1:1 The Theme cont’d, “Enter the Protagonist”

PREVIOUSLY: Jim Taggart totally sucks. Eddie Willers is the book’s requisite Everyman. But who is John Galt???

A Taggart train chugs through the night on its way to the Taggart terminal in New York. Resting anonymously in one of the coach cars is a stark woman in sharp clothes, explicitly ‘unfeminine’ aside from her ‘elegant’ legs. She stares out the window, a musical motif caught in her head.  She is Dagny Taggart — James’ sister and the VP of Operations for Taggart Transcontinental. Let’s watch her now in her natural habitat, as Rand establishes her characteristic ruthless efficiency with characteristic ruthless efficiency.

from fleurdeguerre's Flickr stream

Well actually she’s mostly just sitting there, passive, which is to say uncharacteristically. But the song she’s hearing is a triumphant, bombastic piece with a melody of great ‘violence and magnificent intensity,’  so that at least fits the profile. It reads as a pretty Wagnerian tune, though Dagny is sure it was composed by some guy named Halley, and it is The Theme of the chapter’s title. She’s so into it that she’s letting go of control for once in her life and allowing her mind to wander.

Just as Dagny’s imagining herself running up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum like Rocky, she realizes it’s the brakeman at the end of the car (who is blonde with apparently Germanic tastes, just like Eddie) who’s whistling this badass hype music… and she’s actually never heard it before. She asks him if that isn’t a Halley piece and he’s like, “Sure is, Concerto No. 5.” And she’s like, “But he only wrote four,” and he’s like, “Oh shit, I mean, yeah, of course there’s no Fifth. Nevermind.” You can tell he totally digs that she’s into the same bands he is, but it can never be, because he has already said too much.

Dagny snaps out of her next doze to find the train has stopped in the middle of nowhere. Oh she is pissed, because she’s on a very tight schedule to tear her brother a new asshole. But whoever stopped the train will have to do for now so she marches out of the car and right to the front of the great locomotive.

A gaggle of crew and passengers are standing around a red signal-light with their thumbs up their ass. Dagny slides authoritatively into a low-angle hero shot as she takes charge of this sad display of ineptitude. She commands the crew to switch tracks and get moving. The engineer in turn demands to know who this lady thinks she is, and she goes, “I’m Dagny Taggart” as if she just casually whipped her dick out, and everybody gasps and congratulates her for how she keeps it real by travelling coach. Golf clap! Dagny heads back to her car, where the brakeman of the mysterious Halley Theme eyes her, impressed.

Smash cut to the train pulling into the station, and now Dagny is sitting sleek and executive-like in her brother’s sleek executive office, telling him what’s what. Eddie is in the corner taking notes because he’s her pet dog personal aide.

Dagny takes a machete to James’ equivocating bullshit, brusquely informing him that not only will she be renovating the Rio Norte line to Colorado but she will be doing so with a commercially untested new super-alloy invented by one Hank Rearden. James again prefers his old boys’ network, saying “Rearden’s an asshole and we already have contracts with my friends!” Dagny just points out that all his friends deliver bad products and on such delayed schedules that the contracts are expiring. Seems pretty cut and dry, but James can’t stop harping on how Rearden is a miserable jerk just like Ellis Wyatt, the up-and-coming oil man who is the reason they must fix the line. Dagny ponders the following:

If she were insane she would conclude that her brother hated to deal with Rearden because Rearden did his job with superlative efficiency; but she would not conclude it, because she thought that such a feeling was not within the humanly possible.

Really, though? I kind of think she wouldn’t conclude it because if it weren’t for emotional obtuseness and refusal of parties to communicate, this book would be about 40 pages long.  I mean, come on, Dagny thinks irrational jealousy and resentment of others’ success aren’t within the humanly possible? Has Dagny ever met a human? Emotional obtuseness!

Actually, James takes this very moment to accuse Dagny of lacking ‘the human element,’ and she doesn’t disagree. Instead she talks some shit about James’ Mexican railroad investment, warning that the Mexican government is totally going to nationalize it. James once again defends his limp strategies and general cowardly manner by lashing out at Dagny for being a robotic ice queen who’s ‘never felt anything at all.’ Dagny gets a weary thousand-yard stare on and says he’s right.

After all, Dagny may be an executive-class business woman ahead of her time, but you can’t have it all, can you? Maybe she’s had to give up on love? Like many driven career women today, Dagny worries that she may never have the time to find that special someone who is both the founder of an articulate, comprehensive life philosophy and good in bed. Sorry Dags; it’s lonely at the top.

by HappyNane at deviantART

Wow, things got a little bit emo there for a minute. Luckily Dagny leaves James’ office and all its negative vibes, with faithful sidekick Eddie by her side to inform her she has a meeting with some middle manager named Kellogg. Dagny’s pleased to hear it because she likes the cut of that guy’s jib and she wants to promote him. But it turns out he booked the meeting in order to resign.

“The hell?” Dagny inquires, and he won’t really explain himself. He likes his job, he’s not taking another job, he has no beef with her. He’s just going to leave mysteriously, forever, as a matter of some principle he won’t name. Refusal of parties to communicate! Anyway he wanted to “tell” her this first, because he respects her. Dagny feels frustrated and defeated, which she isn’t used to and doesn’t like, but Kellogg can only depart with a smile of ‘secret amusement, and heartbreak, and an infinite bitterness’ as he asks ‘Who is John Galt?’

Frankly, with all these minor characters namedropping him all the time I’m shocked everybody doesn’t already know.

NEXT: Chapter 2 — Family Jewels

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