In an environment of worsening economicconditions, Dagny Taggart, vice president in charge of operations,works to repair Taggart Transcontinentals crumbling Rio Norte Lineto service Colorado, the last booming industrial area in the country.Her efforts are hampered by the fact that many of the countrysmost talented entrepreneurs are retiring and disappearing. The railroadscrisis worsens when the Mexican government nationalizes TaggartsSan Sebastian Line. The line had been built to service Francisco dAnconias copper mills, but the mills turn out to be worthless.Francisco had been a successful industrialist, and Dagnys lover,but has become a worthless playboy. To solve the railroads financialproblems, Dagnys brother Jim uses political influence to pass legislationthat destroys Taggarts only competition in Colorado. Dagny mustfix the Rio Norte Line immediately and plans to use Rearden Metal,a new alloy created by Hank Rearden. When confronted about the SanSebastian mines, Francisco tells Dagny he is deliberately destroyingdAnconia Copper. Later he appears at Reardens anniversary partyand, meeting him for the first time, urges Rearden to reject thefreeloaders who live off of him.
The State Science Institute issues a denunciation of Rearden metal,and Taggarts stock crashes. Dagny decides to start her own companyto rebuild the line, and it is a huge success. Dagny and Reardenbecome lovers. Together they discover a motor in an abandoned factorythat runs on static electricity, and they seek the inventor. Thegovernment passes new legislation that cripples industry in Colorado.Ellis Wyatt, an oil industrialist, suddenly disappears after settingfire to his wells. Dagny is forced to cut trains, and the situationworsens. Soon, more industrialists disappear. Dagny believes thereis a destroyer at work, taking men away when they are most needed.Francisco visits Rearden and asks him why he remains in businessunder such repressive conditions. When a fire breaks out and theywork together to put it out, Francisco understands Reardens lovefor his mills.
Rearden goes on trial for breaking one of the new laws,but refuses to participate in the proceedings, telling the judgesthey can coerce him by force but he wont help them to convict him.Unwilling to be seen as thugs, they let him go. Economic dictatorWesley Mouch needs Reardens cooperation for a new set of socialistlaws, and Jim needs economic favors that will keep his ailing railroadrunning after the collapse of Colorado. Jim appeals to Reardenswife Lillian, who wants to destroy her husband. She tells him Rearden andDagny are having an affair, and he uses this information in a trade.The new set of laws, Directive 10-289,is irrational and repressive. It includes a ruling that requiresall patents to be signed over to the government. Rearden is blackmailedinto signing over his metal to protect Dagnys reputation.
Dagny quits over the new directive and retreats to a mountain lodge.When she learns of a massive accident at the Taggart Tunnel, shereturns to her job. She receives a letter from the scientist shehad hired to help rebuild the motor, and fears he will be the nexttarget of the destroyer. In an attempt to stop him from disappearing,she follows him in an airplane and crashes in the mountains. Whenshe wakes up, she finds herself in a remote valley where all theretired industrialists are living. They are on strike, calling ita strike of the mind. There, she meets John Galt, who turns outto be both the destroyer and the man who built the motor. She fallsin love with him, but she cannot give up her railroad, and she leavesthe valley. When she returns to work, she finds that the governmenthas nationalized the railroad industry. Government leaders wanther to make a speech reassuring the public about the new laws. Sherefuses until Lillian comes to blackmail her. On the air, she proudlyannounces her affair with Rearden and reveals that he has been blackmailed. Shewarns the country about its repressive government.
With the economy on the verge of collapse, Francisco destroys therest of his holdings and disappears. The politicians no longer evenpretend to work for the public good. Their vast network of influencepeddling creates worse chaos, as crops rot waiting for freight trainsthat are diverted for personal favors. In an attempt to gain controlof Franciscos mills, the government stages a riot at Rearden Steel.But the steelworkers organize and fight back, led by Francisco,who has been working undercover at the mills. Francisco saves Reardenslife, then convinces him to join the strike.
Just as the head of state prepares to give a speech onthe economic situation, John Galt takes over the airwaves and deliversa lengthy address to the country, laying out the terms of the strikehe has organized. In desperation, the government seeks Galt to makehim their economic dictator. Dagny inadvertently leads them to him,and they take him prisoner. But Galt refuses to help them, evenafter he is tortured. Finally, Dagny and the strikers rescue himin an armed confrontation with guards. They return to the valley,where Dagny finally joins the strike. Soon, the countrys collapseis complete and the strikers prepare to return.
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SparkNotes: Atlas Shrugged: Plot Overview