Study Guide

Atlas Shrugged Volume 1, Chapter 6

By Ayn Rand

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Volume 1, Chapter 6

The Non-Commercial

  • Hank Rearden is miserable. It's the night of his anniversary party, December 10, and Hank doesn't like parties.
  • He would have forgotten about it entirely if his secretary hadn't reminded him to leave work and go get ready.
  • We learn that Hank and Lillian have been married for eight years but lead largely separate lives. Lillian has her friends and society things to do, and Hank has his work.
  • Hank is stressed out and is currently hiding upstairs in his bedroom.
  • He thinks about all the work he has to do, and how the economy is getting worse and business is getting harder to do. Supplies and materials are harder to come by. He also thinks about how his family couldn't care less about his passion for business, and how rude they are to him.
  • While getting dressed and moping, Hank finds a newspaper clipping in his pocket.
  • It's an editorial about an Equalization of Opportunity Bill, which will pass soon. It forbids anyone from owning more than one business concern. This would be bad news for Hank, who owns lots of factories and does business in many areas.
  • See, Hank is like a one-man corporate conglomerate. It's like how on 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy works for GE, a company that owns NBC (and Liz Lemon's show) as well as things like a microwave oven division. So this bill would force GE to choose between running NBC and having a microwave oven division. Which would be tragic.
  • Hank refuses to believe that something so stupid will pass Congress. Oh, poor, naive Hank.
  • Hank finally skulks downstairs and finds Lillian waiting. She's wearing her bracelet of Rearden Metal, which Hank feels like ripping off her.
  • Hank starts circulating and overhears lots of conversations for our benefit. Thanks Hank.
  • First up is Dr. Pritchett, head of the philosophy department at Patrick Henry University. Dr. Pritchett is telling people that nothing exists, there is no certainty, and that people are so stupid that a strong government must force them to be free. Yipes. Pritchett is clearly a radical.
  • Next we meet an author named Balph Eubank. (We feel like that should be Ralph, but it's not.) Balph Eubank has written a new novel about how suffering and defeat are the essence of life.
  • He then talks about applying the Equalization of Opportunity bill to literature by forcing people to read things other than popular bestsellers, whether they like it or not.
  • We're guessing no one reads his books.
  • Balph's new novel is called The Heart Is a Milkman. That gives The Vulture Is Molting (see Chapter 4) a run for its money! It's about frustration and suffering and is dedicated to Lillian Rearden.
  • Lillian seems flattered by this.
  • Elsewhere, a guy named Bertram Scudder is chilling at the bar. He edits a magazine and recently wrote a very mean editorial bashing Hank Rearden. Lillian is totally mean for inviting him.
  • Bertram is talking with Betty Pope and Philip Rearden about the Equalization of Opportunity Bill. They all think it's super and that private property is evil.
  • Another man named Claude Slagenhop wedges himself into the conversation. These people have the best names ever.
  • Claude is president of the Friends of Global Progress, the ineffectual charity that Philip works for.
  • By this point Hank is hiding in a corner, staring out the window. (Probably a good strategy, since he must want to murder just about every guest at his party.)
  • But then Dagny Taggart arrives. The plot thickens.
  • Dagny is wearing a black dress with a cape and looks super dramatic. She's either going for a superhero or Phantom of the Opera look.
  • James is with Dagny and goes to chat with Lillian. The two get along well, which probably doesn't bode well for the world.
  • Dagny goes to chat with Hank and commiserates with his dislike of parties. Dagny wishes nice, cool people threw parties that were fun and interesting.
  • Hank is unusually standoffish toward Dagny, which confuses her a bit.
  • A random businessman who is pals with Hank and Dagny comes up and is surprised to see Dagny out of her office. They start chatting and Hank disappears.
  • Dagny is a little disappointed that Hank didn't seem to notice her hot outfit.
  • Balph Eubank is talking to James now, and they both complain about Hank and Dagny and how full of it the two of them are.
  • Meanwhile, Hank clearly didn't strategize very well, because right after he slinks away from Dagny and the businessman, he's accosted by a reporter who tells Hank he should give a press conference. Apparently, Hank could do with a popularity boost and a public image makeover.
  • Hank is rude to the guy, showing that an image makeover might be an uphill battle.
  • Hank then confronts Lillian about why she invited Bertram Scudder after he published that super mean editorial about Hank. Lillian laughs him off.
  • Just then Francisco d'Anconia arrives! Man, everyone is at this party.
  • Lillian didn't actually invite Francisco, but she can't ask him to leave without causing a scene.
  • Francisco starts making the rounds, mocking everyone and saying witty stuff that goes over people's heads.
  • We learn that Francisco studied with the famous philosopher Hugh Akston at college.
  • Guests are shocked to learn that Dr. Akston is still alive. Everyone thought he was an intellectual of another age entirely.
  • James corners Francisco and demands to know what's up with the San Sebastián Mines.
  • Francisco laughs him off and tells him that he's just practicing what the world is preaching, since he did things like not work for profit (which is selfish after all), and hiring a mining specialist who needed a job instead of one who was qualified.
  • James has a hissy fit and storms off.
  • Meanwhile, Lillian and Philip make fun of how puritanical Hank is – right in front of Hank. These two are awful. They act like really catty junior high mean girls.
  • Francisco then comes up to talk to Hank.
  • He says he wants to get to know Hank better and starts talking about what a great businessman Hank is. Hank is intrigued, since Francisco is expressing a lot of the thoughts and values about work that Hank has.
  • Francisco challenges Hank: he asks him why he is so unhappy and why he doesn't tell these awful party guests to stuff it.
  • Hank is confused, since he thought Francisco was just a worthless playboy.
  • Francisco accepts this judgment and tells Hank he's found out what he needed to. Then he leaves.
  • Oh that Francisco, always a mystery.
  • Dagny makes her way back to Hank and asks why he invited a bunch of jerks to his party. She realizes that probably sounds insulting and tries to backpedal, saying she is mainly upset that Bertram Scudder is here and that she's like to deck him on Hank's behalf.
  • Hank says uh-huh. The he claims he invited Bertram himself because...that's how he rolls or something.
  • Dagny apologizes and tells Hank about her debut party back in the day and what a disappointment it was. Dagny feels like parties should be brilliant and fun, and she was really expecting her adult life to be different.
  • Preaching to the choir, Dagny.
  • Hank just sort of nods and Dagny gives up and leaves. But he watches her go. Detail!
  • Dagny passes by a group of women talking about how worried they are about the state of the world.
  • We learn that Europe has become communist; the people there are starving and it's a big wasteland.
  • We also learn about a mercenary pirate named Ragnar Danneskjöld, who is terrorizing the high seas by destroying relief supplies bound for Europe.
  • The women end their conversation by shrugging and asking everyone's favorite question: Who is John Galt? No, really, we'd seriously like to know at this point.
  • Wait, here's someone to tell us. Some random lady comes up to Dagny and claims to know who John Galt is.
  • The lady says that John Galt found the lost city of Atlantis. He sank his ship after finding out that he couldn't raise Atlantis from the bottom of the sea. He went down to live there instead.
  • Fun fact! According to the Greek philosopher Plato, the first King of Atlantis was named Atlas. Cool connection there. This Atlas isn't the same as the Titan holding up the heavens, though (see "What's Up With the Title?"). This one is the mortal son of the sea god Poseidon. Anyway, back to the story.
  • Dagny is like, whatever lady, and the lady gets all offended that Dagny doesn't believe her story.
  • Francisco comes up and says that the story really is true. That makes Dagny mad. She gets even madder when Francisco starts flirting with her and tells her how hot she looks.
  • Dagny storms off and overhears some guy named Mort Liddy carrying on about a song on the radio. Mort Liddy is a composer.
  • It's Richard Halley's Fourth Concerto...kind of. It starts out that way, but then it turns into a remix.
  • Dagny is horrified that someone would bastardize Halley's music this way.
  • On her way out she hears Lillian mocking the Rearden Metal bracelet Hank gave her. Dagny snaps and walks over, offering her own diamond bracelet in exchange.
  • Lillian can't believe Dagny is serious. Little does she know that Dagny is never not serious.
  • Lillian trades with Dagny, though, and Hank comes up to stand by his wife's side, not looking at Dagny.
  • Dagny apologizes to Hank on her way out and he dismisses her coldly.
  • Much later Hank is on his way to bed. He stops by his wife's bedroom (they have separate rooms, apparently), and they have a stilted conversation about the party.
  • Hank tries to figure out why Lillian married him in the first place.
  • He was initially attracted by the fact that Lillian seemed so poised and hard-to-get. Hank likes a challenge.
  • He quickly learned that Lillian is really just mean most of the time; she's not so much poised as rude and cold.
  • Lillian seems to barely tolerate Hank and makes him feel guilty all the time.
  • He asks Lillian to not invite his business friends to any more parties and then walks out of her room.

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