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Atlas Shrugged Summary and Analysis

by Ayn Rand

Part II, Chapters IX and X

Summary

Francisco comes back to Dagny’s apartment in Chapter IX, “The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt” to try to woo her way of thinking about the looter government. They are having an intense discussion when Hank, who has a key to Dagny’s apartment and spends the night with her whenever he can manage it, walks in and sees them together. He is angry, and at first thinks that perhaps Francisco has designs on Dagny. He is also still enraged about what Francisco has done to his shipment of d’Anconia copper. Hank strikes Francisco, and learns that Dagny is the woman that Francisco has loved all these years.

The three talk, and Francisco leaves when Hank finally realizes that there is nothing going on between Dagny and Francisco right now, but Francisco was Dagny’s first lover. During this conversation Dagny learns from Francisco that there is a “destroyer loose in the world” (637), and that Francisco is not he. The man, however, is known to Francisco, and was the person who seduced Ken Danagger away, along with many other captains of industry.

Dagny receives a letter from Quentin Daniels, saying that he is going to quit working on the static electricity motor. He cannot work under Directive 10-289, because, if he is successful in reassembling it and making it work, he refuses to give it to the looter government to use for their purposes. This causes Dagny to immediately leave to find him, and try to convince him to keep working on the motor. She calls Eddie to her apartment to give him instructions on the business for when she is gone, and while he is there Eddie sees Hank Rearden’s dressing gown hanging in Dagny’s closet. Eddie had once breakfasted with Hank in his suite in the Wayne-Falkland hotel, and he recognizes it. Eddie at once understands that Dagny is having an affair with Hank, information that upsets him in a way that surprises him.

After Dagny leaves, Eddie goes to the Terminal cafeteria and has a discussion with the mysterious railway worker. Their relationship has become one of frank confession on Eddie’s side, and patient listening on the worker’s. Eddie lets slip not only that Dagny is going to Utah to try to win back Quentin Daniels to the motor project, but also that she is sleeping with Hank Rearden. This causes the worker to immediately start up and leave, surprising Eddie.

In her private car on the Comet going west, in Chapter X “The Sign of the Dollar” Dagny encounters a tramp trying to hitch a ride. She calls him into her car, and feeds him and asks him questions. She lets him stay for the night, and listens as this man, Jeff Allan, tell her a tale about the deterioration at the Twentieth-Century Motor Company. This is of interest to her because that is the company at which the inventor of the motor was working before he disappeared. The tale of the collectivist policies voted into action by the workers, and the venal and misguided practices of the Starnes heirs (particularly Ivy Starnes, whom Dagny has met while on her search for the inventor of the motor) who ran the company into the ground, is the story of the economy of America under the collectivist government in miniature.

The train ends up frozen one night on the prairie, as so many trains have begun to be, when the entire crew leaves at once, in the middle of the night. Dagny takes charge, and the passengers do nothing but complain to her. Owen Kellogg, the worker Dagny once wanted to promote, is found on the train traveling west to his yearly month-long vacation in Colorado “with friends” and Dagny presses him into service to walk with her to the next track telephone to call for help. They have to walk to the second one because the first one is out of order – a distance of well over five miles in the dark of night. When they finally reach the phone and call for help, Dagny decides to leave the train and fly west by renting a plane at a small nearby airfield. She is in a great hurry to reach Quentin Daniels before he is taken away by the “destroyer”. Before she leaves she instructs Owen Kellogg to tell Hank Rearden what has happened, and to tell Eddie Willers to give Jeff Allan a job. Owen gives her a cigarette, and she notices that it is stamped with the gold sign of the dollar. It is just like the one she got from Hugh Akston in the diner in the Rockies.

Dagny flies her plane to Afton Utah, and tries to get a car to take her to the Utah Institute of Technology where Quentin works. But the airfield attendant tells here that there is “nobody there” (693), and Quentin Daniels has just left with a man who flew off with him in a beautiful airplane. Dagny immediately gets back in her plane and follows them, up through a high difficult pass in the Rockies. She is baffled because the plane she is pursuing starts to descend into a rift in the mountains that seems to only have a rocky ledge at the bottom but, fearlessly, she follows it. She manages somehow to crash-land her plane on a grass landing field that appears suddenly where there should have been none, and she says “Oh hell! Who is John Galt!” (697) before she is knocked unconscious.

Analysis

Francisco speaks of a “Second Renaissance” (637) of America, for which he plans to wait. This would be after the complete destruction of the looter government, a time for which Francisco, Ragnar, and their friends are planning to rebuild the world with men like Hank Rearden, for whom they have been hoarding gold. This is the second mention (Ragnar’s was the first) of a time in the future, after a terrible fall of civilization, when there will be a world of objective values and the power of money returned to the “producers”, who would be the heirs and reconstructors of civilization. Ragnar and Francisco have in mind nothing less than the remaking of the world; at present, they are trying to hasten its destruction in furtherance of this goal. The scope of this project is global, although it is centered on the economic engine of the world, the United States. The arrogance and confidence of these men, who assume that they can control the entire world and remake it in the image that they choose, is staggering. The third man, who has been referred to obliquely many times and that the reader by now has deduced must be a real person named John Galt, is supposedly the leader and the mastermind of the movement. He must be a formidable character, indeed.

Quentin Daniels defection was not surprising; Directive 10-289 has managed to suck the desire for work out of all but the most dedicated, such as Dagny and Hank. Quentin, isolated in Utah and working only on a project of uncertain result, would be particularly susceptible to the destroyer, because no lives currently depend on his work as lives depend on Hank and Dagny’s.

The emotionally charged scene between Hank, Francisco, and Dagny shows the depth of feeling that both Hank and Francisco have for Dagny. She is not in a situation where she has to choose between them, but the history of her relationship with Francisco is bound to hurt Hank. When Eddie finds out that Dagny is having an affair with Hank, he, too, is surprised by the depth of feeling he has for her. The men around her all seem to be in love with Dagny, and while she is kind and certainly passionate and fair-dealing, she does not appear to be in love with any of them. As referred to several times in the novel, Dagny is still searching for the man that she can truly love, and no matter how much she admires Francisco and Hank she does not love them the way that they love her.

There have been several hints that the mysterious railway worker has been interested in Dagny for more than her business acumen, but when he learns that she is having an affair with Hank Rearden it is clear that he has some sort of stake in her. It is no coincidence that the railway worker leaves right when Dagny goes to retrieve Quentin Daniels; he is pursuing the same person.

The last chapter of this part ends with the cliffhanger of Dagny crash-landing on a mysteriously hidden airfield in a remote valley in the Rockies. The similarity to a lost city, civilization, or a Shangri-La is obvious; the trials it has taken her to get there also resemble the steep and difficult climb to heaven. The title of Part II, “Either-Or” is an assertion of Rand’s idea that there is objective morality and reality, as the titles of the other the other Parts are (“Non-Contradiction” and “A is A”). This is a tenet of Rand’s philosophy; contradictions do not exist, and if they seem to, it is necessary to check your premises. Dagny, in the last part of this book, will meet the human embodiment of this idea.

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