Study Guide

Atlas Shrugged Volume 3, Chapter 4

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Volume 3, Chapter 4


  • James is walking home from a meeting with some crooked businessmen from South America, headed up by a SeƱor Rodrigo Gonzales.
  • These people are really violent and James is depressed. There seem to be more and more criminals in power now.
  • He's hammered out a deal to take kickbacks from the Argentine government after they nationalize d'Anconia Copper.
  • Orren Boyle is turning into an alcoholic.
  • James has a panic attack on the way home and feels like the world is falling apart.
  • When he gets home he sees Cherryl.
  • He brags that he closed a big deal but Cherryl seems to not care.
  • He tries to get an emotional response out of her, but she gives him nothing.
  • James is off and running now, though, bragging about how great he is, defending himself, talking about how awful his fellow businessmen are, etc.
  • He asks if she wants him to buy her something nice. She says no and he gets angry.
  • He reveals that d'Anconia Copper will be nationalized on September 2. Cherryl observes that this is their wedding anniversary.
  • Cherryl then comments that she thought Dagny's radio broadcast was wonderful. James yells at her for that and says the fallout from it was awful, but at least Bertram Scudder got it and not him.
  • Cherryl asks why they punished Bertram and not Dagny, and James has no answer.
  • James fills her in on the Washington factions and the backstabbing. Then he blows up at Cherryl, asking how she can be so naive and comparing her to Eddie Willers.
  • We get a lengthy flashback of Cherryl's married life:
  • Cherryl's mantra is "don't get scared, but learn." She struggles to understand James and his wealthy world and desperately wants to make herself worthy of him.
  • After a while, Cherryl grows more confident in James's world and manages to make it through a party without a major faux pas. James is furious and says she embarrassed him, which greatly confuses her.
  • She grows increasingly disillusioned and begins to doubt James.
  • One night James gets angry at her questions and tells her that love is faith and he wants her to love him. She doesn't understand what he's asking from her and she grows more concerned.
  • So she starts asking around at Taggart Transcontinental and finally talks to Eddie, who tells her that Dagny is the brains of the outfit and the one worth admiring.
  • Cherryl confronts James about this, and James gets verbally abusive and calls her ungrateful.
  • She admits she doesn't understand him and doesn't get why he married her or what he wants from her. Everything she does just upsets him.
  • Cherryl continues to observe her world and becomes more and more aware of how bad the values that govern it are.
  • Back to the present: Cherryl point-blank asks James what he wants from her, and he says love.
  • James defines love as being loved for himself but not for anything he does, says, thinks, etc.
  • Cherryl wonders what his self even is.
  • She then asks if he wants love to be causeless. She suddenly realizes that James wants to be great without actually doing anything, and that he preys on people's spirits.
  • She's horrified. He tells her to shut up and orders her to have a drink with him.
  • When she says no, he throws his glass down and tells her to go to hell, then storms off.
  • Cherryl is in shock. She gets her coat and leaves.
  • Scene cut. Dagny worked super late in her office that night. She's now at her apartment She's exhausted and torn between her convictions and her longing to just go back to Atlantis and hide.
  • Cherryl then comes in. She tells Dagny that she's learned a lot in the past few months and wants to apologize to Dagny for what she said at the wedding.
  • Dagny is kind to her and tells her to stop calling her Miss Taggart. She insists they are sisters through their own choosing, not through James.
  • Dagny tells Cherryl she wants to help her, and Cherryl confesses all the things she's realized.
  • Dagny fills Cherryl in on her own philosophy about how people are heroic individuals. She tells her not to give in to the bad people or let them break her spirit.
  • Cherryl says she thinks she's too weak to fight anymore and feels the world is just dissolving. She says she wants to regain the sense of life she had in childhood but doesn't know how.
  • Dagny begs Cherryl to stay with her overnight but Cherryl insists she'll be fine at home and just needs to think for a while.
  • Dagny makes Cherryl promise to come talk to her again soon and Cherryl leaves.
  • Scene break. James is sulking at home when Lillian Rearden shows up.
  • She's looking pretty rough since Hank walked out on her.
  • Lillian asks James to help her stop her divorce from going through. She's desperate for some sort of victory over Hank.
  • James is snobby to her and says he can't help her since she's not important enough for the Washington crowd to care about. He says he'd like to help but the stakes are high now, and he can't get anyone to do a favor without a good reason.
  • James and Lillian get drunk together and James brags about his d'Anconia Copper scheme. Lillian is duly appreciative.
  • Then they sleep together and it's very awkward and mean-spirited.
  • Scene cut. Cherryl arrives home and hears James speaking with a woman in his bedroom. She realizes what this means and runs to hide in her room.
  • After Lillian leaves, Cherryl comes out to confront James.
  • James goes on the rant to end all rants. He says he slept with "Mrs. Hank Rearden," and that everyone has affairs and she's stupid to expect otherwise. He then says he won't let her get a divorce and confesses that he married her because she was poor and pathetic and he thought she'd love and worship him accordingly.
  • Cherryl is crying but manages to question him about this, and he screams at her more.
  • She finally accuses him of being nothing better than a killer who goes after people's souls. He slaps her, knocking her down.
  • Cherryl gets up and runs out blindly into the street.
  • She is desperate to escape and doesn't know how she can go on fighting anymore because the whole world is like James.
  • She feels that Dagny is fighting all alone and won't be able to hold out forever. They're all doomed.
  • Cherryl stumbles around in a daze and eventually sees a women's shelter. She won't go in, though, because she knows they'll ask what she did: drugs, pregnancy, stealing, prostitution, etc. They'll instantly assume Cherryl is a bad person, which freaks Cherryl out even more.
  • Cherryl takes off running and wonders desperately where all the decent people have gone; she feels there are practically none left in the whole world.
  • A social worker grabs her arm and lectures her about what a disgrace it is to be wandering around drunk.
  • Cherryl screams in horror, takes off running, and throws herself into the river.

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