Difference between revisions of "Henry Rearden"

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(Henry goes on strike)
(A bridge of Rearden Metal)
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Some months later, Dagny and Henry traveled separately to [[Colorado]] to survey the Rio Norte Line and its progress. There Henry told Dagny that she was wasting money by ordering new support members of Rearden Metal to prop up a tottering steel bridge. Why not build a new bridge, entirely of Rearden Metal? He then showed her his first rough sketch of such a bridge, based on the new type of truss that he had invented years before. He showed her that such a bridge would actually be less expensive than extra struts for the old bridge.
Some months later, Dagny and Henry traveled separately to [[Colorado]] to survey the Rio Norte Line and its progress. There Henry told Dagny that she was wasting money by ordering new support members of Rearden Metal to prop up a tottering steel bridge. Why not build a new bridge, entirely of Rearden Metal? He then showed her his first rough sketch of such a bridge, based on the new type of truss that he had invented years before. He showed her that such a bridge would actually be less expensive than extra struts for the old bridge.
If the level of FUD had been high when Dagny was merely proposing to lay rail of Rearden Metal, it now rose to a fever pitch with the news that she would build an entire bridge of the new metal. In fact, the [{State Science Institute]] issued a report essentially damning the Metal with faint praise, as an "unproved" technology. Henry dismissed the report, which seemed to him to have been written by men who had not even tried to work with the Metal. But the board of directors of the [[Taggart Transcontinental Railroad]] took it seriously. So did [[James Taggart]], who fled [[New York City]].
If the level of FUD had been high when Dagny was merely proposing to lay rail of Rearden Metal, it now rose to a fever pitch with the news that she would build an entire bridge of the new metal. In fact, the [[State Science Institute]] issued a report essentially damning the Metal with faint praise, as an "unproved" technology. Henry dismissed the report, which seemed to him to have been written by men who had not even tried to work with the Metal. But the board of directors of the [[Taggart Transcontinental Railroad]] took it seriously. So did [[James Taggart]], who fled [[New York City]].
When the situation became untenable, Dagny then proposed to organize her own firm, buy the right-of-way from Taggart Transcontinental, and build the line herself. She called the line the [[John Galt]] line, after the mysterious name "John Galt" that everyone was asking about in a common slang phrase. She found several enthusiastic investors, including Ellis Wyatt and Lawrence Hammond, who had decided to relocate to Colorado and looked forward to the completion of the line. Henry Rearden, despite Dagny's protests, also decided to invest in John Galt, Incorporated.
When the situation became untenable, Dagny then proposed to organize her own firm, buy the right-of-way from Taggart Transcontinental, and build the line herself. She called the line the [[John Galt]] line, after the mysterious name "John Galt" that everyone was asking about in a common slang phrase. She found several enthusiastic investors, including Ellis Wyatt and Lawrence Hammond, who had decided to relocate to Colorado and looked forward to the completion of the line. Henry Rearden, despite Dagny's protests, also decided to invest in John Galt, Incorporated.

Revision as of 21:08, 18 June 2009

Henry "Hank" Rearden is one of the heroes of Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged. He was both a businessman and an inventor, and was one of the last "holdouts" in the strike of the men of the mind that John Galt called.

Spoiler warning
This article contains important plot information

Rearden Metal

Henry Rearden did all his work in the business of making steel. He learned the steel business by working for other steel-making companies. When he eventually decided to run his steel mill, he also decided to have his own small companies to supply him with the iron ore and coal required to make steel.

But he was not satisfied with the properties of steel as a metal, and always believed that he could create an alloy superior to conventional steel. The novel never makes clear what caused him to experiment with alloys of copper and iron, but he might have gotten the idea from studying the properties of bronze, the alloy of copper and tin that had been known since antiquity. Rearden sought, in essence, to use iron instead of tin in combination with copper, and was convinced that that combination would be stronger than steel, yet much lighter.

His true motive for finding an alloy stronger and lighter than steel was to create a new type of bridge. He invented a new type of truss that he knew would require a new metal to build. (He would later discard that design in favor of a truss-arch combination.)

His experiments occupied many years and included many false starts. But at last he had the alloy that he sought. He called this alloy Rearden Metal.

Family life

Henry Rearden's family life was not nearly as happy as his business life. Where he met his wife Lillian, the novel does not discuss. She appears to have been a member of the New York City "social set," which in the alternate history of the novel had become highly politically liberal. (In real life it is probably associated with the magazine known as The New Yorker.) Henry had a brother, Philip, who had a number of liberal friends who were very much enamored of what in the novel might be called the "People's State movement" (probably the Communist movement). Neither person showed him any real consideration or appreciation. Henry Rearden's mother lived in his house, but apparently she did not show him much appreciation either.

The first illustration of Henry Rearden's troubled home life occurred on the day that his workforce poured the first heat of Rearden Metal. That his wife and family would not have known that this was coming seems incredible. Yet when he returned home, his family criticized him for not remembering his wedding anniversary. In fact, he had remembered his anniversary, because he had ordered a chain-link bracelet of Rearden Metal made from that first heat that his workers poured that day. Lillian showed little appreciation even for that present, and said of it,

How appropriate: a chain, by which he keeps us all in bondage.

The Rio Norte Line

Shortly before this debacle, he had received his first order for Rearden Metal. Rearden Metal was proving a difficult sell, because no one except him believed that any metal that was stronger than steel could also be lighter. (Ayn Rand would not hear of titanium, a metal element used for that very reason, until much later in her life.) But Dagny Taggart of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad placed a large order for rails made of Rearden Metal, for the renovation of Taggart's Rio Norte Line in Colorado. That line had fallen into inoperable disrepair, and Taggart Transcontinental was losing customers to a rival line that had a good track, which Taggart Transcontinental did not.

News of the order did not help the reputation of Rearden Steel, and for a time it harmed the reputation of Taggart Transcontinental. The reason was nothing more than what today is called FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). No one had used anything like Rearden Metal before, so no one expected it to work, and everyone expected a spectacular failure. Dagny Taggart bore the brunt of the criticism, but stubbornly insisted on using the new metal. Henry Rearden couldn't be more pleased that in Dagny Taggart he had a customer who concentrated on what was important, and ignored the voices of mindless fear.

About a month after she placed the order, Dagny Taggart came to see Rearden with a story that probably struck him as distasteful. Instead of trusting Dagny's judgment and confidence that she could have the Rio Norte Line back in proper repair within a year, Dagny's brother James had lobbied in Washington for passage of a measure called "The Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule," the latest of a number of measures intended to protect less-able businessmen who were under pressure from more-able competitors. Under that new rule, the Phoenix-Durango Railroad was ordered essentially to cease operations within nine months, and Taggart Transcontinental would be the only railroad available in Colorado. The head of the Phoenix-Durango line had accepted the rule without much protest, and then had announced his intention to retire permanently. Apparently, the Phoenix-Durango Line's best customer, Ellis Wyatt (who had made a fortune extracting oil from shale), had come to deliver an ultimatum to Dagny that if his business failed on account of Taggart Transcontinental's faulty transportation, he would make sure that Taggart Transcontinental would not survive, either. (Whether that was anything more than an empty threat, the novel does not make clear.) Now Dagny felt herself in honor bound to get the Rio Norte Line in proper shape within the deadline.

Henry Rearden's response was to charge her extra for what was now a rush order. Dagny did not complain, and accepted that as a legitimate business cost. In so doing, she won even more of his respect.

Francisco d'Anconia

At about the time of this transaction, Lillian Rearden gave a dinner party at the Rearden home, to celebrate her anniversary. Henry did not appreciate the sort of guests that Lillian invited. They included a syndicated columnist named Bertram Scudder, whose politics Henry detested.

But the guests also included Francisco d'Anconia, heir of the D'Anconia Copper Company, whom Henry knew only to be a playboy. Francisco d'Anconia had been in the news lately after his San Sebastian Mines in Mexico had been nationalized, and then turned out to be worthless. Henry couldn't decide whether Francisco d'Anconia was a totally inept businessman or whether he had played a colossal and expensive joke on the People's State of Mexico. Nor did Francisco provide many clues when he introduced himself to Henry. Henry did ask Francisco whether he was looking for any conquests, by which Henry meant conquests of the feminine kind. Francisco answered,

Yes—one that will be my greatest and last.

Henry Rearden would not learn until much later that Francisco d'Anconia was talking about Henry himself.

Dagny Taggart was another of his dinner guests that evening. Henry was embarrassed to watch Dagny approach Lillian, who was making several empty boasts about her plain-looking bracelet of Rearden Metal. Lillian half-jokingly offered it for sale to any woman who offered a more valuable bracelet—and Dagny took off her own bracelet and derisively challenged Lillian to consider her sale made. Lillian did so, and the bracelets actually changed hands.

A bridge of Rearden Metal

Some months later, Dagny and Henry traveled separately to Colorado to survey the Rio Norte Line and its progress. There Henry told Dagny that she was wasting money by ordering new support members of Rearden Metal to prop up a tottering steel bridge. Why not build a new bridge, entirely of Rearden Metal? He then showed her his first rough sketch of such a bridge, based on the new type of truss that he had invented years before. He showed her that such a bridge would actually be less expensive than extra struts for the old bridge.

If the level of FUD had been high when Dagny was merely proposing to lay rail of Rearden Metal, it now rose to a fever pitch with the news that she would build an entire bridge of the new metal. In fact, the State Science Institute issued a report essentially damning the Metal with faint praise, as an "unproved" technology. Henry dismissed the report, which seemed to him to have been written by men who had not even tried to work with the Metal. But the board of directors of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad took it seriously. So did James Taggart, who fled New York City.

When the situation became untenable, Dagny then proposed to organize her own firm, buy the right-of-way from Taggart Transcontinental, and build the line herself. She called the line the John Galt line, after the mysterious name "John Galt" that everyone was asking about in a common slang phrase. She found several enthusiastic investors, including Ellis Wyatt and Lawrence Hammond, who had decided to relocate to Colorado and looked forward to the completion of the line. Henry Rearden, despite Dagny's protests, also decided to invest in John Galt, Incorporated.

The Equalization of Opportunity Act

Before the opening of the John Galt Line, Henry Rearden received a direct blow to his business: the Equalization of Opportunity Act. Under that Act, no one was allowed to be in more than one type of core business, so that all businessmen would have "equal opportunity" to be in business. This required him to divest himself of his ore and coal holdings, and buy ore and coal on the open market. He knew that this would make his operations that much more expensive, so on the night after the passage of the bill, he nearly gave way to despair.

What stopped him from giving way completely was his having yet another idea about bridge building. On that occasion, he conceived of a combination of a truss and an arch, that would bear even greater weight than his original truss invention. This would allow him to build the bridge with fewer raw materials, so that he would not miss his deadline. He was so excited about his discovery that he called Dagny at night to trumpet his triumph, and encourage her not to worry about people in Washington, DC who seemed to like to waste people's time.

At about this time, however, he did suffer a loss that would portend much greater trouble later on. He had hired a Washington lobbyist named Wesley Mouch to represent him before the politicians and officials. But Wesley Mouch had made himself unreachable and had not warned him about the Equalization of Oppportunity Act. Finally Mouch wrote that he had resigned. Shortly thereafter came the announcement that he was now the new Assistant Coordinator of the Bureau of Economic Planning and Natural Resources. Mouch would become the senior coordinator in less than a year.

The opening of the line

As the day for the opening of the John Galt Line approached, Dagny Taggart scheduled a press conference to address the still-widespread fears about the new metal. At this conference, Dagny Taggart announced that she personally would ride in the first locomotive to run on the new rail. Henry then decided that he would ride in that locomotive by her side.

The John Galt Line did open, and to much fanfare, with every substantial business in Colorado clamoring to place a cargo on the first train to run on the line. Dagny and Henry rode on the locomotive, as they had said they would. The train ran from one end of the line to the other, including once across the new bridge, entirely without incident.

That evening, they spent the night in Ellis Wyatt's house near his oil-shale fields. There Henry gave in to an impulse he perhaps had felt from the moment he met Dagny, though he considered that impulse shameful and dishonorable. He and Dagny began what would be a long and passionate love affair. Henry wasn't even sure that he had the right to feel the things that he felt, especially since he was married to another person. Dagny insisted that they both did.

The Colorado boom

The opening of the John Galt Line changed the attitude of the country overnight. Before, they had feared the new Rearden Metal and denounced it as a "greedy" ruse that would get people injured or killed in large numbers. Now that it actually worked as advertised, the people wanted more of it. But they wanted to demand it of him, in equal shares to anyone who asked. Yet at the same time, Orren Boyle's Associated Steel Company was lobbying to restrict Rearden to making only as much Metal as Boyle could make steel, and that wasn't much.

The opening had another effect: several businesses now decided to relocate to Colorado, which at the time had the least amount of regulation of any State in the Union. But other businessmen, not trusting in their own abilities, looked to Washington for more protections.

A new motor

Henry and Dagny decided to distract themselves by taking a driving trip. As it happened, they drove to Wisconsin and the site of the now-defunct Twentieth Century Motor Company. There, in the ruined and abandoned factory, Dagny made an incredible discovery that she shared with Henry: the partially wrecked prototype of a motor that could draw static electricity from the atmosphere and use it to do useful work. Dagny knew that this technology could start another Industrial Revolution, because it would have an obvious application in railroading, shipbuilding, and power generation.

But the prototype that they found was unusable, and the notes left behind were incomplete. Someone had removed or destroyed the critical portion containing the motor's secret.

Henry and Dagny worked together to try to trace the engineer who had invented the motor. But no one in the old factory town of Starnesville or the nearby and still-functioning town of Rome knew anything about any motor. The story they did tell concerned a failed bank and a fire sale of the company.

Henry returned to his mills and let Dagny try to track down the engineer. She did not succeed. As she later explained to him, as far as she could determine, the engineer/inventor had disappeared on the day that the original owner of Twentieth Century Motors, Gerald "Jed" Starnes, Senior, had died and his three children had taken it over and proposed to operate it under a very foolish business plan modeled after The Communist Manifesto. Furthermore, the disappearance had occurred about eleven years ago, and was probably the first of a rash of disappearances of very talented individuals who had retired (and in some cases, vanished without a trace) without explanation.

The destruction of Colorado

Soon after that, all hopes of a boom in Colorado were dashed, when the federal government issued a raft of regulations that effectively destroyed all the incentives that Colorado offered. In response, several of the businessmen who had relocated to Colorado now vanished, as tracelessly as had the young inventor of the electrostatic motor. The most spectacular disappearance was that of Ellis Wyatt, who set his oil shale fields on fire ("Wyatt's Torch") and left a big sign near his property line:

I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours.

The Project X order

Henry Rearden received an order that he decided that he would never fill. It was a peremptory instruction, written in an imperative, authoritarian tone, for him to deliver a large quantity of Rearden Metal to the State Science Institute, for use in a project known only as "Project X."

Henry Rearden was not accustomed to receiving business orders that read like expropriations. He said so to the first Washington representative sent to him, a man named Cuffy Meigs, who wore a semi-military-looking tunic and the leather leggings of a traffic policeman. Not long after that, Dr. Floyd Ferris, the Associate Director of the State Science Institute, came to renew the demand. Henry Rearden gave Ferris his refusal as well, in no uncertain terms. He explained that he could state as his reason that he could not provide material for a secret project having a goal that no one would reveal to him, because as the inventor of Rearden Metal he held himself responsible for any use that anyone might make of it. But his actual reason is that he would never supply anything to the State Science Institute for "any project, good or bad, secret or open." Floyd Ferris threatened Henry with some unspecified action. Henry dismissed the threat and said that Ferris could now leave.

The D'Anconia Copper crash

Shortly afterward, Henry Rearden was a guest at the reception following the wedding of James Taggart and Cheryl Brooks Taggart. Francisco d'Anconia saw him there, and gave him a cryptic warning not to buy any of the common stock of D'Anconia Copper, nor have any dealings with D'Anconia Copper for any reason. Henry was puzzled, and then Francisco made clear that he was about to play another of his jokes on James Taggart and his friends. All of them were heavily invested in D'Anconia Copper, and Francisco had deliberately manipulated his stock to draw those men in as investors, and then crash the stock. He loudly protested the dire straits he was in, and the guests took alarm and fled, all except for Dagny, Francisco, and Henry. Henry was appalled at Francisco's behavior, but at the same time took notice that Francisco's business reverses seemed to bring their primary harm to those whom both men despised.

The trial

A month later, Henry found himself under indictment for making a "more than fair share" shipment of Rearden Metal to Kenneth Dannager, a coal-mining magnate who had bought his coal fields. Floyd Ferris found out about this, and threatened to have Rearden indicted if he did not fulfill the order for Rearden Metal made by the Project X account. Henry still refused, and the indictments came.

Ken Dannager took that occasion to retire and vanish. Henry faced his trial and defied the court. He said that he did not recognize the court's right to try him, because he did not recognize the thing that had brought him to trial as a crime.

No, I do not wish my attitude to be misunderstood. I wish to state it for the record. I work for nothing but my own profit—which I make by selling a product they need to men willing and able to buy it. All that I have earned, I earned through voluntary consent: the voluntary consent of those who hired me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, and the voluntary consent of those who buy my product. I refuse to apologize for my methods,...[and] I refused to apologize for my money. If this is evil, make the most of it. If the public feels that it cannot tolerate this, then let the public destroy me. This is my code, and I will accept no other.

I could say to you that I have accomplished more good than you could ever hope to accomplish—but I won't say it, because I do not cite the good of others as a sanction on my right to exist, nor do I accept the good of others as a justification for my destruction. I could say that you do not serve the public good, that when you have violated the rights of one, you have violated the rights of all, and that a country of rightless citizens is a country doomed to failure. I could say it, but I won't. It is not your particular policy I challenge, but your moral premise. If it could be proved that some good could actually come through the taking of my blood, and I were asked to immolate myself so that others might live—if I were asked to serve the interests of the public apart from, above, and against my own—I would refuse. I would refuse even if half a second remained before I would be murdered; I would refuse in the name of a man's inalienable right to exist. In short, if it is now the opinion of my fellow citizens, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: the public good be damned; I will have no part of it!

His speech drew a standing ovation, and in the end the court dared do no more than levy a fine and then suspend that fine. That fine was never collected.

The copper loss

Henry Rearden did prepare to produce another order of Rearden Metal for Dagny Taggart. To do this, he arranged to have a shipment of copper from a source that he thought would not betray him. That source was D'Anconia Copper. Henry told Francisco of the deal he had made, and Francisco dumbfounded him by acting horrified, exclaiming that he had warned Henry not to deal with D'Anconia Copper, and physically restraining himself from lifting the telephone in his hotel room. Francisco then begged Henry to remember one thing:

I swear to you, by the woman I love, that I am your friend.

The next day Henry Rearden understood the reason for Francisco's attitude, though that reason raised still another question. The shipment of copper, intended for Rearden Steel, never reached Henry's steel mill. The copper fleet was attacked by the notorious pirate, Ragnar Danneskjold, and sunk to the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, to the last ship (though with all hands evacuated to lifeboats before the ships sank). How Francisco himself could have had anything to do with that, Henry would not learn until later—but at the time, he blamed Francisco for the loss without knowing whether he had good reason.

Directive 10-289

The government was not finished with Henry Rearden. The next atrocious measure to come from the Bureau of Economic Planning and Natural Resources was Directive 10-289. The principle part of that Directive was to attach everyone to their jobs, and to require every business to sell the same amount of goods year after year, no more, and no less. But the part most relevant to Rearden was that anyone who had invented anything spectacular would be asked to make a "voluntary" contribution of that invention to an "intellectual common"—i.e., place it in the public domain. (This is not quite the same thing as the "open source" movement in software design, because that is a genuinely voluntary program in which no government is involved—yet.)

On the day that the Directive was published, Dagny called Henry and told him that she was quitting. She then gave Henry an address in the Berkshire Mountains where he could meet her, and the two could then disappear together. Henry knew that a Washington representative had made an appointment with him to discuss his signing away his rights to Rearden Metal, as provided for in Point Three of the Directive. Henry's plan was to deliver his refusal personally to the Washington man and then join Dagny.

But Floyd Ferris, when he arrived, presented him with copies of hotel registers and other evidence of the driving trip that Henry and Dagny had made to Wisconsin the year before. He realized that someone had betrayed his affair to the governing authorities, and he knew exactly who had done the deed: it was his own wife, who at first had told him that he could have his affair as long as he continued to support her, but lately had demanded that he give it up when she found out that Dagny Taggart was his other woman. He had refused, and had thought that to be the end of it, until now he saw the evidence in the hands of the government. (And in fact, Floyd Ferris boasted that Lillian Rearden had been the informant.)

Henry signed the release. That evening he went to see a divorce attorney and told him to initiate divorce proceedings as soon as possible, and in such a way as not to pay Lillian any alimony. But he did not join Dagny at her mountain retreat.

Ragnar Danneskjold

One day later, he heard a rumor that Orren Boyle's Associated Steel company had tried to make their own heat of Rearden Metal in one of their factories on the coast of Maine. That factory was destroyed by shellfire from a ship at sea, and in fact a disembodied voice claiming to be that of Ragnar Danneskjold had given ten minutes' warning to the workforce before the shelling began. Henry at first thought no more about it.

Then one night, as he was walking to his new home, a tall man appeared suddenly out of the shadows and asked to speak to him. He said that he was returning a small portion of what he called "the money that was taken from you [Henry] by force." He handed Henry a gold bar and asked him to spend the gold strictly on his own comfort and pleasure, so that the gold would not benefit anyone but him. He explained that what prompted him to give him the gold was the action of the government in forcing Henry to sign away his invention. And then he identified himself: he was none other than Ragnar Danneskjold.

Henry was shocked, of course. To him, Ragnar Danneskjold was a pirate, no better than, say, the infamous Jean Lafitte. Danneskjold explained to him that he was after what he called "loot carriers," which were ships carrying "humanitarian" cargoes commissioned (or as Danneskjold saw it, bought with stolen money) by the Bureau of Global Relief. Danneskjold would sell these cargoes to smugglers, demand payment in gold, and deposit this gold in a bank that he identified as the Mulligan Bank. This puzzled Henry, because Henry knew that the Mulligan Bank of Chicago had been liquidated about eight years ago after the owner, Michael "Midas" Mulligan, had lost a lawsuit and been ordered to make a loan that he had earlier refused to make.

In summary, the gold that Henry now held in his hand, was part of the proceeds of Ragnar Danneskjold's privateering activities. At first, Henry was inclined to refuse it. He said that if the time had now come that he could only be defended by a pirate, then he did not wish to be defended any longer.

But when a highway-patrol cruiser pulled up to the two men, and the patrolmen asked Henry whether he was in any difficulty, Henry said that he wasn't, and identified Danneskjold as his bodyguard. Danneskjold thanked Henry profusely and said that the two would meet again, and that sooner than Henry might think.

The confrontation with Francisco

Henry continued at his mills, but now had to deal with a Washington representative whom everyone in the mills called the "Wet Nurse." His job was to see that no customer received more than his "fair share" of Rearden Metal. The two would have many conversations, during which the young man would impress Henry mainly as a college-educated civil servant parrotting a lot of pabulum, including a notion that nothing was ever absolute. Henry took to calling this young man "Non-Absolute," as a joke. The young man would not appreciate the irony for many months.

Two weeks later, Dagny called Henry and said, simply, "Hank, I'm back." Henry knew why Dagny would be calling: a catastrophic train wreck involving the Taggart Comet (Taggart Transcontinental's signature coast-to-coast express train) and an Army freight special had collapsed the eight-mile Taggart Tunnel, and Dagny would have to lay rail along an overland route to reconnect the two ends of the transcontinental line. Henry quietly said that he needed to start bribing various drivers and other persons so that he could start pouring rail for her. This rail did not even have to be Rearden Metal.

Not long after the order was placed, Henry and Francisco d'Anconia had another of their meetings, in Dagny's presence. Henry was furious with Francisco, from the affair of the copper loss, and told Francisco that he was having none of his oaths of friendship in the name of the woman he loved.

And then it struck him: Dagny had been that woman. Dagny and Francisco had known one another since their adolescence; that much was common knowledge. Now Henry asked Francisco directly whether Dagny had been his love interest. Francisco confirmed it, and Henry, in a jealous rage, hauled off and slapped Francisco backhanded across the face. For the second time Francisco physically restrained himself, this time from striking Henry back. Francisco left the room, and Dagny finally confessed to Henry the secret that she had always hidden from him.

Dagny's second disappearance

When the bypass line was in place, Dagny started on a trip west, to stop Quentin Daniels, a young engineer whom she had hired to try to reconstruct the electrostatic motor, from quitting and vanishing. She never arrived. The Comet turned into a "frozen train," but Dagny had gone on alone. As nearly as Henry could determine, she had found a small airfield and rented a new-model aircraft. She had last been seen flying into the Rocky Mountains, and had never come out.

Henry headed west himself in his own plane, and searched for her, without success. This was probably the worst emotional crisis that he ever faced.

Return and explanation

Henry learned of Dagny's return from his secretary, who, breathless and barely able to contain herself, announced that Dagny was on the telephone line. Dagny did not at first reveal where she had been for the month during which she had gone.

The explanation would come later, when Dagny was asked to appear on a radio program to extol the "virtuous" deed that Henry had done by signing away his invention. Henry listened to the broadcast in Dagny's apartment, to which he held a key. As he listened, Dagny described their affair in detail, thus taking on herself all the potential embarrassment that he had wanted to spare her by signing that document to begin with. And then, when Bertram Scudder asked her about the relevancy of the affair, she declared that Henry had acted under threat of blackmail. The broadcast was abruptly cut off at that point, but Henry had heard enough.

He was proud of her for not only admitting but boasting of the affair, but also felt a bittersweet disappointment at her choice of the pluperfect tense, instead of the perfect tense, to describe her status as his mistress. To him that could mean only one thing: that she had now fallen in love with another man, perhaps a man whom she had met during her month-long disappearance.

Henry had only to wait for Dagny to come home. Then he told her how proud he was of her, and that he understood that she now loved another man. She took a moment to accept that, and then Henry asked her who her lover was.

Somehow he knew that that lover was not Francisco d'Anconia. But he was still not quite prepared when Dagny answered his question with a question: "Who is John Galt?" Henry took a moment to digest that response, and then, with a shock, realized that John Galt was a real person after all—and furthermore, that John Galt was in charge of a community of like-minded individuals. That was the only explanation that made sense, because Dagny had returned, not in a half-starved "survivor's" condition, but in the very good condition that one might expect of one who had been staying at someone's house for a month.

Then Dagny asked another question that explained even more: "Hank, could you give up Rearden Steel?" With feelings of great pain, he realized that he could not—or at least, not yet. He also realized that until he was willing, he would not be eligible to enter that community that Dagny had visited. He also knew that Dagny had given up her right to live in that community, because she could not give up the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad.

"Brother, you asked for it!"

On September 2 of that year, Francisco d'Anconia was in the news again, in an electrifying manner. The People's State of Argentina had prepared a bill of nationalization for the whole of the D'Anconia Copper Company. But on the very day that the parliament was to convene, and indeed in perfect synchrony with the speaker's gavel, all of Francisco d'Anconia's remaining properties were blown up. Francisco d'Anconia himself had now vanished without a trace.

Henry knew that the loss of the last reliable source of copper would stop him permanently from making Rearden Metal, but he still felt good about what Francisco d'Anconia had done. He and Dagny discussed this over dinner in the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, where Francisco had been accustomed to stay. On that occasion, Henry told Dagny that he had once met Ragnar Danneskjold. Dagny said that Danneskjold had told her about that meeting. Henry then observed, "Well. I have met one of their agents." Dagny then said that he had met two of them. That could only mean that the other agent was Francisco d'Anconia.

At midnight, the city's giant scrolling calendar changed. But instead of displaying the date of September 3, it displayed a handwritten sentence:

Brother, you asked for it!

It was signed with all of Francisco's names in full.

The job applications

Later that month, Philip Rearden applied to Henry for a job. Henry couldn't begin to understand why his brother, who knew nothing about the steel business, would want a job in Henry's mills. Philip acted as though he were in a position to demand a job from Henry. Naturally Henry refused. Nor was Henry impressed when Philip made a political threat against him.

But when "Non-Absolute" told Henry that he wanted to quit his government job and work for Henry directly, Henry almost accepted that offer. But he and the young man realized that the law, or rather Directive 10-289, would not allow it. They also agreed that certain things were happening at the plant that would make the young man much more valuable to Henry in his present position.

"Do something"

In October, the Internal Revenue Service placed a lien on all of Henry's accounts, for the settlement of a tax debt that Henry was sure that he did not actually owe. Then Henry received a summons to his old family home. (He had moved out after Floyd Ferris had collected his signature on the patent release.) There, his mother, soon-to-be-ex-wife, and brother were begging him to give his personal guarantee to pay their grocery bill. Henry asked them whether they would have him defraud the grocer into thinking that he actually owned the millions of dollars attributed to him, given that all his assets were under a tax lien.

That was when Lillian Rearden blurted out to him that she herself had had an affair with another man, and that man was James Taggart, whom she herself described as "the scummiest louse." Henry received that statement with complete indifference, and Lillian was devastated to see close-up that Henry literally did not care what she did with her life, and that it did not concern him any longer.

Then someone reminded him that he would not be able to vanish without money, and now he realized why his assets were frozen: the government was afraid that he would quit and vanish. As he turned to leave his house for what would turn out to be the last time, his mother asked him whether he was "really incapable of forgiveness." He said,

No, mother, I am not. I would have forgiven the past, if today you had advised me to quit and disappear.

He left his home and went to a meeting that several Washington men had urged him to attend, on the pretext that they could "straighten out" his tax situation. There he met James Taggart, Floyd Ferris, Wesley Mouch, and several other men, mostly from the Bureau of Economic Planning and Natural Resources. They spoke to him in several strange terms, and even spoke of protecting him from violence, but never explained what the violence might come from. Then they told him their true purpose: to implement the Steel Unification Plan, under which all of the steel firms in the country would share their revenues and be paid according to the blast furnaces they owned, regardless of productivity.

Henry pressed them on the details of the plan, and reminded them that such a plan would never be tenable for him. He also gave them another observation:

All those...People's States only exist from the handouts that you men manage to give them. This country was the greatest and the last. You've drained it.

He then asked them bluntly what could possibly save them, and then James Taggart revealed the secret. He said,

Oh, you'll do something!

That said it all. Henry now saw that by carrying on under the burden of all those government regulations, he had been facilitating their continued acquisition of power. His capacity and willingness to "do something" essentially allowed them to get away with things that would have brought them to destruction long ago, absent his efforts.

He left that meeting without a word. Only later did he learn why the other men at that meeting tried to stop him at the last minute and tell him not to go back to his mills—that is, not yet.

The riot

He found out that reason as soon as he arrived back at his mills. A full-scale battle was in progress, with men whom he recognized as his regular employees fighting it out with several new men whom "Non-Absolute" had told him had applied for jobs two or three weeks before, men whom "Non-Absolute" regarded as "goons." As he drove in along the winding road, he passed a heap of slag, and noticed a man trying to climb the embankment to the road. Henry stopped and climbed down to help the man, and realized, to his horror, that it was none other than "Non-Absolute"!

The young man, whom Henry now called by his first name of Tony, had been shot in the back and dumped onto the slag heap. He said that the riot was staged, and told Henry how it had been done: on that day, when Henry was away, some plain-clothes men had ordered the young man to sign several passes for several more men who did not look like workers at all. The young man had refused, and the operatives had shot him and dumped him on the slag heap to get rid of him.

Shortly after telling him that story, Tony died. Henry took his lifeless body to the plant infirmary and left him there. He then tried to make sense of what was happening, and noticed a man standing on a ledge, using a smokestack for cover, and fending off several attackers with two pistols. Then several rioters noticed Henry and attacked him with clubs. He barely perceived the gunman coming to his rescue and firing at the rioters before he blacked out.

Henry goes on strike

When he came to himself, his shop superintendent assured him that the rioters were beaten and on the run, and told his side of how the riots had started. It was much as Henry could have expected from Tony's account. But the superintendent provided a further detail: that their new furnace foreman, one Frank Adams, who had started working for Rearden Steel back in September, had organized the defense of the plant and had been the man who rescued Rearden from the violent rioters.

Henry asked to be left alone in his office. He now had many things to think about, including his family, the Washington officials with their "unification" plans, and now the riot. He was now ready to give up his steel company, because in no sense could he say that he owned it any longer.

At that moment, a man knocked on his door. Henry told him to enter. The door opened, and Henry saw a man whom he recognized as the new furnace foreman. That man was in fact Francisco d'Anconia.

Henry thanked Francisco for rescuing him, and then they began to talk. Francisco asked Henry to say to Francisco a word that would indicate how good a friend Henry regarded him. Henry said,

What word, Francisco?

And Francisco answered,

Thank you, Hank.

The two men talked for about an hour, during which Francisco told Henry the details of the great strike, and the man who led it.

Henry went back to his apartment, packed a valise, and cleaned out his safe. The only thing of real value that he had was, of course, the gold bar that Ragnar Danneskjold had handed him. Francisco probably assured him that that was all that he would need, but in any event Ragnar Danneskjold had already told him that he had an account in Midas Mulligan's bank, located in the secret community that Dagny had visited, and that this account held an amount of money equal to his income tax payments for the previous twelve years.

From the accounts given of what happened next, one may infer that Henry gave Francisco his permission, and perhaps a suggestion, to share the news of his decision to quit and vanish with all his regular employees. The shop superintendent, Henry's long-serving secretary, and the doctor in charge of the infirmary were only three of the many employees who followed Henry Rearden in his retreat from society. Rearden Steel shut itself down completely. In the month that followed, one manager would try to run them and would ask for a transfer, and the next manager would enrich himself by selling off most of the equipment.

Henry Rearden and his employees all joined the community that Henry came to know variously as Mulligan's Valley and Galt's Gulch. There Henry met John Galt for the first time. When he did, he sent Dagny Taggart a very brief note:

I have met him. I don't blame you.

From the account given of Dagny Taggart's uninvited visit to the Gulch, and the things that several of its residents said of Henry, he was enthusiastically received by everyone, even one Andrew Stockton, a foundry owner who realized that Henry Rearden must inevitably put him out of business.

Rescue of John Galt

On November 22, Henry and the others listened as John Galt made his three-hour speech explaining the strike and the philosophy behind it. The next thing that Henry knew, John Galt had been arrested. Somehow Dagny had been involved. Henry was probably not inclined to believe that Dagny would deliberately betray John Galt to the authorities. Surely she was acting at Galt's own suggestion, so that she would not come to harm. (Henry would probably hear the truth of the matter from Galt himself later on.)

A few weeks later, the authorities announced the drafting of "The John Galt Plan for Peace and Prosperity." The authorities planned a television special to announce their plan. But in the middle of that show, John Galt moved deftly enough to demonstrate that someone was pointing a gun at him, and said,

Get...out of my way.

Within an hour, Henry, Francisco, and Ragnar Danneskjold, who were actively looking for John Galt and hoped to rescue him, heard another shocking piece of news: the famous Taggart Bridge, the only railroad bridge that crossed the Mississippi River, had been cut in half by a malfunction at the mysterious Project X. Only then would Henry have learned the nature of the secret project that he once refused to support.

That news caused a panic throughout the city of New York, in which residents fled the city with all their belongings lashed to their automobile roofs. In the middle of this panic, Dagny Taggart finally joined the strike herself. That night, Ragnar Danneskjold organized a commando raid on a secret facility of the State Science Institute where John Galt had been taken to be examined under torture by electric shock. Dagny, Henry, and Francisco participated under Ragnar's direct leadership as the spearhead of the raid. They killed several Institute personnel and successfully rescued Galt, who assured them all that he was not hurt, because he knew that they would never deliver him a lethal shock.

Final unraveling

As the aircraft carrying Henry, Dagny, Francisco, and John Galt, with Ragnar Danneskjold in the cockpit, overflew the New York region, the entire Eastern Seaboard was blacked out. Power had failed, and Henry and the others realized that the society of the "looters" had finally collapsed.

Henry spent the winter reorganizing Rearden Steel in Galt's Gulch. The Gulch turned out to be incredibly resource-rich, and even had a source of copper, in the form of a mine owned and run directly by Francisco d'Anconia. From the descriptions given of the mine from Dagny Taggart's viewpoint, one may readily infer that among the first orders for the New Rearden Steel was an order of rail made of Rearden Metal, and a further order of Rearden Metal to build a frame for the first electrostatic locomotive designed and built by John Galt.

With the arrival of springtime, John Galt announced that the strike was effectively settled, because the outside society was no longer effective. Henry Rearden now made plans to re-establish Rearden Steel on the outside and to supply rail for the first railroad between New York City and Philadelphia.

Spoilers end here.


Henry Rearden is, as mentioned, one of the two heroes of the novel. (The other is Dagny Taggart.) Like any good hero, he must realize what sort of mistakes he had made that have kept him in a kind of bondage. Also according to convention, he does not succeed without cost: he must give up the business that he had built up over a lifetime, in order to have the freedom to build a new business in a society that would respect his ability and not steal from him.

But he is also, quite clearly, an allegory of any businessman who, having decided to "go along to get along," continues to support his own would-be destroyers in the vain hope that the trouble will stop. The most important thing that Henry Rearden realizes, and the thing that all businessman might soon have to realize, is that as long as he is able and willing to "do something," the trouble will never stop—and on the day that he decides not to "do something" any longer, the trouble will stop because the system that causes that trouble must inevitably collapse under the weight of its own illogical laws.