Atlas Shrugged Chapter 1: The Theme

First off, I’m already getting vaguely tired of “Who is John Galt?”, as I figured I would. I’m also finding myself trying too hard to sort “good guys” and “bad guys” with trepidation towards Rand’s message. So much cultural baggage has come to surround this book that it’s difficult to maintain objectivity.

Chapter summary: Taggert Transcontinental, a rail provider, is having trouble with their existing steel vendor, and are about to lose the use of a rail line. Jim Taggert wants to continue trying to fix problems with the vendor, while his sister Dagny wants to switch to a more reliable vendor, the one their father had used when he ran the company.

To recap the discussion I had with Miranda earlier, it seems to me that on the basic question raised in this chapter–is it better to choose vendors based on sound business efficiencies, or to choose them based on friendship and personal feelings?–I’m on Dagny’s side. I too would fire a vendor who had consistently failed to deliver a product (this got me into trouble, actually, at a previous job). I can also see, though, how Dagny’s pragmatism might come to be interpreted later, or be taken as a cue to be heartless in commercial affairs.

I was also reminded of the cultural context in which Rand was writing, given that Jim Taggert is referred to by his last name and Dagny by her first in the third-person narrative (even though she calls him Jim). Having an extremely strong female character (which, so far, looks like a thinly veiled version of the Author Herself) would have been somewhat scandalous in that era.

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