Here you will find a Atlas Shrugged summary (Ayn Rand's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.
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During a period of economic downfall, Dagny Taggart, operations head of Taggart Transcontinental, is tasked with mending the collapsing Rio Norte Line, which services Colorado - the last industrially thriving area in the nation. This challenge is further complicated by the disappearance of several gifted entrepreneurs. In the midst of this, the Mexican government seizes control of Taggart’s San Sebastian Line, the lifeline to Francisco d’Anconia’s copper mills. Unexpectedly, Francisco, a formerly successful industrialist and Dagny's ex-lover, lets his mills turn worthless. To salvage the financial crisis, Dagny's brother Jim manipulates political connections to eradicate their Colorado competition. Dagny, on the other hand, turns to a revolutionary alloy, Rearden Metal, created by Hank Rearden. The duo becomes romantically involved while attempting to revive a discarded motor that runs on static electricity. However, their efforts are thwarted as the State Science Institute defames Rearden metal, causing Taggart’s stocks to plummet. Unfazed, Dagny establishes her own firm to rebuild the line, achieving significant success. Soon, an increase in restrictive legislation cripples the Colorado industry, forcing several industrialists, including oil tycoon Ellis Wyatt, to vanish mysteriously. Francisco implores Rearden to question the worth of working under such repressive circumstances. Rearden, under trial for violation of new laws, stands defiant and is let off as the authorities fear being perceived as oppressive. Later, Rearden is blackmailed into signing over his metal to protect Dagny's reputation after Jim discovers their affair. Consequently, Dagny resigns and retreats to a mountain lodge. When a tragic accident befalls Taggart Tunnel, Dagny resumes her position. She soon crash lands in a secluded valley while in pursuit of a potential target of the "destroyer". This valley is inhabited by the vanished industrialists, who are on a cognitive strike. John Galt, the man behind the strike and the inventor of the motor, is revealed as the "destroyer". Despite falling for him, Dagny leaves the valley, only to find the government has seized the railroad industry. After publicly exposing the blackmail and oppressive government practices, she is coerced into rejoining the industry. Eventually, the country's economy collapses, and John Galt seizes control of the airwaves, divulging the conditions of his strike. Captured by the desperate government, he refuses to cooperate, leading to his rescue by Dagny and the strikers. Finally agreeing to the strike, Dagny, along with the other strikers, prepares to return as the nation collapses.
Eddie Willers, personal aide to Taggart Transcontinental's vice president, makes his way to his Manhattan workplace. A nameless beggar to whom Eddie offers some change, retorts with the question, “Who is John Galt?” - a slang term implying despair and the unknown. Eddie is unsettled by this. Observing his surroundings, he sees businesses failing all around him. He is reminded of an oak tree from his childhood, struck by lightning and destroyed. Eddie later confers with the railway company’s president, James (Jim) Taggart, regarding a recent wreck on the Rio Norte Line. Eddie insists on track replacement, but Jim declines, saying the new track from Orren Boyle’s Associated Steel hasn’t arrived yet. Eddie suggests using Rearden Steel, but Jim dismisses this, citing his friendship with Boyle. Eddie warns that they’re in danger of losing all prominent Colorado shippers to Phoenix-Durango, an emerging young railway led by Dan Conway. They've already lost Ellis Wyatt, an industrialist who has discovered how to rejuvenate depleted oil wells. Wyatt Oil switched to Phoenix-Durango due to Taggart's inability to meet their shipping needs. Jim maintains that nothing can be done. After investigating the Rio Norte Line, Dagny Taggart, Eddie’s supervisor and Jim’s sibling, is on a train, entranced by the notes of a magnificent symphony. It turns out it's just a brakeman whistling. He informs her it's Richard Halley’s Fifth Concerto. When she disputes, stating Halley only composed four concertos, he becomes elusive. Later, Dagny wakes to find the train stationary. Upon inquiry, she learns the engineer is reluctant to proceed. Identifying herself, she commands him to move the train. Seeing the challenge in finding competent men, she plans to promote a capable employee, Owen Kellogg. In a discussion with Jim, Dagny reveals the Rio Norte Line issues are more severe than anticipated. She has cancelled Boyle's order and placed one with Rearden Steel for a new alloy called Rearden Metal. Jim objects, arguing she lacked Board approval and that they should support Boyle as the "underdog" against the larger Rearden Steel. He expresses skepticism about Dagny's choice of an untested new material, but Dagny is confident in the superiority of Rearden Metal. After some avoidance, Jim concedes to proceed with the order. Dagny contacts the Music Publishing Company to inquire about Halley’s Fifth Concerto, but learns that Halley has withdrawn from public view and hasn't produced anything in eight years. Owen Kellogg meets with Dagny. Before she can propose a promotion, he resigns. Despite her efforts, he provides no explanation. Her offers to entice him to stay are rebuffed. When she asks why he's leaving a job he loves, he simply responds, “Who is John Galt?”
Hank Rearden observes with pleasure as the inaugural batch of his Rearden Metal is being cast. He contemplates the decade-long struggle that led to the creation of this new alloy, and his own journey from toiling in the mines to owning them. When he reaches home, he discovers his wife engaged in conversation with his mother, brother Philip, and Paul Larkin, a failed businessman and longtime acquaintance. He apologizes for his tardiness but withholds the news of the metal, certain they wouldn’t appreciate his triumph. His family berates him for his workaholic nature and apparent neglect of them. He gifts his wife, Lillian, a bracelet made from the first batch of Rearden Metal. His mother chastises him for expecting his wife to value his metal as she would a diamond. Rearden finds himself engulfed by a wave of fatigue and perplexity regarding his family's expectations. Despite his financial support for them, they seem to want more control over him. They declare their love for him but reject all the qualities he believes are deserving of love. Paul Larkin then approaches Rearden, advising him to tone down his independent spirit and to consider his political lobbyist in Washington. Despite realizing the growing necessity for a powerful advocate and legislative safeguard, Rearden can't bring himself to care passionately about it.
At a dimly lit tavern, four individuals debate the current status of the nation's economy. Orren Boyle contends that Rearden Steel is unfairly advantaged due to its ownership of iron mines, a benefit his company, Associated Steel, doesn't have. Jim Taggart consents to use his political sway to compel Rearden to relinquish the mines. Paul Larkin, another attendee, agrees to take the mines from Rearden but deliver the ore straight to Boyle. In exchange, Jim wants Boyle to persuade his allies on the National Alliance of Railroads to oust Dan Conway from Colorado, claiming Conway's Phoenix-Durango Line provides fierce competition for Taggart in a place where Taggart established operations first. Wesley Mouch, Rearden's lobbyist, is also present. As a reward for not alerting Rearden, Jim agrees to secure Mouch a cushy government role. The discussion then steers towards Mexico, where Jim has established the San Sebastian Line. Despite rumors that Mexico could nationalize the line, Boyle denies them, revealing that during a recent trip, he traveled on decrepit trains. Back at headquarters, Jim argues with Dagny about the substandard trains. She reveals that she has stripped the San Sebastian Line of any valuable assets to minimize losses if Mexico seizes control. They clash over the San Sebastian Line, Jim's first significant initiative as president of Taggart, and one Dagny has always objected to, believing the resources were more needed for the Rio Norte Line. Jim defends his actions, stating Mexico has assured their property rights for two centuries and that he constructed the line for the benefit of the Mexican people. However, he also sought to gain substantial profit from the neighboring d’Anconia copper mines. Dagny retorts that Francisco d’Anconia, once an industrial genius, has become a frivolous playboy and hasn't extracted any copper from the mines yet. In the cafeteria of the Taggart Terminal, Eddie Willers joins a mechanic for lunch. Eddie, who enjoys the mechanic's company, vents about the world's and the railroad's gradual decline. However, he's hopeful because Dagny has secured a trustworthy contractor to repair the Rio Norte Line. When the mechanic asks about Dagny’s personal life, Eddie, surprised by his interest, shares what he knows.
Eddie conveys to Dagny that McNamara, their recent contractor, has abruptly left without providing any explanations, with his whereabouts unknown. The People’s State of Mexico seizes control of the San Sebastian Railroad and the d’Anconia copper mines. Jim presents a report to the Board of Directors, claiming full responsibility for Dagny’s strategic move to extract the most valuable equipment from Mexico before the San Sebastian Railroad was nationalized. The National Alliance of Railroads members green light a plan known as the “Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule,” put in place to lessen the competition among railroads. The proposal states that the overall industry's interests should be decided by a majority vote, and every company must align itself with the majority’s verdict. Dagny pays a visit to Dan Conway, the chief of the Phoenix-Durango railroad, which will cease to exist as a result of the new rule. She implores him to resist, but he is too exhausted and has made up his mind to retire. Dagny had planned to compete against him in Colorado but is repulsed at the thought of defeating him this way. She feels like a pillager. He advises her to swiftly get her Rio Norte Line operational because Ellis Wyatt's fate hinges on it. Ellis Wyatt visits Dagny in a rage, demanding immediate repairs to the Rio Norte Line. He threatens her with bringing down her company if she fails to satisfy his transportation requirements. She reassures him that he will get the transportation he needs on time. His expectations of excuses and evasion are subverted by her response. Dagny then meets with Hank Rearden. She informs him about the confrontation with Wyatt and emphasizes the need to rebuild the line within nine months, not twelve. He confidently assures her of his ability to meet her requirements. Rearden is pleasantly surprised by Dagny's straightforward approach and feels a sense of connection with her. He expresses his belief that it's people like them who drive the world forward and will ultimately save it.
Following the nationalization of Francisco d’Anconia’s San Sebastian mines, the Mexican government learns that the mines are utterly devoid of value. The news infuriates Dagny. On her journey to confront Francisco, she reminisces about their shared past. His summer visits were a cherished part of her childhood as they dreamt of inheriting their family businesses while at play. Their relationship eventually evolved into a romantic one. The romance, however, ended abruptly a decade ago when Francisco abandoned her. Despite his emotional torment, he felt compelled to leave, cautioning her not to probe further into his reasons. He prophesied his forthcoming actions would ultimately lead her to condemn him, a prophecy that has since come true. In the ensuing years, Francisco earned a reputation as the world's most infamous playboy, recklessly squandering his wealth. When Dagny finally faces Francisco, she interrogates him about his deliberate decision to invest in futile mines and consequently ruin his shareholders' wealth, including James Taggart. She argues that he should be combatting the world's plunderers fiercely. In response, he reveals that his true fight is against her and her railroad, a revelation that appalls her. She presses him for explanations, but he maintains she lacks sufficient courage to comprehend his motives.
Lillian Rearden hosts a party to mark her wedding anniversary, despite Hank Rearden's reluctance to attend. He'd prefer to be solving work-related issues instead. Dagny Taggart is among the guests, but despite her optimism about the progress of the Colorado track, Rearden is uncharacteristically distant. The guest list is populated by society's intellectuals and writers. Their discussions reflect the despairing zeitgeist of the era. Dr. Pritchett asserts that human beings are simply chemical compounds, guided only by instinct. Balph Eubank expresses a belief that literature should center on suffering and defeat, claiming happiness to be unattainable. The primary concept embraced by these intellectuals is that need is the only valid consideration, and that societal good is the ultimate moral compass. Francisco d’Anconia arrives at the party, causing Rearden to request that his wife keep him at a distance. Jim Taggart later confronts d’Anconia about the San Sebastian mines situation. D’Anconia explains that he acted according to society’s prevailing ethos, hiring based on need rather than competence, not aiming for profit, and relinquishing control to subordinates. His explanation leaves Taggart both powerless and incensed. Later, d’Anconia approaches Rearden, expressing a desire to meet him. His earnestness piques Rearden's interest. d’Anconia questions Rearden's self-imposed burden of carrying others, suggesting that others exploit his guilt. A female guest claims to know John Galt's identity, a claim that d’Anconia corroborates, much to Dagny's disbelief. Lillian's Rearden Metal bracelet captures Dagny's attention. Lillian, in jest, asserts she would trade it for diamonds, a proposition Dagny takes seriously, offering her own diamond bracelet. Rearden, visibly disturbed, supports his wife and coolly dismisses Dagny's gesture as unnecessary.
Working with others can be challenging. The Rio Norte Line revamp encounters hurdles, yet Dagny and Rearden maintain the timeline via prompt, decisive measures. Ellis Wyatt, assisting covertly at the construction site, commends Dagny’s commitment. Rearden, also present, suggests replacing a dated Colorado bridge with one made of Rearden Metal, which Dagny endorses. In New York, Dagny overhears a diner conversation belittling human spirit and morality. A man sarcastically asks, “Who is John Galt?” Another responds, claiming Galt was an explorer who discovered the fountain of youth. Dr. Potter from the State Science Institute warns Rearden that society isn’t ready for his metal and producing it may harm competition. He advises Rearden to delay production and offers to purchase the metal rights. Rearden declines. Potter ominously mentions potential legislation that could harm businessmen. Later, the Institute issues an unfounded warning about Rearden Metal, leading to a plummet in Taggart stock, contractor resignations, and a worker’s union ban on the metal. Dagny visits the Institute in New Hampshire, where Dr. Stadler, once a leading scientist, is jaded. He agrees that the metal is groundbreaking but declares the Institute won’t back it. Their failure to produce anything of equal value, despite significant funding, shames the government-funded institution. A desperate Jim seeks guidance to save the railroad. Dagny promises to finish the line independently, planning to resign and create her own company due to the pervasive fear of Rearden Metal. She intends to return to Taggart once the metal’s effectiveness is proven, with her new company, the John Galt Line. Despite Francisco d’Anconia’s refusal to invest, Dagny secures funding from Colorado industrialists, and Rearden. The Legislature passes a bill forcing Rearden to relinquish his mines, without his knowledge or input. Contact attempts with Wesley Mouch yield no results. The summary ends with a philosophical note: contradictions are nonexistent. If they appear, one must reassess their premises as one of them is surely flawed.
Rearden divests his ore mines to Paul Larkin and his coal mines to Ken Dannager, a successful entrepreneur from Pennsylvania. Using the proceeds from these transactions, Rearden grants Taggart a reprieve on its outstanding debt to Rearden Steel. He realizes Taggart is facing financial issues and wants to ensure they remain his long-term clients. Rearden still fails to connect with Wesley Mouch, who he learns from newspapers has been named assistant coordinator of the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources. As the impending launch of the line draws nearer, public backlash escalates. Yet, when Dagny calls for volunteers to operate the first train, every engineer at the company steps forward. Dagny holds a media briefing in her office and confidently asserts her expectation of making substantial profits, surprising many with her overt self-interest. Dagny and Rearden travel together in the engine of the initial locomotive on the John Galt Line. The maiden voyage is a smashing success, instilling a sense of hope and potential among the spectators. Crowds gather along the route, excited to finally have a reason to rejoice. Despite ominous forecasts, the bridge constructed of Rearden Metal stands strong. That same night, at Ellis Wyatt’s residence, Dagny and Rearden become intimate for the first time.
Dagny and Rearden awaken after an evening spent in the throes of passion. Rearden is filled with anger and repulsion, viewing sex as a crude instinct that paints both himself and Dagny in a shameful light. Dagny retorts with laughter, asserting that she’s proud to share such a primal need with a man she holds in high regard. She assures him that the only thing she demands of him is to be the object of his rawest desires. Meanwhile, Jim comes across Cherryl Brooks, a destitute shop worker who recognizes him from the media. She is under the impression that he is the mastermind behind the John Galt Line's success, a belief that he does nothing to dispel. Cherryl admires larger-than-life figures and their achievements, and Jim revels in her adulation. He invites her over to his place for a drink. Despite finding some of his remarks, particularly his disdain for Hank Rearden, unsettling, she is overjoyed to be in his company. Taking time out for a holiday together, Dagny and Rearden decide to drive around the countryside. On a mission to find rare machine equipment, they visit the former site of the Twentieth Century Motor Company's manufacturing facility. They are stunned to find not just a closed-down factory, but a decimated one, with the town that once thrived on it now steeped in destitution. In the factory’s derelict lab, they discover the remains of a revolutionary motor that runs on static electricity, a technology that could redefine industrial production. They resolve to track down the inventor and restore the motor to its former glory.
Wesley Mouch, now head of the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources, encourages the use of emergency powers to stabilize the economy. The Union of Locomotive Engineers insists on reducing all train speeds to sixty miles per hour, while the Union of Railway Conductors and Brakemen advocate for a sixty car cap on all freight trains. The states of Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona request that the number of trains operating in Colorado match those in their states. Orren Boyle's group lobbies for a law restricting the production of Rearden Metal to that of any other equal-capacity steel mill. Various groups demand equal access to Rearden Metal and laws to prevent eastern businesses from relocating to Colorado. Rearden, finding his ore supply redirected to Boyle by Paul Larkin, resorts to illegal means to procure ore. Dagny's investigation into the motor's creator leads her to Lee Hunsacker, who bought the factory from Jed Starnes' heirs. After being denied a loan from wealthy Midas Mulligan, Hunsacker sued him. Although initially in Mulligan's favor, an appeal court mandated the loan based on Hunsacker's "need", regardless of his lack of collateral. Mulligan and Judge Narragansett subsequently vanished. Dagny learns from Starnes' heirs that the factory collapsed due to a scheme where workers were paid according to their claimed needs, leading to chaos. Dagny locates the wife of William Hastings, the previous chief engineer, who directs her to a cook in Wyoming, Hugh Akston, a retired philosopher who has information on the inventor but refuses to share. Back in New York, Dagny finds the proposed laws passed, with a special tax imposed on Colorado. Seeking to contact the rebellious Ellis Wyatt, she arrives in Colorado to find his oil fields ablaze and Wyatt missing.
Dagny is forced to reduce train schedules due to Colorado's economic meltdown. The oil fields of Wyatt lay unused, leading to a domino effect where firms relying on his supply shut down. Amidst acute oil scarcity and government rationing, the nation turns to coal. However, Andrew Stockton, a potential coal furnace tycoon, and Lawrence Hammond, the last car producer, have inexplicibly disappeared. Only a few industrialists like Ken Dannager of Dannager Coal remain. Despite running fewer trains, largely on coal, Jim's government subsidies keep Taggart's profits soaring. Desperate to reconstruct the motor, Dagny reaches out to Robert Stadler, in search of a competent engineer. Stadler is in awe of the mind that conceived the motor and suggests Quentin Daniels, a brilliant physicist who declined a role at the State Science Institute. The Fair Share Law mandates Rearden to meet all requests for metal, an impossible task. Those with clout manage to get more than their "fair share," leaving legitimate orders unfulfilled. The government dispatches a youthful Deputy Director of Distribution, dubbed "the Wet Nurse," to oversee order quantities. Rearden disregards a State Science Institute order for something labelled Project X. Upon receiving a visit from an Institute representative trying to persuade him, Rearden remains unyielding. He advises the representative to take as much metal as needed, but won't feign compliance. The man, visibly scared, issues veiled threats and exits. This prompts Rearden to realize the looters require his consent, which he must never grant.
Dagny perceives a force systematically erasing the brightest and most skilled industrialists. Almost all the entrepreneurs in Colorado have disappeared and Dagny is determined to resist this unknown entity. She employs Quentin Daniels, suggested by Stadler, to assist with the motor's resurrection. Rearden clandestinely agrees to supply Ken Dannager an unlawful amount of Rearden Metal. Jim ties the knot with Cherryl Brooks amid an extravagant celebration. Despite his reluctance, Rearden attends with his wife. Lillian presents Rearden's presence as her gift to Jim, suggesting it will make Rearden look intimidated, thereby enhancing Jim's image. At the event, Lillian sees Dagny sporting the Rearden Metal bracelet and requests it back, but Dagny declines. Lillian insinuates that Dagny's choice of accessory may create rumors. When Dagny queries if Lillian is implying an affair between her and Rearden, Lillian denies. Rearden, overhearing, insists Lillian apologize to Dagny, leaving both women surprised. Eventually, Lillian apologizes. Rearden, who once stood by his wife, now sides with Dagny. Francisco d’Anconia also attends the party. Responding to a comment that money is the root of all evil, and d’Anconia, its embodiment, he delivers a compelling speech on the true significance of money. Money, he argues, is not evil but a symbol of the utmost good. He advises Rearden that the only evil is refusing to think, which is the mistake Rearden is making with his current lifestyle. He hints at an alternative for Rearden. The next morning, he reveals, d’Anconia stockholders will find nearly all mines destroyed due to mismanagement, causing the stock to plummet. This revelation sends a wave of panic across the room, with Jim predicted to suffer substantial financial loss.
Subsequent to the party, Rearden visits Dagny and seeks her forgiveness for attending with Lillian, confessing that his earlier words at Wyatt's residence were misguided. Dagny, who had always been aware of this, assures him there's nothing to forgive. At the same time, Lillian learns about Rearden's affair, although the identity of the woman remains unknown to her. Dr. Floyd Ferris from the State Science Institute threatens Rearden with imprisonment for illegal dealings with Ken Dannager, if he refuses to fulfill the order for Project X. Defiant, Rearden and Dannager are subsequently indicted. During lunch, Eddie Willers expresses concern about Dagny to a colleague. Despite her faith in Rearden's ability to withstand the trial, she fears Dannager may crumble under pressure and fall victim to the destroyer. She discloses her plans to meet Dannager the following afternoon. However, upon reaching Dannager's office, she is too late. Already committed to retirement after a meeting with a visitor, Dannager assures Dagny his decision would have been the same even if she had arrived earlier. His sole regret is abandoning Rearden in a perilous time. Francisco visits Rearden at his mill, questioning why he allows himself to be vilified for his virtues and endorses the actions of his adversaries. Francisco insists Rearden's error lies in accepting that his self-interest is misguided. He believes Rearden should have greatly prospered from his invention, rather than being penalized. Francisco queries what Rearden's advice would be to a faltering Atlas holding up the world. When Rearden asks for Francisco's counsel, he simply says "To shrug." This makes Rearden consider Francisco's viewpoint. Just as Francisco is about to delve further into Rearden's motivations, an alarm interrupts them. They swiftly address a furnace malfunction, demonstrating their expertise and teamwork. Later, Francisco refrains from resuming his questioning, stating he now understands why Rearden remains dedicated to his mills.
During a Thanksgiving meal with his kin, Rearden starts to perceive them differently. He finally confronts his brother Philip, who has exploited him for years without ever showing respect, and reveals he no longer concerns himself with Philip's fate. He acknowledges that he has permitted his family to cause him distress by accepting their disapproval. He refuses to continue to validate them by allowing their moral values to supersede his. At his court hearing, Rearden declines to take part. He provides no defense, refusing to acknowledge or give any credence to the trial. He states that he rejects the court's authority over his metal's sales. He clarifies that his life's purpose is to create and profit, and that he will not repent for his accomplishments. The audience applauds enthusiastically. The judges are both scared and regretful, and impose a $5,000 fine but suspend the punishment. Rearden visits d’Anconia at his New York hotel. He questions why someone as smart as Francisco would squander time on debauchery. Francisco initiates a discussion on love, arguing a man's lover reflects his moral values. If he loathes himself, he will pursue unvirtuous women. If he values himself, he will seek a goddess. Despite intentionally feeding the rumors about his own love life, Francisco has only loved one woman. Rearden discloses that he plans to sell his metal to anyone he chooses and has directly ordered copper from d’Anconia. On hearing this, Francisco exclaims that he warned Rearden against dealing with d’Anconia copper and rushes to the phone, but stops himself. He swears to Rearden, on the woman he loves, that he is his ally, though he knows Rearden will soon despise him. Days later, Rearden discovers that the ships carrying his copper were apprehended and sunk by the pirate Ragnar Danneskjold.
John Galt personifies a reconsidering Prometheus. The unsuccessful order for Taggart rail signals the first-ever failure of Rearden Steel. Without copper, Rearden's options are limited, and without the metal, Taggart's declining mainline track cannot be repaired. The increasing accidents and insolvency of shippers lead to a swift economic downturn. Colorado has plunged into poverty, and nearly no businesses remain on the Rio Norte Line. During a board meeting, Dagny is compelled to shut down the line and utilize the Rearden Metal to mend the most critical issues on the main line. A Washington representative implies that Jim must offer something to Wesley Mouch to secure necessary permits. Upon leaving the meeting, Dagny encounters Francisco D’Anconia, who questions how long she's willing to serve undeserving people. She resolutely affirms that she could never abandon the railroad, regardless of the cost. Caught between corrupt politicians and opportunists, Jim Taggart must find a valuable bargaining chip. When the government anticipates Rearden's opposition to a new law, Jim seeks compromising information about Rearden. He invites Lillian Rearden to dinner, who agrees to assist. After investigating, Lillian uncovers Dagny's secret relationship with Rearden. Despite being confronted by Lillian, Rearden dismisses ending the affair, even threatening Lillian's life in the process.
Wesley Mouch, Jim Taggart, Orren Boyle, Dr. Floyd Ferris, Mr. Weatherby, Fred Kinnan and Mr. Thompson gather to deliberate on Directive 10-289. The regulation aims to stabilize the current economic condition and impede further deterioration. Despite apprehensions about public backlash, they decide to implement the laws. This directive implies that employees must stick to their current jobs or risk imprisonment, and all companies must continue operations. All inventions, patents and copyrights must be voluntarily surrendered to the government. No new products or innovations are permitted. Each firm must maintain their production levels, with no increase or decrease. Price and wage rates are to be fixed, and all citizens must maintain their spending as of the previous year. All research departments are to be shut down, except for the State Science Institute. A Unification Board is established by the Bureau of Economic Planning to enforce these laws, with their decisions being final. Dr. Ferris conveys his concern that Hank Rearden will resist parting with his patent. However, Mouch is assured by Jim that he can manipulate Rearden, asking in return for a hike in freight tariffs preceding the directive's price freeze. Upon hearing of the directive, Dagny, along with many others nationwide, resigns and retreats to her country lodge. A wave of industrialists vanish mysteriously. Even the Wet Nurse is incensed by the government's actions, shifting his belief system and ceasing to report Rearden's unlawful activities. Dr. Ferris confronts Rearden, demanding the patent for his 'Rearden Metal', now renamed 'Miracle Metal'. When Rearden refuses, Ferris reveals proof of his affair with Dagny and threatens to tarnish her reputation by making it public knowledge. Ferris discloses that it was Lillian who betrayed him. Rearden is filled with self-reproach for not divorcing Lillian and legitimizing his affair with Dagny. However, to protect Dagny, he reluctantly signs over the patent.
Eddie Willers confides his frustrations about the railroad's decline due to the directive to a worker friend at the Taggart cafeteria. Dedicated workers are quitting, replaced by aimless loafers. Dagny's inadequate replacement, Clifton Locey, is a friend of Jim's whose main goal is to evade decision-making. The worker informs Eddie that he's taking a month-long vacation and won't be back next week. Rearden has left his home, instructing his lawyers to secure a divorce from Lillian with no financial benefit for her. One evening, as he strolls to his apartment, he is approached by a man in dark attire. He identifies himself as the advocate of the destitute and hands Rearden a gold bar. The stranger informs Rearden that the gold is a partial reimbursement for the taxes he's paid to a crooked government, a symbol of justice. He has been gathering the taxes of numerous industrialists for years, aiming to aid them in reconstructing the world post-collapse. Despite his initial shock at discovering the man is Ragnar Danneskjold, Rearden later lies to the police to shield him. Taggart's nationwide Comet is immobilized in Colorado with a significant politician, Kip Chalmers, aboard. He insists the train must continue its journey. The diesel engine is irreparable, and the only replacement, a coal-powered engine, can't safely traverse the Taggart Tunnel. Following a series of vague instructions from everyone, including Jim Taggart and the train’s engineer, Chalmers finally pressures the staff into using the coal engine. A tipsy engineer consents to drive the Comet through the tunnel after the assigned engineer steps down in objection. Toxic fumes kill everyone on board, Wyatt’s still-burning oil fields (“Wyatt’s Torch”) being their final vision. Subsequently, a military munitions train collides with the stationary Comet, causing an explosion that obliterates the tunnel.
Francisco pays a visit to Dagny at her rustic retreat. He has arrived to declare his love and unveil all the secrets he has been hiding. Assuming that her resignation makes her ready to unite with him, he reveals himself as one of the industrialists who have absconded from society. Unlike his counterparts, however, he has remained and methodically sabotaged d'Anconia Copper to prevent the plunderers from seizing it. Dagny, outraged at his act of defacing something he loved deeply, listens as he explains that it was his love for the company that drove him to act as he did. Her loss of respect cut him the deepest. Dagny starts to understand the reasoning behind Francisco's retreat and is on the verge of joining him when news of the tunnel catastrophe interrupts via radio. Driven by instinct, she rushes back to her occupation. She manages to reestablish train service by diverting to alternative rail tracks. Her actions violate the Directive, but she is confident the Unification Board won't intervene as they now rely on her to rectify the situation. She contacts Rearden, admitting she's aware that the looters are manipulating her love for her railway to keep her ensnared, just as they are with Rearden and his passion for his work.
Francisco visits Dagny's flat, again trying to persuade her to leave her job, but she remains committed to the railway. Unexpectedly, Rearden storms into the flat, enraged at seeing Francisco. Francisco is shocked to discover that Rearden and Dagny are in a romantic relationship. Rearden recalling Francisco's promise of love to a particular woman, questions if Dagny is that woman. Upon Francisco's affirmation, Rearden violently responds. Francisco refrains from striking back, leading Rearden to appreciate Francisco's love for him. Admitting that based on his knowledge, Francisco concedes that Rearden's dismissal of him is justified. Francisco departs. Dagny receives Quentin Daniels' resignation letter. He's willing to continue working on the motor, but not on her payroll, as he doesn't want the looters to exploit the device. Dagny promptly calls him, urging him to wait for her visit. She asks Eddie to reserve the Comet for her as she plans to investigate the tunnel mishap and connect with Daniels in the west. Eddie visits Dagny's flat for further instructions. Spotting Rearden's robe, he is taken aback, realizing the romantic bond between Dagny and Rearden and his own long-term love for Dagny. Eddie later dines with a worker at the Taggart Cafeteria, sharing that he likes the worker's face which appears free from suffering or guilt. Eddie informs him about Dagny's quest to find Daniels, also mentioning the motor. When he expresses his shock about Dagny and Rearden's relationship and confesses his feelings for Dagny, the worker abruptly leaves.
Dagny is deeply affected by the devastation she observes while traveling west on the Comet. When she exits her private carriage, she observes a conductor evicting a vagrant from the entrance area. His grace catches her eye, and she invites him in. He introduces himself as Jeff Allen, a former employee of Twentieth Century Motor Company. Allen relates the tale of the factory's downfall after Starnes' descendants implemented catastrophic policies. Workers were forced to vote on each other's necessity every six months. Those deemed inefficient were subjected to extra work hours without compensation, eventually stripping everyone of their self-respect. Honest workers suffered while the rest learned to exploit the system and conceal their skills. The first to resign was John Galt who vowed to halt the world's motor and put an end to the madness. When the company eventually collapsed, Allen and his colleagues started to believe that Galt had achieved his goal, leading to the phrase, Who is John Galt? Unexpectedly, the train comes to a halt. Like numerous recent trains, the crew has vanished without a trace. Dagny is relieved to discover Owen Kellogg onboard, but he is en-route to a vacation and declines to assist. He does, however, accompany her to a track phone to seek help. He questions her about her ongoing support for the looters and reveals he smokes the enigmatic dollar-sign cigarettes. Dagny continues to a local airstrip and rents a plane. Upon landing, she discovers Quentin Daniels has just taken off in another plane. Worried that the destroyer has taken him, she pursues them and crashes in the isolated Colorado mountains.
I pledge my existence and my passion for life that I will not exist for another man's benefit, nor require another to exist for my own benefit. Dagny awakes and locks eyes with a man devoid of pain, fear, or guilt, named John Galt. He was the pilot of the aircraft she pursued, the man Jeff Allen identified, and the genius behind the motor she's feared. She has injured her ankle, and he carries her from the wreckage. En route to his home, she learns that this secluded mountain valley houses all the missing industrialists. The valley, owned by banker Midas Mulligan, is inhabited by Hugh Akston, Richard Halley, Judge Narragansett, Francisco, and others who have disappeared. The industrialists have established businesses, making the valley self-reliant. Galt's motor provides electricity and powers a unique ray screen that conceals the valley from the outside world. Upon visiting the motor's location, Dagny sees an inscription: "I pledge my existence and my passion for life that I will not exist for another man's benefit, nor require another to exist for my own benefit." This is the valley's creed, and unless a person can genuinely affirm it, they cannot reside there. During a dinner at Mulligan's home, Galt reveals to Dagny that they are all on strike. He points out that the only men who have not gone on strike are those who carry the world's burdens. All other workers have expressed their demands to the world at some point. This, he explains, is the intellect on strike.
The following day, Dagny encounters Ragnar Danneskjold, a pirate resident of the valley, awaiting breakfast with Galt and the yet-to-arrive Francisco. Despite the majority of strikers residing in the valley, some like Francisco travel between here and the looters' realm. However, they unite every June to spend a month together in the valley. Dagny decides to remain for the month before concluding whether to stay longer. Dagny declines Danneskjold's offer to use the account he has created for her at Mulligan’s bank, instead opting to work as Galt's housekeeper in exchange for her stay. Owen Kellogg reaches the valley on Dagny’s third day. He informs her that the external world, including Rearden, presumes her dead. The following day, Francisco d’Anconia, who has been relentlessly searching for Dagny’s aircraft, arrives at Galt’s abode. He is taken aback and elated to find her alive. He confesses his love for her, convinced that she still reciprocates, despite being with another man. However, due to Galt's prohibition on external communication, Dagny is unable to reassure Rearden about her safety. Dagny gradually realizes her love for Galt, believing it to be mutual. She views him as the man she has envisioned ending up with. He admits to observing her from a distance for years. Dagny fears their opposing stances on the strike and Galt's possible reservations due to Francisco's feelings for her could hinder their relationship. When Francisco extends an invitation to Dagny to visit him, Galt requests for her to stay with him. Galt recognizes this as a test, and by refusing to self-sacrifice, believes he has succeeded. He reminds Dagny that no one hides their true feelings or reasons for staying in the valley. Despite her joy in the valley, Dagny chooses to leave and continue fighting for her railway business. Ignoring his friends' advice, Galt also decides to return, promising to observe her and wait for her readiness to come back. She commits to upholding the secrecy of the valley and is guided out, blindfolded, and flown back to the outside world.
In a remote corner of Iowa, the authorities introduce the Thompson Harmonizer, a deadly new weaponry developed under the covert Project X. Dr. Robert Stadler, unknowing of the project, finds himself falsely acknowledged as the creator and is forced to speak at the weapon's launch. The device, employing destructive sound waves, is designed to annihilate all living beings within its range. Dr. Floyd Ferris convinces him of its necessity in controlling the increasingly panicked populace. The aghast audience observes as a farmhouse and a herd of goats are obliterated, yet none voice their horror. Wesley Mouch hails the device as a magnificent tool for peace. Dagny informs Rearden of her survival and upon her return to work, she discovers the government's new Railroad Unification Plan. This scheme consolidates all railroad profits, distributing them based on the length of each railroad's track. As the majority track owner, Taggart stands to gain substantially. Eddie liaises with Cuffy Meigs, the chief overseer of the plan, whose authority is being misused to reroute trains and play favors. Despite Jim's insistence, Dagny initially declines to participate in a radio broadcast. However, Lillian's threat to expose Dagny and Rearden's affair forces her to change her mind. On the show, she boldly discloses her relationship with Rearden and the blackmail used to make him relinquish control of Rearden Metal. Later that night, Rearden confesses his love for Dagny, even though he knows she belongs to another man. He's taken aback when she discloses that her heart belongs to John Galt, making him suspect her recent absence.
Jim Taggart feels triumphant about a financial arrangement he has recently made. As Argentina is declared a People’s State, with plans to nationalize d’Anconia Copper, Taggart cleverly redirects his investments to a different company that will manage d'Anconia's assets post-nationalization. He anticipates a huge profit and wants to celebrate. He longs for his wife Cherryl's admiration, but she no longer idolizes him after understanding his true character over the course of their first year of marriage. She's learned the real story of the John Galt Line and suspects Jim of wrongdoings. When he toasts to the downfall of Francisco, she exits in repulsion. Cherryl seeks out Dagny and apologizes for falsely blaming her for the problems at Taggart. She now realizes Dagny's the actual driving force behind the company's success and that Jim was the detrimental one. Dagny forgives Cherryl and offers to assist her, highlighting the evils of undeserved giving and the significance of justice. Cherryl finally feels recognized. Back at their home, Jim is visited by Lillian Rearden, who wants him to intervene in her impending divorce from Rearden. But he is of no help. In a last-ditch effort to wound Rearden, she has unemotional intercourse with Jim. When Cherryl comes back, she realizes Jim's infidelity. He confesses but declares that he won't grant her a divorce and she's stuck with him. He cruelly explains that he married her due to her worthlessness, to have her accept his love as charity. She grasps that he married her to shatter her struggle to rise above her humble background. She accuses him of being a merciless killer, provoking him to hit her. She flees into the streets where a social worker accuses her despair on her own selfishness. Overwhelmed, she leaps off a bridge, committing suicide.
Taggart is in dire straits due to a scarcity of copper, rendering repairs unfeasible. Essential materials are rerouted to influential Washington businessmen under the Unification Plan. The situation escalates when d’Anconia copper mines and properties, slated for nationalization, are obliterated at the exact moment of takeover. Simultaneously, Francisco and his top employees vanish. Rearden's sibling Philip seeks employment from him, but is declined due to his lack of beneficial skills, leaving Rearden puzzled at Philip's sudden interest. The Wet Nurse also approaches Rearden for a job, longing to contribute productively. Although Rearden is inclined to employ him, legal restrictions hinder him. The Wet Nurse cautions Rearden about Washington's covert plans to impose new restrictions and infiltrate the mills with their own personnel. Despite harsh conditions, Minnesota farmers produce an enormous wheat crop, requiring trains for transportation. Dagny becomes aware that Taggart's rail cars, commandeered by the corrupt Cuffy Meigs, have been reassigned to Louisiana for an experimental soybean project led by a politician's mother. The trains cannot be redirected, resulting in the wheat crop decaying, ensuing starvation for many, and the demise of all Minnesota farming enterprises. The Taggart terminal's traffic system has malfunctioned. Amidst the chaos, Dagny spots John Galt among the workers. Subsequently, she ventures into the tunnels, followed by Galt. There, they share a moment of intense passion. Later, Galt discloses that he has observed her from these tunnels for a decade. He advises her against searching for him, warning that her actions might lead their adversaries to him, endangering his life.
Rearden's steelworkers, who are members of a union, request a wage increase. However, this information never reaches Rearden because the Unification Board rejects their plea. Board-controlled media outlets highlight the steelworkers' struggles and the unjust denial of their expected raise, without disclosing the entity responsible for the rejection. Subsequently, Rearden is informed that his accounts will be garnished to pay for fictitious back taxes. He remains passive, curious about the looters' next moves. He then receives a call from a government official, Tinky Holloway, who invites him for a meeting to resolve the situation. Relying on Philip Rearden's insights from a recent visit to his brother, Holloway presumes Rearden will be obstinate. Rearden's family desperately urges him to stay and not vanish. He dismisses their apologies and pleas for compassion, finding their request for him to sacrifice for their sake unacceptable. Amidst their desperate efforts to break him, Lillian reveals her extramarital affair with Jim, but Rearden is indifferent. When his family hints that he can't abscond without finances, he comprehends the purpose of the garnishment orders. Rearden attends the meeting to clarify his predicament. Jim Taggart, Wesley Mouch, and other looters are present. They inform Rearden about the impending Steel Unification Plan, aimed at pooling profits analogous to the Railroad Plan. Rearden retorts that under this plan, Orren Boyle would amass most of the profits and he would face bankruptcy regardless of his steel production. He suddenly comprehends their scheme. Their entire operation hinges on the expectation that he will perpetually work, irrespective of the cost, due to his passion for his work and his skills. Upon returning to the mill, Rearden finds a riot incited by government henchmen already in progress. The Wet Nurse refuses to aid the thugs in entering the mills and gets shot in the process. He breathes his last in Rearden's arms. Despite collapsing after being struck on the head, an unidentified worker slays his assailant and rallies the workers to defend themselves. Later, Rearden discovers this worker is Francisco d’Anconia, who has covertly been working at the mills since the demolition of d’Anconia Copper.
A highly esteemed philosopher of old once said that existence is itself: A is A. You never truly understood that principle, but I am here to elaborate on it: Being is Identity, Awareness is Recognition. Rearden disappears, leaving Dagny a cryptic note: “I have met him. I don’t blame you.” His absence causes the steel industry to plummet. Across the country, fear escalates and violent mobs take over. The media circulate confusing and contradictory reports, but it's clear that society is crumbling. Seeking to ease public anxiety, the government announces that the Head of State, Mr. Thompson, will address the nation on the crisis. The broadcast date and time are announced over and over for a week. But when the time comes, the broadcast is hijacked, and John Galt speaks to the nation instead. Galt gives a lengthy, in-depth speech on the country's condition and the reasons behind the intellectual strike. Galt criticizes those who hold God as the supreme moral authority and socialists who consider one's community as the ultimate moral authority. He contends that morality isn't an imposed structure, but a fundamental aspect of mankind. According to Galt, a man's reason is his moral compass. Serving oneself is the ultimate objective of a moral man. He outlines the principles every man must uphold: reason, purpose, and self-respect. These principles, Galt asserts, demand and promote man's virtues: rationality, autonomy, integrity, honesty, justice, productivity, and pride. He calls for a general strike, urging those who still possess a modicum of reason to withdraw their support and stop fueling their own demise. He implores people to confront reality, embrace knowledge, and reclaim the concept of an objective reality.
Following the address, Mr. Thompson and his Washington colleagues are filled with fear and desperation. Dr. Stadler coldly proposes they kill Galt, but Thompson sees value in Galt's proactive nature and his potential to bring back the retired industrialists. He wants to negotiate. Eddie confides in Dagny after the broadcast, revealing his years-long acquaintance with John Galt from their chats at the Taggart cafeteria. He's unsure if he was aiding the railroad's salvation or demise. Dagny implores him to keep his knowledge of Galt's employment under wraps due to their desperate hunt for him. Amidst the country's escalating chaos, the government intensifies its search for Galt. Regular broadcasts declare John Galt as the nation's savior. Thompson asks Dagny about Galt's whereabouts, indicating the dire situation. He's losing control over the government's dangerous faction and fears they might kill Galt if they find him first. Dagny denies knowing Galt's location. After her conversation with Thompson, she rushes to Galt's apartment, gripped by fear for his safety. Upon reaching him, Galt informs her she was trailed by government agents about to raid the apartment. He insists she feign animosity towards him to ensure her safety. If the agents learned of their relationship, they would use her to torment him. When the agents eventually arrive to apprehend him, she plays along and acts as his adversary. The looters keep Galt captive, attempting to persuade him to be the country's economic dictator, but he resolutely declines. He agrees to do their bidding, but refuses to think for them, asserting his mind can't be coerced. Despite various attempts to break him using emotional manipulation, Galt remains resolute. He requests to meet Dr. Stadler, leaving him profoundly unsettled by their meeting. Meanwhile, newspapers claim Galt has agreed to help the government, a notion that's met with widespread disbelief. To assuage the public's doubt, the looters announce the John Galt Plan for the economy. However, during a television appearance, Galt unveils a hidden gun aimed at him and defiantly tells the cameras "Get the hell out of my way!" Civil war erupts in California and the Comet is stuck. Eddie departs to restore Taggart's transcontinental service. Dagny receives a letter from Francisco advising her to reach out if Galt is in peril.
Dr. Stadler recognizes that his place in Washington is compromised, regardless of Galt's actions. He resorts to a power grab at the Project X site, aiming to control the weapon. However, Cuffy Meigs reaches the site with similar intentions. The weapon detonates amidst their struggle, resulting in the devastation of the surrounding landscape for hundreds of miles. The Washington officials are distressed and desperate. Dr. Ferris persuades them to torture Galt for results. Dagny, upon hearing their decision, contacts Francisco. As she's about to depart, an engineer informs her about the destruction of the Taggart Bridge due to Project X. This time, she refrains from resolving the crisis. Meeting Francisco, she solemnly swears Galt’s oath, thereby joining the strike. At the State Science Institute, Galt is subjected to the torturous Project F, under the watchful eyes of Dr. Ferris, Wesley Mouch, and Jim Taggart. The device sends electrical currents through his body. Dr. Ferris insists that he will not leave the room until he outlines an economic plan. Despite the torture, Galt remains silent. When the machine fails, he instructs the operator on repair, horrifying him to the point of fleeing the room. Amidst his desperation to see Galt defeated, Jim identifies himself as a nihilist, a realization that causes him to scream and collapse.
Dagny, Rearden, Francisco, and Danneskjold, the dissenters, daringly free Galt in a heated gun battle. They then ascend into Francisco's ready plane and head towards Colorado. The engine of the Comet, travelling east from San Francisco, fails in the heart of an Arizona desert. Eddie Willers is informed by the conductor that the engineer is attempting to rectify the issue, but the resignation in his gaze suggests it's a lost cause. Eddie is filled with anger and frustration. He had tirelessly labored to restore the service. He resolutely clings to his railroad and his faith in the world despite the circumstances. When a wagon train comes to the rescue of the crew and stranded passengers, Eddie stubbornly stays with the locomotive. Following the utter breakdown of the looters' lifestyle, the inhabitants of the valley are finally prepared to reclaim the world and reconstruct it based on their principles.