Atlas Shrugged Chapter 2: The Chain

A disingenuousness of Third Person Omniscient is that it creates the perception of a somewhat objective perspective (in contrast to First Person) while potentially remaining subjective. “The Chain” is a good example of this; this is nearly entirely Hank Rearden’s perspective, with events and dialog presented to make him look good and the other people in his life, not so much.

Chapter summary: We see Hank Rearden in two environments. First, we see him in the collosus that is his steel factory, achieving figurative orgasm at the consummation of his lifelong dream of making a new sort of steel. Then, we see him in his claustrophobic home environment, with his vapidly defensive wife, his emotionally abusive mother, and his ungrateful brother, as well as his PR-minded friend Paul.

Here we see Rand mocking corporate PR. As with the first chapter, she’s drawing a fine line in order to stand on the right side of it. The position in this chapter is that lying as part of corporate spin is, well, lying. Paul offers to work on Hank’s image because of what the media writes about Hank:

“What do they write about me?”

“Well, you know the stuff. That you’re intractable. That you’re ruthless. That you won’t allow any voice in the running of your mills. That your only goal is to make steel and to make money.”

“But that is my only goal.”

“But you shouldn’t say it.”

Both of the characters, I think, are right to a degree: Inasmuch as corporate spin involves avoiding admitting negative things, it’s appropriate. Hank’s implication, in my mind, though, is that Paul wants to lie, or at least that Hank shouldn’t go out of his way to disabuse people of things that are perhaps uncomplimentary by nonetheless true. Rearden Steel doesn’t appear to have a PR machine at all, so the media articles are based on conjecture and hearsay, not active attempts by Hank to torpedo himself.

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