Chapter V – Part II

August 10, 2016

D’Anconia will meet Dagny at any time she wishes. As she walks along a desolate, twilight city street where “skyscrapers looked like abandoned lighthouses sending feeble, dying signals out into an empty sea where no ships moved any longer” and unmotivated snowflakes melt into mud, she wonders why she feels the urge to run and meet him like in the old days…

As a child, Francisco D’Anconia would come for one month of summer, enriching Eddie and Dagny’s lives immeasurably. Every year, as soon as Eddie spotted him they would run down the hill, racing in vain to be the first to reach the birch tree that stood between them. Frisco always won. Everything.

As the only son of a great family, Francisco was being raised around the world that was to be his domain. Summer offered his one certain destination: Time with his fellow heirs, the Taggarts, and a strict tutor.

“We are the only aristocracy left in the world – the aristocracy of money,” he said to Dagny once, when he was fourteen, “It’s the only real aristocracy, if people understood what it means, which they don’t.”

It is unclear that Francisco really merely means money…it would make more sense that he is espousing something more deeply attuned to a real production of value. Jim – the only other heir apparent in this equation — does not factor into Frisco’s system. However, Eddie seems to. It is emphasized that Frisco believes his value does not rest in his inherited wealth, but in growing his empire to surpass the greatness he is come from, “The reason my family has lasted for such a long time is that none of us has ever been permitted to think he is born a d’Anconia. We are expected to become one.”

It is not clear if one who was exceptionally skilled in simply parting fools from their money would qualify. Clearly he did just that in a whopping fashion with the San Sebastian mines. However, those victims are folks that we assume he, like Dagny, finds worse than fools.

We learn the story of his great ancestor, Sebastian, who threw his wine into the face of the Lord of the Spanish Inquisition when it was suggested that he should change his manner of thinking. He then left all his riches, including the love of his life, and escaped to the New World. There, he tacked his coat of arms to his shack in Argentina and spent years with a pickaxe breaking rocks, assisted by a few stray derelicts: deserters from the armies of his countrymen, escaped convicts, starving Indians.

We are not sure how Sebastian d’Anconia managed this, precisely. Like the story of Nat Taggart, sheer will, hard work and raw genius hardly seem enough to achieve either the major capital undertaking or the engineering triumph of a mine, much less to establish the pathways of commerce needed to get it running, especially in the South America of the 1500’s with no political connections save the very powerful ones who believe that he should be righteously executed. These practicalities aside, Sebastian is inhabiting a marble palace and running great mines, looking younger than ever, when his faithful love comes to meet him fifteen years later.

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We meet Hank Rearden, our proposed beacon of unappreciated light.

A nameless professor of economics muses, “Of what importance is an individual in the titanic collective achievements of our industrial age?”

A journalist notes, “Hank Reardon is the kind of man who sticks his name on everything he touches. You may, from this, form your own opinion about the character of Hank Reardon.”

We read that, “Ever since he could remember, he had been told that his face was ugly, because it was unyielding and cruel, because it was expressionless.”

Hank Rearden has lived a focused and driven life. He has sacrificed everything, overcome exhaustion, and accomplished much. He wants to be loved for his achievements; his building of an empire that produces steel where no-one else could, and his search for a newer, better material.

Today, he poured the first order of a new metal that everyone said was impossible to make, and then everyone apparently agreed never to use. He stood silently alone watching the metal pour, with apparently only one guy – still distant – who acknowledged his triumph with a silent salute.

We get the idea that he dutifully supports his family, including his mother and brother, and gets nothing in return. It is suggested that what they offer – human connection – would not be valued by Hank even if they didn’t seem so shallow and spiteful in their practice of it.

Outspoken in her resentment of his material focus, his mother nags that he’s a selfish, selfish man. At the very least, it seems, he has neglected to invest his time in their concerns. It seems that Hank might have conveniently forgotten dinner with this mother’s friend, more than got caught up in his triumph. This friend, we read, organizes underprivileged youth to learn craftsmanship. One wonders why he wouldn’t support that if he values people being put to some industry, particularly one that might use his metal. Perhaps their industry isn’t self-driven enough. Perhaps he feels the effort is a waste of time that is beyond his concern. We are generally asked to agree that his family’s interests – this woman and the children she teaches, his wife’s social engagements — are empty vanities compared to his substantive life. They, in turn, find his passion unsophisticated.

“…it’s just that a man of culture is bored with the alleged wonders of purely material ingenuity.”

Thus, we are offered an opposition: Those of material things, which Rand argues are all that matter; and those of human relations which, it is suggested, are baseless figments of value. His mother is mad because he broke a promise.  One gets the impression that he often says, “Yeah, sure. I’ll be there,” and then doesn’t. Based on the conversation with his wife who asks if he can possibly commit three months in advance to their wedding anniversary, it is possible that he consistently warns that he won’t commit and they just assume he should and hold him to it, anyway.

Perhaps a phone call was in order today. One might think that even a self-absorbed man would have made that call, just to allow himself the luxury of uttering the words of his accomplishment but, he didn’t. Instead, he walked leisurely home through the dark countryside savoring his feat.

“…he despised memories as a pointless indulgence. But then he understood that he thought of them tonight in honor of the piece of metal in his pocket. Then he permitted himself to look…”

We are offered a montage of empire building. We are brought to understand that this new innovation is apparently ultimately Hank Rearden’s alone…

“…the nights spent in the workshop of his home, over sheets of paper which he filled with formulas, then tore up in angry failure”

“ …the days when the young scientists of the small staff he had chosen to assist him waited for instructions like soldiers ready for a hopeless battle, having exhausted their ingenuity, still willing, but silent, with the unspoken sentence hanging in the air: ‘Mr. Rearden, it can’t be done.’”

We are led to believe the accomplishment was all his; that he’s the only one of value here and that is why – even more than the passion and the joy of accomplishment and the self-identification that Hank has in his work – that is why his name should shine in giant letters above all his factories:

“He thought of the days behind him. He wished it were possible to light a neon sign above them saying: Rearden Life.”

 

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