3:5 Their Brothers’ Keepers, “Plot Point Monotony”

PREVIOUSLY: The same goddamn shit happened over and over, and will now happen again. This book is like an experiment in Nietzschean eternal recurrence.

Jim has been incredibly needy with Dagny ever since Cheryl died, but still seems to resent Dags for his dependency (Plot Point Monotony #1).  The night D’Anconia Copper is to be nationalized he holds her in his office waiting for the news report to come in. As Dagny checks her watch, he says a bunch of ridiculous barely coherent things. Like his emotionally abused wife before him, he seems to be on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown.

And that doesn’t get any better when the news finally hits: Francisco has blown up all of his company’s holdings, literally, and drained all the D’Anconia bank accounts. There is nothing for the government to lay claim to. Francisco has disappeared for good.

PLOT POINT MONOTONY #2-5: This is the fourth time that Francisco has very publicly ruined his own business and the global economy to send a message. The San Sebastian mines, the stock collapse, the shipments Ragbeard sank for him, now this.

When Dagny and Hank meet for a friendly dinner the following night they bask in the afterglow of Francisco’s dubious victory, though things quickly turn back to the grim realities of maintaining life on the grid. Specifically, the country’s shipping priorities and transportation infrastructure have become such a wacky parody of an economy that America’s supply of grain is all stuck in Minnesota with no way of getting to the eastern seaboard. Mass starvation will ensue!

Oh well. The giant LCD screen in Times Square or wherever switches to a new image reading, “Brother, you had it coming. -Francisco” and Dagny and Hank laugh like assholes at this renegade message. Yeah, the millions of starving people who will suffer the consequences of Francisco’s terrorism totally had it coming. Because of all the terrible things that… Jim Taggart and Orren Boyle and Wesley Mouch did. Obviously! Sweet sweet… justice?

Back in Philly, Hank is at his mills congratulating himself for being a heartless bastard and the world’s greatest amateur philosopher (Francisco and Galt being credentialed, of course) when his whiny brother Buster slinks up to him and asks for a job. They have the same conversation that Hank already had about Buster with his mother, twice, and with Buster himself, also twice (PLOT POINT MONOTONY #6-9!) Hank’s take-away this time is that Buster and his ilk are “men who worship pain.” Hank can now “feel nothing” and considers people like Buster “inanimate objects” or “refuse.” If general sociopathy counts as a monotonous plot point, this is example #710.

NEXT! Hank goes to the Philly courthouse to finalize his divorce. He is so sickened by the lawyers and the judge that when he leaves he feels he has “divorced the whole of the human society that supported the [modern judiciary].” One more mark in the anarchist column.

NEXT! Hank returns to work. Again. (Plot Point Monotony #815)  His primary responsibility still seems to be self-righteous glowering, though. This time he’s approached by the Ivy League poindexter who’s supposed to make sure Hank follows government regulations. Poindexter has seen the light and wants a job, a real job. Even though he says his college degree in metallurgy is worthless (wow guy, you sure know how to ace an interview), he’ll put in the effort to make up for his lack of experience. Hank likes him but turns him down, because Poindexter’s Washington friends would never let them get away with it, and Poindexter understands. He warns Hank that the state has been replacing all his departing workers with “goons” and thugs.

NEXT! Dagny is handling the latest railroad crisis caused by various shortages (PLOT POINT MONOTONY x 1,000,000). There are more extraneous anecdotes about train schedules (x 2,000,000!). One passage mocks a Buddhist widow using government grants to grow soybeans, as if soybeans are a foolish investment even though they are the biggest crop in the U.S. behind corn today. Shut up, Ayn.

Doc Stadler is on the radio preaching that just as medicine is left to doctors and electronics to engineers, thinking should be left to elite thinkers, and everybody else should just shut up and take it without question. This is supposed to be a bitter satire of evil, but it sounds like Objectivism to me, vis a vis how the average person should accept moral inferiority as proper to their station and defer to the judgments of an inherently virtuous elite. Shut up, Ayn.

Where were we? Oh right, the bumper crop of wheat in Minnesota is rotting because there’s not enough trains to circulate it around the country. The soy crop fails because of farmer incompetence. Oh well! Suffice it to say millions of Americans are starving to death and there’s riots and stuff and you should blame Buddhism and the FDA and… beans, for some reason. God shut up Ayn shut up so much! 

So at Jim’s request, Dagny goes to an ‘off-the-record’ dinner meeting with all the big wigs at State, who mostly try to — pardon the expression — railroad her into silent compliance with whatever their latest bullshit scheme is. One of these guys says:

“It’s a great responsibility …to hold the decision of life or death over thousands of people and to sacrifice them when necessary, but we mast have the courage to do it.”

Which, again, is effectively synonymous with John Galt’s dictum that the meritorious need the intellectual courage to tell the masses to fuck off and die. I’m starting to see a pattern here.

The bureaucrats argue over where to ration resources and decide to let the east starve so they can keep enough trains available to send troops around the country to maintain order and authority, which is threatened mostly by food riots. Priorities! Dagny is disgusted and when a call comes about another pressing emergency at the railroad (Plot Point Monotony x 2,000,001…) she is happy to escape.

Power has gone out at Transcon Terminal. All the trains are halted. Dags corrals her switch operator to lay out a plan for manually guiding the trains to their tracks. She assembles all of the laborers before her and announces the strategy.

But she is distracted when she sees John Galt himself is one of the grimy tunnel workers. Gasp! This is where he hides out when he’s on the grid, how he keeps an eye on Dags! She gets weak in the knees, which I still think is an odd reaction to being stalked by a guy who is basically L. Ron Hubbard.

Nonetheless she wraps up her speech and then sneaks off into the ancient abandoned tunnels of the railroad. Sure enough, as she intended, Galt follows her. Hidden away with the rats and decrepit debris, they make violent and passionate love in the dirt. She bites him, he elbows her, they think about metaphysics. It’s the usual mash-up of 50 Shades of Grey and a pretentious college dissertation. 

This time, the sex is so good that when Galt cups her boob she has a transcendent vision of the meaning of life, and all of her accomplishments flash before her eyes. I know it can be hard to tell sometimes if I’m exaggerating, so let me be clear: that’s literally what happens.

After she cums, “she gasp[s] and lay[s] still, knowing that nothing more could be desired, ever.” The End!

If only. No, they lie down on a pile of sand and burlap sacks (ROMANCE) and confess their love for each other. Galt says he was the shadowy figure who approached Dagny’s door in the alley that one time, as if anyone actually still cares about that shit. He tells her he will pay the price for breaking cover so he could ravish her. Word will get back to Jim, the statists will finally catch him and expose the shadow faction. She doesn’t buy it.

Whatever, Galt shrugs. When she wants to jump the sinking ship and elope to Galt’s Gulch, she should graffiti the statue of her great-grandfather Nat Taggart witha $, and he will come for her within 24 hours. Unless it’s too late… Then he leaves to go back to his menial labor job. Dagny wanders back upstairs, exhausted by his brilliant penis mind! Mind.

NEXT — 3:6 The Concerto of Deliverance, “Bureaucrazy”

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  1. #1 by BenjaminTheAss on August 28, 2012 - 11:16 pm

    Aw, I actually kind of liked this chapter. I thought the collapse of the train system through the copper wire rationing was one of the few instances of Ayn Rand writing a legitimately exciting sequence, similar to the Tunnel Disaster. Mostly this is because it’s mechanized action and few human beings, which I think speaks a lot to Rand’s alienation from human socialization.

    And I thought the Buddhist soy bean cult was pretty funny, a similarly rare instance of Rand being intentionally humorous.

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the last chapter or so; by that point I was finally on the book’s insane wavelength and was able to enjoy in its batshit craziness for what it was.

    • #2 by Taylor Bettinson on August 29, 2012 - 10:57 am

      I’m just kinda burned out on the slooooow collapse of society. IMO she could’ve condensed the book by a third by cutting almost all of Part Two. Francisco’s money speech and the train wreck are the only major episodes in that section that need keeping, and the rest just makes parts like this feel redundant when they should feel climactic.

      The soybean thing is kind of funny on its own; the real reason I can’t get into it is because Rand’s aggressive mischaracterization of religion is one of my pet peeves, particularly in the case of Buddhism because it’s non-theistic and seeks right action by aligning inner values, so she *should* be able to find merit there in the overlap with her own views. But obviously that’s just a personal idiosyncrasy of mine.

      And oh yeah I am *totally* ready for some of that batshit craziness coming up in the post-speech chapters. That’s gonna be fun.

      • #3 by BenjaminTheAss on August 29, 2012 - 8:12 pm

        No mistake, she really had it in for Asia. I remember there being several characters’ offhand remarks about backwards Hindus or something, and she once described the assassination of Gandhi as ““an almost cruel piece of historical irony” and a cosmic “nice sardonic gesture.”

        You’ll be happy to know that Francisco has my absolute favorite line of the book in those climactic chapters.

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