Atlas Shrugged Outline
Part 1 – Non-Contradiction
Chapter 1 – The Theme
Eddie Willers wonders who is John Galt and feels uneasy. He speaks with a bum, walks through the broken windows, cracked skyscrapers and closed shops of New York City, then confronts James Taggart about the Rio Norte Line.
Dagny Taggart hears Halley’s Fifth Concerto whistled, gets her train moving again, and tells James she’s ordered new track made from Rearden Metal. James is upset about the track but won’t do anything.
Owen Kellogg quits for a personal reason that he won’t explain to Dagny. He rejects a promotion.
Chapter 2 – The Chain
Hank Rearden produces the first Rearden Metal, then comes home to his family who mistreat him horribly. Lillian Rearden schedules a wedding anniversary party with Hank. Hank gives Lillian a Rearden Metal bracelet, which she doesn’t appreciate. Paul Larkin gives Hank a hint of warning about government action against Hank. Hank gives his brother Philip $10,000, in cash, to be used to undermine Hank’s business.
Chapter 3 – The Top And The Bottom
James meets with Orren Boyle, Larkin and Wesley Mouch. They plot against James’ and Boyle’s competitors. The plots are the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule to prevent the Phoenix-Durango railroad from competing in Colorado and the Equalization of Opportunity Bill to prevent Hank from owning multiple businesses.
Dagny remembers events from before the book begins: Her rise at Taggart Transcontinental; Francisco d‘Anconia’s involvement with the worthless San Sebastián Mines; James building an expensive railroad in Mexico to the mines while letting U.S. railroad lines rot. Dagny was promoted because they needed her to complete the San Sebastián Line, which they’d been failing to build, but she never understood the reason.
James comes to speak with Dagny because she’s taken equipment out of Mexico, so the Mexican government has less to steal. James is outraged and denies the Line will be nationalized, but he won’t give Dagny specific orders about what train schedules to run in Mexico.
Dagny thinks of her ancestor, the company founder, Nat Taggart, who started with nothing and built a railroad across the continent. He faced tough business problems, including getting funding and dealing with hostile legislators, but he succeeded.
Dagny stops to talk with the cigarette seller.
Eddie eats with John and shares information about Dagny’s plans for the Rio Norte Line, and mentions the contractor – McNamara – who will build it.
Chapter 4 – The Immovable Movers
McNamara – the country’s best contractor with a waiting list of clients – retires.
Dagny listens to Richard Halley music and remembers his story. Halley did great work and struggled because the public didn’t appreciate it. Then he got popular for the same work, for no reason, and his audience still didn’t understand. He retired.
Francisco returns to New York to witness the “farce” (people assume he means a sexual scandal he’s involved in, but he means the failure of the San Sebastián Mines and railroad line).
James sleeps with Betty Pope and has petty arguments with her. He plans to get Dagny in trouble with the Board of Directors, but cancels his plan when she’s proven right: the Mexican government nationalizes the mines and railroad line.
James lies to the Board claiming credit for Dagny’s policy of moving what she could out of Mexico – the same policy he was planning to attack her for. He blames other people for the disaster and has them fired. He gets away with it.
Boyle tells James that he’s confirmed that Francisco lost money in the disaster too. They thought they were safe because he’d have to make the project succeed to protect his own money.
The National Alliance of Railroads passes the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule to remove James’ competition in Colorado. Boyle made it happen behind the scenes. James brags to Dagny about the rule.
Dagny encourages Dan Conway, but he gives up. He won’t fight against the injustice.
Ellis Wyatt barges into Dagny’s office to deliver an ultimatum: if they run trains badly and put him out of business, he’ll ensure they don’t profit off of his destruction.
Dagny has to speed up the construction schedule to match the date that Conway is being forced out. This makes her job harder. Hank agrees to provide her rail earlier. Dagny and Hank talk about the future of Colorado and about their own productive plans.
Chapter 5 – The Climax Of The D‘Anconias
Dagny remembers her childhood history with Francisco and speaks with him about the San Sebastian disaster.
Chapter 6 – The Non-Commercial
Hank has a wedding anniversary party with awful guests. He hates it and mistreats Dagny. Francisco comes to meet Hank and judge Hanks’ character. A party guest says John Galt discovered Atlantis. Dagny trades her diamond bracelet for Lillian’s Rearden Metal bracelet.
Chapter 7 – The Exploiters And The Exploited
Dagny visits the Rio Norte line to supervise construction. Her contractor is terrible, but Ellis Wyatt has been helping. She has a difficult time getting people to use Rearden Metal, e.g. for drill heads. People say “I couldn’t help it” instead of getting their job done, so she has to manage everything.
Hank comes to design the Rearden Metal bridge, which Dagny’s engineers couldn’t conceive of, and to evaluate buying a copper mine.
Back in New York City, James takes Dagny to debate ‘Is Rearden Metal a lethal product of greed?’ She flees the car and gets coffee at a diner. A patron tells her that John Galt found the fountain of youth high on a mountain, but couldn’t bring it down.
A State Science Institute man visits Rearden and says he doesn’t like Rearden Metal. Rearden doesn’t care and refuses to sell the rights to Rearden Metal at any price.
The Amalgamated Switch and Signal Company stops making Rearden Metal switches because the metal is unpopular. The State Science Institute smears Rearden Metal. Dagny’s contractor and others quit working on the Rio Norte line.
Dagny visits Dr. Robert Stadler, who refuses to stand up to the State Science Institute or take responsibility for its actions. He suggests Rearden Metal makes his expensive team of scientists look bad and that the metal should be sacrificed to maintain their reputation so they can get funding. He says intelligence has no chance in the world, and speaks of the fates of his three intelligent students: Francisco, the bum; Ragnar Danneskjöld, the pirate; and John Galt, the nobody.
James is hiding. Dagny finds him and tells him she’ll finish the Rio Norte line with her own private company. She renames it the John Galt line. Francisco refuses to fund it, but she uses her own money and gets funding from Colorado industrialists, Ken Danagger and Hank Rearden. Hank realizes he’s attracted to Dagny.
Hank’s mother tries to get a job for Philip so Philip can have money while pretending it’s not charity. The Equalization of Opportunity Bill passes; Mouch has betrayed Hank. Hank continues with business as usual, providing steel to a harvester company that would otherwise go out of business. Hank comes up with an improved Rearden Metal bridge design.
Chapter 8 – The John Galt Line
Eddie speaks with John in the cafeteria. Dwight Sanders quits. Dagny is lonely and sees a shadow outside her door, struggling to enter or leave; it leaves. (It was John’s shadow.)
Hank sells his ore mines to Paul Larkin and his coal mines to Danagger, then uses the money to delay collecting payment from Taggart Transcontinental for the Rearden Metal rails.
Dagny and Hank speak with the press, ride on the first train on the John Galt Line, and have sex for the first time at Ellis’ home. They’re happy but Ellis doesn’t expect it to last.
Chapter 9 – The Sacred and The Profane
Hank thinks sex is depraved; Dagny doesn’t. Dagny thinks they earned the pleasure of sex with their accomplishments and that there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the John Galt Line’s success.
James meets Cheryll Brooks at the dime store and doesn’t have sex with her on their first date. James likes her (factually misinformed) hero worship of him.
Mr. Mowen complains about Colorado and hopes that a new government bureau, led by Hank-Readen-double-crosser Mouch, will improve things.
After the success of the John Galt Line, Dagny and Hank expect to be left free to achieve in the future. Hank even predicts the Equalization of Opportunity Bill will soon be repealed. Due to the improved business situation, Hank and Dagny go on vacation. They visit the closed 20th Century Motor Company and find, in the rubble, the remnants of a huge breakthrough in motor technology.
Chapter 10 – Wyatt’s Torch
Eddie asks Dagny to fight government plans to kill Colorado. Dagny doesn’t know how to fight that battle, so she searches for the inventor of the motor instead. She visits a succession of people and learns about the need-based wages which put the 20th Century Motor Company out of business, including Mayor Bascom, Eugene Lawson (a former bank President now working Washington), Gerald Starnes, Ivy Starnes, and the wife of the engineer William Hastings.
Midas Mulligan’s background is covered when Dagny talks with Lee Hunsacker, who had taken over the Twentieth Century Motor Company factory after the Starnes heirs ruined it.
Eventually, Dagny finds the great philosopher, Hugh Akston – her last lead – who won’t tell her anything about the inventor of the motor.
Meanwhile, Larkin doesn’t deliver ore to Hank. Hank feels guilty about breaking his marital vows. Lillian demands that Hank figure out what would make her happy. Lillian insults Hank’s products and scorns money.
Harsh, destructive, unfair government directives are announced, so Ellis sets his oil wells on fire and quits.
Part 2 – Either-Or
Chapter 1 – The Man Who Belonged On Earth
The country has had shortages of oil and other commodities because industrial society is breaking down and the State Science Institute is failing to produce oil from Ellis Wyatt’s wells. Dr. Robert Stadler meets Dr. Floyd Ferris; Ferris’ new book attacks reason, but Stadler takes no action.
As the country falls apart, Dagny has been cutting trains while James gets money from government subsidies. Dagny consults Stadler about the inventor of the motor and about any physicists who could work on reconstructing it.
Hank refuses to sell any Rearden Metal to the State Science Institute, but most of his sales are controlled by the government, which also limits his production.
Hank buys Dagny gifts and enjoys luxury. They discuss the sanction of the victim.
Chapter 2 – The Aristocracy Of Pull
Colorado continues falling apart. Dagny hires Quentin Daniels to work on the motor, which gives her some hope. The cigarette seller was unable to discover where the dollar sign cigarette was made.
Hank and Danagger conspire to do business together.
Lillian pushes Hank to attend James Taggart’s wedding. She lies that she has normal motives but actually wants to signal her control over him to James and to signal his fear of James to the world.
Cherryl Brooks receives little help in preparation for the wedding and has a bad time at parties. She doesn’t understand James but tries to live up to a great railroad man. At her wedding, she confronts Dagny – who James had lied to her about.
Boyle is gaining power in Washington to challenge James. James’ wedding is full of the politics of favors and friends in high places.
Lillian confronts Dagny about wearing the Rearden Metal bracelet and wants it back, but Dagny keeps it. Hank takes Dagny’s side this time.
Francisco makes unwanted comments to James, then gives a long, positive speech about money. Hank likes Francisco but is still confused by him. Francisco reveals to Hank that he intentionally mismanaged D’Anconia Copper, then starts a panic among investors.
Chapter 3 – White Blackmail
Lillian catches Hank having an affair but doesn’t know who the woman is (it’s Dagny). She wants to stay married and have Hank feel guilty. He does feel guilty, so he doesn’t stand up to her.
Hank refuses to sell any Rearden Metal to the State Science Institute despite being caught breaking the law by selling metal to Danagger. He doesn’t feel guilty about his crime.
Eddie talks with John and reveals Dagny’s plan to meet with Danagger and stop him from quitting. John gets there first and persuades Danagger to retire. Dagny can’t say anything to change Danagger’s mind. She asks him questions but she doesn’t understand.
Francisco visits Hank but gives up on persuading Hank about moral codes after they fight a furnace break-out. Hank puts up with the looters and parasites because he enjoys his capacity for productive and effective action.
Chapter 4 – The Sanction of the Victim
Hank’s family isn’t grateful to him at Thanksgiving. Lillian tries to guilt Hank into giving in at his trial by references to his affair. She says he’s an immoral person who’s in no position to take a principled, moral stand. Hank stands up to his brother, Philip, threatening to halt financial support if Philip continues to be Hank’s enemy.
The Wet Nurse didn’t betray Hank, even though it was his job to.
Hank tells Dagny he’ll continue breaking the law to supply Rearden Metal to her.
Hank doesn’t recognize the court’s right to try him, because he doesn’t recognize selling Rearden Metal to Danagger as a crime, because he doesn’t recognize the government’s right to control the sale of his metal. Hank says they can take his wealth or imprison him by force, but he won’t offer his voluntary participation. Hank speaks of guns and force while the judges don’t want to. The judges make the excuse that Danagger was the primary guilty man, but Hank declares his own equal participation. The judges let Hank go free and lots of the audience cheers for him.
Hank inspires Dagny, but is unhappy with the reaction of many other businessmen, and he’s smeared by men like Bertram Scudder. Hank visits Francisco, who gives a speech about sex and explains that he isn’t a playboy. But Hank feels betrayed because Francisco doesn’t deliver a copper order and Hank has some understanding that it’s intentional.
Chapter 5 – Account Overdrawn
Hank fails to deliver an order (the Rearden Metal for Taggart Transcontinental), for the first time ever, because he didn’t receive the copper from D’Anconia Copper. Dagny doesn’t blame him, but he takes it badly.
Rand describes chains of consequences. Late coal deliveries and other ways the country is falling apart lead to e.g. closed businesses. As the country becomes less prosperous and industrial, winter weather causes more harm than it used to.
The Taggart Transcontinental Board of Directors meet to close the John Galt Line. They negotiate with Mr. Weatherby, from Washington, about demands for lower rates and higher wages. They pressure Dagny to close the John Galt Line herself, but she refuses to offer her voluntary participation in their faking of reality.
James says he’ll do whatever Washington demands to keep his job, so they control him. He’s pressured into betraying the National Alliance of Railroads. Dagny says she’s unable to perform some jobs asked of her, and refuses some orders, rather than cooperating with her would-be masters who want her effort to enable their evasions of reality.
Francisco comes to comfort Dagny after the John Galt Line’s demise. He judges she’s not ready to quit.
Dagny rides the last train on the John Galt Line.
Lillian speaks with James about her failure to control Hank at his trial. She’s still trying to find a way to enslave Hank. She discovers that his affair was with Dagny, but Hank stands up to her. The account which is overdrawn (from the chapter title) is Lillian’s ability to control Hank. He won’t obey further demands.
Chapter 6 – Miracle Metal
Mouch runs a meeting to discuss Directive 10-289 which orders everyone to stand still. It says people can’t change jobs, produce more or less, spend more or less, or invent anything new. Fred Kinnan successfully pressures Mouch, to gain political power, because Kinnan controls lots of votes. James trades blackmail material – Hank’s affair with Dagny – for a raise in railroad rates.
Dagny quits over Directive 10-289 and leaves for her cabin.
Hank’s union foreman quits, saying he won’t help keep men working under the directive. The Wet Nurse offers to help Hank break the law in order to do something moral. Dr. Ferris threatens Dagny’s reputation to make Hank sign the gift certificate giving Rearden Metal to the state. Hank thinks about the moral code he’s failed to stand up to. He signs because he wants to pay for his own mistakes.
Chapter 7 – The Moratorium on Brains
Eddie tells John about Mr. Locey, Dagny’s useless replacement who tries to please James and frame men instead of trying to run a railroad. Eddie also reveals where Dagny went.
Hank starts the process of getting a divorce. Ragnar Danneskjöld meets Hank in the night to give him a bar of gold. Danneskjöld is collecting gold to refund the income taxes of productive men. Hank says he disapproves, then lies to the cops to protect Danneskjöld.
Kip Chalmers demands speedy transportation and dies in the Winston tunnel disaster. James, Locey, Dave Mitchum and others avoid the responsibility of saying no to Chalmers. Everyone sets it up so they can blame any bad outcome on someone else, but they aren’t concerned about running the railroad well. Descriptions of train passengers convey how everyone on the train had some guilt in the disaster.
Chapter 8 – By Our Love
At her cabin, Dagny struggles with letting go of the railroad and the world more generally. She’s tempted to produce and improve things, but the people living in the nearby town aren’t industrious. But she doesn’t know what else to do with her life.
Francisco arrives and explains that he was one of the first men to quit, and that he’s been destroying D’Anconia copper on purpose so that the looters can’t have it. Dagny begins to understand, but rushes back to Taggart Transcontinental after hearing about the Winston tunnel disaster on the radio.
James is on the verge of resigning. He can’t handle the Winston tunnel disaster fallout. He tries to pressure Dagny’s location out of Eddie, but Eddie won’t say. Then Dagny returns and saves James. Washington calls; Dagny says she’s going to start breaking their laws to run the railroad.
Chapter 9 – The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt
Francisco tries to talk with Dagny about how she’s maintaining the looter’s world. Hank walks in on them at Dagny’s apartment. Hank’s angry at Francisco for visiting Dagny and for not delivering the copper order. Hank discovers that Francisco loves Dagny and slaps Francisco. Francisco controls himself and leaves.
Dagny receives a letter from Quentin Daniels saying he’s quitting because he doesn’t want the looter’s world to have the motor. On the phone, Quentin agrees to speak with Dagny about it in person. She sets up a transcontinental route using track from other railroads. Dagny leaves for Utah (where Daniels is) by railroad in order to meet each division superintendent on the way and see the track.
Eddie speaks to John at the cafeteria and shares information about Quentin, and shares that Dagny is sleeping with Hank.
Chapter 10 – The Sign of the Dollar
On the train, Dagny has dinner with a bum who was stealing a ride. He tells her the story of the 20th Century Motor Company and the origin of the question “Who is John Galt?”
The train crew deserts. Dagny and Owen Kellogg walk to a phone to call for a new crew. Dagny spots his dollar-sign cigarettes, but can’t buy them because she doesn’t have any gold.
Dagny abandons the train because she cares more about reaching Quentin. She flies to Utah. When she lands, she finds Quentin just left on a plane. She flies after the plane and follows it into the Rocky Mountains. The plane flies down and disappears in the mountains, but Dagny can’t see a landing site or a wreck. Investigating, there’s a flash of light and she loses control of her plane.
Part 3 – A is A
Chapter 1 – Atlantis
Dagny crashes in Galt’s Gulch, meets John, and discovers that the destroyer who makes men retire is also the inventor of the motor. She gets medical attention and meets Midas Mulligan and the Colorado industrialists. She sees a cleaner, appealing life in the valley. She visits the powerhouse where John’s motor is built and working, and reads the inscription:
I SWEAR BY MY LIFE AND MY LOVE OF IT THAT I WILL NEVER LIVE FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER MAN, NOR ASK ANOTHER MAN TO LIVE FOR MINE.
After sleeping, Dagny goes to dinner and hears the stories of Akston, Danagger, Halley and others. John gives a short speech explaining the strike, and other people add explanations. Dagny doesn’t know if she wants to stay in the valley or return to New York.
Chapter 2 – The Utopia Of Greed
Dagny meets Danneskjöld and others at Galt’s Gulch. She works as John’s cook and maid.
Francisco arrives and is relieved to find Dagny alive. He reveals more about what he’s been doing with d’Anconia Copper and that he isn’t a playboy. Dagny visits his copper mine and talks about building a few miles of railroad tracks.
Dagny and Francisco discover that John loves Dagny, and Dagny realizes she’s most interested in John.
Dagny decides to go back to New York because she thinks her battle for the railroad is winnable as long men want to live. John returns to New York to continuing monitoring Dagny and to win her.
Chapter 3 – Anti-Greed
Dr. Stadler witnesses the first public Xylophone demonstration. He realizes he’s powerless. He gives a radio speech defending the Xylophone, written by Dr. Ferris, which he doesn’t believe.
Dagny returns to New York and meets Cuffy Meigs, the Director of Unification. She finds out that railroads are now pooling their resources: sharing track and being paid by the amount of track they own (regardless of usage). Their transcontinental traffic now runs two thirds of the journey on Atlantic Southern track for free, and the Atlantic Southern president killed himself. Trains are ordered by Meigs to provide transportation for people with friends in Washington. Dagny and Eddie begin working to reduce the number of train wrecks.
Dagny refuses James’ request that she go on Bertram Scudder’s radio show to reassure the country about its leaders and that she wasn’t a deserter. She’s a desirable propaganda tool because of her reputation as a rational industrialist.
Dagny agrees to go on the radio show after Lillian attempts blackmail. Lillian says she knows about the affair between Dagny and Hank, that the affair made Hank sign the gift certificate giving Rearden Metal to the state, and that Dagny must obey or else Lillian will publicize the affair.
Dagny goes on the show and says to judge Hank and herself by Hank’s motive for signing the gift certificate. Then she herself reveals the affair, proudly. Then she reveals that the blackmail threat was the motive for Hank signing.
At Dagny’s apartment, Hank explains his love for her in detail. He’s learned a lot, but he also knows it’s over because Dagny used the past tense when speaking about her affair. Hank is OK with the situation; he’s happy. Dagny was upset by her public disgrace, and Hank’s attitude helps her.
Chapter 4 – Anti-Life
James goes to parties he doesn’t like. The plan to nationalize d’Anconia copper is underway.
Cherryl and James argue. She gets more clues that he’s rotten. She had learned to fit into high society, but James didn’t like it. She had tried to understand James and found out that Dagny runs the railroad.
Dagny spent the last month racing from emergency to emergency. She tried to hold up bits and pieces of the railroad without an overall plan.
Cherryl visits Dagny and apologizes for being mistaken about Dagny’s virtue. Dagny explains that the opposite of charity is justice. Dagny is helpful and asks Cherryl to return again.
James can’t help Lillian with her upcoming divorce, but they have sex to spite Hank while she’s still Hank’s wife.
Cherryl catches James committing adultery and learns more about his immorality. He hits her and she flees. She wanders dark streets, thinks about the society she lives in, is lectured by a social worker, and kills herself.
Chapter 5 – Their Brothers’ Keepers
The railroad is falling apart. Men circumvent the chain of command to report problems to Dagny. She deals with issues like copper wire shortages. Men with political friends still get transportation.
On September 2nd, James demands Dagny’s help while waiting for a radio announcement which he expects to be a triumph. She thinks about what’s wrong with society. Instead of announcing the confiscation of d’Anconia Copper, the radio announces its destruction. There’s no copper left to loot.
At dinner, speaking of the destruction of d’Anconia Copper, Hank tells Dagny that Francisco did keep his oath: he was Hank’s friend. People in the restaurant bitter attack Francisco, but Dagny and Hank are pleased. Francisco makes the calendar say “Brother, you asked for it!”
Philip tries to get a job he can’t do, on the basis of family, but Hank refuses. Hank divorces Lillian.
The Wet Nurse asks for a job. Hank would give it to him, but the government wouldn’t like it.
Meigs sends trains away from the Minnesota wheat harvest, dooming many to die in a famine. They’re sent to pick up moldy soybeans.
Politicians discuss closing the Minnesota line, but Dagny suggests giving up the transcontinental line to the West instead, in order to focus on the industrial East. She values industry but the politicians want to rule from sea to sea.
Dagny leaves to deal with broken signals (due to broken copper wire) in the Taggart Terminal. She uses lanterns and written orders. She has borrows an engineer from another railroad to fix because of the shortage of brains. John lets her see that he’s been working as a laborer at her railroad and they have sex in a tunnel.
Chapter 6 – The Concerto Of Deliverance
Hank is pressured by union demands orchestrated by politicians.
Hank refuses his family’s request for money.
The politicians lure Hank to a conference so their thugs can initiate violence at his mills while he isn’t present. They propose the Steel Unification Plan. Hank argues with them and better understands them.
Hank leaves early and finds that Francisco led the successful defense of his mills, but the Wet Nurse was shot and dies.
Chapter 7 – “This Is John Galt Speaking”
John gives a long speech.
Chapter 8 – The Egoist
Dagny suggests Mr. Thompson and the other politicians give up; John knows what to do and they don’t. Thompson decides to make a deal with John and get his help. He has Dagny tailed.
Dagny and Eddie discuss John having been working at Taggart Transcontinental, a track laborer, for the last twelve years.
The country is collapsing as John ignores the government’s requests to negotiate with him. Hank quits.
Mr. Thompson asks Dagny where John is. She suggests he start decontrolling, but he refuses. He scares Dagny by suggesting that John may be murdered by the Ferris-Lawson-Meigs faction.
Dagny visits John. He instructs her to claim the reward and pretend she hates him for destroying her railroad. John is captured.
John offers to obey orders literally but won’t use his mind to help the government. John points out the government has no values to offer him. Mr. Thompson and other politicians fail in discussions with John.
Eddie flies to California trying to save Taggart Transcontinental.
John requests to see Stadler, who breaks down.
At a staged dinner, John moves the reveal the gun pointed at him to the cameras.
Chapter 9 – The Generator
Stadler drives to take over project X, but Meigs got there first. They bicker and cause an explosion damaging a hundred mile radius. It cuts the Taggart Bridge over the Mississippi in half.
Dagny overhears plans to torture John and phones Francisco. Dagny ignores the destroyed Taggart Bridge, which isn’t her problem anymore.
John’s torturers (Ferris, Mouch and James) break before he does.
Chapter 10 – In The Name Of The Best Within Us
Dagny, Hank, Francisco, and Danneskjöld rescue John.
Eddie’s train back to the East Coast breaks down. He stays with it when the passengers leave for covered wagons.
At Galt’s Gulch, they plan their return to the world.