(Just tuning in? Catch up with the previous Atlas Shrugged liveblogs here.)
Part 2, Chapter 3 is titled “White Blackmail.” Black whitemail! (TRUFAX: It’s actually a Howler.)
When we last left our antiheroes, they were standing in a ballroom gaping at each other while everyone else rushed out the door to cause chaos and stockbroker headaches over the imminent crash of d’Anconia Copper, which wouldn’t have crashed at all except that Francisco d’Anconia totally started them panicking for his own personal amusement. That Frisco! Such a card!
Lillian Rearden doesn’t think Francisco d’Anconia is much of a card at all, unless he’s one of those “die in a fire” cards you send people when you really hope they’ll just die of whatever they caught off their kid’s kindergarten homework, instead of getting well and coming back to make your workplace suck with their loud music and racist graffiti. (…I can’t be the only person who sends these, can I?)
On the contrary, Lillian Rearden “hates” Frisco, mostly because Frisco totes just ruined an otherwise delightful evening of mocking Cherryl Brooks (aka “Mrs. Jim Taggart”) and calling Dagny Taggart a “whore” to her face. Hank Rearden, who is taking guilt to a whole new level of chic in this chapter, drops his wife off at the train station and then goes to Dagny Taggart’s place to apologize that Lillian (his wife) called Dagny (his mistress) an adulteress. …I don’t think Dagny is who you’re supposed to apologize to, Mr. GuiltyPants.
Dagny doesn’t think Hank should apologize either and explicitly tells Hank to stop beating himself up about the fact that his wife is a reprehensible excuse for a human being, but Hank beats himself up anyway, because he wants to win that Olympic Rearden Metal medal for self-guilt-tripping before he retires.
Hank then confesses to Dagny that his mancrush on Francisco d’Anconia has just turned bromantic, prompting impressed noises from Dagny Taggart at Hank’s ability to make words into dudes. End scene with ASTERISKS.
GASP! It turns out that Lillian Rearden has not actually gone home on the train at all! Instead, she snuck back to her husband’s hotel room and has been lying in wait for him to come back to it…ALL NIGHT! So, of course, Hank waltzes in at 10:40 a.m. the next morning, to discover that his wife has discovered him having an affair. CUE GUILT!
Also, cue irony: Lillian, who congratulates herself for
two three pages straight on finally catching her husband sleeping with some other woman, is convinced that the last woman on Earth Hank would actually be sleeping with – even laster than Lillian herself – is Dagny Taggart.
Instead, Lillian announces, from inside her cocoon of self-congratulation, that she’s going to blackmail the Rearden Metal out of Hank now. She doesn’t want a divorce or a separation or any of that fancy stuff. No, she wants the satisfaction of knowing that Hank knows that she knows that he’s an adultering whore. That will make Lillian happy! And by “happy,” I mean “as miserable as her guilt-ridden husband, only in a different way.” HAPPINESS IS A WARM BLACKMAIL!
Which isn’t to say that Hank isn’t a gormless n00b in this scene himself, because he totes is:
“Don’t you suppose I know that you’ve wanted to divorce me since the first month of our marriage?” [Lillian asked]
“If that is what you thought, why did you stay with me?”
She answered severely, “It’s a question you have lost the right to ask.”
“That’s true,” he said, thinking that only one conceivable reason, her love for him, could justify her answer.
Ha ha, gormless n00b! It is not Lillian’s love for you that makes her stay! It is her contempt for you! You and your never-ending non-stop guilt factory!
Lillian Rearden then congratulates herself for
two three more pages, while Hank Rearden breaks a sweat trying not to punch her in the face. Charming fellow.
An unspecified number of ASTERISKS! later, Dr. Floyd Ferris, self-congratulatory chairboob of the State Science Institute, drops by Hank Rearden’s office. Floyd Ferris blabs for a while about a foolish consistency minded by little hobgoblins like himself, then gets down to his slimy, conniving business. He wants five thousand tons of Rearden Metal and he wants it by December. Or Hank Rearden can go to prison for illegally selling four thousand tons of Rearden Metal to Ken Danagger. Really, it’s Hank’s choice.
After several paragraphs of trying to convince Hank Rearden to join the looters of the world, Floyd Ferris calls Hank a “piker.” Because the only better way to make friends than with blackmail is with insults!
Hank asks his
secretary office equipment to dispose of the offal. She does.
ASTERISKS! Back to Eddie Willers, chatting with his imaginary friend in the Taggart Transcontinental cafeteria. Eddie Willers is afraid the world is ending and that Ken Danagger will be the next person eaten by the Nothing
and come out the other side as a Communist plot, no doubt. Eddie Willers then gossips about Dagny Taggart, who thinks all these disappearing captains of industry are deliberate, only she doesn’t know who is behind them. I bet it’s John Galt.
Meanwhile, Dagny Taggart catches a flight on ASTERISKS! Airlines to Pittsburgh, to beg Ken Danagger not to disappear like Ellis Wyatt and the others. But she is TOO LATE!
Not literally. Ken Danagger is still physically in his office. But a Mysterious Stranger(TM) has convinced him to wander into the Nothing, and nothing (heh) and nobody can make him change his mind. I bet it’s John Galt.
Dagny Taggart accuses Ken Danagger of leaving her and Hank Rearden in the lurch, and what kind of thing is that to do to someone who also bears the ignominity of having a pair of “g”s squished together in her last name like that? Ken Danagger tells her he doesn’t really give a crap about her, but that he’s always had a bromantic mancrush on Hank Rearden. So Ken Danagger loves Hank Rearden loves Francisco d’Anconia. Who does Frisco love? I bet it’s John Galt.
ASTERISKS! and we’re back to Hank Rearden, who has just learned that Ken Danagger disappeared. He wants to punch in the face whoever disappeared Ken Danagger. Hank Rearden tries to storm out of his office, but he’s stopped short (that’s what she said!) by the sight of Francisco d’Anconia, who is waiting for him. BROMANTIC!
Frisco asks what Hank Rearden plans to do now that Ken Danagger is gone. “
Cry into my pillow Work a little harder,” says Hank, as if he is a robot and not a dudeperson. Frisco points out that Hank is a dudeperson and not a robot, and asks why, if Hank can be so ruthlessly logical and determined in building a steel plant, why is he such a guilt-ridden milksop when it comes to his personal relationships? That is a VERY GOOD QUESTION! In fact, Hank has just been wondering THAT VERY THING!
Frisco then harangues Hank for
two three pages for wondering THAT VERY THING. Dude, you’ve already found the Bottomless Wellspring of Guilt. There’s no need to work the pump.
But! Frisco’s guilt tirade is interrupted! By a siren! From the mill! Our heroes spring into action! KAPWING! POW!
One of the Rearden Steel furnaces has sprung a leak, and molten iron – all 1200*C of it – is leaking everywhere. Naturally, our heroes jump right in (not literally, of course, or this would be a much shorter book) and start throwing clay everywhere. Sounds totally random, I know, but I guess this was one way to shut down a blast furnace, before we invented methods that didn’t require people to get dangerously close to leaking hot metal. Methods that are too tame and pedestrian for our heroes!
(Also too tame and pedestrian for our heroes: using an industrial-strength blast furnace. They built theirs using these handy eHow instructions. /straight face)
While chucking clay into the leaking blast furnace, Hank catches a glimpse of Frisco also chucking clay into the blast furance, and goes super bromantic. Like, hold up, Dagny Taggart, ’cause rumour has it that Frisco’s the one Hank Rearden is leaving you for.
Except not, because Frisco has decided to throw himself into the Nothing instead. Noo, Frisco! Take us with you!