Atlas Shrugged (Section 2, Chapter 5)

By Ayn Rand

Cover: Atlas ShruggedSo, all hell’s breaking loose now, and I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m kind of enjoying reading about it. Since the Ellis’ oil fields literally went up in flames, the coal industry has been overdrawn, and the trains can’t get their coal orders in a timely fashion. The trains then fail to deliver necessary parts to the various factories, and they promptly all go out of business. It’s kind of a satisfying domino effect, and at least things are happening.

All of this devastation climaxes in the Taggert International board deciding that they must close the John Galt line. Dagny’s not happy about it, but had seen the writing on the wall, so isn’t surprised. Francisco stops by to console her, however, which does surprise her. (As Rebecca pointed out, Francisco has been hanging around a lot more than usual for the last few chapters, screwing up everyone’s well-being but being so tortured about it that they can’t help but like him anyway. Oh, and also dropping lots of cryptic messages about John Galt and a master plan, which I would think would be super annoying.)

As much as I’ve disliked Dagny’s character, she’s actually been an astonishingly strong female character, especially for the time period she was written (sex scenes excluded). So, this chapter comes as a bit of a blow as we get repeated reminders that even though she is the best of all women everywhere, she is, in fact, still a woman. Chapter 4’s bromance between Rearden and Francisco had the side effect of demonstrating that even though both truly respected Dagny, it was a big relief to both of them to meet another man who matches their intellectual abilities. And in this chapter, we get lines like this:

“She obeyed him without questions; but felt relief, like a swimmer who stops struggling. The spectacle of a man acting with assurance, was a life belt thrown to her at a moment when she had forgotten the hope of its existence. The relief was not in the surrender of responsibility, but in the sight of a man able to assume it.”

That overblown description, by the way, was Dagny accepting an invitation to go out for drinks with Francisco. I’m losing my patience a bit with Rand’s writing style.

The chapter ends with Lillian discovering that Hank is cheating on her with Dagny. She freaks out (I think because, in support of Francisco’s argument in the previous chapter, she senses that Hank is sleeping with someone he actually respects and that’s the true betrayal?), and she and Hank argue at cross-purposes with each other for a while. Lillian tries to lay a guilt-trip on Hank, which depends on him feeling even some remnant of pity for her, which he doesn’t. Hank tries to be fair to Lillian, assuming she still feels some love for him, which she doesn’t.

They finally decide to just keep on keeping on, staying married but with Hank sleeping with Dagny. I don’t quite understand where Hank’s loyalty to this marriage is coming from; he seems startlingly naïve when it comes to Lillian. Lillian, clearly, is working some sort of long con, where she nudges Hank in whatever direction the bureaucrats want him, and thereby gets the respect from them that she couldn’t ever get from Hank.


One comment on “Atlas Shrugged (Section 2, Chapter 5)

  1. Rebecca says:

    Ha! I’d forgotten how overblown the description was of Dagny appreciating Francisco’s commanding nature in taking her out for drinks. Hee!

    It’s really beginning (or, okay, continuing) to annoy me how many people see the writing on the wall, know that there’s nothing to be done, and just sink into misery about how impossible it is to fight the system. Maybe if Dagny actually took a stand and argued against the injunction in a logical and verbal fashion, people might be willing to listen. They’d certainly me more likely to listen to verbal logic than they are to unspoken angst.

    Instead of saying that she took a stand against idiotic corporate ideas, she gets to say that she abstained from supporting them. That’s almost the same thing, right? I am reminded of the Kennedy quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

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