From the scene early on in Atlas Shrugged where Dagny Taggart told her brother Jim that she had canceled his order with Associated Steel in favor of purchasing Rearden Metal track instead:

[Dagny] had turned to go, when [Jim] spoke again - and what he said seemed bewilderingly irrelevant. "That's all right for you, because you're lucky. Others can't do it."
"Do what?"
"Other people are human. They're sensitive. They can't devote their whole life to metal and engines. You're lucky - you've never had any feelings. You've never felt anything at all."

Philip Rearden later demanded that Hank give him a job. During the course of their discussion, he stated:

"You haven't any feelings. You've never felt anything at all. You've never suffered!"
It was as if a sum of years hit Rearden in the face, by means of a sensation and a sight... You've never suffered, the dead stare of the eye was saying, you've never felt anything, because only to suffer as to feel - there's no such thing as joy, there's only pain and the absence of pain; only pain and the zero, when one feels nothing - I suffer, I'm twisted by suffering, I'm made of undiluted suffering, that's my purity, that's my virtue - and yours, you the untwisted one, you the uncomplaining, yours is to relieve me of my pain - cut your unsuffering body to patch up mine, cut your unfeeling soul to stop mine from feeling - and we'll achieve the ultimate ideal, the triumph over life, the zero!

The phrases are clearly parallel. Was Hank's realization basically what Jim Taggart was saying here - "you've never felt anything at all" meaning that only to suffer is to feel?

Also, the text says that Jim's comments "seemed bewilderingly irrelevant" (which seems to imply that they actually weren't irrelevant after all). How does Hank's realization here make it Jim's comments relevant?

1 Answer 1


Jim's comments were relevant because it explained his behavior in the proceeding scene. His philosophy was destructive to being able to live on earth. His later involvement in creating and enacting Directive 10-289, which demanded that everything stayed exactly as it was, demonstrated his commitment stagnation (which he rationalized by saying that it would give people a sense of security). Ultimately, the book reveals that he didn't even want to live. (He discovers that to his horror when the Looters capture and ultimately torture John Galt in an effort to secure his cooperation; Jim begged Dr. Ferris to kill Galt, even though he knew full well that Galt was his last chance of surviving).

While Philip Rearden didn't appear to have been directly involved in Directive 10-289, he was evidently involved in the Fair Share law that forbade people to own multiple businesses through his involvement in Friends of Global Progress (which seemed to exist primarily for the purpose of lobbying for that policy). Based on his conversation with Hank right before he met with the government officials about the proposed Steel Unification Plan, he may have been at least aware of it. At a minimum, he seemed aware of why they had frozen Hank's accounts (the belief that Hank couldn't disappear without money).

Neither, for that matter, did Hank Rearden's family: in his last conversation with his family shortly before he joined the Strike, Hank realized to his shock and horror that they didn't even want to live - if they had, they would've known how to value him.

That being said, these texts are parallel. Ultimately, Jim Taggart and Philip Rearden were striving towards the same ideal - stagnation and ultimately destruction of the good.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.