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Characters in Atlas Shrugged

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers -- reading these character summaries unravels some of the central mysteries in the novel.

Characters in Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged (in alphabetical order by first name):

see also Minor Characters in Atlas Shrugged


Balph Eubank is called "the literary leader of the age", despite the fact that he is incapable of writing anything that people actually want to read. What people want to read, he says, is irrelevant. He complains that it is disgraceful that artists are treated as peddlers, and that there should be a law limiting the sales of books to ten thousand copies. He is a member of the Looters.
  • Balph Eubank appears in section 161.

Ben Nealy is a railroad contractor who Dagny Taggart hires to replace the track on the Rio Norte Line with Rearden Metal. Nealy is incompetent, but Dagny can find no one better in all the country. Nealy believes that anything can get done with enough muscle power. He sees no role for intelligence in human achievement, and this is manifest in his inabillity to organize the project and to make decisions. He relies on Dagny and Ellis Wyatt to run things, and resents them for doing it, because it appears to him like they are just bossing people around.
  • Ben Nealy appears in section 171.

Bertram Scudder writes editorials for the magazine The Future. He typically bashes business and businessmen, but he never says anything specific in his articles, relying on innuendo, sneers, and denunciation. He wrote a hatchet job on Hank Rearden called The Octopus. He is also vocal in support of the Equalization of Opportunity Bill.
  • Bertram Scudder appears in section 161.

Betty Pope is a wealthy socialite who is having a meaningless sexual affair with James Taggart that coincides with the overall meaninglessness of her life. She regrets having to wake up every morning because she has to face another empty day. She is deliberately crude in a way that casts ridicule on her high social position.
  • Betty Pope appears in sections 142 and 161.

Brakeman is an unnamed employee working on the Taggart Comet train. Dagny Taggart hears Brakeman whistling the theme of a concerto. When she asks him what piece it's from, he says Halley's Fifth Concerto. When Dagny points out that Richard Halley only wrote four concertos, Brakeman claims he made a mistake and he doesn't recall where he heard the piece.

Later, after Dagny instructs the train crew how to proceed, he asks a co-worker who she is, and learns she is the one who runs Taggart Transcontinental.

It is later discovered that the unknown brakeman is one of the strikers, when Dagny meets him in the valley.

  • Brakeman appears in sections 112 and 113.

Claude Slagenhop is the president of political organization Friends of Global Progress (which is supported by Philip Rearden), and one of Lillian Rearden's friends. He believes that ideas are just air, that this is no time for talk, but for action. He is not bothered by the fact that action unguided by ideas is random and pointless. Global Progress is a sponsor of the Equalization of Opportunity Bill.
  • Claude Slagenhop appears in section 161.

Dagny Taggart is the main character in Atlas Shrugged (also the name of her namesake Mrs. Nathaniel Taggart). Dagny is Vice-President in Charge of Operation at Taggart Transcontinental. Those in the know know she is the one who really runs the railroad. In the course of the novel, she forms numerous romantic liaisons with men of ability, which is to say corporate CEOs.
  • Dagny appears in sections 112, 113, 114, 132, 133, 141, 145, 146, 147, 148, 151, 152, and 161.

Dan Conway is the middle-aged president of the Phoenix-Durango railroad. Running a railroad is just about the only thing he knows. When the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule is used to drive his business out of Colorado, he loses the will to fight, and resigns himself to a quiet life of books and fishing. He claims that somebody had to be sacrificed, it turned out to be him, and he has no right to complain, bowing to the will of the majority. When pressed he says he doesn't really believe this is right, but he can't understand why it is wrong and what the alternative might be. He is trapped by a moral code that makes him a willing victim, and rather than challenge that morality, he simply gives up.
  • Dan Conway appears in sections 145 and 146, and is mentioned in section 148.

Dick McNamara is a contractor who finished the San Sebastian Line and who is hired to lay the new Rearden Metal track for the Rio Norte Line. Before he gets a chance to do so, he mysteriously disappears.

  • Dick McNamara is mentioned in sections 133 and 141.

Eddie Willers is Special Assistant to the Vice-President in Charge of Operation at Taggart Transcontinental. He grew up with Dagny Taggart. His father and grandfather worked for the Taggarts, and he followed in their footsteps. He is completely loyal to Dagny and to Taggart Transcontinental. He is also secretly in love with Dagny. Willers is generally assumed to represent the common man.
  • Eddie Willers appears in sections 111, 114, 132, 133, 141, 151, and 152.

Ellis Wyatt is the head of Wyatt Oil. He has almost single-handedly revived the economy of Colorado by discovering a way of extracting oil from wells that had been abandoned.
  • Ellis Wyatt is mentioned or appears in sections 111, 114, 132, 146, 147, 148, and 152.

Francisco d'Anconia is one of the central characters in Atlas Shrugged. By all accounts, he is a worthless millionaire playboy, owner by inheritance of the world's largest copper mining empire, the man behind the San Sebastian Mines, and a childhood friend and first love of Dagny Taggart.

Francisco began working on the sly as a teenager in order to learn all he could about business. While still a student at Patrick Henry University, he began working at a copper foundry, and investing in the stock market. By the time he was twenty he had made enough to purchase the foundry. He began working for d'Anconia Copper as assistant superintendent of a mine in Montana, but was quickly promoted to head of the New York office. He took over d'Anconia Copper at age 23, after the death of his father.

When he was 26, Francisco secretly joined the Strikers and began to slowly destroy the d'Anconia empire so the Looters could not get it. He adopted the persona of a worthless playboy, by which he is known to the world, as an effective cover.

His full name is Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d'Anconia.

According to Adam Reed (mailto:areed2@calstatela.edu) ( Who is Francisco D'Anconia? (http://www.monmouth.com/~adamreed/Ayn_Rands_jewish_years/Who_is_Francisco_DAnconia)), d'Anconia is the only Hero-class character who is recognizably Jewish (not in the religious, but in the historical sense, like Ayn Rand herself).

  • Francisco D'Anconia appears or is mentioned in sections 132, 141, 144, 151, and 152 - this last section includes a detailed history of his life.


Hank Rearden is one of the central characters in Atlas Shrugged. He is the founder of Rearden Steel and the inventor of Rearden Metal. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Lillian, his brother Philip, and an elderly woman known only as Rearden's Mother, all of whom he supports. Gwen Ives is his secretary.

The character of Hank Rearden has two important roles to play in the novel. First, he is in the same position as the reader in that he is aware that there is something wrong with the world but is not sure what it is. Rearden is guided toward an understanding of the solution through his friendship with Francisco d'Anconia, who does know the secret, and by this mechanism the reader is also prepared to understand the secret when it is revealed explicitly in Galt's Speech[?].

Second, Rearden is used to illustrate Rand's theory of sex. Lillian Rearden cannot appreciate Hank Rearden's virtues, and she is portrayed as being disgusted by sex. Dagny Taggart clearly does appreciate Rearden's virtues, and this appreciation evolves into a sexual desire. Rearden is torn by a contradiction because he accepts the premises of the traditional view of sex as a lower instinct, while responding sexually to Dagny, who represents his highest values. Rearden struggles to resolve this internal conflict and in doing so illustrates Rand's sexual theory.

  • Rearden appears in sections 121, 132, 147, and 161, and is mentioned in sections 114 and 131.

Hugh Akston is identified as "One of the last great advocates of reason." He was a renowned philosopher and the head of the Department of Philosophy at Patrick Henry University, where he taught Francisco d'Anconia, John Galt, and Ragnar Danneskjold. He was, along with Robert Stadler, a father figure to these three. Akston's name is so hallowed that a young lady, on hearing that Francisco had studied under him, is shocked. She thought he must have been one of those great names from an earlier century.
  • Hugh Akston is mentioned in section 161.

James Taggart is the President of Taggart Transcontinental and a leader of the Looters. Taggart is an expert influence peddler who is incapable of making decisions on his own. He relies on his sister Dagny Taggart to actually run the railroad, but nonetheless opposes her in almost every endeavor.

As the novel progresses, the moral philosophy of the Looters is revealed: it is a code of nihilism. The goal of this code is to not exist, to become a zero. Taggart struggles to remain unaware that this is his goal. He maintains his pretence that he wants to live, and becomes horrified whenever his mind starts to grasp the truth about himself. This contradiction leads to the recurring absurdity of his life: the desire to destroy those on whom his life depends, and the horror that he will succeed at this.

  • James Taggart appears in sections 111, 114, 131, 132, 143, 144, 152 and 161, and is mentioned in sections 146 and 148.

The question "Who is John Galt?" is asked repeatedly throughout Atlas Shrugged. Late into the book we learn that John Galt is the man who stopped the motor of the world and the leader of the Strikers. He is also the same character as the Mystery Worker.

John Galt was the son of a garage mechanic in Ohio. He left home at age 12 and began college at Patrick Henry University at age 16. There he befriended Francisco d'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold, all three of whom double-majored in physics and philosophy. They were the cherished students of Robert Stadler and Hugh Akston.

After graduating, Galt become an engineer at the Twentieth Century Motor Works where he designed a revolutionary new motor that had the potential to change the world. When the owners of the company decided to run the factory by the maxim, 'By each according to his ability, to each according to his need', Galt perceived what was wrong with the world and what had to be done to stop it. He put his mind on strike, and set about persuading the other men of the mind to go on strike as well.

Since everyone across the country is repeating the phrase, "Who is John Galt?", it is natural that many people have attempted to answer that question. Dagny Taggart hears a number of John Galt Legends before finding the real John Galt.

There is a clothing store in Vail Village, Colorado[?] called John Galt Ltd. One presumes that, on occasion, a customer unknowingly walks in and asks, "Who is John Galt?"

Lillian Rearden is the wildly unsupportive wife of Hank Rearden. They have been married eight years as the novel begins.

Lillian is a Moocher who seeks to destroy her husband. She compares being Rearden's wife with owning the world's most powerful horse. Since she cannot comfortably ride a horse that goes too fast, she must bridle it down to her level, even if that means it will never reach its potential and its power will be wasted.

Lillian also serves to illustrate Rand's Theory of sex. She believes sex is a base animal instinct and that sexual indulgence is a sign of moral weakness. She is incapable of feeling this kind of desire, which she believes testifies to her moral superiority. However, according to the theory of sex Lillian's lack of sexual capacity results from her inability to experience value in herself; she is therefore unable to respond sexually when she experiences value in others.

Lillian tolerates sex with her husband only because she is 'realistic' enough to know he is just a brute who requires satisfaction of his brute instincts. In section 161 she indicates that she abhors Francisco d'Anconia, because she believes he is a sexual adventurer.

  • Lillian Rearden appears in sections 121 and 161.

The Looters are a group of evil characters sometimes referred to as "James Taggart and his friends". They are similar to the Moochers. The Looters consist of men and women who use force to obtain value from those who produce it. They seek to destroy the producers despite the fact that they are dependent upon them.

The Looters include: Balph Eubank, Floyd Ferris, James Taggart, Orren Boyle, Paul Larkin, Robert Stadler, Simon Pritchett, Wesley Mouch


Midas Mulligan is a wealthy loan shark who mysteriously disapears in protest after he is given a court order to loan money to an incompetent loan applicant


The Moochers are a group of evil characters, similar to the Looters, who use guilt as a weapon against those who produce value. They seek to destroy the producers despite the fact that they are dependent upon them.

The Moochers include Lillian Rearden, Philip Rearden, and Hank Rearden's mother.


Mort Liddy is a hack composer that writes trite scores for movies and modern symphonies that no one listens to. He believes melody is a primitive vulgarity. He is one of Lillian Rearden's friends and a member of the cultural elite.
  • Mort Liddy appears in section 161.

Mr. Mowen is the president of the Amalgamated Switch and Signal Company, Inc. of Connecticut. He is a businessman who sees nothing wrong with the moral code that is destroying society and would never dream of saying he is in business for any reason other than the good of society. He is unable to grapple with abstract issues, and is frightened of anything controversial. Dagny Taggart hires Mr. Mowen to produce switches made of Rearden Metal. He is reluctant to build anything with this unproven technology, and has to be ridden and cajoled before he is willing to accept the contract.
  • Mr. Mowen appears in section 171.

Mystery Worker is a menial worker for Taggart Transcontinental who often dines with Eddie Willers in the employee's cafeteria. Eddie finds him very easy to talk to, and Mystery Worker not-so-subtly leads him on so that Eddie reveals important information about Dagny Taggart and Taggart Transcontinental. Eddie tells him which suppliers and contractors Dagny is most dependent on, and with remarkable consistency, those are the next men to mysteriously disappear. Mystery Worker will turn out to be one of the novel's central characters.
  • Mystery Worker appears in section 133.

The unnamed Newsstand Owner works in the Taggart Terminal. Twenty years ago he owned a cigarette factory but it went under, and he's been working at his newsstand ever since. He is a collector of cigarettes, and knows every brand ever made. He occasionally chats with Dagny Taggart when she comes by. On one occasion, in section section 132, after Dagny asks him about his collection, he bemoans the fact that there are no new brands and the old brands are all disappearing. Later he shows her a new brand that he found, that he had never seen before. It carried the sign of the dollar.

In his first appearance, the Newsstand Owner likens the fire of a cigarette to the fire of the mind. This alludes to the Greek myth of Prometheus, who gave mankind the gift of fire, allowing it to raise itself up and become civilized. In Atlas Shrugged, it is the mind of man that raises mankind. Thus the cigarettes become symbolic of the men of the mind. The disappearance of the old brands represents the disappearance of the men of the mind, and the Newsstand Owner's discovery of the new brand foreshadows Dagny's discovery of a new kind of men of the mind.


Orren Boyle is the head of Associated Steel and a friend of James Taggart. He is one of the Looters. He is an investor in the San Sebastian Mines.
  • Orren Boyle appears or is mentioned in sections 111, 114, 131, 132, 144, and 152.

Owen Kellogg is Assistant to the Manager of the Taggart Terminal in New York. He catches Dagny Taggart's eye as one of the few competent men on staff. After seeing the sorry state of the Ohio Division she decides to make him to its new Superintendent. However, as soon as she returns to New York, Kellogg informs her that he is quiting his job. He admits that he loves his work, but that's not enough to keep him. He won't say why he is leaving or what he will do. Later, he is noticed working as transient labor by the unsuccessful/unmotivated businessman Mr. Mowen.
  • Owen Kellogg appears in sections 112 and 114.

Paul Larkin is an unsuccessful, middle-aged businessman, a friend of the Rearden family, and a member of the Looters. In section 121 Larkin visits Philadelphia to warn Hank Rearden of possible trouble from Washington. In section 131 he meets with the other Looters to work out a plan to bring Rearden down. James Taggart knows he is friends with Hank Rearden and challenges his loyalty, and Larkin assures Taggart that he will go along with them.
  • Paul Larkin appears in sections 121 and 132.

Philip Rearden is the younger brother of Hank Rearden, and a Moocher. He lives in his brother's home in Philadelphia and is completely dependent on him. He believes that the source of his sustenence is evil and would love to see him destroyed. He has never had a career and spends his time perfunctorily working for various social groups.
  • Philip Rearden appears in sections 121 and 161.

Ragnar Danneskjold is one of the original Strikers. He is now world famous as a pirate. Ragnar was from Norway, the son of a bishop and the scion of one of Norway's most ancient, noble families. He attended Patrick Henry University and became friends with John Galt and Francisco d'Anconia, while studying under Hugh Akston and Robert Stadler.

Ragnar seizes relief ships that are being sent from the United States to Europe. No one knows what he does with the goods he seizes. As the novel progresses, Ragnar begins, for the first time, to become active in American waters, and is even spotted in Delaware Bay. Reportedly, his ship is better than any available in the fleets of the world's navies.

When he became a pirate, he was disowned and excommunicated. There is a price on his head in Norway, Portugal, Turkey.

His name may be a pun on 'Dane's Gold', although "skjold" means shield, not gold.

  • Ragnar Danneskjold appears in section 161.

Rearden's mother is unnamed in Atlas Shrugged. She is a Moocher who lives with her son Hank Rearden at his home in Philadelphia. She is involved in church-based charity work, and berates Rearden whenever she can. She insults him by saying he was always selfish, even as a child. She dotes on her weak son Philip Rearden.
  • Rearden's mother appears in section 121.

Richard Halley is Dagny Taggart's favorite composer, who mysteriously disappeared after the evening of his greatest triumph.

In section 141 we learn that Richard Halley spent years as a struggling and unappreciated composer. At age 24 his opera Phaethon was performed for the first time, to an audience who booed and heckled it. (It was based on the Greek myth in which Phaethon steals his father's chariot, and dies in an audacious attempt to drive the sun across the sky. Halley changed the story, though, into one of triumph, in which Phaethon succeeds.) For years Halley wrote in obscurity. After nineteen years, Phaethon was performed again, but this time it was received to the greatest ovation the opera house had ever heard. It appears his critics felt he had paid his dues long enough that he was at last worthy of their approval. The following day, Halley retired, sold the rights to his music, and disappeared.

  • Richard Halley is mentioned in sections 112, 114, 133, and 141, and appears in section 152.

Robert Stadler is a former professor at Patrick Henry University, mentor to Francisco d'Anconia, John Galt and Ragnar Danneskjold. He has since become a sell-out, one who had great promise but squandered it for social approval, to the detriment of the free.
Dr. Simon Pritchett is the prestigious head of the Department of Philosophy at Patrick Henry University and is considered the leading philosopher of the age. He is also a Looter. He is certainly representative of the philosophy of the age - he is a crude reductionist who believes man is nothing but a collection of chemicals; he believes there are no standards, that definitions are fluid, reason is a superstition, that it is futile to seek meaning in life, and that the duty of a philosopher is to show that nothing can be understood. He explains all this in his book The Metaphysical Contradictions of the Universe, and at cocktail parties.
  • Dr. Pritchett appears in section 161.

The Strikers were people of the mind who go on strike because they do not appreciate being exploited by the Looters and demonized by a society who depends on them for its very existence.

The leader of the Strikers is John Galt. Other Strikers include: Hugh Akston, Francisco d'Anconia, Ragnar Danneskjold, Richard Halley, and the Brakeman. Characters who join the Strikers in the course of the book include: Dagny Taggart, Ellis Wyatt, Hank Rearden, Dick McNamara, Owen Kellogg, and Wesley Mouch.


Wesley Mouch is a member of the Looters and Hank Reardens man in Washington. Initially Wesley Mouch is the least powerful and least significant of the Looters - the other members of this group feel they can look down upon him with impunity. Eventually he becomes the most powerful Looter, and the country's economic dictator.
  • Wesley Mouch appears in section 131 and is mentioned in section 161.

see also Minor Characters in Atlas Shrugged



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