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Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2) 
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 Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)

Please use this thread for discussing the above chapters. You're welcome to create your own threads too.



Thu Aug 30, 2012 4:06 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
Just a few random notes on Chapter 1, The Theme.

* I read the large calendar "saying in immovable finality: September 2" this morning, which is September 2. A bit a Jungian Synchronicity? :?
* A massive oak tree, seemingly capable of moving the Earth if pulled by the hand of God, is exposed by lightning as an empty shell. I expect that image to return.
* Ellis Wyatt finding oil in old fields with new technology has a parallel in fracking?
* The weakness of James Taggart: "We can't be blamed if our suppliers don't perform or the competition is unfair."
* James says several times to his sister Dagny "You have no sense of the human element at all." She admits, "No. I haven't."

Sorry, but I said they're just random notes... :blush:

On Edit:
AHA! I found the significance of September 2:
http://fawstin.blogspot.com/search?upda ... results=15



Last edited by LanDroid on Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Sep 02, 2012 12:43 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
I thought the same thing as I also started reading today. The friction between Dagny and her brother, and her strong character is established immediately. Also, the ingenuity that Rand so admired is shone in Wyatt.



Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:09 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
In addition to the memory of the oak tree, Eddie Willers notices images of decay during his walk to the Taggart Transcontinental building.
Quote:
The clouds and the shafts of skyscrapers against them were turning brown, like an old painting in oil, the color of a fading masterpiece. Long streaks of grime ran from under the pinnacles down the slender, soot-eaten walls. High on the side of a tower there was a crack in the shape of a motionless lightning, the length of ten stories. A jagged object cut the sky above the roofs; it was half a spire, still holding the glow of the sunset; the gold leaf had long since peeled off the other half. The glow was red and still, like the reflection of a fire: not an active fire, but a dying one which it is too late to stop.

Quote:
...and somewhere within him, a drop of pain moving briefly and vanishing, like a raindrop on the glass of a window, its course in the shape of a question mark.

I don't know if these images are in the realm of Steinbeck (or whatever the literary standard is these days), but I think they're pretty good. I suspect they refer to the city, to Taggart Transcontinental, and to America. That level of creativity should help us slog through 1K pages of Rand philosophy. Agree? :bananen_smilies012:



Mon Sep 03, 2012 10:53 am
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
"That level of creativity should help us slog through 1K pages of Rand philosophy. Agree?"

Definitely, LanDroid. Rand's prose is more enjoyable than her philosophy, for me anyway. The quotes you posted are beautiful and, if I remember correctly, do continue through the book.



Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:12 am
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
I can tell I am going to love this book. The way Dagny Taggart kicks ass is impressive. She is no nonsense, a real capitalist, straight to the point, not diverted by crap. Railways are about steel and money, not friendship. Ayn Rand chisels out her characters as stereotypes. Here is a classic exchange: James Taggart says to her when she has humiliated him for his incompetence
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“Other people are human. They're sensitive. They can't devote their whole life to metals and engines. You're lucky—you've never had any feelings. You've never felt anything at all." As she looked at him, her dark gray eyes went slowly from astonishment to stillness, then to a strange expression that resembled a look of weariness, except that it seemed to reflect much more than the endurance of this one moment.


What is the ‘much more”? It is about resolve, confidence, ambition, integrity and vision. Also contempt for James. She is thinking that’s no way to run a railroad.
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
What is the much more? Well, for one thing she's been putting up with James her whole life, but I think Rand meant to show Dagny's burden of having to put up with people who don't see the world as she does.



Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:15 am
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
Chapter II The Chain

This chapter is mainly geared towards showing similarities between Hank Reardon and Dagny Taggart. For example Hank "had no capacity for the sort of conversations which were not supposed to be meant, so he did not answer." Here's another:
Quote:
He saw an evening when he sat slumped across his desk in that office. It was late and his staff had left; so he could lie there alone, unwitnessed. He was tired. It was as if he had run a race against his own body, and all the exhaustion of years, which he had refused to acknowledge, had caught him at once and flattened him against the desk top. He felt nothing, except the desire not to move. He did not have the strength to feel—not even to suffer. He had burned everything there was to burn within him; he had scattered so many sparks to start so many things— and he wondered whether someone could give him now the spark he needed, now when he felt unable ever to rise again. He asked himself who had started him and kept him going. Then he raised his head. Slowly, with the greatest effort of his life, he made his body rise until he was able to sit upright with only one hand pressed to the desk and a trembling arm to support him. He never asked that question again.


What other similarities can you find between Hank and Dagny?



Thu Sep 06, 2012 6:10 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
Reardon "knew that it was necessary to have a man to protect him from the legislature; all industrialists had to employ such men." I don't recall lobbying described in quite that way before. :axe: Later on the lobbyist is described as being successful at gaining benefits from the legislature, so OoooOops the truth slips out. :matx4:

Reardon's relationship with his family is terrible. His mother describes him as a spoiled brat and there are other indignities. In return, Hank "felt nothing for them now, nothing but the merciless zero of indifference, not even the regret of a loss."

In contrast, Phil Larkin's "motive in the relationship seemed to resemble the need of an anemic person who receives a kind of living transfusion from the mere sight of a savagely overabundant vitality." So Hank is both an overworked bore and a savagely overabundant vitality? Hmmmm, I need help to work that one out...

An unusual feature of Rand's philosophy is a contempt for altruism. Phil Larkin says,
Quote:
"But that money is not for me. I am not collecting it for any personal motive. I have no selfish interest in the matter whatever." His voice was cold, with a note of self-conscious virtue.

Rearden turned away. He felt a sudden loathing: not because the words were hypocrisy, but because they were true; Philip meant them.


The symbol of The Chain is very well done. I'm sure Rand will explore/explain it further...



Thu Sep 06, 2012 6:45 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
This is my first time reading this novel and my first time reading any of Ayn Rand's fiction. I just finished reading these two chapters and really enjoyed Rand's imagery as well. LanDroid already mentioned the oak tree and I would add to that the map of the Transcontinental railway as a system of blood vessels and covering the map was also very dramatic and makes me think that these images will be important throughout the book. I also wonder if Rearden will regret making the donation in cash instead of by check. Rand's characterization of the brother and his charitable society as willing to take the money but not wanting to admit who it is from showed the hypocrisy of many organizations and Rand's thoughts on them. I found it interesting that Reardon gives the money to his brother with the thought that it will make him happy to have reached his fundraising goal but the brother shows no emotion and doesn't even seem to care.

I also like that Rand leaves little mysteries throughout the storty so far. Of course, there is "Who is John Galt?" and then why does Owen Kellogg quit and the question of Halley's Fifth Concerto. These seem to be little side stories that I'm assuming Rand will bring together as the novel progresses.

As for thoughts on how Reardon and Dagny Taggert are similar I found it interesting that both of their families dislike their focus on making money and running a business but are more than ok living off of them and not working while denigrating them at the same time. Both are very focused on business (of course) and are annoyed and frustrated that their are not more people around them, like themselves.



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Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:42 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
The quality that comes through most to me in this book is strength of character. Rand is observing that most people go with the flow, but the only real achievements are from people who have the strength of character to swim against the tide of public opinion and be true to their own vision. She says this is rare, and the world is collapsing as a result. Strength of character was what enabled America's Founding Fathers to have a vision of freedom that turned the USA into the greatest nation on earth. But this vision has been betrayed by mass culture.

I fear the situation is even worse now than when Rand wrote more than fifty years ago. Mass media is brainwashing people into an idiotic sameness. The Matrix is coming true, with people plugged in to a computer that tells them how to think. Ayn Rand is a beacon of integrity. That is why she is celebrated as one of America's greatest authors, and why she is loathed by people who promote conformity. Creativity requires individual greatness.


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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
I've just finished reading chapter one. I wanted to join in on the discussion of this book because of how many people have, in the past, tried to explain the book to me with glossed-over eyes - as though hypnotized by the holy spirit. I thought some of the messages that people told me about the book were very good and others were extremely dangerous.

So I've already got some preconceived notions about what the book is going to be about and I already see some absurdities... such as the male taggart's unique humanitarianism. Hehehehe. He wants to give smaller companies a chance and help struggling nations? A company wants to do this? I'm sorry but a board approved the decisions based on THAT? A whole board of shareholders? How did this man ever get the job? Obviously he was born into it? I can see a good message here.

But, if his sister really made such great decisions... wouldn't she already be the head of the company? Wouldn't the board already be seeking advice from her because she made them the most money? Ok, maybe not.. maybe this is her big break. This entire time the railroad has been floundering but all of a sudden she's decided to finally do something about it despite her job title has enabled her to do so in the past - like a robot - she has been activated.

Since when does humanity infiltrate the upper echelons of a corporation??? That's the last place you'll find it. Tying incompetence with humanitarianism and competence with capitalism is the message of chapter one for me. That's unacceptable because it's not correct and it's wrong to insinuate it.

And to mention Steinbeck in a thread about Rand made me smile.



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Mon Sep 10, 2012 5:23 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
Thanks for joining in everyone - things are picking up..... Some of you are better at picking out broader themes than I am, so keep it going!

President Comancho, we're going to get a much larger dose of "humanity" infiltrating the boardroom in Chapter 3. That's where it started to bother me, so stay tuned, there's work to be done...



Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:37 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
President Camacho wrote:
I've just finished reading chapter one. I wanted to join in on the discussion of this book because of how many people have, in the past, tried to explain the book to me with glossed-over eyes - as though hypnotized by the holy spirit. I thought some of the messages that people told me about the book were very good and others were extremely dangerous.
Atlas Shrugged is about establishing capitalism as a religion. That is why it is such a controversial book. The theme of rugged individualism speaks to the American mythology of the frontier, but it needs to be tempered by recognition of the harm of unregulated freedom.
Quote:

So I've already got some preconceived notions about what the book is going to be about and I already see some absurdities... such as the male taggart's unique humanitarianism. Hehehehe. He wants to give smaller companies a chance and help struggling nations? A company wants to do this? I'm sorry but a board approved the decisions based on THAT? A whole board of shareholders? How did this man ever get the job? Obviously he was born into it? I can see a good message here.
Ayn Rand may have originated the notion of political correctness, and at least had a major influence on it. Jim Taggart is a caricature of a politically correct businessman, unwilling to make decisions, convinced that all power rests with government, weak and stupid, obsequious towards left wing political argument, and therefore a complete failure at building his firm.
Quote:
But, if his sister really made such great decisions... wouldn't she already be the head of the company? Wouldn't the board already be seeking advice from her because she made them the most money? Ok, maybe not.. maybe this is her big break. This entire time the railroad has been floundering but all of a sudden she's decided to finally do something about it despite her job title has enabled her to do so in the past - like a robot - she has been activated.
Dagny Taggart has been held back by her sex, but she is just as selfish and career focussed as any successful man. Rand seems to observe the idea that a founder makes the wealth, his son keeps it and his grandson wastes it.
Quote:
Since when does humanity infiltrate the upper echelons of a corporation??? That's the last place you'll find it. Tying incompetence with humanitarianism and competence with capitalism is the message of chapter one for me. That's unacceptable because it's not correct and it's wrong to insinuate it.

And that is precisely why Atlas Shrugged is so controversial. Rand is portraying mainstream culture as infected by communist values of too much sharing, in contrast to the capitalist values of creating wealth that built America.


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Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:14 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters I–II (1 - 2)
I noticed a likeness between the oak tree and the Taggart Transcontinental. Willers sees it as something that will always be there and strong. This is also how he saw the tree before it was knocked down. I also found it interesting that, as Dagny came into the station, she saw the Taggart building as having roots underground and feeding the city. These roots would also be hollow like the trees. I know nothing about this book, having never read it before, but this all leads me to believe that Taggart is going to fall.

I did not see Jim as an idealist or wanting to be involved in humanitarian efforts. I see Jim as having given up. I think he is worn down and not up for a fight. This makes him feel like he is walked all over by the board. Dagny appears to want to get things down and continue to grow the company by doing things like using Rearden Steel. I see her as a doer and Jim as someone who just guesses and hopes for the best.

I sympathize with Rearden. He can't seem to do anything right with his family. His mother seems to see him as a lost cause and his brother cannot even accept his generous offer of the money. Even if he wants the money in cash, he cannot even be excited about it. If he is so concerned about this cause, he should be excited that he has the money to do it. I know that most places that fundraise do not want to accept from just anywhere, but this is his brother.

Some interesting things that I noted as well:

*The oak tree as a symbol of strength.
*Taggart Transcontinental as arteries or roots.
*The extreme differences in the Taggart and Rearden siblings.
*The constant mention of "Who is John Galt?"
*The whistled concerto.
*Owen Kellog's sudden resignation.
*Rearden's family relationships.
*The professor's quote of "Of what importance is an individual in the titanic collective achievements of our industrial age?"
*Paul Larkin's concerns about Washington and the public opinion.
*The idea that Rearden holds everyone in bondage.

I have not been able to make solid connections or thoughts on all of these as of yet, but am keeping them in my notes for reference, hopefully, at a later point.



Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:44 am
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