Posts Tagged dagny taggart
PREVIOUSLY: A conceptually interesting book got unbearably shitty because the author sucked at writing plot and character and dialogue and prose. A blogger took the scenic route through the narrative doldrums while biding his time for the return of thought-provoking material in Part Three.
Dagny is on the Transcon train heading west, staring out the window at a barren, abandoned landscape that used to be the American heartland. This is depressing as shit so she decides to leave her private car and get some fresh air to help her snap out of it.
But as soon as she steps out she finds the conductor trying to throw a hobo off the moving train in the middle of nowhere. The hobo clutches his hobo-bag of hobo-stuff like a comfort blanket, so Dagny knows he believes in private property and thus deserves to live. I wish I were making this up. She invites him to dine with her in her car.
The hobo has table manners and acts generally respectable. He’s headed west to find work, if there is any, since in the east the Unification Board has a complete stranglehold on employment decisions and you need to know somebody to get anywhere. As he recounts his tragic backstory, Hobo Code here mentions that once upon a time he held the same job for twenty years, and it was glorious. Then the founder died, the heirs took over, and the place went to shit. That’s right, Hobo Code was the foreman at GM! The very same GM where Dagny found the abandoned protoype of the ion drive!
Not only that, but Hobo reveals that it was he and the other employees at GM who coined the term “Who is John Galt?” Dagny’s ears perk up, but not mine, because I stopped giving a shit about this ‘mystery’ about four hundred pages ago.
Despite my disinterest, Hobo recaps the whole story of how GM got converted to a socialist pay system where the most able were exploited and the neediest were over-privileged. The specifics descend even further into ridiculousness this time around, like how the company forbid some dude from sending his kids to college, or how one guy was denied money for his record collection so that the company could pay some chick to get a gold-plated grill. I don’t even know where to start.
The Hobo’s main gripe with this system was that it established a moral code by which “the honest ones paid, the dishonest ones collected,” which of course has never and could never occur under the profit-motivated morality of capitalism. Never!
Anyway, this recap of stuff we’ve already been told goes on for pages and pages and pages, and Hobo Code makes sure to lash out at ‘professors and leaders and thinkers’ for trying to dupe the world with a bullshit morality based on human compassion, which has so clearly and inevitably led to the destruction of everything good. I think Ayn’s brush is so broad that it’s basically a broom now, but…
Finally Hobo trails off at the point where GM went bankrupt and he was out of work, and Dagny is like, “Uh, weren’t you going to explain who John Galt is?” And he’s like “Oh, right. He was this genius kid who had just started at the factory when the communists took over, and he quit as soon as they announced the plan, and he said he would make it his personal mission to ‘stop the motor of the world.'”
“Shit, sounds ominous,” nobody says, and Hobo’s like “Yeah when everything started going to shit, we all remembered what he said and got pretty freaked out. And that’s how we came up with the saying ‘Who is John Galt?’
Dagny does not respond “Well fuck, I pretty much knew all of that already! Get out of my car,” because Dagny has literally fallen asleep. Even the characters have checked out, and here I am still reading like a sucker. Goddammit.
When she wakes up she remembers Hobo Code’s story and how she gave him a sleeping car on the train afterwards for all his troubles. But all of that drops out of her consciousness when she realizes the train is stopped! And it seems nobody is in board! What in tarnation is going on??
Running through the cars for signs of life, she bumps into none other than Owen Kellogg, the very first undercover charismatic anarchist we encountered in the book. Dagny does not ask where he went after he dropped off the grid, but he confirms that the crew has abandoned the train — an increasingly common form of political protest against the economic dictatorship.
After calming the scattered passengers who remain, all of whom are whiny and unappreciative of course, Dagny and Kellogg leave Hobo Code in charge of the train and set off for the nearest emergency phone station along the track. As they walk, Dagny bemoans how everything was better in Nat Taggart’s Gilded Age, and Owen Kellogg responds:
…[Nat Taggart] represented a code of existence which—for a brief span in all human history—drove slavery out of the civilized world.
Which is so historically wrong and factually meaningless as to be offensive, but no time to dwell because it just now occurs to Dagny to ask where this dude has been for the past… what, three years of story time?
When Kellogg shrugs and answers vaguely, she quickly realizes that he’s on the same shadow team as Francisco and The Destroyer. They arrive at the phone box but it’s broken, and they have to walk another five miles. Kellogg sighs and takes out a pack of cigarettes — $tamped cigarettes!
Dagny demands more information, and Kellogg goes on some rant about American exceptionalism and how calling money evil is itself evil. I punch myself in the nuts to stay awake. Special K wraps up the monologue and gives Dagny the rest of his cigarette$ as a token of good will. Let’s pick up the pace here:
At the next phone box, Dagny calls the local Peter Principle and expends a lot of effort getting him to send a crew to help them restart the train. Some building is glowing a couple miles in the distance and she asks what it is. Peter Principle says it’s an airstrip. This gets Dags’ attention, seeing as she’s now running out of time to reach Q and save their research on the ion drive. Kellogg knowingly encourages her to do what she needs to do; he’ll make sure the train gets running again.
So Dagny commandeers one of the planes at the airstrip and flies all through the night across the Rocky Mountains. She thinks redundantly about Thematic Issues some more until she lands at Q’s airstrip in Utah just as another plane is taking off. She jumps out of her plane all “I’m looking for Q!” and some guy is like “You just missed him, he’s in that plane that just took off! Him and a mysterious, charismatic gentleman!”
Dagny knows immediately that The Destroyer has stolen Q and her last hope of saving society along with him. In a fury she takes right back off and follows The Destroyer’s plane into the treacherous heights of the Rockies once more. Right in the most uninhabitable dangerous patch of peaks, the nefarious plane descends out of sight. Turning the corner, Dagny is flabbergasted: there’s nothing but a jagged valley of rocks. Where did they go? Did they crash?
She descends too, to get a closer look, but something’s weird. The craggy expanse below her is almost like a mirage… Suddenly there’s a flash of light and her motor cuts out. She is now below the craggy rockface — it was a CLOAKING DEVICE! OH SNAP!
But with no motor, her plane drops like a stone to the grassy valley floor below, and as she braces herself to die in a giant fireball, Dagny cries out “Fuck you John Galt, Fuck Yoooooouuuuuu!!!”
REFLECTIONS ON PART TWO: Ayn Rand as an Unreliable Narrator
NEXT — 3:1 Utopia, “Meet John Galt”
PREVIOUSLY: Dagny quit to protest the totalitarian takeover of the American government, but when she got word of a catastrophic train collision that killed hundreds of people on her former railroad, she felt compelled to return to society and keep the trains running on time.
Dagny arrives home, exhausted but resolute. Francisco knocks at the door and she is not surprised that he followed her back to the city. He is grim now, though, seems betrayed. He insists that she’s making a terrible choice. “Don’t you see Dags? You can’t fix the system from the inside! Join my off-the-grid shadow team and we’ll burn this mother down!”
But Dags demures. As long as the railroad makes opportunities possible for even one person who is destined for greatness, her effort is worthwhile even in a totally corrupt world. Francisco shakes his head in disappointment. “Well, now I’ve told you my plan to hit the self-destruct button on civilization, but you’re still on the side of that civilization, so… technically we’re enemies.”
It only now occurs to Dags that Francisco is the one she calls The Destroyer, the man who has been convincing all the other elite pillars of society to disappear. Frankie admits that’s part of his plan, but he isn’t in charge of it. She starts to quiz him but they keep getting distracted by the subtext of their haunted, bittersweet love.
Just then Hank walks in, nursing a big rubbery one in anticipation of nailing Dagny all night. Francisco’s presence really throws him off, although his dick only gets harder if anything. I assume. Anyway Francisco realizes what’s going on here and is clearly crushed. Hank is like “What the FUCK are you doing in here?”
Frankie, as is his wont, clams up and just takes another screed impugning his character from the people he most admires. Dagny tries to get Hank to calm down but he’s like “Blah blah blah machismo.” Specifically he calls Francisco a madman and a coward, a nihilist and an anarchist, and mockingly tells him his word means nothing, especially that time he swore to Hank his motives were pure, swore by the only woman he ever loved.
GASP, EPIPHANY! Hank totally realizes that Frank is in love with Dagny, is in fact her only former lover. He calls Frisco out and Dagny is really starting to feel like shit about all of this. In a fit of possessive jealousy, Hank slaps Frisco across the face. Slaps. Like, so much for your macho act, Hank. Francisco stoically takes it and then strides out of the apartment. Dagny realizes the extent of his self-discipline and feels even shittier. Then Francisco comes back in the room, but now he’s a sparkling vampire, and Hank turns into a werewolf, and– sorry, wrong pap.
So now that they’re alone, and Dagny is pissed, she throws it in Hank’s face that she and Francisco used to make crazy animalistic love all day. In a jealous rage, he grabs her violently, and she’s pretty sure he’s about to kill her or beat her to a bloody pulp, but instead he kisses her hard and they start making out and Dagny has never wanted him more. Ayn Rand has a lot of rape fantasies, by the way, in case that wasn’t clear. Frankly it almost makes too much sense.
And there they are some time later, sharing a post-coital cigarette, when the doorbell rings AGAIN. It’s the landlord and he’s giving Dagny a letter that arrived for her while she was off the grid. It’s from Q. He’s quitting. He doesn’t want to fix the ion drive anymore. Even if the drive could save the world from industrial exhaustion and environmental catastrophe, he knows it would just enable the villains who run this corrupted America, and he can’t be party to that.
Dagny dashes to the phone and immediately, desperately tries to reach Q. She finally get him on the line. “Q! Have you, by any chance, been approached by any shadowy charismatic anarchists lately?” “No, what the hell are you talking about?” Q replies. She makes him promise not to go anywhere until she can make it out west and change his mind.
Hank slowly realizes that he won’t be getting his usual nightcap of a sloppy blowjob, so he promises to join Dagny out west in a week and lets himself out. Dagny barely notices because she’s already packing and coordinating her train schedule with Eddie.
Soon Eddie is in the apartment facilitating Dagny’s travel plans. He’s a little flustered by being in her bedroom, presumably because he is meek and a virgin. And, as I always like to point out, the representative Everyman of the novel. Never forget.
While Dagny throws clothes into a suitcare, Eddie looks up from his Blackberry (or Moleskin, whatever) and happens to see a man’s bathrobe monogrammed “HR” and GASP, EPIPHANY! Eddie realizes Dagny has been getting a good dicking from Hank Rearden. Jesus Eddie, you’re her body man and she and Hank’ve been going at it for literally years at this point. Get a fucking clue.
Anyway he feels his heart sink in his stomach like lead. He’s basically the sweet nerdy kid who’s shocked and crushed when the cheerleader picks the quarterback instead of him. Eddie, I’m generally in your corner, but I will not abide emasculating Nice Guy stereotypes. And yet he keeps going, because he never even realized until this moment the degree to which he was in love with Dagny. Yep, definitely a virgin.
After dropping Dagny at the appropriate Transcon platform, Emo Eddie wanders in a daze down to the cafeteria, and wouldn’t you know his laconic friend The Prole is there, chain-smoking and apparently just waiting for Eddie to show up and vent and whine like a little bitch.
Never one to buck expectations, Eddie spills his guts to the lowly laborer, about how he loves Dagny, how Rearden is sleeping with her, how he’s now completely given up hope of the world ever recovering from this crisis, and how alone he feels now that Dagny has barreled off to save Q and unlock the secrets of the ion drive.
But that’s about all the pity party Eddie gets a chance to throw, because The Prole jumps up and darts off sans explanation. Eddie’s like “Wait, where are you going?”
“I have a costume change before Act Three!” The Prole fails to say.
PREVIOUSLY: The American government has finally, fully converted to centralized economic control. Dagny resigned in protest and retired to a remote cabin in the woods. In her absence, willful negligence at the railroad company caused a terrible humanitarian disaster.
Our heroine is living off the land, practicing strict self-discipline, trying not to think about the dying world. She’s almost gone hippie on us, contemplating how nature operates in circles while mankind operates in lines. It sounds like stoned dorm room talk.
As she chops wood or whatever, Dagny’s mind wanders to her longing for Hank, and the payment she owes to Q (the physicist reverse-engineering the ion drive for her). Oh yeah, the ion drive! What the hell is she going to do with it now? But nevermind, because all of a sudden Francisco shows up.
She watches his car approach her hill, and watches as he climbs the hill, and all the while he’s whistling Halley’s 5th Concerto (callback!). It’s like something out of a dream. How did he find her? When he reaches her, they stop pussy-footing around and totally make out. Sweeet.
Frankie is super-psyched that Dagny has finally quit and gone off-the-grid, and he came as soon as he knew where she was — though he won’t say how he found out. Dagny laments the hurt and withdrawal she feels for abandoning her former life (read as, “her job”) and yet acknowledges that she couldn’t continue working there with incompetent moral vampires as her bosses. Francisco is like “Damn straight.”
He reminds her of the last night they spent together as lovers, twelve years ago, when she cradled him in her arms while he had a nervous breakdown. Turns out, that was the night he committed to his secret plan to take down industrial civilization from the inside.
You see, Francisco explains, D’Anconia Copper is so old, so wealthy, that if he were to quit, all the no-good “vulture capitalists” could still live off his company’s largesse for generations. So, slowly, over the past decade, he has carefully sabotaged himself, hobbling the world economy as a last desperate measure to halt the planet’s mindless overconsumption.
Dagny understands, realizes why Frankie could never have told her while she still demonstrated any loyalty to society and “the system” in general. Still, she admits, it’s a shockingly ballsy move.
Francisco knows. When he made the choice to sacrifice his true love and his personal passion to
become Batman fight the power, it was before the climate and energy crisis was obvious, before communism had taken over most of the globe… she would have thought him a crazy person. It was the hardest decision of his life.
Dagny still feels shitty about leaving the world to the vampires and the consumer zombies, though. Francisco reassures her that there’s nothing she can do to stem the tide. At least, not by herself…
But before Francisco can explain his conspiracy further, a news bulletin comes twittering from the radio in Francisco’s car, announcing the Taggart Transcon tunnel disaster. Hundreds dead, the national rail system in complete disarray. In a fit of gross incompetence, an Army munitions train was sent into the tunnel after the poisoned flagship one, and they collided, destroying the tunnel completely.
And before Frankie can stop her, Dagny sprints down the hill and towards her car, compelled to return to society and save her life’s work.
Cut to NYC, Taggart Terminal. That rat bastard Jim is sealed up in his office, an unsigned resignation letter on his desk like a loaded gun. He is trying very hard not to think about the situation around him, block out the reality of this failure and his inevitable public shaming. He hates everything. Literally.
But most specifically he hates Dagny, and suddenly races to the VP office, assaulting Eddie Willers and demanding to know where she went when she quit. This is all her fault, for quitting!
Eddie keeps his cool, admits that he knows and that he will not tell Jim under any circumstances, because Jim is an asshole. Eddie’s glad Dagny left and he hopes she doesn’t come back. Yesss, Eddie’s testicles are finally descending!
Except this is Dagny’s cue to storm back into the office, totally undermining Eddie’s stand. She immediately ropes Eddie into her corner suite where they can take charge and get the nation’s core infrastructure back online.
Jim, still in the midst of a nervous breakdown of his own, and clearly getting no attention from the useful people, flees back to his office to destroy the resignation letter and ponder the impotent void of his personality.
Then Dagny and Eddie’s cram session is interrupted by a phone call from Wesley Mouch, who has already heard of her return from “vacation,” and lugubriously promises her any legal waivers she may need, despite all the laws she broke by quitting. She tells him to fuck off forever and send any further messages through his secretary.
While she’s at the phone, she calls Hank and they commiserate about how they’re gluttons for punishment, making sure the world keeps spinning when the world has gotten as crappy as all this. They agree to meet later that night for a therapeutic dose of kinky fuckery.
And now take everything that just happened in this chapter and make all the philosophical points sound about ten times douchier, and that’ll be roughly like how Ayn wrote it.
PREVIOUSLY: The earth has been exhausted, humanity has been consumed. Our workaholic heroes are determined to keep the lights on, but all their friends are giving up and it’s making them very cranky.
In the wake of the latest wave of pirate attacks, the economy has collapsed… again… some more. That’s been going on for 500 pages already, but whatever. Ayn makes sure to recap all of the specific new industry failures in excruciating and unnecessary detail.
But the only one we care about is Transcon. Dagny is sitting in on a board meeting, biting her tongue while all the inept directors and spineless managers talk around the subject at hand, which is that they’re going to have to dismantle the Galt Line and use the rMetal on it to reinforce their backbone transcontinental track. Some anonymous G-Man is there and Jim appeals to him to pull some strings, but it’s clear the Taggart name no longer carries the weight in Washington that it did before.
Dagny calls them out for being pathetic cowards who won’t talk straight about what they’re doing, which is cannibalizing her life’s work right in front of her. The board is like, “Oh thank God, somebody finally said it. Shall we vote on Ms. Taggart’s proposal to cannibalize her life’s work? And the ‘ayes’ I have it!”
Utterly crushed, Dagny leaves the building that night to find Francisco waiting for her outside. As always, she is distrustful but finds his presence compelling and comforting. In fact, he explicitly claims that he’s there to comfort her, and she relents to be wined and dined.
So over some very expensive wine and, presumably, a bottomless basket of garlic bread, they reflect on and idealize their illustrious ancestors. Dagny recounts an insanely ahistorical legend about her great-grandfather Nat, who single-handedly built a railroad bridge across the Mississip’ in defiance of the law, because everybody knows how skeptical the 19th century U.S. government was about expanding railroad infrastructure.
In turn, Frankie reflects on his ancestor Sebastian who had to abandon his true love in the Old World, but rebuilt his fortune in the New World and then reclaimed her after fifteen years.
Dagny can’t really handle the subtext of that anecdote and turns the conversation back to the John Galt Line. Francisco had warned her that she’d regret building it, and now she does. Now that apathetic meme, “Oh well, who is John Galt?” rings in her ears more than ever.
Francisco offers another mythic metaphor for who Galt is, describing him as “Prometheus who changed his mind.” How’s that, you ask? Well apparently Prometheus eventually got tired of being disemboweled every day. He broke free of his chains and then took fire back from mankind, because… they tortured him? Jesus, Ayn doesn’t even know how this myth goes.
The gods tortured Prometheus. Mankind thought he was pretty cool. They wrote a play about it. So why would Prometheus take fire back from the people, Ayn? Sounds like a real dick move. I think the moral of this version of the myth is that John Galt’s morals make for a shitty version of this myth.
Anyway Dagny thanks Francisco for being kind to her in her darkest hour, and he’s a real gentleman about it, because Francisco is CLASSY.
Cut to an entirely pointless scene in Colorado. Dags and Hank Rearden are doing some bargain-hunting, buying up all the industrial equipment they can find from all the failing businesses. It seems like only ten chapter ago this state was a booming hub of vitality. But now, they see abandoned buildings and machines and feel heartbroken. They also see ghost towns full of starving people and feel disgusted. And fuck both of you.
The Transcon station is a mob scene as everybody in the area wants to get out of Dodge on the last train to ever run on the Galt Line. Luckily for Dagny, Hank shoves aside the diseased rabble and they get in their private car.
Back in New York City, the team of Taggart & Rearden, Evil Edition, meets for dinner. Lillian Rearden is coy and Jim Taggart is smarmy, and underneath the fakery, Jim is asking Lillian for help. He’s lost favor in Washington, but everybody thinks that he and Hank are best buds because Hank showed up at his wedding (thanks to Lily). If Lily can convince Hank to ally with Jim politically, they could pull some weight and help save rMetal & Transcon from the circling vultures of nationalization.
Lillian, infatuated with the idea of being the one holding the power for once, accepts the challenge. She goes back to her hotel room to lounge and luxuriate while planning how she will manipulate Hank into agreeing, but gets thrown for a loop when she discovers that Hank’s deviated from his official schedule and realizes he must be with his mistressright now.
So she books it to Taggart Terminal with the intention of catching a glimpse of The Other Woman. Hank is surprised to see her, and she’s throwing herself a pity party about how selfless she is, when Dagny strides out of her car and the reality of the affair hits Lillian like a ton of bricks.
When the Reardens arrive back at their usual New York hotel suite, the marital facade crumbles immediately. Lily talks mad shit about Dags, lashes out at Hank, demands he end it with her.
But Hank has finally cut himself completely free of this toxic relationship. He’s like, “I would rather see you dead than quit Dagny,” and “You can get a divorce whenever you want, just say the word.” But Lil can’t stand that she has so little power left over him, no way to hurt him, and again declares that she will never grant him a divorce.
She storms off and Hank sighs in relief. He understands now that having it all out on the table is a good thing, an immense catharsis. Like a great shit.