Atlas Shrugged By Ayn Rand Summary and Analysis Part 2: Chapter 2 - The Aristocracy of Pull

Summary

Dagny looks at the list of the great Colorado industrialists who have vanished and suspects the existence of a destroyer. She starts to believe that someone is systematically removing the country's most productive minds. She can only shake her head in despair at the collapse of industry in Colorado. Rearden, meanwhile, secretly sells a larger amount of Rearden Metal than is legally permitted to Ken Danagger.

James Taggart marries the innocent shop girl Cherryl Brooks. Because his wife requests that he do so and he feels obligated to respect her wishes, Rearden attends the wedding. Francisco d'Anconia arrives and tells Taggart that he's grateful for the political deal that Taggart and his socialist colleagues brokered months ago that is putting American producers of copper out of business. The deal makes d'Anconia Copper (in which Jim and his friends hold a large amount of stock) virtually the sole copper producer on earth.

When someone makes a remark claiming that Francisco is a depraved product of money, Francisco responds with a brilliant speech that praises the virtue of wealth. Rearden is drawn to Francisco and the liberating power of his ideas, but he expresses contempt for the way in which Francisco has profited from the legal destruction of his competitors. Francisco tells Rearden of the fires and cave-ins that, though causing no injuries, will imminently wipe out a part of d'Anconia Copper. Francisco also announces his company's problems to the entire room, causing panic for James Taggart and the other corrupt investors who now realize that they've lost their money.

Analysis

Francisco's "money speech" presents the antithesis of the conventional viewpoint that "money is the root of all evil." He points out that money is a tool of exchange, which presupposes productive men and their activities. The production of goods and services is what makes man's life on earth possible. If human survival and prosperity is good, production is profoundly moral. Furthermore, productive effort is fundamentally an intellectual process. Thinkers invent new goods and methods that promote progress, and Rearden is a prime example.

Francisco explains that money is a claim on goods and services, and the goods and services must be created. The creative acts of growing food, manufacturing steel, producing oil, or running a railroad give money its meaning and value. The money that a man earns is the symbol of his productive ability and, consequently, his badge of moral honor. Money, because of the exacting demands it makes on a man's productive effort and its role as the medium of exchange for the goods and services created, must be considered the root of all good, Francisco states. Money makes man's life on earth possible.

Francisco presents his ideas on money primarily to Rearden. For his own purpose, which he will not divulge, Francisco seeks to provide Rearden with an understanding of Rearden's own moral greatness. Rearden currently accepts two mistaken ideas. One is that industrial production is an unspiritual endeavor. The other is that materialistic concerns are immoral, because only purely spiritual activities have moral value. Because of these errors, Rearden can't yet see his own towering stature. He doesn't recognize the intellectual and spiritual component of his steel-making enterprise, nor does he understand the great virtue of his life-giving productivity. Francisco intends to liberate Rearden from his errors and their harmful consequences in his life.

Dagny's suspicion that someone is deliberately luring away the world's greatest minds is significant to the plot. If her assumption is correct, the novel's mystery deepens dramatically. Who is this creature? What possible reason can he, she, or it have for perpetrating such destructive acts? For Dagny, answering these questions is crucial to the survival of her railroad and industrial civilization as a whole.

Glossary

aristocracy of pull a new group of powerful men who have reached their status not by means of talent or initiative, but by means of political connections. In this chapter, it refers to men like James Taggart and his friends, who seek success by currying favor with the politicians in Washington.

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