Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged Summary and Analysis of Part I, Chapters V and VI


In Chapter V “The Climax of the d’Anconias,” the long history between the copper baron Francisco d’Anconia and Dagny Taggart is recounted. Dagny has read in the newspaper that the San Sebastian mines in Mexico, Francisco’s huge project and a major source of possible revenue for (and huge financial outlay by) Taggart Transcontinental has been taken over and nationalized by the People’s State of Mexico. This is a disaster for Francisco, who has lost a great deal of money, and for the railway. Dagny has managed to minimize the loss somewhat by running rattletrap trains on the San Sebastian line, but the loss to the railway is still considerable. Dagny demands to see Francisco, and Eddie tells Dagny that Francisco has replied that she can see him “any time you wish” (90). Dagny walks to the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, through the big-city twilight. At this time Dagny reflects on her history with Francisco.

Francisco’s family is friends with the Taggart family, and Francisco spends time with Jim and Dagny every year. Francisco and Dagny are very close friends. They both are ambitious and loved the family businesses that they were born to inherit, and Francisco considered them all the “crown heirs” (90) of the new aristocracy of money. Eddie, who is a friend of the family and lives nearby, Dagny, and Francisco were all of like minds; Jim was looked down on by Francisco as weak and unprincipled.

Francisco is the last of a long line of d’Anconias, who had been copper barons in South America for many centuries. As a boy he exhibits all the qualities that one could want; he is not only rich and heir to a great company, but handsome and intelligent as well. He, Dagny, and Eddie vie each summer to surpass each other in feats of physical or mental ability. Francisco, who is older than Eddie and Dagny, is the leader, and encourages them to push themselves even more. Francisco has even gotten a job at Taggart Transcontinental as a teenager, just so that he could say that he had done so before Dagny had one. His motto is “what for?” in response to every assumption that had been put to him. He is relentlessly inquisitive and creative. Jim had been in opposition to Francisco’s single-minded attitude of production and achievement, which became Dagny’s and Eddie’s, too. While Jim had called their thoughts “selfish” (95), they nevertheless developed and refined their values as they grow up. Francisco, Eddie, and Dagny come to think that the most depraved type of human being was a “man without a purpose” (99). Eventually Francisco goes off to college, but he retains his friendship with Dagny and Eddie, and continues his summer visits with the Taggarts. Dagny, a few years younger, goes to engineering college, and leads a spartan life of study and railroad work. She does this partially in response to Francisco’s challenge to her to see which of them would honor their respective ancestors, Sebastian d’Anconia and Nat Taggart, the most.

Dagny’s mother gives her a formal debut in New York, and, for a time Dagny seems to be concerned with things many seventeen-year-old girls are; her ball gown, the flowers and lights at the ball, and dancing with young men. But by the time the party is over Dagny has seen that no one is really enjoying themselves, and what should have been an occasion of beauty and joy is only one of pretence. The following summer, during Francisco’s customary visit, he visits her one night at her job as night operator of the Rockway station. After Dagny’s shift is over, they walk out into the countryside, and Francisco and Dagny fall into a passionate embrace. That summer the two young people become secret lovers, hiding their relationship from everyone around them “not as a shameful guilt, but as a thing that was immaculately theirs, beyond anyone’s right of debate or appraisal” (109) The affair goes on for many years, even after Francisco’s father dies and he goes back to Argentina to run d’Anconia Copper.

Finally, for mysterious reasons, Francisco says he has to give her up. He asks her never to be astonished by anything he would do in the future. In later years she reads about him, and, according to the newspapers, he has become the most depraved playboy in the world. This is in direct contrast to everything Dagny had known about him during their relationship, but she comes to believe it because there is no evidence to the contrary. She had been sad that he had left her, and she had had no other men in her life to this point. Dagny thinks on this as she enters his hotel room at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, to see him for the first time in many years. They discuss the nationalization of the San Sebastian mines and railway, and Dagny wishes to know why he has sunk to this depth of depravity. He explains things in a roundabout way, revealing nothing, only returning to the theme (the title of Part I of the novel, Non-Contradiction) that she must not assume something is what it is not. Either he is a swindling businessman who has completely reversed from his youthful principles, or the things he is doing are in keeping with those principles. Dagny does not understand, and, even though Francisco assures her that he still wants to sleep her, the two part in disagreement.

Chapter VI, “The Non-Commercial” begins with Rearden dreading going to his own wedding anniversary party. His wife Lillian has stocked the party with her friends, who are all members of the new group of ”looter” philosophers – the writer Bertram Scudder among them. Dagny attends, and tries to make conversation with Hank Rearden. He is particularly formal and distant with her, but they share a moment of satisfaction over the new track of Rearden Metal that will be laid on Taggart Transcontinental’s Rio Norte Line. Lillian wears the bracelet of Rearden Metal which Hank had given her, and Dagny trades her own diamond bracelet with Lillian in order to get it. Dagny wears it proudly, while Lillian denigrates it.

During the party the Equalization of Opportunity Act is discussed. It is a law which would prevent any businessman from owning more than one business. Hank and Dagny know that this will hurt Hank, as he will no longer have vertical integration of his supplies, such as ore and coal, in order to create Rearden Metal. Bertram Scudder and another intellectual, Dr. Pritchett, entertain the company with their eloquent support for this law, and also explain their moral relativism to the assembled. Dagny and Hank are disturbed by the talk around them.

Francisco d’Anconia appears unexpectedly at the party, and Hank is very wary of him. They have a conversation about the nature of business and the activities of the new “looter” government, and Francisco tries, guardedly, to give Hank some principles to fight the looters. Francisco particularly challenges Hank’s assumptions that the people who call him “selfish” are correct, because Hank works for his own individual achievement. Hank, while interested in what Francisco has to say, is disgusted by what he thinks is Francisco’s playboy lifestyle.


The long story of the history of Dagny and Francisco is both unexpected and revealing. Dagny, a young woman raised in wealth and privilege, is not the spoiled and self-centered person that her brother James is. She has always worked hard for her achievements, and has risen in Taggart Transcontinental by nothing other than her own ability. It could be argued that a woman, during this time, would have never been given the chance to become an station night operator, an engineer, or Operating Vice President of a railway if she hadn’t been part of the family which had founded that railway, but Rand makes sure that it’s clear that Dagny has worked hard for everything she has received. As a teenager, especially, she showed self-discipline and a remarkable sense of drive. Therefore, when the love affair of the teenage Dagny and college-age Francisco is recounted, it is somewhat surprising that Dagny would have permitted herself the indulgence of a boyfriend. Even though Francisco is a challenger to her ambitions, and a good role model when it comes to hard work and dedication, it seems counterproductive to her goals to become a railway executive. The risk to her reputation, and, at the age of seventeen, to her status within her family business, seems great.

What Rand is trying to show is that those who work hard and are productive deserve indulgences of this type. Dagny, like Rand, is entirely free of any mid-century preoccupation with sexual morality, and Rand shows eloquently in the person of Dagny her new, simple morality. Dagny and Francisco were attracted to each other, and each was responsible (Dagny does not become pregnant, nor is there risk of sexual diseases, it appears, because they are true to one another) and disciplined young people. Therefore, their relationship is entirely moral in Rand’s eyes, especially since they were honest with each other and didn’t base anything on deception or romantic illusions. That there would be young people of such discipline, honesty, and sophisticated morality in a time of sexual repression and traditional values (especially considering that both were rich and indulged children) seems slightly implausible, but the cult of Francisco’s personality for Dagny and Eddie seems to have refined their sensibilities. Dagny even notes in later chapters that she never desired to become Senora d’Anconia, and took pride in being Francisco’s mistress for years. This is so counter to what the prevailing morality was at the time as to be startling, but it puts the personality of Dagny, in particular, into sharp focus. She is a relatively simple person, who does not seem to feel any conflict or shame.

Her supreme confidence in her own ability to become an engineer and executive at Taggart Transcontinental, and her unwavering conviction that her notion of reality and morality is correct, make Dagny unswerving in her pursuit of her goals and her willingness to obtain her desires on her own terms. By any measure she is a remarkable young woman, not only because of her own convictions but because she is able to adopt and believe in the principles Francisco shares with her. She is what psychologists call a fully integrated personality, with no internal conflicts and a remarkable lack of interest in received morality other than the work ethic. That she has been criticized as too perfect is understandable; she can be seen as the allegory of the perfect modern woman.

Consideration of sexual risks, such as diseases, emotional damage, and unwanted pregnancy do not enter into Rand’s arguments. It is difficult to take Dagny and Francisco’s early relationship as a model for behavior because so few of the real-life concerns of sexual relationships are considered. Perhaps Rand’s purpose in having Francisco and Dagny be lovers is to show their own potential and power. They were free in most other aspects of their lives (Dagny, especially for her time, had remarkable freedom for a young woman) so they were able to express their feelings freely with their bodies. Since Francisco and Dagny are characters almost wholly without weaknesses, it makes sense in the story that they would have the power and ability to sustain an unconventional relationship for some years.

At the party at the Reardens’ we first get a taste of the mysterious undercurrent, alluded to by Francisco, of subversion to the prevailing principles of the day. Since Scudder and Pritchett are shown in such an unflattering light, it is evident that Rand does not want the reader to have sympathy with their views. Though the proponents of this new morality are repulsive, at this point the tenets of this philosophy are still vague enough as to not seem entirely without use. This will change in later chapters, as the actions of the government encroach more outrageously onto the personal freedoms of individuals, and especially persecute the “producers” such as Dagny and Hank.