- Cherryl Brooks is a dime store shopgirl who marries James Taggart after a chance encounter in her store the night the John Galt Line was falsely deemed his greatest success. She marries him thinking he is the heroic person behind Taggart Transcontinental. Cherryl is at first harsh towards Dagny, having mistakenly trusted Jim Taggart's descriptions of his sister, until she questions employees of the railroad. Upon learning that her scorn had been misdirected, Cherryl puts off apologizing to Dagny out of shame until the night before she commits suicide, when she confesses to Dagny that when she married Jim, she thought he had the heroic qualities that she had looked up to - she thought she was marrying someone like Dagny. Upon realizing the nature of the moral code surrounding her, the apparent lack of escape for herself and the heroes she worships, and her unnamed desire to remove support from the machinations she abhors, Cherryl throws herself from a bridge to her death after witnessing her husband James Taggart sleeping with Lillian Rearden and after being beaten for showing James his code of death.
This is a dagger wielded by Rand as a writer. She's on a mission. She wants to turn the kleig lights on abusive, sadistic cads like the many real-world Jim Taggarts. She must have seen such evil herself in the many years she spent in Hollywood from the mid-twenties to early 1950s.
There are many Hollywood stories that parallel Cherryl Brooks. A particularly close match is actress Gail Russell, who played Stella Meredith in the 1944 ghost story masterpiece, “The Uninvited,” for which Victor Young wrote the haunting “Stella by Starlight” as the theme for Stella's character. Gail Russell did not have a happy life in spite of her talent and exceptional physical beauty (see http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0751149/bio )
A contemporary young forties starlet was Norma Jean Baker. She was given the stage name Marilyn Monroe. She was even smarter and even prettier than Gail Russell. Long after Love Letters and years after Atlas Shrugged, Marilyn Monroe died. Completely consistent with the romanticism of Rand's screenplay and treatment of character Cherryl Brooks, Rand immediate wrote a famous eulogy for Monroe. I find this to be utterly the finest thing she ever wrote. It's still widely available, including on line:
This is a very fine piece of non-fiction analytic narration. If you think Rand is off-base or inaccurate here, consider getting the diaries of Marilyn Monroe, which have finally just been published.
But Rand made a mistake. She over-reached. She set herself up as an expert in philosophy (which has peculiar word usage and intellectual protocols with a counter-intuitive jargon – something like public accounting!). And she used her talent as a writer to strike back at her college days.
We'll be getting to that.