Chapter III — Part V

February 16, 2016

As much as she resents physical limitations, Dagny is tired and must leave work. The author notes that one more employee remains – Eddie. She nods at him, and exits.

As in the train, Dagny is not the type for elevators or private ways…she prefers to take the main concourse of Taggart Transcontinental and pay homage to the illustrious founder of the railway, Nat Taggart. We learn that Dagny would prefer he wasn’t her ancestor, as blood seems to imply some unearned obligation that she disdains. He is, regardless, her one revered idol. The statue captures him as a young man ready to take on the world. It is a posture with which Dagny resonates and in which she finds her deepest joy.

Here, Nat’s rags to riches biography is offered. Like Hank, he is much maligned, though Rand asserts that “no penny of his wealth had been obtained by force or fraud.” We are to understand that Taggart spoke in no grand terms about “public good”. Rather, he offered a service for a price and let no one stand in his way. It is suggested that he did possibly murder a legislator for trying to revoke a covenant and short sell his stock. Indicted but not found guilty, the act apparently solved that kind of problem. He did also once throw a government man down three flights stairs for offering him a loan. Seems a bit much…are we to assume the entity was applying force in trying to make this deal? Given Rand’s trust in government, we might…

Clearly Nat suffered no handouts, nor governmental favors nor, she says, loans. One imagines, then, that the bankers whose doors he knocked on were offered more straight forward investment opportunities…but…what’s the difference beyond semantics and accounting nuances, really, assuming there’s a return either way? His confidence? Perhaps, or maybe he just didn’t like “evil” government opportunities. It’s certainly hard to imagine how a man who came from nothing could alone amass the fortune and more needed to build a transcontinental transportation network.

Nat did find himself in a tight spot where he needed a loan once. After throwing the government man down the stairs for the crime of offering assistance, he offered his wife up as collateral to his apparently more worthy arch enemy of a millionaire. With her consent. As an heiress who had already been disowned for marrying Nat when he was still a poor young upstart, apparently this kind of adventure turned her on.

An admiring Dagny grants herself the great, restful luxury of looking up briefly at the stature.

She then goes to buy a pack of smokes from a cultured man who used to produce cigarettes but went bankrupt and has since stood in his stand, no living family but his pride. A connoisseur of tobacco products, he collects them worldwide. When Dagny asks how his collections growing, however, we learn the market has dried considerably. Businesses are folding.

“People aren’t making anything new anymore.”

She says it’s only temporary and he looks at her. He talks of how he relishes the idea of fire, captured and held between a man’s fingers, romanticizing the quality of thought fostered by meditating over curling smoke. He sees the spot of light as symbolizing the flame of ideas,

“Do they ever think?”…Dagny recoils at the horror of this involuntary utterance; her great fear. He catches her start, but doesn’t call her on it (apparently, for these things, it’s okay not to look one in the eye)…but shares a parallel thought about an unpleasant change in humanity:

“’I’ve watched them here for twenty years and I’ve seen the change. They used to rush through here and it was wonderful to watch, it was the hurry of men who knew where they were going and were eager to get there. Now they’re hurrying because they’re afraid. It’s not a purpose that drives them, it’s fear. They’re not going anywhere, they’re escaping. And I don’t think they know what it is they want to escape. They don’t look at one another. They jerk when brushed against. They smile too much, but it’s an ugly kind of smiling: it’s not joy, it’s pleading. I don’t know what it is that’s happening to the world.’ He shrugged, ‘Oh, well. who is John Galt?’”

Dagny recoils at the phrase, both for its lack of clear meaning, and for what people seem to mean when they say it.

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