as a generic sexist remark regarding women.
It was a specific jab at her competence.
They would have had no problem with her having a position if she were incompetent in it.
Producers and the competent are the enemy through the whole novel.
Artists in general , at least until they reach a level of success have always been “starving” and requiring the tender mercies of a patron.
It is actually a far preferable system. It puts art in the competitive field. Competition always produces a superior product.
The National Endowment for the Arts has created a support system for a bunch of individuals that should have failed.
Art historically has been useful to elevate, it has been about beauty, now the system rewards denigration and lowering standards.
Again I advise: READ THIS BOOK carefully. Put it aside for three (3) months. Pick it up and carefully re-read it. Do NOT blow your brains out.
Remember, the political speeches you heard LAST WEEK were written into this book over 50 years ago. Be afraid...be VERY afraid!!
Add Sundog to your ping list.
Could you add me to your ping list? Thanks in advance : )
Is this party where Francisco delivers his "money" speech? I think that speech is more important than the much longer speech delivered later in the book.
I believe the basic lack of understanding of money... more precisely wealth... is the root of liberal thinking and their misguided policies.
Will review the chapter and post back later. Thanks Publius!
Nope, that was at a wedding.