[Dagny Taggart] thought of the evening last winter, when [Hank Reardon] came in, took a small package from his pocket and held it out to her, saying, "I want you to have it." She opened it and stared in incredulous bewilderment of a pendant made of a single pear-shaped ruby that spurted a violent fire on the white satin of the jeweler's box... [the stone looked] like a sparkling drop of blood.

On the other hand, when Cheryl Taggart finally realized how evil her husband Jim was, she visited Dagny to discuss the matter. They emphasized their connection to each other and discussed philosophy, with Dagny calling her her "sister... by choice" (not through Jim, as emphasized by Cheryl).

Upon returning home, she discovered the fact that Jim had just had an affair with Hank Reardon's wife. She confronted him on that as well as his "overall" evil, demanding to know why he had married her in the first place. At the end of their confrontation, she concluded that

"You... you're a killer... for the sake of killing..."
It was too close to the unnamed; shaking with terror, [Jim] swung out blindly and struck her in the face.

She fell against the side of an armchair, her head striking the floor, but she raised her head in a moment and looked up at him blankly, without astonishment, as if physical reality were merely taking the form she had expected. A single pear-shaped drop of blood went slithering slowly from the corner of her mouth.

In the second scene, Jim's evil is on full display, ultimately expressing itself in physical abuse of his wife. This is an expression of the basic violence and destructiveness of his philosophy as well as of his personal evil.

In the former scene, Hank Reardon gives Dagny a gift simply for the pleasure of seeing her wear the pendant. It's a reflection of his love of life and the depth of their feelings of each other. It is reflected shortly thereafter in a physical expression of that (in contrast with the second scene, where this is the result of a physical expression of Jim's evil and his feelings of contempt for his wife).

Was this deliberate on the author's part? Did she intend these scenes to be parallel, or was this purely coincidental?

1 Answer 1


Yes, it was a deliberate parallel.

There are few purely coincidental or insignificant details in Atlas Shrugged. One of the text's major goals is to show the "interconnectedness" of various events and causes. This was due to Ayn Rand's belief that everything had a cause, and that in order to solve today's problems you must look at their causes. (Compare this to characters like Jim that insist that it's not important to examine causes and that the important thing is the situation you actually find yourself in now). As the book states about Wesley Mouch,

The men who now sat in front of [Wesley Mouch's] desk had been taught that the law of causality was a superstition and that one had to deal with the situation of the moment without considering its cause.

Also, as John Galt says in his radio speech:

The links you strive to drown are causal connections. The enemy you seek to defeat is the law of causality: it permits you no miracles. The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is cause and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature. An action not caused by an entity would be cause by a zero, which would mean a zero controlling a thing, a non-entity controlling an entity, the non-existent ruling the existent - which is the universe of your teachers' desire, the cause of their doctrines of causeless actions, the reason of their revolt against reason, the goal of their morality, their politics, their economics, the ideal they strive for: the reign of the zero.

The author is clearly contrasting the "goodness" of Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart (and the purity of their relationship) with the evil of Jim Taggart. Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart's relationship naturally builds up both people because they're trading value for value - both parties are receiving something of value, and providing the other person with something of value in return. (From Ayn Rand's perspective, that's the only valid way to deal with people, as described in John Galt's radio speech and numerous other places in the book). Jim Taggart's relationships, however, diminish both parties (culminating in his wife's eventual tragic suicide, which he desperately tries to convince himself and Dagny wasn't really his fault). Jim was a killer for the sake of killing.


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