The major theme of chapter 24 is how James Taggart is one of the most damaged individuals I’ve ever seen in a book. At this point of the story he seems to be in a pretty fragile state where even the slightest of things will send him over the edge into doing something incredibly stupid. Which, of course, is what happens. With everything going on around the nation and the economic collapse Jim has started to realize just how little power he really has amongst all of the people he thought were his closest friends.
Jim had one thing going for him that gave him power by this point, the fact that he could hold Dagny’s affair with Hank Rearden over her head as blackmail. He and Lillian Rearden were in on that little tidbit of information together and now that Dagny has outed herself on national radio all that leverage is gone.
One evening when Jim happens to be incredibly drunk, Lillian Rearden arrives who is furious at the fact that Dagny has basically torn out her claws. One thing leads to another and the two of them wind up in bed.
Oh wait, one more thing, just as they are finishing, Jim’s wife, Cheryl, shows up. He throws the entire ordeal in her face and she winds up running from the apartment.
This is where things get a little muddled for me. Once Cheryl leaves the apartment the text seems to get a little weird for me. There is a lot of stuff that Rand uses to paint pictures of what Cheryl’s life had been like since marrying Jim in such an unexpected manner. At the end of all the exposition the way I read the text is that Cheryl had been running through the city after seeing Jim and Lillian and then jumps off the side of a building.
The trouble I have with all of this is that I’m not sure exactly how it fits in with the rest of the book, or why it’s even important at all. Throughout the book I’ve had a hard time with Jim as a character. Part of me thinks the only reason he’s around is to provide a foil against which Dagny and the other more high-profile characters can be compared and part of me thinks that Rand just needed someone to look like a fool from time to time.