This page summarizes some significant things from the novel—from symbols to laws to songs to legends.
The Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule is passed by the National Alliance of Railroads in section 145, allegedly to prevent "destructive competition" between railroads. The rule gives the Alliance the authority to forbid competition between railroads in certain parts of the country. It was crafted by Orren Boyle as a favor for James Taggart, with the purpose of driving the Phoenix-Durango out of Colorado.
The very first thing made from Rearden metal is a bracelet. The bracelet is used to illustrate Rand's theory of sex.
The bracelet symbolizes the value created by Hank Rearden's long struggle to invent Rearden metal. When he gives it to Lillian Rearden as a present in section 121 she says, "It's fully as valuable as a piece of railroad rails." However, Lillian fully grasps the significance of the gift; her snide remark is her way of denigrating her husband's ethos.
In section 161, Lillian wears this bracelet at a party thrown on her anniversary. She makes fun of it all night long, and when Dagny Taggart hears Lillian say she would gladly trade it for a common diamond bracelet, Dagny takes her up on it.
Lillian later asks for it back upon realizing her power over her husband was slowly diminishing. Dagny declines the offer.
At the end of the book, the bracelet is one of the very few things Dagny takes with her when she finally departs New York and gives up the futile effort to preserve her company.
The bracelet appears in sections 121 and 161.
Cigarettes with Gold Dollar Sign
Cigarettes stamped with a golden dollar symbol $ (instead of a brand name) turn up from time to time in the story. Rand used cigarettes as a metaphor for humanity's conquest of fire. To Rand, cigarettes are a symbol of humanity's first great technological achievement. In Atlas Shrugged,
He produced a package of cigarettes and extended it to her [...] It was a plain white package that bore, as a single imprint, the sign of the dollar [...] There was no printing on the package, no trade name, no address, only the dollar sign stamped in gold. The cigarettes bore the same sign.
Ayn Rand chose a cigarette to represent money and capitalism partially because of its connotation of fire, and the significance of that to themes of Atlas Shrugged.
In the early 1970s Rand’s health began to give way. An enthusiastic smoker, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. For Rand, smoking was a Promethean symbol of creativity, inventiveness, profit-making, all she most admired: "When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind – and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression," one of the goodies explains in Atlas Shrugged. [After her death] a six-foot-high floral dollar sign was erected by her open coffin in the funeral home.
Equalization of Opportunity Bill
A bill designed by the Looters that proposes to limit the number of businesses any one person can own to one. It is aimed primarily at Hank Rearden, who uses Rearden Ore to guarantee Rearden Steel a supply of iron ore. By passing this Bill, the Looters can seize Rearden's other businesses for themselves, and then deny him the iron he needs to run his steel mills.
The Looters claim the Bill is meant to give a chance to the little guy.
The Equalization of Opportunity Bill appears in section 161.
Halley's Fifth Concerto
Richard Halley disappeared after he had written only four concertos. In section 112, Dagny Taggart, an enthusiastic fan of Halley's music, hears an unfamiliar theme being whistled by a brakeman on the Taggart Comet. She asks him what it is; he responds by telling her that it is Halley's Fifth Concerto. When Dagny says Halley only wrote four concertos, the brakeman says he made a mistake and denies knowing what the song was.
Later, Dagny calls Mr. Ayers to find out if Halley wrote a fifth concerto. Ayers says Halley did not.
Halley's Fifth Concerto is mentioned in sections 112, 114 and 152.
Halley's Fourth Concerto
The last thing Richard Halley wrote before he disappeared. It is a song of rebellion and defiance that seemed to say agony and suffering were not necessary. Its main theme is the Greek myth of Phaethon. However, Phaethon succeeds in riding his father's chariot. Dagny Taggart listened to this piece in section 141.
It is mentioned in section 152.
Heaven's In Your Backyard
John Galt legends
Since everyone across the country is asking, "Who is John Galt?", it is not surprising that some people have come up with answers. A number of John Galt Legends are told, each of which, ironically, turns out to be true, at least symbolically.
- Legend one (section 161)
- A spinster at Lillian Rearden's party tells Dagny the story. John Galt was a man of inestimable wealth who found the sunken island of Atlantis while fighting the worst storm ever wreaked upon the world. The sight was so beautiful that, having seen it, he could never go back to the world, so he sank his ship and took his fortune down with him.
- Legend two
- John Galt found the elixir of life on the top of a mountain and was never seen again.
Francisco d'Anconia claims that the spinster told the truth.
The actual John Galt was a man who created something of inestimable value, a new motor, and who discovered the secret to what was wrong with the world while fighting the most evil social philosophy ever put into practice. The world he envisioned was so beautiful that he refused to live in the world that was, and disappeared, taking the secret of his motor with him.
Atlantis, the Isles of the Blessed, is a place where no one could enter except those who had the spirit of a hero. Described in these terms, it is the same as Galt's Gulch. Galt describes the reality of the situation as the story that is "concretely true" implying the others are true in a metaphorical sense.
National Alliance of Railroads
An industry group formed to promote the welfare of the industry as a whole, requiring members to sacrifice their individual interests for the common good. Orren Boyle has friends on the National Alliance of Railroads, and he gets them to support the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule, which uses a string of pretenses to drive the Phoenix-Durango out of Colorado.
The National Alliance of Railroads is mentioned in sections 131, 145 and 146.
National Council of Metal Industries
An industry group that uses political pull to get its way. James Taggart has friends on the National Council of Metal Industries, and he gets them to support legislation that will hurt Rearden Steel and help Associated Steel.
The National Council of Metal Industries is mentioned in section 131.
The Taggart Comet is Taggart Transcontinental's flagship train. It runs from New York to San Francisco, and has never been late until the later part of the book, when the entire world is in the process of collapse. In the final chapter, Eddie Willers makes a futile last effort to get the Comet back on track, which ends with his being stranded in the middle of the desert with the broken-down train.
The Taggart Comet appears in sections 112, 113 and 152.
See Bertram Scudder.
The Heart Is A Milkman
It is mentioned in section 161.
A newspaper editorial written by Bertram Scudder. It is anti-Rearden and is described as badly written, being merely a string of insults.
The Vulture Is Molting
A best-selling novel that captures the spirit of the times, The Vulture Is Molting is "A penetrating study of a businessman's greed. A fearless revelation of man's depravity." The book is mentioned in section 141 as one of the artifacts of popular culture that depresses Dagny Taggart with its baseness.
- Turner, Jenny. As Astonishing as Elvis in the London Review of Books