This was a longing she had never permitted herself to acknowledge. She faced it now. She thought: If emotion is one's response to the things the world has to offer, if she loved the rails, he building, and more: if she loved her love for them -- there was still one response, the greatest, that she had missed. She thought: To find a feeling that would hold, as their sum, as their final expression, the purpose of all the things she loved on earth . . . To find a consciousness like her own, who would be the meaning of her world, as she would be of his . . . No, not Francisco d'Anconia, not Hank Rearden, not any man she had ever met or admired . . . A man who existed only in her knowledge of her capacity for an emotion she had never felt, but would have given her life to experience.
This is Dagny's unspoken wish to find a man who is not only her intellectual equal (like Francisco d'Anconia, her first lover) or her business equal (like Hank Rearden) but her moral and philosophical equal. She is, though she does not know it yet, longing for John Galt. Both Francisco and Hank are men of great achievement, ambition, and intellect. Both of them have desired Dagny -- and they have loved her in their ways. But Francisco, or at least at this point Dagny believes, has turned into a degenerate playboy who creates business ventures solely to fail. This failure of purpose is anathema to Dagny. Hank, while a very attractive person and a wildly successful inventor and businessman, is nevertheless a married man, and he has significantly different morality about sex and women than Dagny does. Dagny longs for her "perfect" man, who embodies Francisco and Hank's successes and brains, but also Dagny's morality and philosophy.
She looked at the crowd and she felt, simultaneously, astonishment that they should stare at her, when this event was so personally her own that no communication about it was possible, and a sense of fitness that they should be here, that they should want to see it, because the sight of an achievement was the greatest gift a human being could offer to others.
This is a distillation of one of Rand's principles, which is the paramount importance of human achievement. Motives and effort are not nearly as important in Rand's philosophy as results and achievement are. The importance of achievement -- business, scientific, and artistic all being of the same importance and validity -- underscores the purpose of the human race, according to Rand: material progress.
In the many months of his absence, she never wondered whether he was true to her or not; she knew he was. She kne, even though she was too young to know the reason, that indiscriminate desire and unselective indulgence were possible only to those who regarded sex and themselves as evil.
This simple sexual morality, based only on self-image and self-love rather than any received, exterior moral code runs throughout the novel. While Dagny, Hank, and Francisco all would be considered, by the morality of their day, to be sexually culpable (each for different reasons; Dagny for having lovers outside of marriage, Hank for being an adulterer, and Francisco for his assumed sexual promiscuity) each are, to Rand, sexually moral in the strictest sense. Francisco began an affair with the underage Dagny because he loved her, and because "We had to learn it from each other" (108), Dagny because she took such joy in Francisco's attention and became sexually active only because she felt the spiritual power of physical pleasure, and Hank because he recognized his marriage to Lillian as fraud, and his love for Dagny and their relationship as sacred. The usual constraints of modesty, shame, or regard for other people which run through many sexual codes are absent from Rand's, and her main characters', philosophy. No references to religion, contraception, or children are ever made.
She saw what they wanted and to what goal their "instincts," which they called unaccountable, were leading them. She saw that Eugene Lawson, the humanitarian, tool pleasure at the prospect of human starvation -- and Dr. Ferris, the scientist, was dreaming of the day when men would return to the hand-plow.
Dagny has been brow-beaten by the Washington bureaucrats, who are not really interested in her opinion or in facts, but only their own agendas. The issue on the table is whether to let the Minnesota line go and let the Midwest starve and save the trans-continental line, or focus on the Eastern part of the country with Minnesota as the breadbasket, and let the "Atlantic-Southern take care of such transcontinental traffic as still exists" (946). The fate of many thousands of people hang on this decision, and Dagny is horrified that the government officials, the so-called keepers of the people's welfare, seem to take relish in the suffering of the populace. At this point in the novel Dagny is finally beginning to realize that the Washington officials have directly malicious intent (and not just incompetence in their actios and ideas) and that there is precious little room to move under their system any longer. This meeting takes place directly before her first meeting in the outside world with John Galt.
"Love is its own cause! Love is above causes and reasons. Love is blind. But you wouldn't be capable of it. You have the mean, scheming, calculating little soul of a shopkeeper who trades, but never gives! Love is a gift -- a great, free, unconditional gift that transcends and forgives everything. What's the generosity of loving a man for his virtues? What do you give him? Nothing. It's no more than cold justice. No more than he's earned."
Here Jim sums up his ideas about love, and, specifically, his desire to have unconditional love from his wife Cherryl. This is in response to her question "Do you want love to be causeless?" (884), because she is trying to understand why Jim is angry at her for admitting to him that she married him because she believed him to be a man of ability. Jim sees this as a form of gold-digging, even if it didn't involve money, because it would be setting "the price of your (her) love!" (Ibid). Jim, a grown man, is looking for the unconditional love that a child would receive. It is this kind of formless thinking, this demanding of love or rights as a privilege of need rather than as something earned, that Rand believes is at the mistaken heart of many "collectivist" principles.
I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
This axiom, which opens the sound-lock to the door of the power station which fuels the entire valley on static electricity from the atmosphere, sums up John Galt's philosophy in one sentence. Every other philosophical principle he applies flows from this statement. It begins with a humanist principle, that a human being's life belongs to himself or herself, and not to God or some other being or purpose. It also preaches objectivist "virtue of selfishness" (I(Hicks) which states that "self-interest, properly understood, is the standard of morality and selflessness is the deeest immorality." (Ibid) This does not mean that anything goes; physical coercion of any kind, particularly, is considered immoral under Rand's philosophy, but essentially, Rand (and therefore Galt) believes that acting in one's self-interest, within moral bounds, will create a culture where others will be most able to do the same. Included in this ideal is a love of life, expressly stated, meaning a lack of longing for the immaterial or the afterlife, and a joy in activity and material production for personal (and therefore for humanity's) benefit. The selfless, God-directed mystics, Rand implies, do not love their own lives; she finds this not only incomprehensible, but also immoral in that they encourage irrationality in other human beings.
"A man with the genius of a great scientist, who chose to be a commercial inventor? I find it outrageous. He wanted a motor, and he quietly performed a major revolution in the science of energy, just as a means to an end, and he didn't bother to publish his findings, but went right on making his motor. Why did he want to waste his mind on practical appliances?
Robert Stadler, who has bought into the ideas of theory for its own sake and the illusion of men's minds and desires, denigrates this great achievement of John Galt. For Stadler, the improvement of life on earth is not sufficient enough cause for a genius to have as a purpose; he finds it preposterous. Dagny replies to Dr. Stadler "Perhaps because he liked living on this earth," (356), unknowingly echoing John Galt's creed of love of his own life being the starting point of morality. This passage shows the difference between two brilliant scientists, Stadler and Galt, who, with similar level of abilities create entirely different products of their work. One, Stadler, becomes a stooge of the looter government, used for his name as a pawn of their nefarious schemes, and the other, Galt, founds his own utopian society and stops the engine of the outside world, while creating a new, free, and entirely clean power source. This shows the power of ideology on the path of a person's life.
"Miss Taggart, do you know the hallmark of the seond-rater? It's resentment of another man's achievement. Those touch mediocrities who sit trembling lest someone's work prove great than their own -- they have no inkling of the lonelineess that comes when you reach the top."
Stadler sums up another principle of the looter government's philosophy, though at this point he is arguing against it. Bills such as the Equalization of Opportunity Act are said to give certain business a chance to succeed, but they are really a product of the envy that the less accomplished have for the truly talented. It is the weak or incompetent's desire to see the successful fail (a form of shadefreude) and to profit from the strong's abilities rather than their own which creates a major part of the immorality of such collectivist principles, in Rand's view.
"...they want us to pretend that we see the world as they pretend they see it. They need some sort of sanction from us. I know that is we value our lives, we must not give it to them. If they put you on a torture rack, don't give it to them. Let them destroy your railroad and my mills, but don't give it to them. Because I know this much: I know that that's our only chance."
Hank has just experienced another of many direct attacks on his production of Rearden Metal. The State Science Institute wants a double share (under the "fair share" rules set by the government) of Rearden Metal for some unspecified purpose. Hank is beginning to understand that the looter government is turning toward militarism,and the mysteriousness of Project X makes Hank suspicious. This is the first direct sign, however, that Hank will work against the government. Up until now Hank has accepted their strictures, damned them, and gone on producing. His refusal to sell Metal to the Institute marks the beginning of his fight for his rights to his own business. This idea that the looting government keeps asking for a sanction from their own victims (and the individuals involved in this, such as Wesley Mouch and Jim Taggart all look for their own personal reassurance from people like Dagny and Hank) is a clue that Dagny and Hank ar beginning to understand that they, as compliant producers, are part of this ideological and political crumbling of the government. Hank and Dagny think, at this point in the novel, that if they do not give their sanction to the unfair practices imposed on them that they will have eventually win over the looters.
No matter what her problem, this would always remain to her -- this immovable conviction that evil was unnatural and temporary.
Here is another important tenet of Rand's philosophy. Humanity -- its right to life, its capacity for rationalism, and its inherent desires -- is good. This may seem to be a simple point, but many philosophies do not start from this point, and several of them assert man is sinful or is an admixture of evil and good, or, in morally relative systems, that goodness or evil is not something that has any reality. To Dagny, therefore, any evil existing as a product of human action must be some sort of mistake, and correctable and temporary. She is, perhaps, the most optimistic person in the book, with a belief in the goodness of her fellows, but she echoes Rand's thoughts about the right-thinking human. Rationally, Rand asserts, it makes sense that humanity believe in itself and love its own life, as John Galt asserts in his motto, for what other purpose would there be to live?
Atlas Shrugged Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Atlas Shrugged is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.