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Synopsis of Atlas Shrugged, Chapters 6-10

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Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

(for previous chapters, see Synopsis of Atlas Shrugged, Chapters 1-5)


Section 161: Part 1, Chapter 6, Section 1

  • Plot summary:
    • 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 Taggett 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 thinks 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 distraught 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 the next section.

  • The following Characters in Atlas Shrugged appear in this section:
    • 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
    • Spinster
    • Wesley Mouch - mentioned

Section 162: Part 1, Chapter 6, Section 2

  • Plot summary
    • After the anniversary party, late in the evening, Hank Rearden enters his wife's bedroom in order to have sex with her. He does this reluctantly - he wishes he did not have these feelings, but he cannot resist the urge. Lillian accedes perfunctorily, and starts talking about the party, because talking is what people are supposed to do before making love. As she jabbers, Rearden wonders why she married him, and recalls the details of their courtship and early marriage. He thinks about how unfulfilling his sex with Lillian has been, and how his marriage has been a torture. By the time she is done talking, Rearden has lost his desire and returns to his own room. It is his first glimpse of the premise, from Rand's sexual theory, that one's sexual desires are an expression of one's values.

  • The following Characters in Atlas Shrugged appear in this section:
    • Hank Rearden
    • Lillian Rearden
    • Balph Eubank - mentioned
    • Bertram Scudder - mentioned
    • Dagny Taggart - mentioned
    • Francisco d'Anconia - mentioned
    • Mrs. Weston - mentioned
    • Simon Pritchett - mentioned
    • Simons - mentioned


Section 171: Part 1, Chapter 7, Section 1

  • Plot summary:
    • Dagny Taggart visits the construction site of the Rio Norte Line near the Wyatt oil fields. Construction is being supervised by Ben Nealy, who is incompetent but the best contractor Dagny could find. She meets Ellis Wyatt who indicates he now knows what she is, and that he respects her. Hank Rearden is also on hand, designing a Rearden Metal bridge to show off his new metal. The two get along as they always had, as if the party had never happened.
    • Rearden mentions he is flying back east, and Dagny asks if she can go back with him. He tells her no, because he is flying to Minnesota before heading to New York. Later at the airfield, Dagny discovers Rearden was lying -- that he did fly straight to New York. Dagny has no clue why Rearden would flat out lie to her.

  • The following Characters in Atlas Shrugged appear in this section:
    • Airport attendant 1
    • Ben Nealy
    • Chief Engineer 2
    • Dagny Taggart
    • Ellis Wyatt
    • Francisco d'Anconia - mentioned
    • Hank Rearden
    • Dick McNamara - mentioned.
    • Mr. Coleman - mentioned.
    • Mr. Mowen
    • Nat Taggart's son - mentioned.
    • Orren Boyle - mentioned

The author who began the synopsis of Atlas shrugged stopped here. Please feel free to continue where he left off.

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