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Atlas Shrugged: Part One: Chapter Five: The Climax of the d’Anconias

Predictable liberal outrage.

Lisa: They can’t seriously expect us to swallow that tripe.
Skinner: Now as a special treat courtesy of our friends at the Meat Council, please help yourself to this tripe. (Class cheers and runs to table loaded with tripe)
Lisa: Stop it, Stop IT! Don’t you realize you’ve just been brainwashed by corporate propaganda?
Janie: Hmmph, apparently my crazy friend here hasn’t heard of the food chain.
Uter: Yeah, Lisa’s a grade A moron!
Ralph: When I grow up, I’m going to go to Bovine University.

“Lisa the Vegetarian,” The Simpsons

Chapter V: The Climax of the d’Anconias

Pages 89 – 126

Summary: The plot thickens!  The beautiful genius Dagny Taggart is reading the newspaper one night while listening to the genius composer Richard Halley.  (Like the comet.  Get it?)  She comes upon an article about Francisco d’Anconia and nearly has a brain aneurysm.

The majority of the chapter is a flashback about Dagny and Francisco growing up.  The pair of heirs even has cute nicknames they call each other.  It also humanizes the idealized achieving duo.  Francisco calls her “Slug” (“In case you don’t know it, ‘Slug’ means a great fire in a locomotive firebox.”) and Dagny calls him “Frisco.”

Francisco d’Anconia before he became a worthless playboy.

Francisco is a scion from a powerful Spanish family.  His ancestor, Sebastián d’Anconia, left Spain when it was “the most powerful country on earth and his was one of the proudest figures.”  (Let’s give Rand the benefit of the doubt and say sometime in the 17th century during the reign of King Philip II or thereabouts.)  Sebastián fled Spain after disagreeing with a member of the Inquisition and throwing a wine goblet at his face.

Sebastian got away because they gave him three … no, four!  four!  Four last chances.

Since this is a Rand novel, Sebastián is a self-made man, bootstrapping his way to wealth with superhuman vigor.  He did have help from army deserters, “escaped convicts, and starving Indians.”

We also follow the growth of Francisco in a similarly meteoric fashion.  He is exceptionally talented, speaks five languages, and has an aptitude with technology reminiscent of Jarod from the Pretender.  When perpetual screw-up James Taggart receives a motorboat for his birthday, he can barely pilot the thing.  Then Frisco jumps in, no experience whatsoever, and pilots it like a pro.

Reading Atlas Shrugged is almost as fun as playing this game.

The chapter has Dagny falling for Francisco.  Their relationship includes pre-marital sex, because Objectivists cannot be bothered with such trifling conventions like marriage.  The sex itself is troubling.  I’ll explain in the Observations.

Dagny’s life is also profiled, from her awkward debut in high society.  She also works hard as an engineering student and a worker at Taggart Transcontinental.

“That winter she stripped her life down to a bright simplicity of a geometrical drawing: a few straight lines – to and from engineering college in the city by day, to and from her job at Rockdale Station each night – and the closed circle of her room, a room littered with diagrams of motors, blueprints of steel structures, and railroad timetables.”

Dagny is a little Stakhanov, industrious and ruthless in her desire to rise to the top.  Meanwhile, Francisco attends Patrick Henry University.  Randian subtlety strikes again.  “Give me liberty or give me –” Oh you know the rest.

Alexey Stakhanov (1905 – 1977): Soviet exemplar to inspire the workers to increase their productivity.

The chapter ends with Dagny meeting Francisco at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel.  It turns out he made a business deal that lost money and is living like a playboy.  The People’s State of Mexico seized his San Sebastián Mines, having detrimental economic repercussions for other businesses.

Observations: Rand’s ideological shortcutting continues in her biography of Sebastián d’Anconia.  He used deserters, convicts, and Indians, but not slaves, despite the monumental evidence to the contrary.  The slavery, brutality, and forced conversion cannot be easily dismissed, including the obvious fact that Spanish colonialism was a government-run operation.  Only the English and Dutch colonial systems created purely corporate structures (Dutch East India Company, Hudson Bay Company, etc.), albeit ones that slowly devolved into political entities.  The Spanish colonial agenda operated under the twin agendas of finding gold and creating converts.

To write Objectivist history, just whitewash out the unpleasant parts that contradict your economic dogma.  Stalin used it to make the Commissar disappear.

The Russian name for steel is “Stalin.”  Like Hank Rearden, he cared more about his work than his family.

Sebastián’s anti-Catholicism would not go far in the Spanish Empire.  He would probably end up burnt at the stake after some serious torture.  Rand’s anti-Catholic hero dovetails into her atheism.  It is a daring move for a book written in 1957, since the Eisenhower administration added “Under God” to the Pledge (1954) and “In God We Trust” on the currency (1956).  The pro-atheist message and the pre-marital sex makes this book very unconservative, at least since conservatism has degenerated into a theocratic capitalism.  However, in its essence, Objectivism is not conservatism, since conservatism values tradition and associates morality with organized religion.  Rand detests tradition and religion as much as any Stalinist cadre.  Instead of singing about tractors, she’s writing odes to railroads.

“Oh Lord, why won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? / My friends all drive Porsches I must make amends.”

The sex in this chapter is troubling.  It is not a rape, but comes close.  Dagny offers herself up to Francisco in an act of submission that seems radically out of character.  The scene is reminiscent of a rape fantasy scenario, but not worded as such, making the scene uncomfortable.  It is less a carnal union than a protracted power play (and one of the main vectors of rape is power).  The entire episode came across as highly un-erotic as opposed to a tennis scene that came close to rendering Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia in prose.

The physicality of the protagonists, mirroring the flabby immorality of the villains, represents the continuation of a trend allying body types with morality.  Any guesses who I’m talking about?

An example of German anti-communist art from the 1930s.

Bon Mots:

  • “Francisco, what’s the most depraved type of human being?”  “The man without a purpose.”  (I wonder if Rick Warren is an Ayn Rand fan?)
  • “She felt pleasure from the dull, hot pain in her cheek and from the taste of blood in the corner of her mouth.”
  • “He seized her, she felt her lips in his mouth, felt her arms grasping him in violent answer, and knew for the first time how much she had wanted him to do it.”  (I guess cuddling and foreplay is for looters.)

Who says Objectivists can’t rock?

Typical looter mindset.  Get a job, hippy!

  • “She lay still – as the motionless, then the quivering object of an act which he did simply, unhesitatingly, as of right, the right of the unendurable pleasure it gave them.”  (Most awkward erotic line ever written.)
  • “These were the times when she learned to feel a sense of beauty – by looking up at old wooden rafters or at the steel plate of an air-conditioning machine that whirred tensely, rhythmically above their heads.”  (“Beige.  I’ll paint the ceiling beige.”)
  1. June 20, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Meh. Dominance and submissiveness as part of human sexuality is very Politically Incorrect in this era but it’s nothing new to anyone who’s studied human sexuality much. And most people who study things like S&M and B&D will tell you the truth: the “submissive” party is the one who’s really in control most of the time. That sets modern teeth on edge but it’s true nonetheless; Dagny’s actually in charge of their sexual relation this whole chapter; she actually begins to take control when she provokes Francisco into slapping her; you can even see it in the text, the way she grins, the way she won’t let him cover it up, but the way she lets him off the hook anyway–she could have had him badly hurt but she chose not to. Even after their lovemaking, this is made clear, as she contemplates his body and, enraptured, notes that his body is now her property.

    From the slap scene to the tennis scene to the sex scene, it’s one scene after another of two equals in a contest to best the other, and Dagny wins most of the time. In fact she “wins” pretty much every time until Francisco leaves and won’t tell her why.

  1. July 11, 2010 at 5:04 am
  2. June 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm

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