Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, Anti-Life
Posted on 06/27/2009 7:38:16 AM PDT by Publius
Jim Taggart hands a hundred dollar bill to a bum on the street, and the bum contemptuously takes no notice of the denomination.
Under the Railroad Unification Plan, the machine has run down further. There are ripples.
Jim has been busy. His day began with a meeting with the Argentine ambassador where he discovered that Argentina was to be declared a peoples state in two weeks. It was followed by a cocktail party at Orren Boyles where it was decided to loan $4 billion to Argentina and Chile. That was followed by a party given by Jim at the bar on the 60th floor of a skyscraper that looked like a cellar in which was formed the Interneighborly Amity and Development Corporation, an outfit presided over by Orren Boyle that would possess exclusive rights to run the industrial concerns of the various peoples states of South America. The final event had been held at the home of the Chilean ambassador, who appeared to be nothing more than a gangster. Here Jim had learned that on September 2, all dAnconia Cooper properties would be nationalized. Jim had made a mental note: sell dAnconia, buy Interneighborly. He feels no pleasure in this because he is not thinking about money any longer, and that bothers him. In his mind is a fogbound alley that holds things he prefers not to think about.
Arriving home, Jim senses in Cherryl that things are no better here. He brags that he has closed a big deal today, and she seems neutral in her reaction. He asks for champagne while he brags that he and a group of men will control the nationalized properties of South America to help the underprivileged. He complains that slum dwellers like Cherryl have no humanitarian spirit of altruism, something that can be felt only by those born to wealth. Cherryl has no sympathy for the welfare philosophy; having come from the slums, she knows that most of the poor want something for nothing. She tells Jim straightforwardly that he doesnt care about the humanitarian spirit either. He brags that he will end up one of the richest men in the world, and she indicates that even if he does, she wants nothing from him. She tells Jim that she respects Hank Rearden as Jim brags about having beaten him.
Cherryl is proud of what Dagny did on the radio and has noticed that the government never answered her charges. Jim explains that Bertram Scudder took the fall for that disaster. It was better for the nation and Jim that Scudder become the scapegoat. Scudders fatal mistake was his membership in the Tinky Holloway faction. The Chick Morrison faction won, and Holloway traded Scudder for some favors. Cherryl is horrified that this is the kind of victory her husband is winning. Jim complains that he did not create this world, he only lives in it. In Jims words Cherryl hears the echo of her drunken father.
Cherryl had worked hard to be Mrs. James Taggart, approaching the task as would a military cadet, but Jim was never satisfied. She could not understand the intellectual scum that formed Jims orbit. She perceived that men like Simon Pritchett and Balph Eubank were phonies. In her mind was an oncoming headlight that held things she preferred not to think about. And her worst discovery was that her husband was also a phony. The only true thing Jim had said was that he was surrounded by enemies. Conversations with people within the railroad revealed to Cherryl that his enemies did in fact work there and he had earned their hatred. It was from Eddie Willers that she had finally learned the truth about Jim and Dagny.
When she confronts Jim about it, he turns ugly and accuses her of ingratitude. He cant put into words what he wants; it can only be felt. Cherryl cant accept this and says that what she loved about him wasnt real. Cherryl now feels something and its fear. Jim accuses her of being a gold-digger who trades love, but cant just give it. Loving a man for his virtues is cold justice; its unearned love that matters. Cherryl explodes. Jim is a charlatan like the welfare pimps, wanting unearned love and unearned admiration. He wants to be like Hank Rearden without working for it.
The champagne arrives, and Jim mockingly proposes a toast to Francisco, which Cherryl refuses. Jim comes unglued and leaves the room.
At her apartment, Dagny yearns to be back in Galts Gulch and hopes to spot John on the street in New York. The doorbell rings and in comes Cherryl. She is there to pay a debt; she apologizes for everything she had said at the wedding. She admits that she now knows the truth about who really runs the railroad. She knows that her husband is a worthless moocher; the girls now have a bond. Dagny admits that when people say she is hard and unfeeling, it is true because she is being just. Dagny has held herself above the terrible world Jim inhabits by one rule: To place nothing above the verdict of her own mind. This connects with something Cherryl had felt in her poor youth in Buffalo, something people around her had wanted to destroy. A premonition tells Dagny to suggest that Cherryl stay with her tonight, but Cherryl decides to go home. She looks broken.
Moments after Cherryl has left Jim, Lillian Rearden shows up. Lillian is unhappy about the quality of the new class of looters, who are not our crowd. Lillian is there for a favor: she needs Jim to use his influence to stop the divorce. Hank has purchased everyone necessary to get his divorce and keep Lillian away from his money. All of this happened because Lillian had done critical favors for Jim. He kids her about how she always said she didnt care about money, but she says she cares about poverty. Bertram Scudder can no longer help, but if Jim could get Wesley Mouch to intervene... Jim explains that the channels of pull have become so convoluted that it is impossible to get favors from the right people anymore.
Jim and Lillian drink champagne. Lillian says that Hank thinks little of Jim, and Jim wants just once to beat him. And in a sense he does in the next few minutes, as he beds Lillian Rearden. She is even less fun than Betty Pope.
Cherryl comes home in time to catch them after the act. She confronts Jim who becomes enraged and then brags about it. She asks why he married her; Jim tells her she was a cheap little guttersnipe from Buffalo who had no choice but to love him as he was because she was worthless. He wants her to accept his love as alms because she could never hope to earn it. The oncoming headlight finally hits Cherryl, shattering her. She sees through Jim, telling him he is a killer for the sake of killing; he slaps her for her effrontery.
Cherryl runs out of her apartment on a wild but aimless run through the streets of Manhattan. A social worker approaches her and asks if she is in trouble, then grabs her and reprimands her for being a drunken society girl. Tearing herself away, Cherryl screams and runs headlong into the East River.
Hey pub, don’t be so down. I don’t always post, but I read every week and think over the topics. You guys are doing a great job.
“Nobody calls me Lebowski, I’m the dude, man!”
It also tore cities asunder, but that wasn't intentional.
Before the civil rights revolution of the Sixties, black neighborhoods in American cities had black doctors, lawyers, morticians and other successful businessmen. These people functioned as role models for black children.
When laws outlawing job discrimination were passed, urban blacks joined the middle class and moved to the suburbs. (Added to this, the term "urban renewal" was simply a code word for "Negro removal".) Those who stayed behind in the cities formed an underclass with its own set of values built around victimization, dependency and Afrocentrism. The only role models available were drug dealers and pimps.
Before the Great Society programs, 90% of blacks lived below the poverty line. Afterward, only one-third lived below the poverty line, but they concentrated in the cities, changing them for the worse.
It's the law of unintended consequences.
I keep forgetting to say thanks. I read every one of your analyses of the chapters and enjoy them very much.
Chapter 27, now, that one's a real head-cracker. I'm hoping folks stick with us at least until we reach that one, "This Is John Galt Speaking," because there we have to comprehend 60 very dense pages before we can even begin to debate Rand's philosophy. Publius and I are going to try to make that a little more accessible, and I'm hoping we don't ruin it in the process. Or ourselves. ;-)
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I haven’t missed a week. I tend not to want to post unless I have something interesting to say, which isn’t always the case. Your work, and Bill’s are always appreciated thought.
Oh gosh. (blush blush) Thanks.
I liked Cherryl, a lot, and when her character was first introduced, I was confident she'd figure out the game eventually. Rand seemed to hint broadly at that in some of the things Cherryl said to Jim and to Dagny. I was hoping for a better end for her though. Maybe matched up with Rearden after being dumped by Dagny or a second tier but honest player like Eddie. Oh well, you can't always get what you want. ;-)
To the first and second questions, James Taggart is running out of things to destroy. A man unaware of the nature of John Galt’s plan would believe that he won. He wrecked Hank Rearden’s greatest successes, in his business and in his personal life. He has just destroyed D’Anconia Copper. The other railroads are collapsing under the burden of James Taggart’s schemes.
The story begins with James Taggart as the envious brat among Dagny, Francisco, and Eddie Willers. Francisco makes a fool of him with the speedboat and Dagny and Eddie ignore him. In a monarchy, James would be the acknowledged leader by virtue of his birthright. In a meritocracy, James is the bottom rung of the children's hierarchy. It made me wonder how the Taggart family could raise two children of such disparate abilities and attitudes. It was New York, therefore Mrs. Taggart was secretly banging the proto Eliot Spitzer. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
James never had to destroy Eddie Willers because Eddie wasn't a threat to his ego. He attacked his own sister through the theft of Rearden Metal. A blow to Rearden was a blow to Dagny. His friends will steal everything Francisco has. Now what can he do? Destroying little people has no meaning for him. He considers them insignificant. They were never more than objects to be used in his schemes.
The beggar serves several purposes. He is the antithesis of Franciso’s money speech. Francisco praised money as a tool to enable trade between men of minds and men of labor. He said that the value of money was not in the gold it represented but in its ability to allow men to establish an objective value and trade to each others’ benefit. James gives a hundred dollar bill to a bum, similar to perhaps a few thousand dollars today. Neither man even acknowledges the gift. They have nothing to offer each other. As a consequence, the money is meaningless.
Now James is confronted with the effects of his public speeches about the evil of money and his hypocritical actions in accumulating it. He is now profoundly wealthy. But his wealth came by destroying people like Wyatt, Rearden, and D’Anconia. Who now is worthy of destruction? James convinced the world that money had no value, making sure to acquire it on the sly. His schemes have concluded. He convinced everyone that money has no value. His own money has no value. He doesn't care. He realizes that he was destroying men for the sake of destroying them, not for personal gain.
Cheryl identifies him. James Taggart is a killer for the sake of killing. That fogbound alley, a staple of monsters and murders in the days of black and white films, is the place where the killer reveals his true identity when he destroys people who lived by trust. The headlight is the light shone by the men who pursue the killer, whether townspeople with torches or police in patrol cars, when they finally realize what they are fighting. Rand's cinematic background shows through.
Ding ding!! Best line of the thread!!
I wondered too how Jim and Dagny could be the same blood, but it happens all the time.
Or maybe summer has finally arrived and some of us spent the day outdoors and away from computers and now we’re getting around to tuning in. But a day in the great outdoors with beer flowing freely makes one very sleepy. Too tired to write.
Both you and Bill have given us a lot to think about. Cheryl deserved so much better.
I actually know exactly where they went, but I can’t tell you. :)
I hear “Dude,” and think “Dud.”
On the money, FRiend. You nailed that one.
Ditto here. I haven't been posting because I have nothing more to add; also, I tend to arrive too late to the discussion. But, I do read, enjoy, and appreciate each thread.
I plowed through the book at the beginning, and I looked forward to sharing thoughts with everyone here. Now, either I can't remember all of those thoughts, ;-) or they've already been covered by everyone else before I arrive. As time passes, I may be forgetting those comments I wanted to share after each chapter, but, on the other hand, with time the book's message seems more profound than it did when I was reading it.
The fact is, Atlas Shrugged sat on my bookshelf for years. If you hadn't started this freeperbookclub, I would've never found time to read it. Thank you again.
I will be looking forward to your analysis on Chapter 27.
I recommended AS to a friend of mine a while back and told him we he got to the Radio Address to just skim through it and then go back to read it later:-)
Maybe #27 would work as a 2 parter?
Oh BTW thanks for the weekly threads, it gives me something to look forward to, especially when I have to work on the weekends.
I’ll add my agreement. This whole discussion is a lot of fun and reminds me of things I forget today, that were more important years ago when I first read AS.
One great benefit has been my wife reading AS. She stalled for over thirty years, saying she would read it but not now. She finally started it while taking the train back and forth to work. Other passengers were appalled that my wife would read such trash, and the other was her comment to me that she wished she had read it years ago and it was one of the best books she has ever read. Nice comment from a woman with her masters in English. Of course, all I could say was “it’s about time” winning her scorn. LOL
Like Tired of Taxes, I enjoy reading the analysis and comments weekly. It’s been enjoyable, especially the parallels drawn to society and government today.
I was out of town for 2 weeks and we reviewed the threads over the last few weeks. I just got back in and we had to catch up last night by finishing this chapter. My wife is anxious to finish it now that we’re getting within sight of “The Speech”. :-)
I liked Cheryl, too, and was inwardly yelling to her to stay and spend the night with Dagny. It was tragic, and I felt like her journey of enlightenment was the bulk of society’s journey in microcosm. I hated to see her go.
I agree. I read it in 1992 and find it much more fascinating this go-around. Of course, your and Pub’s synopses and commentary certainly account for a significant portion of the improvement!
My wife is working it along with me and her fascination with it and her views of Rand have grown during the reading. I recall many times her bemoaning the repetition of themes earlier (with “I get it, can we move on?”), but now she is telling me how spot-on Rand’s observations are and sees reasons for the repetition and nuance among them. I’ve been trying to get my liberal brother to read it (or the Cliff Notes), but can’t get him to get beyond a gutteral “ugh” when mentioning it. Maybe some day...
Probably not. :-)
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