Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, White Blackmail
Posted on 04/11/2009 7:40:36 AM PDT by Publius
Lillian condemns Francisco for what he has done and for shooting off his mouth at the wedding. She takes the train home while Hank heads for Dagnys apartment.
Hank is sorrowful that Dagny had to see him with his wife, but Dagny is more sorrowful that she had to witness Hanks agony in being in the presence of that woman. Dagny views their relationship as a fair trade with each drawing joy from the other. Hank wants to know the identity of Dagnys mysterious first lover, but Dagny intends to keep that private.
Dagny thinks that Francisco has intentionally engineered the disaster that is going to break tomorrow, but she cant figure out why. She ought to feel that Francisco is depraved, but for some reason she cant. And neither can Hank, who is starting to like the guy. He views the coming disaster as just one more obstacle, and he and Dagny will have to keep the ship afloat as long as possible before they go down with it.
Hank returns to the hotel to find Lillian awaiting him. Caught! Lillian makes fun of Henry the Monk who has not touched her for the past year and asks if his mistress is a manicurist or a chorus girl. Hank is ready to give Lillian anything she wants except for one thing: he wont give up his paramour. Lillian wont divorce Hank; he is the source of her social position, and Lillian makes it clear she has no regard for money. She is going to make his life hell by being the judge of his morality. Hank congratulates himself for letting her leave the room alive.
Dr. Floyd Ferris drops in on Hank at the mill and tells him how valuable the Rearden mills have become to the country. Hank points out that his opinion was different eighteen months ago, but Ferris explains that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Ferris wants to settle the delivery dates on the orders that Rearden refused five months earlier. While Rearden refused the paramilitary, Ferris is sure that Rearden will feel differently because of what Ferris possesses: information about the illegal sale to Ken Danagger. Hank can either fill the Institutes orders or go to jail with Danagger for ten years. Hank says this is blackmail; Ferris says were in a more realistic age now, and its time for Rearden to become a team player. Ferris can offer the muscle to crush Jim Taggart or Orren Boyle.
Ferris offers Hank another glimpse into the heart of darkness when he tells Hank that the laws are made to be broken. Theres no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there arent enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Now Hank understands; he challenges Ferris to put him on trial. Ferris loses his composure, and Hank throws him out of his office.
Eddie Willers sits down with the Anonymous Rail Worker in the Taggart corporate cafeteria and brings him up to date. Rearden and Danagger have been indicted and go on trial in Philadelphia next month. Dagny doesnt think Danagger has the courage to face what is coming and will be the next person to disappear; he is ready for The Destroyer. Dagny is going to Pittsburgh to beg Danagger to stay.
Dagny waits in Danaggers office while he is busy with a visitor; she ends up waiting for two and a half hours. She just misses the visitor as he leaves by the back door. Danaggers face is a miracle of deliverance. Affectionately, the crusty old businessman suggests to her that they fly to New York together and take a tour boat around Manhattan to see it one last time; he is not worried about the indictment because he is going to disappear. Dagny is stunned and realizes she has almost met The Destroyer! She is horrified that she has come too late, but Danagger tells her not to worry; there was nothing she could say to counteract the visitors words. She tries to penetrate Danaggers reasoning but cant get to the heart of the issue; Danagger will say just so much but not more. He asks her to tell Hank that he is the only man whom Danagger has ever loved. He tells her that he is merely complying with the system the looters have established; they want his coal but not him, so they can have it. Danagger gives Dagny one critical piece of information that she is too distraught to assimilate: the visitor told Danagger that he had a right to exist.
Dagny spots a cigarette in the ashtray; it is stamped with a dollar sign. She asks if she can take the cigarette, and Danagger agrees. He says he will see her soon, not because he is coming back, but because she will be joining him.
At his steel mill, Hank is troubled by the loss of Ken Danagger, but he is more troubled by Danaggers words of love. He wishes he had spent more time with Danagger and less with his brother Philip. As Hank prepares to leave, he finds Francisco waiting for him in the reception area.
Francisco knows how lonely Hank is this evening with the loss of the one man who counts. Hank says he will have to work that much harder now that Danagger has gone, and Francisco asks just how much he can take. Francisco tells Hank he is the last moral man left in the world. He has placed moral action into material form at the steel mill, but he has not held to the purpose of his life as clearly as he has held to the purpose of his mills. Hank developed Rearden Metal to make money but has not. The fruits of his labors were taken from him, and he was punished for his success. He had wanted his rail to be used by those who were his equals like Ellis Wyatt, those who were his moral equals like Eddie Willers, but not by the looters and failures of the world who proclaim that Hank is their slave because of his genius. The people reaping the fruits of Hanks labors are those who proclaim a right to another mans effort. Hank is putting his virtue in the service of evil. He has left the deadliest weapon in the hands of his enemies: their moral code. Francisco tells him the reason he is drawn to Francisco is that he has given Hank a moral sanction. Hank has made the mistake of accepting undeserved guilt. He has accepted the need of the looters as a reason for his own destruction. If Hank saw Atlas suffering but still trying to hold the world aloft, what would he advise? To shrug, Francisco finishes.
Francisco dAnconias recruitment of Hank Rearden is almost consummated when an alarm goes off signaling a breakout at a furnace. Francisco and Hank run to the furnace, and at lightning speed and with astonishing expertise Francisco flings fire clay into the gap, an art form Hank thought had died out years ago. Hank joins him and watches Francisco grinning widely. Hank realizes that he has met the real Francisco dAnconia. But Francisco misjudges a throw, loses his balance, and Hank saves him from incineration. Once the breakout is contained, Francisco gives orders to the men at the plant, and Hank approves because every word is correct procedure.
But now Francisco is dejected. Hank believes that with the kind of joint effort he and Francisco have just shown, they can beat the looters. Hank offers Francisco a job as a furnace foreman and says that will get him to appreciate his copper company properly. Francisco says he would love to take the job but cant for personal reasons. Francisco looks tortured. He cant finish what he had to say to Hank because Hank isnt ready to hear it.
Divorce in the Fifties
Before the era of no-fault divorce, different states had widely different standards for ending a marriage. Some, like New York, had only grounds of adultery. To simplify this, a wife would pay detectives to barge into a cheating husbands love nest to take pictures of the adulterous couple in action. Sometimes, cheating husbands would pay detectives to do the same thing to expedite the process.
In other states, a divorce was impossible unless both partners to the marriage agreed to it. Lillians decision not to grant Hank a divorce gives her power over him. For the sake of persecuting him, she is willing to forego a significant divorce settlement. This is to lead to her downfall later.
A Speedy Trial
The Constitution grants the accused the right to a speedy trial. Today, trials may come years after the arrest. Back in the Fifties, this was not the case. For Hank and Ken Danagger to come to trial a month after their indictments was not unusual in that era. But the trial, when we see it, will look very strange to people who expect such things to follow the Constitution.
A Single Discussion Topic
Francisco has torn a gaping hole in the universe from which Hank can perceive the heart of darkness. This is the key topic of this chapter and one of the most important themes in the entire book. Franciscos attempted seduction of Hank gives a clue to what The Destroyer said to Ken Danagger and Midas Mulligan to make them both joyful at the prospect of disappearing and leaving their enterprises behind. Lets explore this in detail.
The next chapter contains two large, significant set pieces. The first is the Trial of Hank Rearden; the second is Franciscos Sex Speech.
The Trial of Hank Rearden is broken into question and answer, so it does not come across as one very long speech. It is best read linearly as part of the book.
Franciscos Sex Speech is another matter. Everything stops cold so that Francisco can lay out Ayn Rands philosophy of sexuality. You can read it linearly, but it works better if you skip it and then come back to it later.
Yeah, I agree, she did have a hugh ego, so much so AS suffered for it. The one thing this book needed was AN EDITOR!
Billthedrill and I said that to each other just last week. She could have cut the book by a third.
Add to that the invisible line that separates government from certain investment banks (or doesn’t). “Government Sachs” comes to mind.
Oh, it was true, all right. And she even lets slip some of her fetishes in the book.
You’re going to be a happy camper in the next few weeks as Rand explores precisely those ideas.
Thanks for the info. I was going to do more research about it. The movie was narrated from the perspective of Nathaniel’s ex. I watched it in the middle of the night during a rare insomniac episode, so it’s a bit hazy. I’ll be sure to see it again when alert.
Per the movie, it seemed that most of “Atlas Shrugged” was written during the affair. Rand and Branden were stunningly arrogant.
I’m planning to read the book soon.
Yeah, it's good to get a jump on the suicidal depression.
The more I read the more I think she was a prophet instead of a novelist.
Think of it as the Great Disintegration. Forewarned is forearmed.
Oh, Bill! ;-) Someone insert pic of Zero ravishing Chrissie Matthews.
I think Rand might have bridled at the word “prophet” because of its religious overtones, but she understood just how an economic system disintegrates.
Exactly. That's why math and science were my favorite subjects. They're not subject to opinion like they try to make literature and "social science". There's no politics; doesn't matter if the instructor likes you or not or anything else. If you're right, you're right, demonstrably, and that's that.
Farseeing doesn’t carry the same weight.
Having lived through the Russian Revolution, having seen her fathers business confiscated and her college professors purged..she just translated trends/movement to their logical conclusions.
I don't quite agree. Perhaps you'd find it more palatable to say Aristotle's is A proof of the existence of God.
But in order to dispense with God you have to dispense with the logical system under which His existence is a necessary consequence. It can be done, of course.
That's more or less the crux of my last statement. That to deny the existence of a Supreme Being leads to more difficult logical positions, therefore God must exist. You are correct to say that God gave us logic and not the other way round, but that doesn't mean that logic cannot demonstrate the truth of God's existence.
And her writing and especially the dialog can be absolutely dense in places. Ugh.
Or maybe the basic premise of AS is true and it has to get this bad in order to get better. That concept is why my interest in the plot got much greater about halfway through the book.
Every American needs to read that sentence. Put it on the Good Year Blimp and fly it over every city in America.