Posts Tagged adultery
PREVIOUSLY: Cheryl and Jim’s emotionally abusive relationship was driving her crazy. Literally.
Jim gets drunk in his study, stewing in his own toxic juices. Emotionally speaking. Suddenly the doorbell rings and his manservant Jeeves tells him it’s Mrs. Lillian Rearden at the door.
This piques Jim’s curiosity and he commands Jeeves to let her in. She enters, looking sour and anxious. So, that’s going around then. He needles her about showing up to his house randomly, and she just plops down on a duvet or whatever and starts talking some whiny shit about all the other people in their social circle. You know, the venal and corrupt hollow men.
Jim agrees, the new breed is even worse than the assholes they came up with. There’s a very “At least Avon Barksdale had a code, this Marlo kid is a wild animal” feel to the conversation.
The other important facet of this tete a tete is that it’s extremely sado-masochistic. Now, considering Ayn’s sex scenes, you may be a little unclear on whether sado-masochism falls in the “good guys” or “bad guys” column, but it’s actually relatively simple. These bad guys are spiritually and emotionally sado-masochistic. The good guys are honorable and earnest and virtuous in their hearts and souls (Ayn would disavow both hearts and souls, but anyway). This foundation of virtue allows their kinky sexual games to be a healthy expression of adult interplay, rather than a sad indicator of moral rot. And I’m not being sarcastic here, I think that’s legit.
So they both kind of laugh bitterly at how pathetic they are as their social cache declines, and insult each other about it, and then Lillian admits the reason she came. Hank has paid off a bunch of lawyers and judges so that he can A) get a clean divorce, and B) keep everything and leave Lily with nothing. She will be a pauper. “Jim,” she entreats him, “you’ve got to do something!”
But there’s nothing Jim can do, he tells her with relish. He disingenuously says he wishes he could help. She draws inward, stewing in her own bitterness now. This pleases Jim and he gets even more comfortable, dropping the pretense of good feeling or intention that he finds so exhausting to maintain all the time.
Obviously nothing can be done, because they have nothing to trade or leverage in return. And she should know that. She admits she does. He pours her a drink and they get soused together now. Naturally this leads to more shit talk, about Dagny and Hank this time, and it is especially hateful. Who do they think they are? I’d love to see them get fucked up, take ’em down a peg. If they won’t grant us respect, we’ll just have to show them our power by ruining them. That’ll get their attention. Etc.
When Lillian reflects that she will only be Mrs. Hank Rearden for another month or so, they both kind of get this evil, salacious look in their eyes. Sure enough it only takes a few more sips of liquor for them to get to the hate-fucking. Neither of them is actually enjoying it. In fact they keep getting distracted by how unattracted they are to each other. What they’re really getting off on is their intention to insult and disrespect Hank with their gross, demeaning, mechanical sex.
Shortly thereafter, Cheryl arrives home from her spirit-bolstering visit with Dagny. She immediately notices the discarded clothes, the sloppy glasses, and hears the post-coital sniping coming from the bedroom. Naturally the pit of dread and horror in her gut surges back.
Cheryl hides out to process this latest betrayal, and after Lillian sneaks out she returns to the anteroom to confront Jim.
Jim, for his part, has no patience left for Cheryl anymore. Her presence makes him feel guilty and morally inadequate, and now that he’s celebrating and reveling in his own base gross impulses, he basically calls her out. “Goddamn right I was fucking some other woman. What are you gonna do about it, huh?” He shoves her into the study and closes the door.
“I’m sick and tired of you acting like you’re better than me. You’d be nothing without me. I married you because you’re worthless. You want to know who I was fucking just now? Mrs. Hank Rearden!”
Jim then goes on a diatribe about the nature of love. Doesn’t Cheryl understand that all people are worthless and mean and base at heart? Love is wallowing in your decrepitude together without judgment. Despairing co-dependency is the name of the game. He wanted her because she would owe him everything, could not judge him. Poor Cheryl feels like a fool. She honestly tried to deserve her newfound luxury. Jim just laughs in her face.
The scene has finally blossomed into a full-on “Skyler confronts Walt and gets emotionally battered and abused” kind of affair. Shattered to her core, Cheryl realizes that Jim specifically married her so he could destroy her moral superiority to him. She was prey.
She calls him a soulless monster, a moral assassin, a sociopath who destroys for the sake of destruction (not like the charismatic Joker, though, because Jim can’t even enjoy it, in fact hates himself for it).
Faced with this accurate assessment of his spiritual vampirism and accompanying self-hatred, Jim punches his wife in the face.
Her last shred of sanity literally knocked out of her, Cheryl runs out of the house in a delirious fog. She does not know where to go, just that she has to get away from Jim. But everywhere she looks, all the people around her, all she can see is venal apathy, people too checked out to realize that at their core they have embraced Jim’s bankrupt philosophy, that they are bottomless pits of nihilistic complacency. The only coherent thought she can find is “No!” Her only remaining option is some definitive kind of protest against this utterly hollow and evil world.
Somewhere on the grimy docks of the city, a social worker from a nearby half-way house sees this disoriented, haggard young woman in an expensive dress. Even though Cheryl’s in the throes of a psychotic break, the social worker sees only her fine attire and glassy stare and scolds her for being some kind of trashy Lindsay Lohan type, shallow and full of wasted potential.
“You rich bitches need to stop being so selfish and wasteful and find some higher social purpose,” the social worker says, entirely right about rich bitches in general though woefully, tragically wrong about poor broken Cheryl. And also, kind of callous either way, considering she just found this chick wandering around in the industrial district in the pre-dawn hours. You are kind of a bitch, lady.
Anyway, “NO!” Cheryl screams, “Not your world!” as if this social worker represents the pervasive moral villainy of modern society. And look, she’s being shitty, but she’s not Jim here, and I’ll forgive Cheryl for the mistake because she’s literally lost her mind at this point and the whole thing has an air of tragic misunderstanding. But Ayn, you don’t get off so easy. You’re being stupid. Stop it. Stop. No? Fine, I’ve only got six more of these chapters to go anyway. Fuck yourself.
Cheryl, by the way, runs for her life, screaming like a banshee, crying, flinging herself right off the pier, where her suicide succeeds by, I’m assuming, cracking her head against a rock and drowning. Bye Cheryl!
Guys this shit just got dark.
PREVIOUSLY: The earth has been exhausted, humanity has been consumed. Our workaholic heroes are determined to keep the lights on, but all their friends are giving up and it’s making them very cranky.
In the wake of the latest wave of pirate attacks, the economy has collapsed… again… some more. That’s been going on for 500 pages already, but whatever. Ayn makes sure to recap all of the specific new industry failures in excruciating and unnecessary detail.
But the only one we care about is Transcon. Dagny is sitting in on a board meeting, biting her tongue while all the inept directors and spineless managers talk around the subject at hand, which is that they’re going to have to dismantle the Galt Line and use the rMetal on it to reinforce their backbone transcontinental track. Some anonymous G-Man is there and Jim appeals to him to pull some strings, but it’s clear the Taggart name no longer carries the weight in Washington that it did before.
Dagny calls them out for being pathetic cowards who won’t talk straight about what they’re doing, which is cannibalizing her life’s work right in front of her. The board is like, “Oh thank God, somebody finally said it. Shall we vote on Ms. Taggart’s proposal to cannibalize her life’s work? And the ‘ayes’ I have it!”
Utterly crushed, Dagny leaves the building that night to find Francisco waiting for her outside. As always, she is distrustful but finds his presence compelling and comforting. In fact, he explicitly claims that he’s there to comfort her, and she relents to be wined and dined.
So over some very expensive wine and, presumably, a bottomless basket of garlic bread, they reflect on and idealize their illustrious ancestors. Dagny recounts an insanely ahistorical legend about her great-grandfather Nat, who single-handedly built a railroad bridge across the Mississip’ in defiance of the law, because everybody knows how skeptical the 19th century U.S. government was about expanding railroad infrastructure.
In turn, Frankie reflects on his ancestor Sebastian who had to abandon his true love in the Old World, but rebuilt his fortune in the New World and then reclaimed her after fifteen years.
Dagny can’t really handle the subtext of that anecdote and turns the conversation back to the John Galt Line. Francisco had warned her that she’d regret building it, and now she does. Now that apathetic meme, “Oh well, who is John Galt?” rings in her ears more than ever.
Francisco offers another mythic metaphor for who Galt is, describing him as “Prometheus who changed his mind.” How’s that, you ask? Well apparently Prometheus eventually got tired of being disemboweled every day. He broke free of his chains and then took fire back from mankind, because… they tortured him? Jesus, Ayn doesn’t even know how this myth goes.
The gods tortured Prometheus. Mankind thought he was pretty cool. They wrote a play about it. So why would Prometheus take fire back from the people, Ayn? Sounds like a real dick move. I think the moral of this version of the myth is that John Galt’s morals make for a shitty version of this myth.
Anyway Dagny thanks Francisco for being kind to her in her darkest hour, and he’s a real gentleman about it, because Francisco is CLASSY.
Cut to an entirely pointless scene in Colorado. Dags and Hank Rearden are doing some bargain-hunting, buying up all the industrial equipment they can find from all the failing businesses. It seems like only ten chapter ago this state was a booming hub of vitality. But now, they see abandoned buildings and machines and feel heartbroken. They also see ghost towns full of starving people and feel disgusted. And fuck both of you.
The Transcon station is a mob scene as everybody in the area wants to get out of Dodge on the last train to ever run on the Galt Line. Luckily for Dagny, Hank shoves aside the diseased rabble and they get in their private car.
Back in New York City, the team of Taggart & Rearden, Evil Edition, meets for dinner. Lillian Rearden is coy and Jim Taggart is smarmy, and underneath the fakery, Jim is asking Lillian for help. He’s lost favor in Washington, but everybody thinks that he and Hank are best buds because Hank showed up at his wedding (thanks to Lily). If Lily can convince Hank to ally with Jim politically, they could pull some weight and help save rMetal & Transcon from the circling vultures of nationalization.
Lillian, infatuated with the idea of being the one holding the power for once, accepts the challenge. She goes back to her hotel room to lounge and luxuriate while planning how she will manipulate Hank into agreeing, but gets thrown for a loop when she discovers that Hank’s deviated from his official schedule and realizes he must be with his mistressright now.
So she books it to Taggart Terminal with the intention of catching a glimpse of The Other Woman. Hank is surprised to see her, and she’s throwing herself a pity party about how selfless she is, when Dagny strides out of her car and the reality of the affair hits Lillian like a ton of bricks.
When the Reardens arrive back at their usual New York hotel suite, the marital facade crumbles immediately. Lily talks mad shit about Dags, lashes out at Hank, demands he end it with her.
But Hank has finally cut himself completely free of this toxic relationship. He’s like, “I would rather see you dead than quit Dagny,” and “You can get a divorce whenever you want, just say the word.” But Lil can’t stand that she has so little power left over him, no way to hurt him, and again declares that she will never grant him a divorce.
She storms off and Hank sighs in relief. He understands now that having it all out on the table is a good thing, an immense catharsis. Like a great shit.
PREVIOUSLY: Francisco drove the world’s oldest, most profitable company into the ground, the better to tank the fortunes of all his tax-evading, insider-trading, political-string-pulling billionaire investors. At Jim Taggart’s wedding the word got out, as Frisco intended. Panic ensued.
Lillian Rearden is still freaking out about Francisco’s ‘irresponsibility’ as she and Hank return to his hotel suite. Hank is all “Yeah yeah yeah, shut up.” She wants to go home to Pennsylvania but he wants to stay in New York, so he drops her off at Taggart Terminal and then retreats to his very own Taggart terminal — Dagny’s apartment.
There, he apologizes for putting Dags in an awkward spot at the wedding, and she’s like “Dirt off my shoulder, bro. Your wife doesn’t enter into my personal equation. You do you, I’ll do me, and as long as we want to do each other, ‘s all good. You gotta chill out and enjoy yourself more.”
Hank is like, “That’s funny, Francisco D’Anconia told me the same thing once.” Dagny feels awkward for a hot second, what with having fucked Francisco for years and Hank not knowing, but Hank moves right along to speculation about what Frankie’s deal is. As much as his behavior often verges on outright evil, he’s full of life and one of the only exciting and interesting people they can still find in this hopeless, crumbling world.
The next morning Rearden returns to the hotel as the news about the D’Anconia crash breaks to the public. Upon his return he discovers that Lillian didn’t go home after all. She’s waiting for him in a robe, with a cold breakfast on the table and a look of spiteful triumph on her face. Finally, proof he’s been lying to her about his nightlife.
Hank gets real stoic and tells Lillian to say what she has to say. She goes on a hateful, bitter tirade, just spewing years and years of bile at him. She scoffs that she was wrong to think he was sleeping with Dagny Taggart; no doubt he’s slumming it with whores in the Bronx or what have you. And by the way, she knew he didn’t love her from like year one of the marriage.
He genuinely asks why she stayed with him then, and she snipes that he has no right to ask that now. Not anymore. He realizes that it was because she loved him. Is… is that a character nuance I see? Quick, kill it!
Lillian proceeds to tell Hank that she will never, ever grant him a divorce. She won’t give up the life she’s accustomed to just because he betrayed her, and she specifically wants him to feel like a hypocrite every day of his life from now on — a private shame of a punishment. Her love, sadly, has curdled into hate forever.
Hank just stands there and takes it, a spring of coiled rage. He tells her to leave the city and actually go home this time, and she does. Then he gives himself a pat on the back for not, you know, murdering her. Way to set the bar high, buddy.
Next scene! A month later. Hank is in his office enduring a meeting. His guest is Dr. Ferris, the shamelessly cynical politico from the State Science Institute.
Ferris is following up on his order for rMetal — the order labeled Project X — that Rearden still refuses to fill. As far as Hank is concerned, there’s nothing more to discuss. But Ferris merrily tells Hank that he knows about the black market deals he’s been making with Ken Dannager to sustain his coal supply.
“You see,” Ferris explains, “you want to keep a secret, and State Science want to keep Project X a secret… so why don’t you just play ball and we can all get what we want.”
“Oh, you mean, blackmail?” Hank presses, and Ferris is hilariously like “Yes! Thank you! Glad we’re on the same page finally. So, you in?”
Hank is utterly apalled and balks. Ferris gets frustrated, like he simply doesn’t understand what bothers Rearden about this. “Look, you do this for us, and we can do some shit for you. You wanna fuck over Orren Boyle? He’s been swinging his dick around a little too much, come on board and we’ll take him down.”
But Henry Goddamn Rearden ain’t for sale, and he tells Ferris to go ahead and bring charges. Put him and Dannager on trial, whatever. Now Ferris is apalled. He gets ugly and hisses that they aren’t bluffing and they will totally ruin him. Hank has him escorted out.
Next! Let’s check in with good ol’ Everyman Eddie Willers, who is in the Taggart Transcon cafeteria again, talking to his anonymous proletarian grease monkey friend again. Again. He’s fretting about the Rearden/Dannager indictment that has just hit the newspapers.
Eddie exposits to the prole that this latest development has Dagny convinced Dannager will be the next titan of industry to disappear, and for once she thinks she can reach out to the victim before the shadow faction pulls him off the grid. Whatever mysterious cabal is sucking the lifeblood from society, she has taken to calling it The Destroyer and has made it her mission to defeat it.
Cut to: Dagny waiting in the lobby of Ken Dannager’s office. Based on the butts in the ashtray, she’s been here quite some time. The secretary feels bad about it, but Mr. Dannager specifically instructed her that he and his previous guest were not to be interrupted under any circumstances. “How long have they been in there?” Dagny asks, and the secretary admits it’s been hours.
Finally Dannager buzzes her in, and as Dagny enters she sees the private exit swinging shut behind him. As soon as she sees his face she knows she’s too late. He looks way too calm and relaxed for a dude under so much pressure and stress. He’s given up on the world. He’s getting out of the game; mentally checked out already.
And he knows she knows, calmly — even happily — dismissing her pleas that he stay and fight the good fight. He chuckles, all “Darlin’ if you knew what I knew, you’d leave with me. Oh, but just to be clear, I will not tell you anything even remotely useful, vis a vis, whatever it is I’m talking about.”
Dagny accepts this as totally reasonable for some stupid reason, maybe because she’s distracted by Dannager’s ash tray, in which lies the ashy remnant of a dollar-sign $tamped cigarette. By Jove a clue! She awkwardly asks to take it, and Dannager doesn’t care, possibly about anything anymore, so she does. Guess the meeting wasn’t a total loss.
Last! It’s night and Rearden is wistfully watching his mills from the office window, as he is wont to do, when who should saunter into his office but Francisco D’Anconia himself.
Francisco just thought Rearden might want some company, what with all the bad news lately, and Hank welcomes him in, lamenting Ken Dannager’s disappearance. Frisco is sympathetic but clearly doesn’t think it’s a bad thing.
As they discuss it, the conversation quickly descends into a torpid philosophical dialogue, which is like the third one in this chapter alone. I swear to God, Ayn, you started out as a screenwriter, did you never hear the phrase “show don’t tell”? You managed to break that rule in a novel. For fuck’s sake.
Francisco encourages Hank to articulate his worldview, and hints at his own. He’s clearly leading the conversation down a particular road, trying to make Hank really Get It.
Frank takes out a $tamped cigarette* and lights it as he leans in. He asks Hank what he would say if he saw the mythic Atlas, buckling and straining, desperately trying to hold up the world even as his back is about to break. Hank doesn’t know. Francisco: “Shrug.”
*He doesn’t, actually, but he would if Ayn was a better writer.
But Hank refuses to cut himself any slack or give his bureaucratic enemies the satisfaction of seeing him quit, and Francisco is like, “Don’t you get it? They don’t want you to quit! They rely on you to do all the work that keeps their sick society functioning! How can you–”
And then there’s an explosion at the mills and an alarm bell goes off. Without hesitation the two men sprint to the scene of the accident and selflessly join rescue efforts in the inferno, sealing off the leak, Hank even saving Francisco from dying in a pool of molten steel at one point. Sorry Ayn but one industrial fire does not make up for forty pages of stilted dialogue.
Well, it does for Hank; the adrenaline rush has left him with a sort of ecstatic, even religious after-glow. He and Francisco lock eyes with renewed appreciation and mutual understanding. They’re Bros 4 Life now. Hank is like, “What were you about to say, in my office?” And Francisco, with a painful smile, puts his agenda aside. “Never mind,” he sighs.
Then they kiss.
NEXT — 2:4 The Sanction of the Victim, “Saint Francis” / “Moral Vampires”