Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged Summary and Analysis of Part III, Chapters IV, V, and VI


The next three chapters, IV, V, and VI, entitled “Anti-Life,” “Their Brothers’ Keepers,” and “The Concerto of Deliverance” tell of the nearly complete destruction of the industrial complex of the United States. There are many causes for this decline, but one of the most important is the lack of copper in the US at this time. In earlier chapters Jim Taggart and his friends, in a bid to boost their profits from d’Anconia Copper stock, had nearly completely destroyed the copper industry in the United States. But through the efforts of Francisco d’Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold, the importation of copper from South America has almost completely halted. The U.S. government does not seem to understand the importance of certain things made from copper, such as wire, in industry, communications, and transportation; they will soon discover it.

Chapter IV shows the reader the travesty of Jim Taggart coming home to his wife of less than one year, Cherryl and attempting to assert his superiority over her. He is in an expansive mood because d’Anconia Copper will soon be nationalized by some South American governments. This will make Jim a great deal of money from his stock, and he asks his wife “Want a yacht?” (870), savoring the idea that he will profit from his childhood rival’s downfall. Jim does not seem to remember what happened when the People’s State of Mexico nationalized d’Anconia Copper’s San Sebastian mine. The government had found it was a useless mine and all the infrastructure surrounding it was cheap and would deteriorate in a few years. Jim, and the governments involved in the nationalization, seem to believe that there will still be something worth having when all of Francisco’s property is taken from him. They are wrong.

Cherryl, who has worked hard to better herself since her marriage to Jim, is cool and distant with him because she fears that he is a fraud and a looter. She has always had her intelligence denigrated by Jim, but she has worked hard to “Learn, and not be afraid” of his world. From Eddie Willers and other Taggart executives, however, she has learned that Jim is a fraud and a moocher of the worst variety, the variety that proclaims its self-sacrifice and interest in the public welfare. She confronts him with this knowledge and he tells her that she understands nothing about business. She leaves for awhile and goes to talk to Dagny, who reassures her that she is correct about Jim and the evils of his world. While Cherryl is gone, Lillian Rearden visits Jim to ask him for help. He is pleased to see her looking so desperate and, in a fit of depravity and the desire to get back at Hank Rearden the two of them have sex.

Cherryl confronts Jim with the fact that she knows that he has had a woman there with him. When she asks Jim why he married her she finally finds out it was because he wanted to destroy her. He had seen her struggling to get out of the gutter, and he wanted to raise her up and keep her dependent upon him and not allow her to get to her full potential. He underestimated her intelligence however, and she has found out his plans. He strikes her when she cries at him “You… you’re a killer … for the sake of killing…”(904). Cherryl runs blindly out into the street, and in despair kills herself by running headlong into the river.

The copper crisis is coming to a head at Taggart Transcontinental in Chapter V, “Their Brothers’ Keeper,” with the shortage of wire causing havoc with electrical equipment and telecommunications. The problem is starting to cause a panic when on September 2nd d’Anconia Copper is nationalized. As with the Mexican nationalization of d’Anconia San Sebastian mine, there is nothing valuable left in the company. At the stroke of midnight, the great lighted calendar which is projected on a large screen in New York does not change to the date but rather to the message, “Brother you asked for it! Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d’Anconia” (925). Francisco has disappeared, and has told the world that he has destroyed d’Anconia Copper on purpose. Panic in the financial markets ensues.

Kip Chalmers’ mother’s scheme to feed the country with soybeans is diverting much needed freight cars from the Minnesota harvest haul. There are food shortages almost everywhere in the county, and the Minnesota crop was a bumper one, so when there are not enough cars to haul all the wheat away anarchy takes over, with people destroying things and farmers trying to carry their wheat south in oxcarts or on their backs in desperation. The soybean harvest in Louisiana is worthless because it was harvested too early, and the food crisis in America worsens.

A previously unthinkable problem happens one night in the Taggart Terminal, on the night that Dagny was made to go to a pointless dinner with the government bureaucrats. She is called away in her evening dress, as she was on the night all those years ago when John Galt first saw her. The problem is that the interlocking traffic system has failed due to worn out copper wire, and this means that none of the trains waiting outside the terminal can come in. In a desperate move Dagny finds a solution of manual signaling involving a large number of track laborers with lanterns, as this sort of thing was done in Nat Taggart’s day. As she speaks to the track laborers she sees John Galt’s face in the crowd of men. He has been working as a track laborer for her company all this time, in the months of the year when he is not in Galt’s Gulch. When she finishes speaking, she walks away into the dark abandoned tunnels, and John follows her and they make love. Dagny says she is not yet ready to leave Taggart Transcontinental, but John tells her to write the sign of the dollar on Nat Taggart’s statue when she is ready and he will come for her.

“The Concerto of Deliverance” tells the story of how the threat of violence is escalating all over the country, particularly in Hank’s steel mills. The government temporarily attaches all of Hank’s property, making him penniless, and then removes the attachment when they want him to comply with their wishes. Hank’s family panics, and begs him to remain and not desert them like so many other prominent executives have.

The government wants to put Hank’s company under a Unification plan similar to what has happened at Taggart Transcontinental, in which the profits of one company are funneled to another. Hank goes to his mills, where the thugs who have infiltrated his ranks have caused a riot and killed the young man nicknamed The Wet Nurse. Francisco d’Anconia has been working at Rearden Steel as a furnace foreman, something he had told Francisco he had always wanted to do back in Part I. Francisco saves Rearden’s life from the rioters.


In this trio of chapters the fabric of society is irretrievably breaking down. A year ago it would have been inconceivable for there to be a riot at Rearden Steel, or for Hank’s mother and brother to apologize for their conduct toward him. Hank and Dagny still think there may be a way to win against the looters, since it is now obvious to everyone that their system isn’t working. All the things that the government said that they would improve are many times worse than before the looter government took over. The people are finally beginning to admit it, too.

The Wet Nurse, before his destruction at the hands of the angry mob, had had a change of heart and wanted to work for his money rather than for the government. Hank had talked to him about it, but was unable to give him an honest job because of Directive 10-289. If the Wet Nurse had been just an ordinary worker at the time of the riot, he might have survived. The policies of the government engender violence and bring out the worst in people.

The meeting between Dagny and John for the first time after Dagny has left Galt’s Gulch is particulary poignant because both of them know that they cannot be together. That they meet first in the gritty underground tunnels of Dagny’s company terminal, a place where John has worked as a low manual laborer for so very long, is poetic in that the whole of their values are summed up in what Taggart Transcontinental used to be. The product of a mind bent on production in a free society, the railway was once a force for good in the country. Now it is simply a deteriorating tool of the looter government. Dagny is not yet ready to leave it, however, believing somehow that she can hang onto the dying company and win it back from the looters.

But Dagny and John, even though they are on opposite sides of the issue, understand each other perfectly. John, the physicist, knows how to repair the interlocking traffic system which is so critical to the Taggart Terminal. When he asks Dagny if he wants her to repair it for her and compromise the principles of the strike, she refuses, knowing that it would save her money and time but at too great a cost. She wants to come to John on her own terms, and he on his – without any concession on either side. This is the ideal form of a relationship under John Galt’s creed of “not living one’s life for anyone else’s”.

It’s quite a surprise to find the heir to the d’Anconia fortune working hard labor at the Rearden mills, but this was heavily foreshadowed earlier in the book, when Francisco worked side-by-side with Hank to seal a dangerous furnace breach. Francisco, who was supposed to go back to Galt’s Gulch after the destruction of d’Anconia Copper, has stayed behind in the outside world for some mysterious reason.