Atlas Shrugged chapter four

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Section 141: Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 1

  • Plot summary:
    • Dagny attempts to pinpoint the need of the world--motive power to keep it standing, movement to keep it immovable; the Taggart Transcontinental skyscraper rests not on its granite foundations, but in its engines--that's what keeps it going. With depressed thoughts, Dagny Taggart reminisces a visit to United Locomotive Works to determine why they consistently fail to deliver the Diesel engines she ordered. The President of ULW talks for hours without answering directly or saying anything of substance. After returning to the office, Eddie Willers informs Dagny that Dick McNamara - the best contractor that can be found anywhere - has quit without explanation. As Dagny walks home that night she sees the depravity that passes for popular culture: books and movies that trivialize what is glorious, demonize what is moral, and exalt what is base; people who act as if pleasure were a sin that one gets away with. Depressed, she returns home and listens to the soul tonic of Richard Halley. While she listens, she recalls Halley's struggles as a young composer, his sudden success, and his mysterious disappearance. She sees in the newspaper that Francisco d'Anconia has returned to New York amidst a scandal in which a married woman tried to kill her husband so she could be with Francisco, whom she identifies as her lover. Francisco says he came to New York to witness the farce - but it is not the farce people are led to believe that he wants to witness.
  • The following settings are used as settings in this section:
    • The offices of Taggart Transcontinental
    • New York City in the evening
    • Dagny's apartment
  • The following Characters in Atlas Shrugged appear in this section:
    • Chief Engineer
    • Dagny Taggart
    • Eddie Willers
    • Gilbert Vail
    • Dick McNamara - mentioned
    • Mrs. Gilbert Vail
    • President of ULW
    • Richard Halley - mentioned
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Dagny sees a precision machine tool abandoned and decaying in the United Locomotive Works factory; abandoned not because it was valueless, but because the owners could not extract value from it. This foreshadows another discovery in an even less competent factory - a motor that is priceless, but which is left abandoned by people who could not see its value.

Section 142: Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 2

  • Plot summary:
    • James Taggart awakes at noon, hungover, in his apartment with Betty Pope, with whom he is having a romanceless sexual affair. He brags about how he is going to bring down Dagny Taggart for what she did to the San Sebastian Line. But before he has a chance to do this, he receives a call from his man in Mexico telling him the line and the San Sebastian Mines have been nationalized, just as Dagny predicted.
  • The following settings are used as settings in this section:
    • The apartment of James Taggart.
  • The following Characters in Atlas Shrugged appear in this section:
    • Betty Pope
    • Board of Directors
    • Dagny Taggart - mentioned
    • James Taggart
    • Jock Benson
    • Jules Mott
    • Liz Blane

Section 143: Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 3

  • Plot summary:
    • James Taggart addresses the Board of Directors after the San Sebastian Line is nationalized. He takes credit for removing everything of value from Mexico, and assures everyone that with his Washington connections he can get the government to demand just compensation from Mexico. He places the blame for his disaster on two men who played only a minor role in the fiasco. Moreover, the board he speaks to is given the comfort of knowing what excuse to give to those they represent.


  • The following Characters in Atlas Shrugged appear in this section:
    • Board of Directors
    • Clarence Eddington - Mentioned (Only Appearance)
    • James Taggart
    • Jules Mott - Mentioned

Section 144: Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 4

  • Plot summary:
    • Orren Boyle meets with James Taggart about the Mexican disaster. They can't believe Francisco d'Anconia was swindled out of fifteen million dollars, and they assume he must know something they don't know. Taggart tries to make an appointment with Francisco but he refuses to see him, because Francisco finds him "boring".


  • The following settings are used as settings in this section:
    • James Taggart's office.
  • The following Characters in Atlas Shrugged appear in this section:
    • Francisco d'Anconia - mentioned
    • James Taggart
    • Orren Boyle
    • James Taggart's Secretary

Section 145: Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 5



Section 146: Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 6

  • Plot summary:
    • Dagny Taggart visits Dan Conway in order to try to persuade him to fight the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule, and to discuss morality. Conway admits the ruling is not fair, but he doesn't feel he has any right to fight the will of the majority. He meekly resigns himself to running his railroads in Arizona. Conway states, "I suppose somebody's got to be sacrificed. If it turned out to be me, I have no right to complain." This is an important passage because it is the first explicit statement of the concept of the Sanction of the Victim. Moreover, the term "looters" referring to the villain is first introduced in the context of the excuse of "public welfare."


  • The following settings are used as settings in this section:
    • A meeting in an unspecified location, presumably in New York.
  • The following Characters in Atlas Shrugged appear in this section:
    • Dagny Taggart
    • Dan Conway
    • Ellis Wyatt - mentioned.
    • James Taggart - mentioned.

Section 147: Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 7

  • Plot summary:
    • Ellis Wyatt appears suddenly and unexpectedly in Dagny Taggart's office. He issues an ultimatum, saying if Taggart Transcontinental fails to run trains the way his business requires, his business will fail - and he will drag them down with him. Wyatt had expected a spiel of excuses, as any well-educated looter would have given. However, Dagny surprises him by quietly assuring him, without excuses or explanations, that he will get the service he requires. Dagny knows full well Wyatt's basis from which to question Taggart Transcontinental's ability to service him. Wyatt states, "You expect to feed off me while you can and to find another carcass to pick dry after you have finished mine." He understands that the parasites are dependent upon him, and when he issues his ultimatum, he is refusing to grant the Sanction of the Victim. Thus Ellis Wyatt is a sharp contrast to Dan Conway in the previous section. The responses of these two men to the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule represent opposite sides of the book's central conflict - one accedes to being a victim, one refuses.



Section 148: Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 8

  • Plot summary:
    • Dagny Taggart meets with Hank Rearden at his steel mill to tell him that, because of the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule she will need her rails in nine months instead of twelve. She asks Rearden if he can deliver the order in time, and he tells her he will. Dagny acknowledges that Rearden now holds Taggart Transcontinental in his power - if he fails to deliver, the railroad might collapse. But, Rearden needs this project to succeed as well because it will prove the value of Rearden Metal, creating new markets for him. They stand together in silence, watching as the first load of Rearden Metal is loaded onto the trains, both knowing what this new invention represents. The two talk about business as if one business' success creates opportunities for another, which is in sharp contrast to the talk about "destructive competition" that was used to justify the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule earlier in this chapter.
    • The first traces of Dagny and Rearden's relationship becomes apparent, as Dagny has an epiphany. "If joy is the aim and the core of existence, and if that which has the power to give one joy is always guarded as one's deepest secret, then they had seen each other naked in that moment." Rearden, however, is extremely stoic, and although this realization of joy is mutual, Rearden replies with, "We're a couple of blackguards, aren't we?" This disturbs Dagny and foreshadows the guilt that will plague Rearden, make him believe that his pleasure is depraved, and eventually undermine Rearden's ownership of Rearden Metal.
    • There is an apparent plot hole as to why Dagny did not buy the rail from Conway and skip the trouble of meeting a near impossible schedule. This hole is filled in later in the novel. Dagny has an argument with James Taggart, her brother, when he mentions he tries to purchase the rail from Dan Conway, who states in anger that not one foot of his rail will ever be sold to Taggart Transcontinental. He later sells his railroad piecemeal for dismemberment at a huge discount for dismemberment to anyone - except Taggart Transcontinental.)
    • The chapter ends with the extension of the metaphor that the chapter opens with: Rearden states that "we are the movers," thereby transferring the strength and burden of the skyscraper of Taggart Transcontinental to earthly flesh.


  • The following settings are used as settings in this section:
  • The following Characters in Atlas Shrugged appear in this section:
    • Dagny Taggart
    • Dan Conway
    • Ellis Wyatt
    • Hank Rearden
    • James Taggart
    • Looters - mentioned
    • Mouchers - mentioned (term first introduced to describe those who would expect others to be in business purely for their convenience)