Minor Characters in Atlas Shrugged
This page consolidates several short character descriptions into a single page.
Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers -- reading these character summaries unravels some of the central mysteries in the novel.
(in alphabetical order by first name):
- An Airport Attendant at the airport near the Wyatt oil fields tells Dagny Taggart (in section 171 that Hank Rearden had left for New York, revealing his lies. Rearden had told Dagny he was flying to Minnesota.
- The Bartender works in the most expensive barroom in New York, frequented by James Taggart and the Looters (in section 131).
- The Board of Directors of Taggart Transcontinental are a group of men mostly loyal to James Taggart. Over the years of Taggart's presidency, many Board members have resigned in protest, leaving only those who think like Taggart. The Board represents the other people whose approval is necessary for people who are incapable of making decisions on their own, most notably Taggart, who treats approval of the Board as a scientific test of truth. In section 132 we learn the Board approved the development of the San Sebastian Line and that numerous Board members quit in protest. (mentioned in sections 114, 132, 143 and 145)
- The Bum opens the book with the question, "Who is John Galt?" He chats for a moment with Eddie Willers helping establish (for the reader) Eddie's sense of unease (in section 111)
- An unnamed Businessman interrupts a conversation between Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden at the party in section 161. He is taken aback by the contrast between Dagny's appearance that night and the way she normally appears in her business suits. When Dagny notes his reaction she realizes she had hoped Rearden would react that way, that this was her unadmitted purpose in coming to the party.
- The Chief Engineer phones Eddie Willers to tell him that his boss, Dick McNamara has closed his business and quit without explanation (in section 141)
- Chief Engineer 2 maintains Taggart Transcontinental at a time when all the competent men have disappeared. Since he can only imitate, and not innovate, he is unenthusiastic about having to work with Rearden Metal. Dagny Taggart tells him to design a new bridge to be built with Rearden Metal, but rejects his design because it is a copy of a steel bridge that does not take into account the properties of the new alloy. He is offended by this because his bridge was a good copy of the bridges he was taught to imitate. (appears in section 171)
- Clarence Eddington is an economic consultant whom James Taggart blames for the decision to build the San Sebastian Line (mentioned in section 143)
- The Conductor works on the Taggart Comet. In section 112 he explains to Dagny Taggart that he is waiting for a broken light to change. He represents the type of incompetent, initiativeless worker who is concerned only with following the rules so no one can blame hime for anything.
- Dagny's father (who is unnamed) was the president of Taggart Transcontinental prior to James Taggart. In section 132 we learn he was "astonished and proud" of his daughter, but sad for her as well, and apparently not overly supportive of her desire to work for the railroad, though he did nothing to stop her. There is no indication that Dagny's parents failed in their parenting: they were kind, loving, and did not stand in her way or attempt to change her decisions. There is no fuel here for a Freudian interpretation of Dagny's character, such as, 'her drive to achieve is merely the attempt to earn the love she wanted but was denied as a child.' Greatness, in Rand's heroes, is not the attempt to compensate for some shortcoming; it is an expression of values, not an expression of their absence. (mentioned in sections 132 and 152)
- Dagny's mother is mentioned in section 152. She worried about her daughter's apparent lack of interest in boys, and never understood Dagny's desire to work for the railroad. Because of her lack of understanding, she was never able to give Dagny guidance or support, though she was kind and caring within her limits.
- The Engineer appears briefly in section 112. When Dagny Taggart wakes up to find the Taggart Comet stalled on a siding, he explains to her why they stopped. He represents the type of incompetent, initiativeless worker who is concerned only with following the rules so no one can blame hime for anything.
- The Fireman appears briefly in section 112. While Dagny Taggart is trying to find out why the Taggart Comet has stalled, Fireman shows his amusement at how things like this happen.
- Francisco's father was the head of d'Anconia Copper before his son. He raised Francisco to be a worthy heir to the mining empire and was very proud to see that he would be. He died when Francisco was 23. (appears in section 152)
- Gilbert Vail was allegedly cuckolded by Francisco d'Anconia. His wife asserts, and Francisco does not deny, that she and Francisco had an affair over New Years at his villa in the Andes. Gilbert is shot by his wife, but survives, and when he sues for divorce she threatens to spill the details of his sordid private life. Just as the scandal is reaching a crescendo in the tabloids, Francisco arrives in town to "witness the farce." (mentioned in section 141)
- James Taggart's Secretary has the unhappy job of explaining to Taggart why Francisco d'Anconia will not see him: "Senor d'Anconia said that you bore him, Mr. Taggart."
- Jock Benson - A friend of Betty Pope, who told her that James Taggart did not really run the railroad, his sister did.
- Liz Blaine - A friend of Betty Pope, amusing because she's a bitch. (mentioned in section 142)
- Mrs. Beacham is a friend of Rearden's Mother who does charity work for the parish school. (mentioned briefly in section 121)
- Mrs. Gilbert Vail claims she had a love affair with Francisco d'Anconia in his villa in the Andes. Afterwards, she shot her husband so she could leave him and be with Francisco. Gilbert Vail survived and sued for divorce, at which point his wife promised to reveal the sordid details of his private life to the press. In section 152 we learn that Francisco was in El Paso, Texas, not in the Andes, at the time when Mrs. Vail claims to have been with him. Mrs. Vail is mentioned in sections 141 and 152.
- Mrs. Nathaniel Taggart is mentioned briefly in section 132 and in section 152. According to legend, Nathaniel Taggart put his wife up as collateral for a loan, with her consent. She was a beautiful, dignified southern lady from a good family, from which she was disinherited when she ran off with Taggart, still a poor adventurer at the time. Her name was Dagny, and is Dagny Taggart's namesake.
- Mrs. Weston is a friend of Lillian Rearden who attends the Rearden's anniversary party. She is mentioned in section 162.
- Mrs. Whitcomb is a woman who moves in the same circles as Lillian Rearden (mentioned in section 161)
- Nathanial Taggart is meant to symbolize the so-called Robber Barons of America's industrial age. Nat Taggart was the founder of Taggart Transcontinental. He built his railroad without any government handouts, and ran the business for no other reason than to turn a profit. He began as a penniless adventurer and ended up as one of the wealthiest men in the country. Many stories are told about him: that he once killed a state legislator who tried to use his office to destroy the railroad; that he once put his wife up as collateral for a loan. He never earned money by force or fraud, and never apologized for becoming wealthy and successful. He was one of the most hated men of his time. (mentioned in sections 132 and 152)
- Nat Taggart's son built a bridge that is falling to pieces, which will be replaced by the Rearden Metal bridge. (mentioned in section 171)
- An unnamed Newspaperman, seedy and deliberately rude, speaks to Hank Rearden in section 161.
- Passenger Number 1 on the Taggart Comet in section 112 he tells Dagny Taggart how long the train has been stopped after she wakes up.
- Passenger Number 2 talks with the Conductor, the Fireman, and the Engineer when Dagny Taggart approaches to find out why the train has stopped. When she acts as if this sort of problem is unusual and shouldn't happen, he tells her she doesn't understand railroads.
- Passenger Number 3 is an economics professor. As the train passes Rearden Steel in section 121, he focuses on the fact that Hank Rearden has proudly put his name on the company. He scoffs at this, dismissing the individual as unimportant.
- Passenger Number 4 is a journalist who gazes at the steel mill and focuses on the fact that Hank Rearden has proudly put his name on the company. He decides he will ridicule Rearden in a future column by calling him the sort of man who sticks his name on everything.
- Pop Harper is is chief clerk at the offices of Taggart Transcontinental. He complains that it is impossible to get new typewriters, and that the world will soon be without this simple device. His attitude is that there is nothing to be done and things will just happen as they happen. This attitude explains why, after a lifetime of labor, he is still merely a clerk. (appears in section 111)
- President of ULW is an unnamed president of United Locomotive Works - an incompetent industrialist who considers directness a sign of ill-breeding. When Dagny Taggart tries to find out why his company has failed to deliver an order, he refuses to give an answer, despite talking for hours. (mentioned in section 141)
- Sebastian d'Anconia is an ancestor of Francisco d'Anconia who fled Spain during the time of the Inquisition, settled in Argentina, and founded d'Anconia Copper. His story is told in section section 152.
- Simons is a member of the Rearden household staff, mentioned in section 162.
- The Waiter serves drinks to the Looters in section 131.
- An unnamed worker at Rearden Steel in section 121. He is on hand the night the first order of Rearden Metal is poured, and smiles at Hank Rearden in acknowledgement of his accomplishment. This is the only acknowledgement Rearden receives.