Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers — Part I

March 20, 2016

“Motive power  — thought Dagny, looking up at the Taggart Building in the twilight. – was its first need;  motive power, to keep that building standing; movement to keep it immovable. It did not rest on piles driven into granite; it rested on the engines that rolled across a continent.”

Dagny has returned from a personal visit to those who should have provided those locomotives some year or so ago. The man spoke for two hours, seemed to find direct questions a sign of ill breeding, and in return had no clear answers to offer. Dagny shudders at the sight of precision machinery left to rot…the type of thing capable of magnificent works that it seems no one is any longer capable of taking care of, let alone producing.

She returns to the office to find a shaken Eddie who has more bad news: McNamara, the man who was to lay the Rio Norte’s tracks, is gone. With contracts left unfulfilled, the best contractor in the country has disappeared. No explanation. He just up and quit. Dagny is desperate to scream, but retains her composure. She’ll figure something out.

Hours later, she leaves the office. Normally satisfied to be the architect of her own satisfaction, this day has left her starving to see something of merit that someone other than she has created. The streets of New York offer nothing…screeching noise called a symphony, a book called “The Vulture is Molting”  about the depravity of corporate greed (which we are to believe is pure slander out to trash noble ones like her), a mindless movie, and a young woman with her dress hanging too low…not in daring but in disarray, the young man holding her arm not to romance her but “out to write obscenities on fences”.

She retreats to her apartment and the Fourth Concerto of Richard Halley. Through this art, Rand speaks her anguish:

“The Concerto was a great cry of rebellion,. It was a ‘No’ flung at some vast process of torture, a denial of suffering, a denial that held the agony of the struggle to break free. The sounds were like a voice saying: ‘There is no necessity for pain – why, then, is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept its necessity? – we, who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom?….The sounds of torture became defiance, the statement of agony became a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything “was worth enduring, even this. It was the song of rebellion – and of a desperate quest.”

…”The story of his life had been like a summary written to damn greatness by showing the price one pays for it. It had been a procession of years spent in garrets and basements, years that had taken the gray tinge of the walls imprisoning a man whose music overflowed with violent color. It had been the gray of a struggle against long flights of unlighted tenement stairs, against frozen plumbing, against the price of a sandwich in an ill-smelling delicatessen store, against the faces of men who listened to music, their eyes empty. It had been a struggle without the relief of violence, without the recognition of finding a conscious enemy, with only a deaf wall to batter, a wall of the most effective soundproofing: indifference, that swallowed blows, chords and screams – a battle of silence, for a man who could give to sounds a greater eloquence than they had ever carried – the silence of obscurity, of loneliness, of the nights when some rare orchestra played one of his works and he looked at the darkness, knowing that his soul went in trembling, widening circles from a radio tower through the air of the city, but there were no receivers tuned to hear it.

The critics, it seemed, thought his heroics and ecstasy passé.

His life had been a summary of the lives of all the men whose reward is a monument in a public park a hundred years after the time when a reward can matter.

However…Halley, it seems, lived to see a small taste glory. When he was 24, he wrote an opera. Phaethon. This was an adaptation of the myth where the reckless son of a permissive father did not crash and set the Earth afire, but succeeded. The booing and catcalls back then led to a depressing search for answers which he could not find.

At 43, however, a second opening night met a far different response. Dagny was there as the applause overtook the opera hall and spilled out into the streets. Halley stood there, with an odd and questioning look on his face. The next day critics credited his work “as the product and expression of the greatness of the people”. They say that it’s only right he should have suffered so long; that his suffering was proud and noble. Soon after, Halley quits, selling rights that could have ensured him a comfortable retirement for a modest sum and disappearing without a trace.

…Speaking of suffering, Dagny, lost in the brief ecstasy of this kindred composer, happens to glance at that paper she purchased. Francisco D’Anconia is coming to town. She tries to resist reading it, especially not to the music, but cannot. In it she reads that he says he’s coming for some hat check girl and a good liverwurst sandwich. He will grant an interview with the press, but has nothing to say about a divorce trial that he in the center of, having apparently been an attempted murderess’ lover and inspiration. The press is delighted. They thought he’d avoid this scandal. When asked about the allegations he says that he never denies anything, and adds one more reason for coming: “I want to witness the farce.”

Apparently, while neither the crumbling railroad nor her crippling solitude in competence can break our heroine, this guy can. Dagny collapses into silent, shaking tears.

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