Blogging Atlas Shrugged: Chapter 5
Red Hot Objectivist Love. Or: Childrearing for the Non-Looter. Those are my subtitles for Chapter 5 anyway, which is really entitled “The Climax of the d’Anconias.”
I must confess to enjoying this chapter more than the first four. Although my reaction was schizoid: part “this is unbelievably silly” and part “well that was at least interesting.”
In this chapter we finally meet Francisco d’Anconia and learn about his lifelong relationship with the Taggart clan, especially Dagny. Ironically, since I just noted in my analysis of Chapter 4 that Ayn Rand’s fiction is usually eerily missing children or much thought about children, she seems to have put this chapter here just to annoy me. For here are children. Sort of. Child versions of our adult protagonists anyway, who act in almost all ways like short-statured versions of their adult selves.
The chapter starts with Dagny and the Family Serf, Eddie, talking about recent news stories regarding Francisco d’Anconia’s massive mining venture in Mexico. It turns out that when the new Communistic government of Mexico seized Francisco’s mining assets along with Taggart Transcontinental’s assets, they discovered to their dismay that there was nothing there: the mines were fraudulent. They produced nothing of value. The whole thing was a scam. The Mexican government is furious. So apparently is Dagny.
Next we get a lengthy flashback–in credit to Ayn Rand, she’s pretty skilled in her use of the technique–to how Dagny, her brother James, and Eddie Willers (the Family Serf) got to know young Francisco d’Andonia as children. The early parts of this annoyed me, for it describes Francisco d’Anconia’s family progenitor, Sebastian d’Anconia, in much the same way that Dagny’s ancestor Nathaniel Taggart was described in Chapter 3. Except that if the story of Nathaniel Taggart was implausible, the story of Sebastian d’Aconia is outright stupid. Francisco’s great ancestor who created the family fortune…
…had left Spain many centuries ago, at a time when Spain was the most powerful country on earth and his was one of Spain’s proudest figures. He left, because the lord of the Inquisition did not approve of his manner of thinking and suggested, at a court banquet, that he change it. Sebastian d’Anconia threw the contents of his wine glass at the face of the lord of the Inquisition, and escaped before he could be seized. He left behind him his fortune, his estate, his marble palace and the girl he loved–and he sailed to the new world.
His first estate in Argentina was a wooden shack in the foothills of the Andes. The sun blazed like a beacon on the silver coat-of-arms of the d’Anconias, nailed over the door of the shack, while Sebastian d’Anconia dug for the copper of his first mine. He spent years, pickax in hand, breaking rock from sunrise till darkness, with the help of a few stray derelicts: deserters from the armies of his countrymen, escaped convicts, starving Indians.
Fifteen years after he left Spain, Sebastian d’Anconia sent for the girl he loved…when she arrived, she found the silver coat-of-arms above the entrance of a marble palace, the gardens of a great estate, and mountains slashed by pits of red ore in the distance.
OK. When I scoffed at the story of Nat Taggart building a railroad all by himself with no government assistance whatsoever, to illustrate just how wildly implausible this was I compared it to the idea of Nat Taggart using his own hammer to put down thousands of miles of rails. I was being facetious, but apparently I was not exaggerating Ayn Rand’s silliness much. So there was nothing but a few derelicts and “starving Indians” down there to help Sebastian as he mined a fortune in copper? OK whatever.
I know this is a cartoon version of reality, but this is almost beyond endurance it’s so vapid. Yes, working mightily to hew the rock with a pick, with the help of only a few clueless and stupid locals, he built a mighty estate in Argentina. Whatever. Let’s not even mention that the history of the Spanish Empire at the height of its power shows that it was already in Argentina and using brutal military conquest and slavery to get what it wanted. Or that only the British and Dutch were engaged in what we might now call “capitalism” in the New World. But no, in Ayn Rand’s universe, a tiny elite few do everything, with a few pathetic hangers-on to help them meagerly. Oy vey.
But fine. This is not a world that looks any more real than the world of Spider-Man and Iron Man anyway. So let’s roll with that. This is the Randiverse, where super heroes are born with grit and determination and they can do anything so long as they have the will to do it.
The rest of the chapter is an exploration of how Dagny and Francisco…—–CONTINUED HERE—-.