Back to work, fresh off the phone to make an appointment with Rearden, Dagny receives an unexpected visitor.

He was young, tall and something about him suggested violence, though she could not say what it was, because the first trait one grasped about him was a quality of self-control that seemed almost arrogant. He had dark eyes, disheveled hair, and his clothes were expensive, but worn as if he did not care or notice what he wore.

Ellis Wyatt,” he said in self-introduction.

She leapt to her feet, involuntarily. She understood why nobody had or could have stopped him in the counter office.

He is at her desk because he understands she’s the only one there with a brain. He is there in response to the news that the Phoenix Durango is being forced off line. His ultimatum:

“If you have the intelligence to keep this corrupt organization functioning at all, you have the intelligence to judge this for yourself. We both know that if Taggart Transcontinental runs trains in Colorado the way it did five years ago, it will ruin me. I know that this is what you people intend to do. You expect to feed off me while you can and to find another carcass to pick dry after you have finished mine. That is the policy of most of mankind today. So here is my ultimatum: it is now in your power to destroy me; I may have to go; but if I go, I’ll make sure that I take all the rest of you along with me.”

Dagny, bound to her own sense of honor, cannot bare her heart and swear allegiance to this kindred soul. All she can do is take responsibility. She does so simply and directly.

Wyatt seems slightly taken aback. In a good way. “All right. Thank you. Good day.”

We meet Hank Rearden, our proposed beacon of unappreciated light.

A nameless professor of economics muses, “Of what importance is an individual in the titanic collective achievements of our industrial age?”

A journalist notes, “Hank Reardon is the kind of man who sticks his name on everything he touches. You may, from this, form your own opinion about the character of Hank Reardon.”

We read that, “Ever since he could remember, he had been told that his face was ugly, because it was unyielding and cruel, because it was expressionless.”

Hank Rearden has lived a focused and driven life. He has sacrificed everything, overcome exhaustion, and accomplished much. He wants to be loved for his achievements; his building of an empire that produces steel where no-one else could, and his search for a newer, better material.

Today, he poured the first order of a new metal that everyone said was impossible to make, and then everyone apparently agreed never to use. He stood silently alone watching the metal pour, with apparently only one guy – still distant – who acknowledged his triumph with a silent salute.

We get the idea that he dutifully supports his family, including his mother and brother, and gets nothing in return. It is suggested that what they offer – human connection – would not be valued by Hank even if they didn’t seem so shallow and spiteful in their practice of it.

Outspoken in her resentment of his material focus, his mother nags that he’s a selfish, selfish man. At the very least, it seems, he has neglected to invest his time in their concerns. It seems that Hank might have conveniently forgotten dinner with this mother’s friend, more than got caught up in his triumph. This friend, we read, organizes underprivileged youth to learn craftsmanship. One wonders why he wouldn’t support that if he values people being put to some industry, particularly one that might use his metal. Perhaps their industry isn’t self-driven enough. Perhaps he feels the effort is a waste of time that is beyond his concern. We are generally asked to agree that his family’s interests – this woman and the children she teaches, his wife’s social engagements — are empty vanities compared to his substantive life. They, in turn, find his passion unsophisticated.

“…it’s just that a man of culture is bored with the alleged wonders of purely material ingenuity.”

Thus, we are offered an opposition: Those of material things, which Rand argues are all that matter; and those of human relations which, it is suggested, are baseless figments of value. His mother is mad because he broke a promise.  One gets the impression that he often says, “Yeah, sure. I’ll be there,” and then doesn’t. Based on the conversation with his wife who asks if he can possibly commit three months in advance to their wedding anniversary, it is possible that he consistently warns that he won’t commit and they just assume he should and hold him to it, anyway.

Perhaps a phone call was in order today. One might think that even a self-absorbed man would have made that call, just to allow himself the luxury of uttering the words of his accomplishment but, he didn’t. Instead, he walked leisurely home through the dark countryside savoring his feat.

“…he despised memories as a pointless indulgence. But then he understood that he thought of them tonight in honor of the piece of metal in his pocket. Then he permitted himself to look…”

We are offered a montage of empire building. We are brought to understand that this new innovation is apparently ultimately Hank Rearden’s alone…

“…the nights spent in the workshop of his home, over sheets of paper which he filled with formulas, then tore up in angry failure”

“ …the days when the young scientists of the small staff he had chosen to assist him waited for instructions like soldiers ready for a hopeless battle, having exhausted their ingenuity, still willing, but silent, with the unspoken sentence hanging in the air: ‘Mr. Rearden, it can’t be done.’”

We are led to believe the accomplishment was all his; that he’s the only one of value here and that is why – even more than the passion and the joy of accomplishment and the self-identification that Hank has in his work – that is why his name should shine in giant letters above all his factories:

“He thought of the days behind him. He wished it were possible to light a neon sign above them saying: Rearden Life.”

 

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