© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged

by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged Volume 1, Chapter 7 Summary

The Exploiters and the Exploited

  • Dagny is in Colorado watching the progress on the railroad line.
  • Rearden Metal is blue-green and the tracks look cool.
  • Dagny's contractor is named Ben Nealy, and he thinks "muscles" is the answer to everything. Unfortunately, he's no McNamara.
  • None of the engineers who work for Taggart Transcontinental are really down with using Rearden Metal, so Dagny had to hire Nealy to oversee everything.
  • Dagny is actually having lots of trouble finding people willing to make the various parts she needs out of Rearden Metal. Apparently new means scary.
  • Dagny is hardcore though, and is basically making people do what she needs them to do. We learn that she even bribed some people to get her access to a factory that had gone bankrupt so she could manufacture her own spikes for the rail line.
  • Businesses are going bankrupt all over the place, which is causing lots of problems and delays.
  • Hank is having to pick up a lot of the slack and make things for Dagny himself. And Dagny apparently goes around bribing people to get the job done.
  • Ellis Wyatt pops up. He is cool with Dagny now since she's so hardcore, and he gives her some helpful advice about building in the mountains.
  • Nealy calls Ellis stuck up once Ellis leaves, and Dagny tells him to shut up, Ellis is cool.
  • Hank Rearden now pops up. (Colorado is a happenin' place.)
  • Hank wanted to see how work was progressing and to look into buying some old factory.
  • Dagny tells Hank that she wants a bridge made out of Rearden Metal but she can't afford it.
  • Hank says au contraire and draws her a bridge that will be lots cheaper for her. Dagny makes a note to fire the idiot engineer who showed her the expensive one.
  • Dagny is duly impressed by Hank's bridge-designing skills.
  • Hank doesn't mention what happened at the party, and Dagny follows suit.
  • They talk about how hard it is to find decent workers nowadays, and Hank shows Dagny the copper mine he plans on buying.
  • Then they start talking about all the failing businesses and how the world seems to be slowing down to the point of stopping.
  • Hank gives Dagny a pep talk, though.
  • He shows off his nice new car, made by Hammond of Colorado. (Of course.)
  • But Hank is flying home, not driving. He's having his car shipped to him. Dagny asks him to give her a lift in his private plane and he quickly says he's going to Minnesota, not New York. Dagny is like, whatever.
  • But later Dagny finds out that Hank flew back to New York after all.
  • Dagny wonders what Hank's problem is.
  • Back in New York, Dagny is riding in a limo with James.
  • James is complaining about the traffic and the road conditions and everything else in the world.
  • The Taggarts are headed to a dinner at the New York Business Council. They've been invited to give a talk about Rearden Metal, since people are concerned that it's a threat to public safety.
  • James is too, apparently, since some metal "experts" have claimed it's unsafe.
  • Dagny says whatever, she knows more than metal experts and she thinks that Rearden Metal is super cool.
  • On the ride to dinner, Dagny sees a bunch of signs for businesses in Colorado and realizes that Colorado is basically supporting the whole country at this point. No pressure on your railroad there, Dagny!
  • James then randomly bursts out that he hates Dan Conway, who refused to sell him the Phoenix–Durango track in Colorado.
  • Dagny is furious that James asked in the first place, since he pretty much helped run Dan's business into the ground.
  • James complains some more about how they're screwed, since people are probably going to boycott Rearden Metal and they won't get their line in Colorado finished in time at this rate. He wants Dagny to tell everyone how awesome Rearden Metal is at the dinner tonight to get everyone to lay off.
  • But it gets better! Turns out Dagny is going to debate the issue live over the radio with none other than Bertram Scudder, the angry journalist who attacked Hank Rearden.
  • Dagny basically says heck to the no, and gets out of the car.
  • James yells at her to come back.
  • Dagny wanders around and finds herself in a bad neighborhood. She stops at a small diner. Good call, Dagny, pie makes everything better.
  • Actually Dagny just orders coffee.
  • The people at the diner counter all look depressed.
  • Some man starts telling Dagny how they're all doomed.
  • Another guy tells her to ignore the first man, who's being a total Debbie Downer.
  • Somebody of course asks who John Galt is, and another guy pipes up that he knows. This had better be better than that stupid Atlantis story.
  • OK, so this guy says John Galt is the guy who (are you ready?) found the fountain of youth. Yeah.
  • So John Galt found a fountain of youth on top of a mountain but found out that it couldn't be brought back down, so he stayed up there with the fountain.
  • Scene break! A man named Dr. Potter (no relation to Harry) is talking with Hank.
  • Dr. Potter works for the State Science Institute.
  • He says the Institute is going to release a statement about Rearden Metal. He blackmails Hank and says that the Institute will take a stand against Rearden Metal unless Hank sells them the rights to his metal.
  • Hank says no way. Dr. Potter says he's making a big mistake, and Hank tells him to go away.
  • Dagny, meanwhile, is also having troubles.
  • Mr. Mowen, the guy who manufactures switches and signals for the railway, is refusing to make anything else out of Rearden Metal, since it's so unpopular it would be social suicide.
  • Later Eddie brings Dagny the super vague statement released by the State Science Institute that hints about how Rearden Metal is going to kill everyone or something. Also, that Rearden Metal is of the devil.
  • Dagny and Eddie are mad.
  • But Dagny tells Eddie to chill, because it will all be OK.
  • We cut to the State Science Institute, where we meet Dr. Robert Stadler, the head guy there.
  • Dr. Stadler is a genius physicist who used to teach at (where else?) Patrick Henry University.
  • He also founded the State Science Institute to promote all things scientific.
  • Dagny is paying him a visit.
  • Dr. Stadler is in his early fifties now and he's happy to see Dagny – apparently he's heard lots about her.
  • Dagny questions him about the Rearden Metal statement but Stadler is clueless about it. He says he doesn't have time to pay attention to things like that, since he's busy thinking big important thoughts all day. Apparently Dr. Ferris released the statement.
  • Dagny is appalled. Stadler has bad management skills.
  • Stadler admits that he doesn't know of anything wrong with Rearden Metal per se, but there are other things to consider besides the truth, and he won't do anything to retract the statement.
  • It's all politics, apparently: Congress votes on the Institute's budget, and they don't like Rearden Metal, so there you go.
  • Stadler then goes on a rant about how society is awful and everyone is an idiot.
  • Dagny is like, stop being a crotchety old man and help me out!
  • But it's no go. Stadler won't do anything to help. But he will tell her a story.
  • The story is about how Stadler became disillusioned many years ago. Once upon a time he had three students at Patrick Henry University who were brilliant. They double-majored in physics and philosophy, studying with him and Hugh Akston. But one of his students, his favorite, damned him for starting the Institute and broke off contact with him.
  • It turns out his brilliant students all went bad. One was Ragnar Danneskjöld, who became a pirate. One was (wait for it) Francisco d'Anconia, who we already know. And the other doesn't even get named because he disappeared. The end.
  • New scene! James Taggart is once again pitching a fit.
  • He's hiding out at the Taggart estate claiming that he's sick. He's been there since the Institute's statement came out about Rearden Metal. James apparently doesn't believe in facing your problems so much as he does in lying, running away, pretending said problems don't exist, then crying about it to his younger sister.
  • James is all doom and gloom, but Dagny of course has a super smart solution. She's going to resign as VP and start up her own railroad company, so she can use all the Rearden Metal she wants and not have to worry about James and the Board of Directors being lame and throwing a fit. Eddie will be the temporary VP of Taggart Transcontinental, but really Dagny will keep running things from behind the scenes.
  • She says once the line is up and running she'll give the line back to Taggart Transcontinental.
  • James agrees to all this once Dagny assures him that if she fails, she'll go down all by herself and won't take him with her. Way to be supportive and helpful, James.
  • The Taggarts then discuss what to call Dagny's new railroad. James nixes the Dagny Taggart Line, since he doesn't want the name Taggart associated with her potential train wreck (pun intended).
  • Dagny decides to call it the John Galt Line, proving she has a rather twisted sense of humor. She says it's her way of telling all those defeatist and depressed people to shove it.
  • Dagny leaves James with a parting request: to keep the board of directors and the Washington people away from her, or she may become homicidal.
  • Scene cut. Dagny is having a meeting with Francisco, of all people, in her office at the Taggart building, which is about to become Eddie's office.
  • Francisco seems like he'd rather be anywhere else then confirms it by asking Dagny to let him leave.
  • Dagny says no way, then proceeds to ask him for a loan to help her finish the Rio Norte Line. Since Dagny is having to build it as part of a brand new company, she no longer has Taggart funds or investors to draw upon.
  • Dagny bluntly explains her predicament and pleads with Francisco for help. He says no, of course, but he seems upset.
  • Dagny then says that she asked him even though she knew he'd refuse, because she thought he'd understand her quest to save Colorado. She hoped something from their shared past might still mean something to him. She says she can't understand him anymore.
  • Francisco gives her a hint: contradictions don't exist.
  • (Hey, Francisco, your hint wasn't helpful.)
  • Dagny pleads with him some more, talking about their past and asking if he wants her to get down on her knees and beg.
  • Francisco finally snaps, kisses her hand, and calls her "my love."
  • But then he goes back to being his obnoxious, sarcastic self.
  • Dagny is hurt but fires back by saying that she sees that he is on the side of people like Orren Boyle and Robert Stadler. (Bad people, in other words.)
  • Francisco says she might have to eat her words someday, and she says whatever.
  • Then Dagny tells him the name of her new railroad. Francisco loses it for a moment, which is kind of hilarious.
  • Dagny says John Galt stands for the impossible and unattainable, and she wants her railroad to prove all the haters wrong.
  • Francisco starts cracking up and tells her if that she names a railroad line after John Galt, he'll come claim it.
  • We doubt John Galt will be coming to claim anything, though, since, according to the legends we've heard so far (Atlantis and the Fountain of Youth), he is an eternally young mermaid. Getting around Colorado could prove difficult.
  • Scene cut! Dagny is in Hank Rearden's office. It's nighttime.
  • Dagny tells Hank the John Galt Line is ready to go. All the cool industrial dudes in Colorado (like Ellis Wyatt) have invested in the company. Other investors include a Ted Nielsen, a Lawrence Hammond, an Andrew Stockton, and a Ken Danagger, who owns a coal company in Pennsylvania. Hank offers to invest some money, too, which is pretty cool.
  • Dagny tries to talk him out of it, but Hank won't hear of it and says he doesn't see it as a gamble, since the John Galt Line will be awesome.
  • He then shows her a bunch of telegrams from the Colorado investors placing orders for Rearden Metal.
  • They talk about the Colorado guys and their plans for the John Galt Line.
  • Dagny tells Hank to contact Eddie if he needs anything, since she's going back to Colorado to oversee the construction.
  • Hank expresses concern about Dagny living by herself in a train car at a construction site. She laughs him off, saying that's the first time he's thought of her as a woman.
  • We get an internal monologue from Hank now. Turns out Hank is well aware that Dagny is a woman, and he's totally had the hots for her for years.
  • Hank feels guilty about his intense attraction to Dagny, since he is married. He also thinks Dagny is pure and doesn't want to disrespect or dishonor her by having sex with her.
  • They get back to business and Dagny think that Hank looks really severe and emotionless working away at his desk. Ah, the irony.
  • Scene break again!
  • The next day, Hank is hard at work, in crisis mode. He's just lost a huge shipment of copper and is trying to recover it quickly.
  • His secretary Gwen Ives comes in. She is super efficient and cool as a cucumber. They work for a while until Hank's mother shows up to see him.
  • There's an emergency: Philip is unhappy.
  • Hank couldn't care less.
  • Mama Rearden asks Hank to give Philip a job, since he's annoying her at home or something.
  • Hank refuses and they have a long debate about family versus business. Mama Rearden thinks blood is thicker than steel...or something. Hank says he's running a business and doesn't believe in nepotism (hiring relatives just because they are relatives). He also points out that Philip is a grownup and can find a job for himself.
  • Mama Rearden storms out and a man named Mr. Ward comes in asking for some steel.
  • Mr. Ward owns a small company that makes farm equipment, which has fallen on hard times. Orren Boyle screwed him over with a steel shipment, and Mr. Ward has come to beg Hank to help him out.
  • Hank is about to let Mr. Ward down gently, since he really can't spare any steel right now, but just then Miss Ives bursts in.
  • The Equalization of Opportunity Bill has passed. Doom! So now Hank can't have more than one business, which really stinks.
  • Mr. Ward freaks, but Hank tells him to chill out and that he will get Mr. Ward some steel.
  • Hank pulls himself together and offers up some words of support to his distraught secretary.
  • That night, Hank has a bit of a crisis in his office. He's not sure how he'll manage now, how they'll be able to finish the John Galt Line if he's handicapped like this.
  • But then Hank has a bright idea. He realizes that he has an even better bridge design for Dagny.
  • He calls her up excitedly and tells her not to worry about the Equalization of Opportunity Bill – Team Hank and Dagny will save the day.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement