Atlas Shrugged (Section 3, Chapters 3 and 4)

By Ayn Rand

Cover: Atlas ShruggedMuch appreciation for Rebecca, who took over for me for Chapter 2 this week since I fell so far behind in my reading because of my head cold. Also, I found Section 3’s first two chapters, set in Galt’s Gulch (yeah, that’s what they call it – try it out loud) almost unbearable. You know how hearing someone describe a dream is pretty much the most tedious thing ever? It was that for over a hundred pages.

This weekend, however, I was on a strict schedule of reading in order to catch up, and I’ve plowed through Chapters 3 and 4, which were thankfully back in the quickly decaying outside world and much more to my liking.

Chapter 3:  ANTI-GREED

We get introduced to a literal doomsday device in the most boring way possible (lots of speeches). Project X is revealed as a structure that uses audio waves to devastate everything in its path. Rebecca and I promptly debate whether this weapon will be used later against the dread pirate Ragnar: will Ayn Rand actually sacrifice one of her three most sacred characters in order to prove a point?

Meanwhile, Dagny is back in New York, after having been sworn to secrecy and flown blindfolded out of Galt’s Gulch. She returns to her office, which is naturally in shambles. The government has taken control of the operations when it became clear that the company was approaching bankruptcy. Jim explains to Dagny that Taggert Transcontinental is considered, basically, too big to fail, using literally the same argument as was used to bail out Wall Street:

“We couldn’t permit a railroad like Taggert Transcontinental to crash! It would have been a national catastrophe! We had to think of all the cities and industries and shippers and passengers and employees and stockholders whose lives depend on us! It wasn’t just for ourselves, it was for the public welfare!”

One of the things I love so much about Jim Taggert is how he is always on the brink of hysteria, speaking almost exclusively in exclamation marks. Dagny is then charged with just sort of generally fixing everything and making sure there are no more crashes. She and Eddie are just settling down to do that when she gets a visit from my favorite inept mastermind, Lillian Rearden.

Lillian tells Dagny that she has to go on a public radio program in defense of the government’s control of the railroads, and threatens her with exposure of her affair with Hank if she refuses. In an admittedly brilliant scene, Dagny agrees, and promptly uses the public venue to reveal the affair and the blackmail. It almost makes up for Hank caving in to the same threat

Speaking of Hank, he is waiting for Dagny at her apartment, and she promptly burst into tears, partly because she is anxious over telling him that she has fallen in love with someone else. Luckily, there is no need for actual confrontation because all of our protagonists are relatively psychic (with each other, at least) and he had already figured it out, and is not hurt at all. So, all’s well that ends well.

Chapter 4: ANTI-LIFE

Chapter 4 opens with James Taggert leaving a party in celebration of extending the government’s reach into South America via various countries there turning to socialism, as well. He goes home and we get to see Cherryl again, the shop girl who Jim married and who is my absolutely favorite character!

Cherryl’s not doing so well, though. In the last eleven months of her marriage, she had been trying to improve herself to be worthy of her elevated position. She was confused over Jim’s lack of enthusiasm over her improvements, but she has an epiphany while Jim is crowing over his achievements in South America. He is particularly pleased with the nationalization of D’Anconia Copper, and she suddenly realizes that Jim is just acting out of spite toward Francisco, his supposed childhood friend. (We the reader know, of course, that Francisco has long been planning for the nationalization of his company and will be pleased as punch.)

Confronted with the collapse of all of her previously held assumptions, Cherryl dashes to Dagny’s apartment to apologize for her error. Cherryl says all the normal Galt stuff, that she was defending the looters while attacking the creators, and that she just feels terrible about it all now that her eyes are open to the way of the world. Dagny comforts her and even seems to see her as a younger sister, who could even potentially be a protégé of sorts.

Unfortunately, Cherryl then insists on returning home to Jim, where she finds him just finishing up with Lillian (you know perfectly well what I mean), who came for help against her impending divorce with Hank. Cheryl, in shock, confronts Jim and forces him to admit what all of us already knew: that he married her because her low status would make her always indebted to him. She screams and calls him a killer (meaning of souls, I think), and he hits her in the mouth.

She flees and just runs through the seedy midnight streets of New York, desperate for help but also not willing to accept any (Rebecca, I’m sure, will give you her rant about this in the comments). Recoiling from a social worker, who stopped to berate her in the street (you know, how social workers are always doing), she runs off the end of the street into the dark river below, and thus ends Cherryl. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, I guess.

—Anna

One comment on “Atlas Shrugged (Section 3, Chapters 3 and 4)

  1. Rebecca says:

    Aaarrrggg! Cheryl, I know you have just had a shock and are horribly disturbed and desperate and not thinking straight, BUT come on. There she is running past people who are set up to help others in trouble but she refuses to ask for their help because she just “knows” that they’ll reject her. She just came from Dagny who offered to help her, but she refuses to ask for help because that would be a “favor.” Come on! This is just one more character who “knows” that there isn’t anything that can be done, and it’s pissing me off. Well, now she’s dead, so there really isn’t anything that can be done now. Hmph.

    Anyway, I also wanted to comment that while I loved Dagny’s radio speech, I was disappointed in Lillian’s poor attempt at puppet-mastery. She goes and tells Dagny that Rearden gave up his patent on Rearden Metal in order to protect Dagny from bad press. What’s up with that? I thought that Lillian was going to tell Dagny that Rearden did it to protect Lillian from the bad press. Since Rearden had originally acted to protect Dagny, then Dagny was essentially free to release the information about their affair. But if Rearden had given up his most precious possession in order to protect Lillian, or at least if Dagny thought he had, then Dagny would be placed in a position of having to go against Rearden in order to stand up to the blackmail. It just seems like Lillian missed a golden opportunity to be even more vicious.

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