Study Guide

Atlas Shrugged Volume 1, Chapter 5

By Ayn Rand

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Volume 1, Chapter 5

The Climax of the d'Anconias

  • Eddie brings Dagny a newspaper with a interesting story: turns out Francisco D'Anconia's San Sebastián Mines were totally worthless. How was he not aware of that?
  • Well, Dagny thinks he was and this was his idea of an elaborate, expensive, and mean practical joke.
  • She goes to confront him at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, which is where he's staying while in New York.
  • Mega Flashback Time! Seriously, it's a long one. If you were wondering how Dagny knew Francisco, be prepared for answers galore.
  • Turns out Eddie and Dagny had another childhood BFF: Francisco, whom they called Frisco.
  • The Taggarts and the D'Anconias were old friends, and their kids spent a month together every summer on the Taggart estate.
  • Francisco doesn't care for James at all and considers the Taggart kids to be Dagny and Eddie.
  • Francisco has the equivalent of a Nat Taggart in his family, one Sebastián D'Anconia. Sebastián came over from Spain in ye olden days and worked hard for fifteen years to get a copper mine up and running in Argentina. He then sent for his girlfriend, who had waited for him all that time. (Now that's hard-core devotion.)
  • Frisco is two years older than Dagny. He called her "slug" as a kid, which is a word for a fire in an old locomotive firebox. (Old trains were powered by wood-burning engines, just FYI.)
  • Every summer the three musketeers had great adventures.
  • One summer, when he was twelve, Frisco got a job working for Taggart Transcontinental, just for fun. Mrs. Taggart thinks all the kids are weird.
  • The young Francisco is good at everything, from driving motorboats to doing math.
  • As the oldest, Frisco often teaches Dagny and Eddie how to do things, like dive off cliffs or hitch rides on trains without getting caught.
  • He and Eddie and Dagny spend their time building things, taking things apart to see how they work, and bumming rides on Taggart trains for fun.
  • Frisco and Dagny also spend time planning their futures, and how they'll run awesome businesses some day.
  • Frisco is such a super genius that he goes off to college at age sixteen. He attends the fictional Patrick Henry University in Cleveland.
  • There's a growing tension between Frisco and Dagny once they hit their teen years.
  • James still acts like a wet blanket and is always lecturing Francisco about being arrogant and selfish. We learn that James is attending a fancy-pants school in New York.
  • When Frisco returns from his first year at college we learn that he's made two good friends. (Lots more on them to come.)
  • He and Dagny discuss their shared values and decide that working hard and doing your work well is the most important thing in life.
  • Dagny then says that maybe she'll deliberately get bad grades, though, so that she can try out being popular in school for a change.
  • Frisco slaps her.
  • Dagny is actually happy about this, since she realizes she struck a nerve and that Frisco cares about her a lot and doesn't want her to sell herself short. Twisted, Dagny.
  • Francisco is happy Dagny isn't pressing charges for assault. Just kidding – he actually just thinks Dagny is hard-core and awesome.
  • Dagny is fifteen that summer. We learn that the following summer she starts working as the Night Operator at the Rockdale Taggart station.
  • Mrs. Taggart is getting concerned about how weird her daughter is. By age seventeen Dagny has never had a boyfriend and all she seems to care about is engineering and work.
  • So Mrs. Taggart throws a debutante ball for Dagny, which is a way of introducing her to high society.
  • We learn that Dagny was named after Nathaniel Taggart's wife. (Interesting tidbit.)
  • Dagny actually has fun getting primped for the ball, and Mrs. Taggart is pleasantly surprised.
  • But after the party Dagny is depressed by all the phony people and says she didn't have fun at all.
  • That summer Francisco returns, and the tension goes up a notch between them.
  • They have a tennis game that is particularly violent and lasts for hours. It's essentially like extended foreplay.
  • Dagny wins the match, by the way.
  • That night Francisco comes to visit Dagny at Rockdale and walks her home after work.
  • On the way home, they stop in the woods, and Francisco grabs Dagny and kisses her.
  • They have sex in the woods, and it's the start of a years-long affair.
  • They continue their romance all summer but keep it a secret, since they know their families will disapprove. They're both very happy together.
  • Dagny starts college in New York in the fall, and Francisco comes to visit her often. They don't know many details of each other's day-to-day lives though. (Dagny later learns that Francisco had been playing the stock market and bought a copper foundry outside Cleveland while he was still in college.)
  • The affair continues after Francisco graduates from college, but they still keep it a secret, since they don't want other people disapproving or interfering.
  • After his father's death, Francisco takes over D'Anconia Copper at age 23.
  • He starts getting agitated and depressed, though, and tells Dagny there is something seriously wrong with the entire world.
  • Dagny doesn't see Francisco for three years, but she isn't too bothered by this, since she knows they are working hard for a shared future and she trusts Francisco not to cheat on her.
  • Three years later Francisco pops up abruptly and is unusually sentimental toward Dagny.
  • He's acting weird, though. First he tells Dagny not to be surprised at what he might do in the future.
  • Then he has a mini-freakout and begs her to help him "remain." Dagny doesn't understand what he means.
  • Francisco tells Dagny that he can't say any more and asks her to let him do his own thing and not to wait for him.
  • Dagny is very confused.
  • Soon after this, she starts hearing about Francisco in the gossip papers. He's become a playboy and is having affairs and throwing wild parties and acting like a jerk.
  • Dagny is heartbroken. She goes to confront him and he brushes her off.
  • It takes Dagny years to get over Francisco. This all happened ten years ago, and she hasn't had a boyfriend since.
  • Back to the present. Dagny is going to see Francisco, world's worst ex-boyfriend.
  • When she gets to Francisco's hotel room, Dagny finds him playing marbles. (How appropriate, since he seems to have lost his. Ba-dum – we'll be here all week, folks!)
  • Dagny greets Francisco warmly, then curses herself for doing so. (Francisco is apparently just too attractive to resist.)
  • Dagny tries to find out what's up with the San Sebastián Mine thing, but Francisco won't give her a straight answer.
  • Finally, she learns that he thinks it's all just a game and that the whole disaster is hilarious. He particularly likes watching James run around like a chicken with its head cut off.
  • Dagny is upset and thinks back to their love affair. She can't understand how Francisco turned into this irresponsible loser.
  • She then asks him if Richard Halley wrote a fifth concerto, recalling how they both loved his music back in the day.
  • Francisco has a mini-freakout. Perhaps he's part of the Richard Halley fan club, too, and thinks his membership will be revoked for not knowing this.
  • He calms down when he sees that Dagny is just speculating. Then she asks him about the Mrs. Gilbert Vail scandal (see Chapter 4).
  • Francisco says he never had an affair with her.
  • Dagny can't figure out what's going on. Why let that lady say all that garbage in the gossip papers and not refute it?
  • Francisco tries to steer the conversation back to Richard Halley, but Dagny isn't having it. She wants to know what's up with Francisco's wacky behavior.
  • Francisco confesses that he acted like an irresponsible playboy instead of the super-industrialist that Mexico expected. So it was all a practical joke.
  • Dagny is horrified that Francisco is deliberately acting this way and setting out to ruin people.
  • She demands to know why, and Francisco arrogantly tells her that she's not ready to hear his reasons yet. The punk.
  • Francisco leads Dagny out and cryptically tells her that she has lots of courage and will have enough of it someday. Dagny is confused. So are we.

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