Study Guide

Atlas Shrugged Volume 2, Chapter 5

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Volume 2, Chapter 5

Account Overdrawn

  • Since Hank didn't get his copper he couldn't get Taggart Transcontinental the Rearden Metal it needed. Oops.
  • We get a long rundown of how bad things are in the country: there are shortages everywhere, businesses are failing all over the place, people are poor and desperate, and the government is acting like things are fine while getting increasingly repressive.
  • We get some examples of the type of damaging rhetoric the looters use, too: professors tell people not to think, religious leaders rant about how people are sinful and totally had all this coming. Industrial accidents are more frequent. Bridges and buildings are condemned, and the only bridge left going over the Mississippi is the Taggart Bridge. New York makes everyone move to the lower levels of skyscrapers to save money on power. Ragnar is increasing his pirate raids.
  • It's February 15. Hank is meeting with some guys who are illegally operating a coal mine and doing black market dealings.
  • Dagny is meeting with the Taggart Transcontinental Board of Directors.
  • A Mr. Weatherby is there, from Washington.
  • The board is discussing who's in power in Washington and which factions they need to appeal to in order to get deals for the railroad.
  • The meeting is about closing the John Galt Line. They can no longer afford to operate it.
  • Dagny calls them all out and says she won't cooperate with them and she won't make the decision for them. She's going to abstain from voting so they'll have to make a decision themselves for once. It's fitting, since she warned them this would happen, and it's their own fault the railroad is in dire straights and the John Galt Line has to close.
  • The Board talks in circles for ages and finally someone gives the order to close the John Galt Line.
  • Dagny is devastated. She thinks of Nat Taggart and understands how he must have felt when he was struggling to finish his bridge across the Mississippi and didn't think he'd be able to do it.
  • On her way out of the building, she runs into Francisco.
  • He takes her to dinner.
  • She's not sure why he's being so nice to her now.
  • They talk about Dagny's feelings, and she brings up Nat Taggart. She thinks Nat wouldn't have survived the looters.
  • Francisco tries to get Dagny to see that she shouldn't cooperate with the looters and do things like build them nice railroads, but Dagny isn't having it.
  • They start talking about their ancestors, and Francisco tells us the story of Sebastián d'Anconia, who came to Argentina from Spain. Sebastián waited fifteen years to be with the woman he loved, and when they were finally united, Sebastián knew his battle was over.
  • Dagny finds this story suspicious and wonders if Francisco is hinting about her, but then she brushes the thought aside.
  • She then randomly brings up Hank. Well, it seems random to Francisco at least.
  • She asks what he did to Hank, since Hank won't tell her.
  • He brushes her off and says he'll take her home.
  • But then he offers to tell her who John Galt is! OK, let's have it.
  • John Galt is (drumroll) Prometheus who changed his mind! What?
  • Historical Lesson! You can read more about this in John Galt's "Character Analysis," but basically Prometheus, in Greek myth, stole fire from the gods to give to mankind. His punishment was to be chained to a rock so that vultures could eat him all day – for eternity. (Those gods were mean.) Francisco is using the myth as an analogy, but he says that mankind is punishing Prometheus, so Prometheus took back his fire and other "gifts of civilization."
  • So now John Galt is an eternally youthful, sea-dwelling Greek god who moonlights as a "second assistant bookkeeper" (to Dr. Stadler). Good grief.
  • Scene cut. Six weeks later, Hank and Dagny are in Colorado. The John Galt Line is closing today and they want to take the last train out of Colorado.
  • Colorado is a shadow of its former self, and panicky people are trying to get on the last train out so they won't be trapped there. It's all very depressing.
  • Scene cut. Lillian and James are having lunch, talking in circles trying to one-up each other.
  • They complain about Hank and Dagny, and Lillian hints that she'd appreciate James's help sticking it to Hank.
  • Later Lillian calls to have some flowers sent to Hank as a slap in the face rather than a sweet gesture.
  • But she learns that he's not on the train back to New York and cancels the order.
  • She calls Miss Ives to confirm it, and Miss Ives says that's a mistake, Hank is on the Taggart Comet coming back.
  • Lillian realizes he's riding under an assumed name.
  • Scene cut. Lillian goes to meet Hank's train at the Taggart terminal.
  • She wants to see him with his mistress, but only sees him walking alone. She's disappointed.
  • But then she sees Dagny exit the car he was in and finally realizes who his mistress is. She is dismayed because she thought she could torment him for sleeping with a floozy. She doesn't know how to handle the Dagny thing.
  • Lillian tries to act casual when she encounters them both.
  • She and Hank to go his hotel and talk. Hank admits that Dagny is his mistress and says he won't stop seeing her. He tells Lillian she can have a divorce – he doesn't care.
  • Out of spite, Lillian refuses to grant him a divorce, then rants about Dagny. He tells her to shut up.
  • Lillian threatens him again and then leaves. For once, Hank feels guiltless and free.

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