Atlas Shrugged chapter three

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This is a plot summary from the first chapter of Atlas Shrugged, part one.

Section 131: Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 1

  • The following are used as settings in this section:
    • The most expensive barroom in New York, on the 60th floor of a skyscraper, designed to look like a cellar.
  • Quotations:
    • "When everybody agrees, when people are unanimous, how does one man dare to dissent?" (49) - James Taggart
  • Pregnant Passages:
    • "It all depends," James Taggart answered slowly, "on the people who make it possible...That's what has to be known - who makes it possible."

Section 132: Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 2

  • Plot summary:
    • Recounts Dagny Taggart's childhood decision to run Taggart Transcontinental and her rise in the company. Recounts the history of the San Sebastian Line: Millionaire playboy Francisco d'Anconia invested money in developing the San Sebastian Mines, and James Taggart and the Board of Directors assumed they could trust d'Anconia to deliver a winner. Dagny opposed this project and almost quit when it was approved. James Taggart confronts Dagny and demands to know what she has done to the San Sebastian Line. She explains that she has moved anything of value out of Mexico so the "looters" would not get it when they nationalized the line. James is scandalized by this but cannot muster the courage to countermand her actions.
    • After leaving the office, Dagny has a conversation with the owner of a newstand about his cigarette collection. He says there are no new brands anymore, and only a few brands still being made. He talks of the cigarette as a symbol of man controlling nature, holding fire in his hands.
  • The following settings are used as settings in this section:
    • The offices of Taggart Transcontinental
    • The Taggart Terminal.
  • Symbolism:
    • The newstand owner explicitly explains the symbolism of cigarettes: "I like to think of fire held in man's hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind - and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression." This is a character explaining what cigarettes symbolize to him - it is not a use of literary symbolism.
    • The literary symbolism of this passage is established when the newstand owner likens the fire of a cigarette to the fire of the mind. In Greek mythology, it was this gift of fire that raised men up. In Atlas Shrugged, it is the achievements of the mind that raise men up. So the disappearance of most of the old brands of cigarettes, which the newstand owner bemoans, is symbolic of the disappearance of the men of the mind.

Section 133: Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 3

  • Plot summary:
    • Eddie Willers ends a long day at work by having dinner in the employees' cafeteria of the Taggart Terminal. There he meets the Mystery Worker. They sit together and he tells them about the problems of the day and what Dagny Taggart is going to do to fix things. He mentions that Dick McNamara is the contractor who will lay the new rails for the Rio Norte Line. Eddie also reveals that Dagny does not go out, that she sits alone in her apartment listening to the music of Richard Halley. (Eddie will have many similar chats with Mystery Worker throughout the book.)
    • The cafeteria is described as follows: "The cafeteria lay underground. It was a large room with walls of white tile that glittered in the reflections of electric lights and looked like silver brocade. It had a high ceiling, sparkling counters of glass and chromium, a sense of space and light." This description is in sharp contrast to the most expensive barroom in New York, from section 131, that was atop a skyscraper but made to look like a cellar. The contrast gives the chapter title - The Top and the Bottom - its irony.
  • The following settings are used as settings in this section:
    • The employees' cafeteria of the Taggart Terminal. (It is set in the basement, but unlike the bar-room that begins the chapter, the cafeteria is described as spacious, as if open to the sky.)