1:3 The Top and the Bottom cont’d, “In Which Everyone Is Sad”

PREVIOUSLY: The world is falling apart because fossil fuels are running out. James Taggart and Orren Boyle decide to save their respective businesses by buying the law lobbying Congress.

Dagny Taggart is alone in her office late at night. I think technically she’s working but internally she’s ruminating on her childhood. Even at 12 she was a total hard-ass, and she’s damn proud of it. She started working for the railroad at 16 in an entry-level position but quickly rose through the ranks because everyone else in the world sucks at their job.

Young Dagny

Her dear old dad was really proud of her and secretly wanted her to be the next company president (probably; he implied it on his deathbad, which, dude, if there was ever a time to get right to the point…). But after he died James, as the eldest son, became the controlling stockholder. His very first move was to build the Mexico line to those copper mines (in which he’s heavily invested), and when the board approved it Dagny almost quit. She got promoted to VP of Operations to keep her from jumping ship.

But Backstory Theater is over because here comes Jim now, shitting a brick over the fact that Dagny diverted all their resources away from Mexico and made him look like a real limpdick in front of his skeevy friends. Dagny is like “You’re goddamn right I did, that line is a huge sinkhole of money and it’s gonna get nationalized.” Ayn, hon, it’s not really foreshadowing when it’s this explicit.

Jim goes on another defensive rant about how it’s important to boost the Mexican economy and bring civilization to those sorry bastards. Real white man’s burden shit. Plus his men in Washington have subtly encouraged his Mexico plans and he wants more sweet, sweet tax breaks. Dagny couldn’t care less, so then Jim accuses her of disliking the plan just because she has beef with the guy who owns the copper mines, Francisco D’Anconia.

Francisco, you cad.

Backstory Theater returns as we learn that Dagny used to have a big fat crush on D’Anconia, in the days when he was a workaholic hard-ass just like her. But now that he’s inherited his family’s centuries-old copper fortune he mostly sleeps around and parties like Bruce Wayne without the secret identity. That we know of… (see, now that’s foreshadowing). Dagny was super-disappointed in him and they’ve been estranged ever since.

Jim sure knows how to push his sister’s buttons, specifically the one labeled “bottomless pit of loneliness,” and Dagny has had about enough. She tells him she’s keeping all their operations focused on renovating the Colorado line, the Mexican line can go fuck itself, and if he wants to change that he can sit down with the books and do the work himself. Which he will never do, obviously, so he storms off while impotently cursing her name.

After that kerfluffle Dagny needs to relax so she goes down to the Terminal floor, where there is a huge bronze statue of her grandfather Nat that always makes her feel better. Nat was a self-made man. He built the railroad entirely by himself with one hand tied behind his back. He married the prettiest Southern belle in all the Confederacy land — and once put her up as collateral for a loan. He shat oak trees and pissed gold bullion. Oh, and he murdered a state legislator for being a charlatan and a huckster, as an example to all the others. Because why not?

Police sketch of Nat Taggart

Her spirits bolstered by her imaginary memories of the 19th century when men were men and railroad magnates didn’t have to worry about things like criminal law, Dagny wanders over to a news stand to smoke a butt with her token blue-collar friend, the Friendly Shopkeep.

Friendly Shopkeep is a cigarette collector, but now that there are only like four tobacco companies left on earth his collecting days are over and he’s bummed out. Sounds like somebody’s concerned about big business ruining local mom-and-pop-style economies. How liberal.

Shopkeep goes on to say that the hustle and bustle in the terminal seems more lethargic these days and finishes by asking ‘Who is John Galt?’ with a shrug (get it?), and Dagny makes my week by flipping out about how everybody keeps saying that and it’s freakin’ meaningless and totally annoying. Shopkeep agrees with her, possibly just to calm her down, and they ruefully take a drag together.

Meanwhile, Eddie is still at work too, and taking a break too, and enjoying the company of his own socioeconomically inferior pal too. This pal is a grease monkey rail laborer who Eddie occasionally runs into in the building’s cafeteria. So they’re eating gruel or whatever and Eddie is going on about how all his hopes for the future lie with Dagny, who is just so inspiring to him. I bet he’s a total mama’s boy. With Oedipal issues.

Eddie’s anonymous proletarian friend agrees that Dagny is the bee’s knees and asks if she ever does anything to treat herself for all that hard work. Eddie is like, “No. Maybe sitting alone at night with a glass of wine listening to Halley’s (four, definitely not five) Concertos, and tending to her dozens and dozens of cats.”  I made that cat part up.

Shortly thereafter, an angsty acoustic rock song plays on the soundtrack as we watch a montage of Eddie and Dagny leaving work and wandering the streets back to their respective homes, lost in melancholy thoughts.

The voice of a generation.

Fade to commercial.

NEXT: Chapter 4, The Immovable Movers — Attack of the Strawmen

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