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"I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle."Vice-President in Charge of Operation of Taggart Transcontinental and – everyone knows the one who truly runs her family business. She’s determined to keep her railroad running no matter how difficult the looters in power make it for her with their torrent of new regulations and directives. Every grasp she and her lover Hank Rearden make for victory, however, seems to be thwarted by an unknown Destroyer who’s making the great businessmen and industrialists of the world disappear one by one…
"Business and earning a living and that in man which makes it possible – that is the best within us, that was the thing to defend…"The first character introduced in the book. One of Dagny’s closest childhood friends and currently her Special Assistant. He is fiercely devoted to Dagny and the railroad and becomes more and more distressed at the looters’ efforts against them. He finds comfort in confiding in a mysterious, nameless friend he eats lunch with every day in the Taggart Building cafeteria…
"I work for nothing but my own profit – which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it… and I am proud of every penny that I have earned in this manner. I am rich and I am proud of every penny I own. I made my money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with…"Owner of Rearden Steel, inventor of Rearden Metal (the result of years of tireless experiment and effort – stronger, lighter, and cheaper than the strongest steel), deeply loathed and hated for the crime of being wealthy – including by his own family, whom he financially supports – but admired by his employees and men with whom he does business, Dagny’s secret lover, trapped in a loveless marriage to an emotionally abusive version of Katherine Smith from 1984, and one of the looters’ most uncooperative victims.
"If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders – what would you tell him to do?"Dagny’s and Eddie’s closest childhood friend, who spent every summer with them on the Taggart estate. Proud heir to D’Anconia Copper. Once they grew up, he and Dagny became lovers for a few years before he inexplicably transformed from an energetic businessman, who believed wealth and greatness had no value unless earned, into a lazy, hedonistic, wasteful playboy surrounded by a million fangirls. The image he presents to the world doesn’t make sense either to Dagny or Hank Rearden, but if his new persona is just an act, what possible motive could lie behind it?
"I swear – by my life and my love of it – that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."The Destroyer who, one by one, convinces the greatest movers and shakers of the world to go on strike against the tyrannical government that wants to redistribute their honestly earned wealth to those who haven’t earned it (this is a mystery and twist that, of course, pretty much everyone knows by now via the It Was His Sled-effect). To that end, he invites them all to live in a secluded valley hidden by the mountains of Colorado and a hologram-projecting screen of his own design, known as the Utopia of Greed, Atlantis, Mulligan’s Valley (after its owner), and Galt’s Gulch.
Residents of Atlantis
"My only love, the only value I care to live for, is that which has never been loved by the world, has never won recognition or friends or defenders: human ability. That is the love I am serving – and if I should lose my life, to what better purpose could I give it?"Met Francisco D’Anconia and John Galt in college, where the three became best friends and started the strike. While Galt recruited men and Francisco tricked the looters, Ragnar became an infamous pirate, seizing government "relief" ships of handouts sent between countries, exchanging the goods for gold, and returning the gold to strikers as restitution for what their government stole from them as punishment for their talent for earning money.
"I was born on a farm. I knew the meaning of money. I had dealt with many men in my life. I had watched them grow. I had made my fortune by being able to spot a certain kind of man. The kind who never asked you for faith, hope and charity, but offered you facts, proof and profit."A banker who joined the strike after he lost one-too-many court cases ordering him to lend/give money to someone he knew was a bad investment. Owner of the valley that serves as the strikers’ hiding place.
"I quit and joined him and went on strike because I could not share my profession with men who claim that the qualification of an intellectual consists of denying the existence of the intellect."A philosophy professor who became Francisco’s, Ragnar’s, and John’s mentor in college before joining them in Mulligan’s Valley.
"Whatever quality of human greatness I have the talent to portray – that was the quality the outer world sought to degrade."An actress who joined the strike because she was sick of being forced to play villainized Veronicas who always lose to the glorified Betties.
" 'Governmental scientific inquiry' is a contradiction in terms."A research scientist who went to work as a night watchman rather than sell out to the government’s scientific institutes long before even hearing about any strike or Destroyer. Recruited by Dagny to try to solve the mystery of an abandoned generator that supposedly should be able to turn atmospheric static electricity into a viable energy source and ultimately leads Dagny to its inventor, the Destroyer, and the valley all at once.
"I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It’s yours."An oil baron and the John Galt Line’s best customer who went on strike when the looters launched their new plan to enslave the industries of Colorado. The flame left burning on the oil field he destroyed before disappearing became known as Wyatt’s Torch.
"They do not need me, they say, they only need my coal. Let them take it."To the coal industry what Hank Rearden is to metal and Ellis Wyatt is to oil. Joins the strike shortly after being caught purchasing more than his “fair share” of Rearden Metal.
"I do not care to be admired by anyone’s heart – only by someone’s head."Dagny’s favorite musician (until he disappeared...) who believes an artist is "the most exacting of all traders" and joined the strike because he couldn’t find the genuine admiration he sought in the outside world.
"The purpose for which I had chosen my work, was my resolve to be a guardian of justice. But the laws they asked me to enforce made me the executor of the vilest injustice conceivable."Joined the strike with Midas Mulligan when the courts reversed a ruling of his refusing to force the latter to loan someone money, showing him the Double Standard under which the legal system was now operating.
John Galt: She’s a writer. The kind of writer who wouldnt be published outside. She believes that when one deals with words, one deals with the mind.
"I’ve never tried to hide that I came from the slums. And I haven’t any sympathy for that welfare philosophy. I’ve seen enough of them to know what makes the kind of poor who want something for nothing."A young girl who meets Jim Taggart while working in a dime-store and marries him in Part II. The more she learns about her husband, however, his cronies, and what they’re doing to the world, the more depressed she grows until she finally can’t take it any longer...
"There’s so many things I wish I’d known sooner[...]"A boy who went to college wanting to be a metallurgist but ended up as Washington’s overseer of activity at Rearden Steel. Although he at first seems to believe everything they taught him and in the laws he’s been hired to enforce, he gradually grows to believe in Hank Rearden more and more and to remember what he always wanted to be.
"Yours to work, from sunup to sundown, month after month, year after year, with nothing to show for it but your sweat, with nothing in sight for you but their pleasure, for the whole of your life, without rest, without hope, without end[...] From each according to his ability, to each according to his need[...]"A former employee at the Twentieth Century Motor Company back when the owners introduced a plan that everyone would work according to his ability and be paid according to his need. He recounts to Dagny the four years they all worked and lived in Hell, all but the man who quit the night the plan was introduced, some guy named John Galt...
"Rearden. He didn’t invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn’t have invented his Metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. His Metal! Why does he think it’s his? Why does he think it’s his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything."Dagny’s brother and President of Taggart Transcontinental, which consists of taking credit for everything Dagny does, which all of their employees know.
"Freedom has been given a chance and has failed. Therefore, more stringent controls are necessary."Hank Rearden’s "man in Washington" who double-crosses him to become head of the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources.
"I can’t bring men down to their knees in admiration – but I can bring them down to their knees."Hank Rearden’s wife, whom he eventually learns married him for the same reason any abuser does – the power-trip of devoting your life to torturing and breaking one human being and watching them suffer.
Dr. Floyd Ferris
"There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."The novel’s closest thing to a Big Bad in terms of prominence, influence, and malice. Driven not by envy or hypocritical greed but by a sheer lust for power. Fond of delivering breaking speeches and publishing books denouncing all intellect and the very act of thinking. Creator of the Weapon of Mass Destruction, Project X, and the Electric Torture device, the Ferris Persuader.
Dr. Robert Stadler
"Our weapons are so helplessly, laughably childish: truth, knowledge, reason, values, rights! Force is all they know, force, fraud, and plunder!"Head of the State Science Institute, formerly a professor at Patrick Henry University whom Galt and his two friends originally adopted as their mentor before turning to Hugh Akston. Convinced that the only way to survive in the looters’ world was to join them, he eventually betrayed all the values he once preached to his prized pupils and sold out to the government, allowing them to put his name on any false report or dangerous invention they wanted in exchange for a few bucks and a laboratory. Spends the book lamenting the decline of intellect and integrity in the country, hating Dr. Ferris more and more, and insisting there’s no other option but to give in and go along with it, and no reasonable person would expect him to do otherwise!
"I’m no match for you, and you know it."Head of State, but, interestingly, neither the Big Bad nor a revered and feared Big Brother-type figure – just another looter who thinks the solution to any problem with the economy is to pass more regulations, impose more taxes and penalties, and give more money to the most unproductive businesses that obviously need it the most.
"Nobody can accuse me of running a profit-making business!"Steel tycoon who thrives on the "aristocracy of pull."
"I’m a racketeer – but I know it and my boys know it, and they know that I’ll pay off. Not out of the kindness of my heart, either, and not a cent more than I can get away with, but at least they can count on that much."Head of Amalgamated Labor of America, a national Union, which gives him the pull of workers and manpower in negotiation at the table of the aristocracy of pull.
"I can proudly say that in all of my life I have never made a profit!"Former president of the Community National Bank of Madison during the Twentieth Century Motor Company’s Marxist era. Proud that he lost his bank in giving loans based on need only. Now the most naïve of the looters, if his words are taken at face value, who genuinely believes the destructive regulations and controls are necessary for the good of "the little people" and constantly encourages the others to pass whatever new directives are necessary to get people to make the sacrifices necessary to help the people!
"In the long run, we’ll all be dead."Director of the Railroad Unification Plan who knows only one way to run a business and a country: intimidation.
Emma "Ma" Chalmers
"At a time of desperate public need, it’s our duty to sacrifice out luxurious tastes and eat our way back to prosperity..."Mother of Kip Chalmers, the politician whose unreasonable demands led to the infamous train wreck. Despite having no official position in Washington herself, after her son’s death, she’s given enough power to carry out her own personal crusade as the country’s economy collapses – getting the public to eat healthier!