Chapter II – Part II

January 28, 2016

Hank, while willing to indulge his family with resources, neither understands them nor seems particularly interested in trying. They all live in his house and he seems, for his part, to hold a live and let live philosophy. His passion consumes him and is for him a source of boundless joy. It’s his purpose; his meaning. He vaguely wonders why his relations don’t have that; why they seem to leach to him…One suspects he’s not a jealous man; that if his wife came to him and said she had to seek God in the desert, or study chimpanzees in the jungle, or become President, he might not share her passion but he’d enjoy that she had one. He seems neither jealous nor dictatorial. His wife seems free.

His wife speaks as though she has more compassion for her husband’s narrowly focused and otherwise absent-minded ways than his mother. These words drip of insincerity. Hank made something for her today. This bracelet made of Rearden Metal was the first thing cast. It might parallel to a child’s heartfelt homemade craft in another story. Here, though, it is for “an abstraction called ‘his wife’ – not of the woman to whom he was married.  He felt a stab of regret, wishing he had not made the bracelet, then a wave of self-reproach for the regret”

We can see why the gift may be more trouble than it’s worth, as his lack of interest in understanding their feelings is clearly returned. His wife and mother see no value or heart in the gift, and intimate that it is merely a symbol of the chains with which he holds them. Whether or not he considers them to be chattel, they feel that they are. Perhaps the inclusion of this trinket is intended to bring us to the conclusion that those who feel they are treated as property are really empty drains on their supposed captors’ souls; that these people are only trapped because they themselves are worthless.

The brother, Philip, is painted as Hank’s opposite: a man for whom rising is an unwelcome chore. He tells Hank, “You ought to have some fun…Otherwise you’ll become dull and narrow”

The irony presented is that Hank is the vibrant one; infused with passion for the work that has defined his life — his self-made industrial empire. One is brought to picture him as lit from within by fires of a similar illumination and power to those that melt his ore. Philip, on the other hand, is listless, dull, and shapeless. He is exhausted from a day of fundraising for some exceptionally vague movement or charity from people he doesn’t seem to have any respect for. Beyond disdaining his donors, Philip claims no personal care for the effort he’s working on. In fact, he seems to espouse that gaining personal satisfaction from the effort is somehow akin to skimming off the top of the donation.

It seems that Ayn Rand believes all social progress movements are founded on the idea that the individual is valueless unto himself and should never seek any personal reward. But…who goes out on the limb of advocacy without some passion in their belly for it? If you eschew personal reward and are not seeking to escape personal threat, it’s the reward of knowing you’ve done something you believe in that drives. What’s the motivation otherwise? There is no gun here. Philip seems to enjoy no power. The character is presented as lacking any motivation at all.

Hank offers a large sum to Philip for his charity, motivated by his own sense of accomplishment and a desire to spread his joy. Philip refuses his check and asks for cash instead on the grounds that his movement does not wish to be associated with Hank Reardon. We still don’t really understand what Hank has actually done to earn such a bad reputation. No accusations of worker mistreatment or environmental abuse. Just undefined accusations of ruthlessness and arrogance that lead us to believe that people just don’t seem to like his competence or success.

Perhaps it’s an unintended irony that neither Rand nor her character understands Philip at all…Rand dismisses him out of hand. Hank shares her lack of interest in his brother’s motivations. He seems to simply support whatever it is he hopes will help Philip find his own personal drive. He feeds him, houses him and pays for his education, but is emotionally detached. Rand doesn’t care either, and would aver that Hank’s investment in his family is a patent waste of time.

His family, it seems, agrees: “You think if you pay the bill, that’s enough, don’t you? Money! That’s all you know. And all you give us is money. Have you ever given us any time?”

It is clearly not Rand’s intent, but one must wonder…would these people be healthier had they been given less money and more time?…

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