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[Content Note: This post contains rather more swearing than usual, so you may not want to share it with mixed company. I'm not sure why you're sharing these wretched pages of scum and villainy with mixed company to begin with, or why a few swears would throw you off if you were. But there it is.]
When we last left our heroes, Francisco “Transparent Enigma” d’Anconia had helped Hank Rearden put out a fire in a smelter and then disappeared – WHOOSH! – into the night, and Lillian Rearden had figured out Hank’s having an affair, but she doesn’t know (and wouldn’t believe it if you told her) that it’s with Dagny Taggart.
The first paragraph of Chapter 4 informs us that everything on the Rearden dining table cost $$$$DOLLAHZ$$$$. But we don’t talk about that at the Rearden dining table. What we DO talk about at the Rearden dining table is money bribery jail. And how Hank is probably going to it for illegally selling Rearden Metal to Ken Danagger. Unless Hank bribes someone. With money.
Lillian Rearden denounces “the idea that it matters who’s right or wrong” as “the most insufferable form of vanity.” The MOST insufferable, yo. Even more insufferable than Being Lillian Rearden.
Lillian then proceeds to bait Hank for
two three pages by making veiled references to his affair, which of course the reader has known about for approximately 470 more pages than Lillian has. Yawn.
Ayn Rand then drops one of those lines that actually makes a whole lot of sense: “She wanted to injure him by her contempt – but he could not be injured, unless he respected her judgment.” At least, it makes a whole lot of sense until you realize that, once again, Rand’s moral is “therefore, be a huge asshole to everyone.”
(Ever notice how that’s also the moral of Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon? Huh.)
Blah blah morals blah judgment blah greed blah blah. Basically, Ayn Rand spends
two three pages hiding the politio-economic ball, which some blowhard will probably pull out of his pants with a flourish in another 400 pages or so. I bet that blowhard is John Galt. Basically, Hank has realized that cold hard facts – or being a Randian asshole, whatever – are the key to moral judgment and that Shit Doesn’t Happen in a Void.
…But, since this is Ayn Rand we’re reading, Hank’s conclusion isn’t “therefore, INTERSECTIONAL SMASH!” It’s ”therefore, be a huge asshole to everyone.” (Because, really, why would you make life easier for yourself when you could just be a huge asshole to everyone?)
Hank Rearden then metaphorically punches Phillip Rearden in the face by reminding ol’ Phil that he’s a charity case who has long overstayed his welcome without once accurately predicting the end of winter. Phil responds by not-so-subtly hinting that he’ll clear out as soon as Hank bribes him to do so. Phil is stupid.
Meanwhile, in places that are not the Rearden dining room, Taggart Transcontinental is on the rocks after a big railroad crash in Wyoming that could totally have been prevented if the board of directors had just fixed the damn rails. But it didn’t, of course, because straw people have no brains.
Hank Rearden drops in on Dagny Taggart in her office to get laid chat, and runs into Eddie Willers, who is Super Sorry(TM) that Hank Rearden will probably be convicted. I wonder if John Galt Eddie’s imaginary friend is SUPER SORRY too?
Hank Rearden promises to deliver unto Dagny Taggart not the 60,000 tons of steel rail Taggart Transcontinental ordered, but the 80,000 tons of Rearden Metal rail that is totally illegal for Taggart Transcontinental to have its hands on. Dagny Taggart gets very turned on by this.
Hank then says “Thanksgiving was a holiday established by productive people to celebrate the success of their work,” which just proves there are no history classes in Ayn Rand’s Straw America.
Then Hank gets drunk. Drunk on ASTERISKS.
It’s trial day! People are totes about to freeze to death because Ken Danagger’s coal company is floundering with no Ken Danagger to run it. Bridges are collapsing because Orren Boyle’s steel sucks. Clearly, Ayn Rand has never heard of tort reform. Or civility, as she opens the trial scene by calling everyone in the room “mentally retarded.”
(This isn’t a “trial,” by the way; it’s some kind of administrative hearing, clearly invented by someone who has never actually been to either a trial or an administrative hearing. Ayn Rand lacks even the barest understanding of how U.S. courts work – but then, we’ve known that for 477 pages now.)
Hank Rearden employs the Bartleby Defense for +10 Courtroom
One of the judges responds by arguing that Hank should totally acknowledge the court’s jurisdiction and defend himself because it’s all “for the highest good,” as if copping to violations of federal law is akin to eating your broccoli. (Justice Scalia’s head just exploded.) This sets Hank up for twelve-odd pages of parroting Ayn Rand’s personal economic-legal theories, which are eye-rollingly dull.
I’m sure this entire scene provides top-quality intellectual masturbation material for Randians everywhere, but no ALJ would actually say any such thing to anyone in Hank’s position, no matter how expensive his suit. In real life, the court’s response to Hank’s “I would prefer not” wouldn’t be “nooo, please, share your Deep Philosophical Legalbabble with the court! Pleeeeaase!” In real life, the court’s response would be to bang the gavel and announce a three-hour lunch break, sparing us all the pain of reading pages 476-484.
After(isks) the “trial,” there are
two three pages of public reactions, all of which are stupid, and then Hank walks in on Frisco drawing ponies smelters on the floor of Frisco’s office. Frisco and Hank Rearden try to give one another all the credit for Hank’s fantasy “trial” “defense,” then Frisco plays ”I know something but I won’t tell you what it is” with Hank.
Frisco also plays “truth or dare” with Hank. Wait – who has the bromantic mancrush on whom, here?
Hank Rearden, not interested in silly slumber party games, asks Francisco why, if Frisco is so cool, he is also such a cheap whore. Frisco explains that he’s not really a cheap whore, he just plays one on TV in order to freak out the squares.
(You’re probably thinking Rand’s actual dialogue can’t be as corny as this recap. I assure you it is.)
Frisco then spends
two three pages summing up the finer points of MRA “theory,” emerging with the notion that men always sleep with the highest version of themselves. Wow, stereotypical dudebros & PUAs of the world, Frisco just total PWND y’all. Quick, seduce a female librarian – except, because women also sleep with their highest versions of themselves, she will probably refuse to screw you.
Finally, we get down to business: Hank Rearden wants to buy the illegal copper for Dagny Taggart’s illegal load of illegal Rearden Metal rails from d’Anconia Copper. Illegally. In fact, Hank has already made this illegal purchase under an illegal false identity – except that the load of copper he bought got sent to the bottom of the Atlantic, courtesy of pirate Ragnar Danneskjöld. Whoooooops.