Vice President in Charge of Operations of Taggart Transcontinental Railway. The novel's heroine is an unsentimental, ambitious, and unconventional woman. Dagny was raised on the opulent Taggart estate, and though she is remarkably well-educated for a woman of her time (she has an engineering degree) it was always clear that her elder brother, James, would be the one who would take over Taggart Transcontinental's top position, regardless of the siblings' relatives talents. Dagny is far more capable at running the railway than James Taggart is, and, except in the matters of (largely disastrous) government policy, Dagny is the final arbiter of all the railway's affairs.
A single woman, who, after her long, oft-interrupted affair with Francisco d'Anconia ends remains alone for many years, she nevertheless is powerfully attracted to the steel magnate Hank Rearden. Personally she is remarkably unsentimental and almost anti-romantic, in that she has never subscribed to any idealized notions of love. She has none of the conventional sexual morality of most women of her time, and conducts her personal relationships much as a man of that era would.
To offset her remarkably rational turn of mind, Dagny has an almost irrational devotion to Taggart Transcontinental. She gives almost all of her time and energy to the railway, and has never, under any circumstances, conceived of something that would mean more to her than this family business. It is only when she has had to give up the railway in despair, when entirely hobbled by restrictive government policies, that she is able to begin to know and understand the reasons behind what John Galt, Francisco, and their friends are doing.
The incompetent, falsley sentimental President of Taggart Transcontinental Railway. On the surface he appears to be no more than a well-educated, smooth, genial, if slightly dim and cowardly figurehead; he is in reality an emotional cripple. He envies Dagny's (and Francisco's and Hank's) capabilities in business, so he takes every opportunity to denigrate the practical side of things. He manages to ingratiate himself with the government to such an extent that Taggart Transcontinental survives, in a much reduced state, during the horrible economic decline that the collectivist government causes, but he does so at immense emotional cost to himself. He sees nothing as absolute, believes in nothing other than his own gain, but he spouts endless platitudes about brotherhood and caring for his neighbors. He is possessed of a kind of cunning, however, and is able to trick certain people into doing what he wants. There is no feeling of love or caring between Jim and his sister Dagny.
Dagny Taggart's Special Assistant. He is a competent, if not brilliant man, who knows how to ally himself to power. Eddie is virtuous in the most simple way, in that he cannot conceive of doing anything in an underhanded or dishonest way.
A fabulously wealthy Argentinean playboy. He was a friend of Dagny Taggart in their youth, but they became estranged when Dagny began to believe that he had ceased to care about business and morality. He is one of the three men who studied under Hugh Akston at Patrick Henry University.
Francisco has spent years putting up a false version of himself for public consumption. He appears to be the very worst kind of playboy; one who fritters away talent and money on a ever-increasing scale of debauchery and degradation. He does this to make the decline (in fact, the sabotage) of d'Anconia Copper believable. Until he decided to work on "stopping the motor of the world" with John Galt, he has been a brilliant businessman. The only way he could get the world to believe that he would let d'Anconia Copper go to rack and ruin is that he became a slave to his pleasures. This ruse, while considered necessary by him and John Galt, costs him dearly in the end.
An excellent worker in the Taggart Transcontinental Terminal. He refuses Dagny's offer of a job.
Chief clerk at Taggart Transcontinental. An aged, cynical man.
Owner of Rearden Steel, inventor of Reardon Metal. A brilliant inventor, and a successful and very wealthy businessman. Hank built himself up from nothing; he began as a iron miner in Minnesota. He has little formal education, but has given himself enough of the polish that a businessman of his prominence requires. He is straightforwardly honest, unflaggingly hard working, and, until he mets Dagny, abstemious in all his habits. He is married to a woman whom he no longer loves, but remains loyal to her for years in a way that he thinks is necessary for his own self-respect. He is conflicted emotionally, but slowly, through his relationships with Dagny and Francisco, begins to see the contradictions underlying some of his beliefs. Hank is near to what Rand saw as an ideal man; he is certainly an ideal man of business. He is creative, tough-minded, fair, and knows how to make money. He comes to understand the philosophy behind Francisco's and John Galt's actions, but he is not of a philosophical turn of mind himself.
Dagny's favorite composer. On the night of his triumph, when his work was finally acknowledged by the musical establishment, he retired and stopped composing.
Jim and Dagny's father. He was an excellent businessman, but he nevertheless left his railroad to his incompetent son, Jim, to run, because he was the male heir. But, tellingly, he told Dagny on his deathbed that "there would always be a Taggart to run the railroad" implying that he knew of Dagny's competence. He died in Jim's and Dagny's youth.
Jim and Dagny's mother. A woman who is continually surprised at her daughter's character.
Owner of Associated Steel -- a friend of James Taggart.
An oil "prodigy". A young man who has made oil wells previously thought dry into big producers. He is a major economic force in the American West.
Hank's wife. She has no interest in Hank's business, and thinks Hank unfeeling and uncaring. Lillian is an example of a person who does not wish to control Hank for the money or position he gives her, for she is not interested overly in money, other than for her most basic needs. She has a perverse turn of mind, and wishes only to spoil Hank's interests out of spite.
Hank's brother. Philip is financially dependent on Hank, and resents it.
An old friend of Hank. A failed businessman, who nevertheless becomes an owner of one of Hank's mines under the Inequality Act.
Hank's critical mother.
Dr. Robert Statler
A brilliant astrophysicist, he is one of the only men of ability still working in science. He comes to Dagny's aid when she is searching for the creator of the static motor.
Hank Rearden's competent secretary.
A contractor Dagny has relied on to help complete the Rio Norte line. He quits at a critical moment, and disappears.
President of the Phoenix-Durango Railroad, the first casualty of the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule.
A mysterious figure, and the subject of a popular jest "Who is John Galt?" He becomes the main character of the novel later in the book. He is a physicist who invented the static-electricity motor, and the founder of Galt's Gulch. John spends the majority of the book working as the lowest kind of laborer in the tunnels beneath the Taggart Terminal in New York. For years he has done this kind of manual labor, while spending one month out of every twelve in Galt's Gulch (the secret valley in Colorado) directing the world-wide strike of industry, commerce, and art which is his master plan.
John became friends with Ragnar and Francisco while at Patrick Henry University, and the three decide (the engineeer, the philosopher, and the business tycoon who took on the roles, respectively, of laborer, pirate, and dissolute playboy to effect the strike) to "stop the motor of the world". John is singularly mysterious and solitary -- even his closest friends Ragnar and Francisco do not know all of his movements. He has to keep himself secret in order to cause his plan to work, but he is the mastermind behind all of the activities going on around the world to sabotage collectivist governments.
A Chicago banker, given the nickname Midas because he had such success that every business concern he touched turned to gold. He becomes the banker for the people working with John Galt against the government.
A great philosopher, formerly the teacher of Francisco d'Anconia, Ragnar Danneskjold, and John Galt. Dagny finds him running a diner in the Rocky Mountains.
A old-school businessman admired by both Dagny and Hank. He runs a coal mine, and is contacted by the "destroyer" and mysteriously retires and disappears.
A poor girl working in a five-and-dime shop in Manhattan. Jim Taggart happens upon her one night, and the two eventually marry because Cherryl thinks Jim is a hero of business.
The Wet Nurse
A very young man sent from Washington to keep an eye on Hank Rearden's steel mill. Since the government will not allow Rearden to do business freely, the Wet Nurse, because of his admiration of Hank he attempts to help Rearden do black-market business deals.
The head of Hank Rearden's workers' union. He is vilified in the press because he does not have an adversarial relationship with management.
Hank Rearden's Washington man. He becomes a main bureaucrat in the looter government.
A mediocre man who becomes the Head of State.
Dr. Floyd Ferris
The head of the scientific Institute where Robert Statler works. He is a helper of the looter government, and blackmails Hank into giving up the rights to Rearden Metal.
A writer who spouts the new looter philosophy; he particularly antagonizes Hank Rearden.
A young engineer of the Utah Institute of Technology hired by Dagny to work on the static electricity motor.
One of the heirs of the Twentieth Century Motor Company. She and her brothers drove the company into bankruptcy through their collectivist policies.
A distinguished jurist who is unable to continue working under the current regime of directives and the lack of sanctity of private property.
Francisco's ancestor, the first of the d'Anconia line. He was compelled to leave Spain for fear of the Inquisition, and founded the great company of d'Anconia Copper in Argentina. He waited until he had built up a great fortune and a marble palace, and then sent for his one true love, who had waited for him in Spain for fifteen years.
The bureaucrat sent to replace Dagny when she quits. On his watch the disaster in the Taggart Tunnel happens.
The President of the Friends of Global Progress, a sham public-welfare organization. He is a toady of the government.
A government bureaucrat who dies in the Taggart Tunnel disaster.
Atlas Shrugged Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Atlas Shrugged is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.