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Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, Chapter 6, section 1:     Previous Next

Hank Rearden reluctantly attends a party thrown by his wife on their anniversary. Lillian Rearden has invited her circle of friends, which includes the "heart of the country's culture", the intellectual elite whose opinions are shaping the times. This is a bit of an insult, though, as the whole country is falling apart. As these friends speak, we are introduced to the ideas that are causing the collapse of society.

Dr. Simon Pritchett, the nation's leading philosopher, declares man is a miserable bit of protoplasm, there are no standards, reason is a superstition, the purpose of philosophy is to prove we can know nothing and find no meaning in life, and that when people realize this they will be more "tractable."

Balph Eubank, the literary leader of the age, declares that suffering is the essence of life, and that free will, achievement, and happiness are laughable concepts. Plot, he says, is a primitive vulgarity in literature. He later says, that the machine age has destroyed man's humanity, observing that Dagny runs a railroad rather than practicing the beautiful art of the handloom and bearing children.

Bertram Scudder, the editor, declares that property rights are a superstition.

Claude Slagenhop, president of Friends of Global Progress, declares that need is the only consideration, and that this consideration justifies anything, that ideas are just hot air - what is needed is action, and that right is whatever is good for society.

Rearden is shocked by the arrival of Dagny Taggart. When they talk he is formal and distant, quite unlike the easy manner that characterized their business dealings. Dagny is taken aback by his manner and is puzzled when he gives her the cold shoulder throughout the evening.

Rearden argues with Lillian after he discovers she has invited Bertram Scudder to the party. Scudder had trashed Rearden in an article. He cannot understand why she would invite a man who is so hostile to him, and why Lillian seems to enjoy his anger. He think there is some riddle to her character that he should try to understand. Just then, Francisco d'Anconia enters, who will in due time provide Rearden with the answer to this riddle.

A self-made man, Rearden despises Francisco as a worthless profligate who does not know how to deserve the great gift of inherited wealth. He tells Lillian to "keep that man away from me." But Francisco has come for the specific purpose of meeting Rearden, and it is only a matter of time until he corners him.

First, though, Francisco circulates, and as Lillian's friends spout out their inanities, he glibly refutes them.

When Francisco does meet Rearden, their talk is pregnant. Francisco asks why Rearden is willing to support those who are helpless, who never show their gratitude towards him, and who, in fact, openly denounce him as an evil exploiter. He leaves this an open question.

Rearden at this point of the story is aware that there is something wrong with the world, but does not know what, while Francisco does know. In this, their first meeting, Francisco tries to place in Rearden's mind the seeds of understanding. The reader is in the same position as Rearden, and the scene is meant to do the same for the reader, preparing us for the explicit revelation of [Galt's Speech]?.

As the scene reaches a climax, Dagny is leaving the party before she loses her composure. What she has slowly come to realize is that she came to the party hoping to make Rearden aware of her as a woman, not just a business partner. She is distrught when Rearden responds to her with indifference, and upset when Francisco is the only one who sees her as an object of sexual desire. She has also been pushed to the edge by the inane ramblings of Lillian's guests. As she walks out, she is pushed over the edge when she hears Mort Liddy's bastardized treatment of her favorite song, Halley's Fourth Concerto.

At that moment, Dagny hears Lillian denigrating the bracelet of Rearden Metal that she has been wearing all night as a joke. Lillian jokes that it is supposed to be priceless because it is the first thing ever made from Rearden Metal, but she would gladly exchange it for a common diamond bracelet any time. In an act of supreme audacity, Dagny removes her diamond bracelet and offers it in exchange. Lillian is taken aback but accepts the trade. Hank Rearden is furious at Dagny's gall. This scene symbolized Rand's theory of sex that will be elucidated in Section162.

Rearden's home in Philadelphia.

 Balph Eubank
 Bertram Scudder
 Betty Pope
 Businessman 1
 Claude Slagenhop
 Dagny Taggart
 Gwen Ives
 Hank Rearden
 Hugh Akston
 James Taggart
 John Galt - legend mentioned
 Lillian Rearden
 Mort Liddy
 Mrs. Whitcomb
 Newspaperman 1
 Philip Rearden
 Ragnar Danneskjold
 Simon Pritchett
 Wesley Mouch - mentioned

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Last edited August 30, 2001 4:04 am by 199.67.138.xxx (diff)