Dagny Taggart

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Dagny Taggart (born 1982), in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, was the Vice-President in Charge of Operations of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad. More than any other single person, she tried to keep the railroad, and the larger society, moving when it was suffering from the double threat of crippling regulation and a "brain drain" of the best and brightest minds in industry and engineering. Yet, in the end, she joined that "brain drain," otherwise known as the strike of the men of the mind called by John Galt—a man she once swore that she would kill on sight.

Spoiler warning
This article contains important plot information


Childhood and adolescence

Dagny grew up in the family compound in up-state New York State. Her brother, James Taggart, was the one whom the family always assumed would become President of the railroad, which he did. But even he noticed something unusual about her: though she was named for the wife of the founder of the TTRR, Nathaniel Taggart, she reminded people more of Nathaniel than of Dagny Taggart the Elder. Dagny regarded that as a compliment.

Dagny and James did not play together often. On the one occasion that the novel records that they did play together, James Taggart was given a small motorboat to play with. His first lesson in driving it did not go well. In frustration, James turned the vessel over to a visitor to the compound—Francisco d'Anconia. Francisco, in sharp contrast, handled the vessel as easily as if he had been trained in it, though he had never before handled a similar vessel. The purposive manner in which he steered the tiny vessel impressed Dagny, who had been watching the entire drama.

From that day forward, Francisco became a regular visitor to the Taggart family compound, and he and Dagny played together often, along with one other child, a younger boy named Eddie Willers. The three would often build some simple structures, and Francisco always took charge. As they grew older, Francisco and Dagny grew romantically interested in one another, and eventually would become lovers.

That would come later. Dagny was nine years old when she confidently predicted that she would run the TTRR.

The first break

In 1996, Francisco went away, at the age of sixteen, to the Patrick Henry University in Cleveland, Ohio (not to be confused with the real-life Patrick Henry College in northern Virginia) and earned a degree in physics and philosophy, an unusual double major. Dagny turned sixteen in 1998, and took a job as the night telephone operator in the Taggart station in nearby Rockdale.

In May of 1999, Dagny's mother insisted on throwing a "coming-out party" for Dagny. By all accounts, Dagny was as stunning as the original Dagny Taggart, the wife of her ancestor Nathaniel, had once been. But Dagny found the party a great crashing bore. Thankfully, Francisco had come back from his junior year at PHU, so the evening was not completely wasted. In fact, they would become "an item" within a month.

Francisco finished at PHU in 2000. Upon his return to New York for one last summer with Dagny, he was very enthusiastic about his plans for the family copper mining combine that he would inherit, D'Anconia Copper SA. In 2003, Francisco's father died, and now Francisco became President of D'Anconia Copper SA.

Dagny started advancing in the Operating Department of the TTRR. She and Francisco continued their romance for another four years. But then his entire demeanor changed. On a March night in 2007, a night that Dagny was never to forget, Francisco talked very urgently, even tearfully, of a meeting he had had with another man whom he would not identify. He begged Dagny to give him a reason to say that this man was wrong, but would not say what the subject was, or how that other man might be right or wrong. Then, suddenly, he changed his mind again and said that he had only to look at Dagny to understand that the other man was right (again, without saying about what) and that he would have to do what he would now do.

Dagny would not see Francisco d'Anconia again for many years. But very soon she would hear shocking gossip about him, to the effect that he had become, quite simply, a playboy, and his company was beginning to suffer from a lack of leadership that she would never expect from him.

The San Sebastián Line

Four years later, Dagny and Jim's father died. The Board of Directors gave Jim the Presidency, this although Jim's background had been strictly in Public Relations, not in Operations or in any other department that did the real work of running the railroad. Jim Taggart's first policy was to build a new railroad line into the People's State of Mexico, called the San Sebastián Line. Dagny knew at once that building anything into Mexico was a big mistake. She knew that the People's State of Mexico would never honor any guarantees of property rights, and would inevitably nationalize the line and the San Sebastián Mines that Francisco had started in the Sierra Madre Mountains. (Actually, Dagny would not figure out until much later why Francisco d'Anconia would drive a mine into those mountains. Every reputable geologist said that the prospects of finding anything in those mountains were slim to none.)

Two members of the Board of Directors, the chief engineer, and the Vice-President of Operations resigned in protest. Jim gave the Operating Vice-Presidency to a friend of his own. Dagny soldiered on as that man's assistant. During that time, construction on the San Sebastián Line made little, if any, progress. Then on September 15, 2014 (nearly two years before the index date), Dagny gave Jim an ultimatum: make her Vice-President of Operations in her own right, or accept her resignation. He gave in. Once installed as Operating Vice-President, she hired her old childhood friend Eddie Willers to be her special assistant. She then found a contractor who would build the San Sebastián Line within a year. It opened on New Year's Day of 2016, but Dagny did not attend the opening.

The Rio Norte Line

In the fall of 2016, Dagny Taggart took in hand the renovation of a railroad line that had fallen into severe disrepair, the Rio Norte Line in Colorado. After personally inspecting the line, she conceived a twelve-month plan to restore it to proper operating condition. As part of that plan, she ordered new rail from Henry Rearden's Rearden Steel Company, and indeed took another, more radical step in that order: she ordered rail made of Rearden Metal, a new alloy of copper and iron that Henry Rearden had recently invented and announced.

James Taggart was appalled, chiefly because no one had used Rearden Metal before, and no one believed that any metal as lightweight as Rearden Metal would be, would also be as strong as conventional steel. He was also upset because Dagny had taken it upon herself to place an order with Rearden, when James wanted to reserve his business for the Associated Steel Company, run by Orren Boyle. But not only was Dagny impatient with Orren Boyle's chronic inability to fill any sort of order, but she was also eager to try Henry Rearden's new Metal that would actually save the railroad a lot of money while also being easier to work with and better able to perform under the stresses required of it.

Dagny also sensed that the People's State of Mexico would move at once to nationalize the San Sebastián Line. In anticipation of that, she started moving as much rolling stock and as many locomotives out of Mexico as she could. She cut service to one passenger train a day (pulled by a wood-burning steam locomotive, not a modern Diesel-electric locomotive) and one freight train every other day. Jim found out about these service cuts on one of his Washington political trips, and tried to order Dagny to rescind the cuts, but she refused.

Not long afterward, the People's State of Mexico did indeed nationalize the mines and the line. James Taggart's response was to take personal credit for the service cuts and the withdrawal of locomotives and rolling stock, and to call for the resignations of the economist who had written the report recommending the San Sebastian Line, and the TTRR's representative in Mexico, this although whether either man could have done anything to stop the nationalization was debatable at best.

Though the nationalization did not surprise Dagny in the least, the next revelation did: that the San Sebastian Mines were worthless. Francisco d'Anconia had in effect driven his mines into a mountain that yielded nothing of value. Dagny went to see Francisco at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel in New York City, where he had a permanent hotel suite. Francisco refused to explain his seemingly negligent action, and instead talked airily of how surprised and embarrassed the Mexican authorities must have been when they discovered the truth. He then left her with this clue:

Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you find yourself faced with an apparent contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.

That statement, however, left Dagny as puzzled as she had been before, because Francisco simply would not explain his behavior.

The Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule

James probably thought that he could forestall Dagny's Rio Norte project by rendering it unnecessary. So he personally lobbied his friends in the National Association of Railroads in Washington, DC for the passage of a new industry regulation, known as the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule. Under that Rule, a competitor would not be allowed to take "unfair" advantage of another competitor who was already the first to provide service to any given region. In short, the first railroad in any region would be the guaranteed monopoly, and rate wars (which in real life led to Pyrrhic victories of some railroads over others) would not be allowed.

The passage of that Rule forced Taggart Transcontinental's one remaining competitor along the Rio Norte Line, the Phoenix-Durango Railroad, to cease operations within nine months. Dagny encouraged the owner of the PDRR to fight the Rule, but he would not, and even suggested that he was going to retire.

Not long after that, Ellis Wyatt, owner of the Wyatt Oil Company, famous for extracting oil from shale, came to see Dagny. In a very angry mood, Wyatt told Dagny that if he did not get the transportation he needed within nine months, he was quite prepared to "take all the rest of you down with me." Dagny did not bother to ask what he meant or even whether his threat was credible. Instead she assured him that he would get the transportation he needed, and on schedule.

Dagny went to explain to Henry Rearden that she would have to rush the order, and told him why. Rearden charged her extra per ton, and Dagny accepted that as a required cost of business. She realized at once that she had earned his respect by so acting.

The dinner party

On December 10, 2016, Henry Rearden's wife Lillian gave a dinner party at their home in honor of their wedding anniversary. Dagny was invited, and attended. That occasion was memorable to Dagny for two reasons:

  1. Several of the ladies discussed a series of loud noises coming from the Delaware Bay region the night before, noises that had been reported as thunder. At least one lady was convinced that the noises were not thunder at all, but Coast Guard gunfire. The United States Coast Guard had spotted the ship commanded by the notorious buccaneer Ragnar Danneskjöld in Delaware Bay and were trying to capture him, but he escaped.
  2. Lillian appeared wearing a chain-link bracelet made of Rearden Metal. Dagny overheard Lillian saying that she would gladly sell the bracelet if someone were to offer her a more valuable bracelet in exchange. Dagny, irked at Lillian for not showing more appreciation for her husband's work and invention, stepped forward and offered her own diamond-studded bracelet. Lillian was too shocked to refuse, and the bracelets changed hands. Henry Rearden, in a tight-lipped manner, said that Dagny's gesture was unnecessary, but Dagny felt no regret.

The Rio Norte Line, continued

Dagny continued to press forward on her plan to renovate the Rio Norte Line. The controversy went from bad to worse, especially when Henry Rearden convinced her that instead of shoring up a tottering steel bridge, she should knock it down entirely and build a new bridge entirely out of Rearden Metal.

The controversy grew from the mildly annoying to the absurd. Finally, the State Science Institute issued a report that effectively damned Rearden Metal with faint praise, as "unproved." Dagny traveled to Lyme, New Hampshire, to speak to the Institute's director, Robert Stadler, and urge him to reopen the investigation. Stadler admitted that Rearden Metal was everything that Henry Rearden said it was, but said that in "matters of state," the report should read as it was. On this occasion, Stadler told her a story that made little sense then, but would make perfect sense later on: that while he was chairman of physics at Patrick Henry University, he had had three pupils who "were the kind of reward a teacher prays for." But two of them, Francisco d'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjöld, had disgraced themselves; one was now a playboy, and the other was a bandit. She asked Stadler what happened to the third student, and Stadler replied that perhaps he was a "second assistant bookkeeper somewhere."

When Dagny realized that she had lost the support of the TTRR board of directors, she announced her intention to complete the Rio Norte Line personally, by buying the right-of-way from the TTRR and setting up her own railroad firm to complete the project. She called this project the John Galt Line, after a name that she had heard repeated often as a question without apparent meaning. To her pleasant surprise, she found the money easy to raise. Much of it came from Ellis Wyatt and other Colorado businessmen who looked forward to the renovation and were very much intrigued by Dagny's penchant for innovation. But Henry Rearden became the largest single investor in John Galt, Incorporated, despite Dagny's protests.

But even by organizing her own railroad, she could do nothing about another problem that kept frustrating her plans. Every time she tried to subcontract a key portion of the work she needed to have done, the subcontractor would quit doing business, and usually vanish without a trace. Back in September, she had lost one of her own executives, Owen Kellogg, the same way: he said that he was quitting and refused to say where he was going. Dagny gradually came to conclude that this raft of people quitting and vanishing was not coincidental. Some unknown person was telling those people to quit and vanish. She came to call this person "The Destroyer" and swore to kill him if she ever found him.

The opening

Eventually the time came to open the John Galt Line for regular service. As the day approached, Dagny and Henry Rearden held a press conference, in which they both pledged to ride in the locomotive that would pull the very first train to travel the new line. She had no problem finding customers to place cargoes on that train.

The day came on July 22, 2017. The first train made the run successfully. This brought an instant change of attitude in the whole country. Whereas first people had been afraid that the rails and bridge of Rearden Metal would fail, now they couldn't get enough of Rearden Metal.

That night, Dagny and Henry stayed together at Ellis Wyatt's house. And on that occasion, the two began what would be a long and passionate love affair.

The motor investigation

The opening of the John Galt Line started a boom in Colorado. Many businesses relocated there, lured by the presence of a reliable railway line and by the very limited government that Colorado had at the time (at least, in this alternate history of America). That prompted the nation's unions and political lobbies to consider certain acts of legislation and regulation that would essentially destroy the incentives that Colorado now represented.

In the middle of these events (Monday, September 4, 2017), Dagny and Henry took a driving vacation to Wisconsin. There, Dagny spotted the remains of the Twentieth Century Motor Company, which once had had a branch line served by the TTRR, and suggested that they stop there. They did, and Dagny strolled through the desolate and abandoned factory. But she soon was calling excitedly to Henry to join her, after she had found the wrecked prototype of what could only be an electrostatic motor.

Dagny sought to track down the inventor of this motor, because she knew that such a motor would revolutionize railroading (and stationary power generation, and shipbuilding, and many other industries besides). But the trail of the inventor seemed hopelessly tangled. For one thing, the current ownership of the building was in dispute, after an unscrupulous real-estate dealer had sold the building to one set of investors while also pledging it as collateral for a loan. Dagny and Henry first visited the immediate previous owner of the building, who was the mayor of the nearby town of Rome. From him they learned the name of the last banker to lend money to the owner before him.

Henry Rearden returned to his mills, and Dagny traveled to Washington. There she saw the former banker, Eugene Lawson, now an official with the Bureau of Economic Planning and Natural Resources. He referred her to the last owner of the plant, one Lee Hunsacker, a man now reduced to penury and working (though not very conscientiously) as a live-in cook for an elderly couple. That man mentioned that he had taken over the plant after the original founder, Gerald "Jed" Starnes, had died, and his three children "ran it into the ground pretty fast." He also mentioned that before he had gotten a loan from Gene Lawson's bank (the failure of which had destroyed the factory town), he had applied for a lone from Michael "Midas" Mulligan, a famous Chicago banker. Mulligan had refused the loan, and Hunsacker had sued him. The trial judge had charged the jury to find for Mulligan, but that verdict had been reversed on appeal. The trouble was that after Hunsacker had won the judgment, the Mulligan Bank had wiped itself out in what was remembered as a "controlled run," and Midas Mulligan had disappeared.

Dagny went on to search for Gerald Starnes' children. One of them was dead, a suicide. Another was in jail, and in fact in a holding cell for men arrested for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Their sister, Ivy Starnes, lived alone and affected a very imperious attitude concerning redistribution of wealth. But none of them knew anything about any motor.

But finally Ivy Starnes gave Dagny the name of the chief engineer at the Twentieth Century: William Hastings. She also mentioned that Hastings and his assistant had quit the company shortly after the Starnes heirs had taken it over. Dagny next learned that Hastings was dead, but his widow told Dagny that the actual inventor of the motor was Hastings' young assistant, who had urged him to quit the firm and to quit working in general.

The last person whom Dagny spoke to, in trying to find the young engineer, was the operator of a short-order diner in Wyoming, recommended to her by Mrs. Hastings. To her amazement, the owner of the diner was none other than Hugh Akston, who had been Chairman of Philosophy at PHU and who also remembered the "three pupils" that Robert Stadler had spoken of. He said nothing else, except to make the same statement that Francisco d'Anconia had made earlier: "contradictions do not exist."

The destruction of Colorado

Dagny's travels took her back to Denver, Colorado, and to her horror she learned that all of the laws and regulations, or "directives," that James Taggart had boasted to her about, were in force. Quickly she boarded the next westbound train to Wyatt Junction, hoping to see Ellis Wyatt before the story reached him. Fifteen minutes into the journey, the train stopped. Dagny got out and beheld a horrifying sight: the entire face of a mountain, the very mountain that Ellis Wyatt owned, was a sea of flame. This came to be known as Wyatt's Torch, after it proved impossible to extinguish. She learned later that only one artifact remained on Ellis Wyatt's property: a sign that read,

I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours.

Reverse-engineering the motor

Dagny returned to New York City to continue to do her job as best she could. She and Henry Rearden continued to see one another in Dagny's apartment in the city.

Colorado was collapsing, of course, so Dagny pinned most of her hopes on reverse-engineering the electrostatic motor she had found in Wisconsin. In May of 2018, she called Robert Stadler, described the motor to him as best she could, and asked for his recommendation. Stadler professed amazement at the concept of an electrostatic motor and suggested that a mind that could invent such a thing belonged in "pure science," a declaration that might not have made much sense to Dagny at the time. Stadler then gave her the name and contact information of an engineer, one Quentin Daniels, who might be able to reconstruct the motor.

Dagny contacted Daniels, who now was the only man left at the Utah Institute of Technology, that had closed a year ago. She turned over to him such notes as she had. The ruined prototype remained in the old generator room in the bowels of the Taggart Terminal.

The D'Anconia Copper Crash

On September 2, 2018, Dagny and Henry attended the wedding reception for her brother Jim and a young woman named Cherryl Brooks. That reception broke up early when Francisco d'Anconia made a shocking display of desperation and revealed that his company was in an unsound financial condition, because several mines had suffered a series of accidents and were no longer productive. Jim, his friend Orren Boyle, and most of the male guests rushed from the reception in a panic, and it was very clear to Dagny that all those men had been invested in D'Anconia Copper and were about to lose a lot of money. The hypocrisy of their positions made for delicious irony, certainly, but that did not explain why Francisco would allow his company to get into such deplorable condition. She would learn the truth of the matter only later.

The Rearden-Dannager Incident

Later that fall, Henry Rearden and Ken Danagger were indicted for a violation of the Fair Share Statute, by which no one was to receive any more Rearden Metal (or any other product) than anyone else, without the proper clearances. Dagny was confident that Henry would fight the indictment in the special court that would try him. But Ken Danagger might decide to quit and vanish.

So Dagny rushed to Ken Danagger's office to see him. She found him in conference with a visitor, who left by a private entrance that Dagny never knew that Danagger's office had. Then when Danagger agreed to see Dagny, he announced that he was going to retire. He said that his visitor had told him that he had "a right to exist," and that was the most important reason why he would listen to that visitor and quit business. The last thing he told Dagny was that, someday, Dagny would join him. Dagny, of course, found that proposition incredible.

On November 22, 2018 (Thanksgiving Day), Henry Rearden showed up at the Taggart Tower and explained to Dagny that he would fulfill her next order of rail with Rearden Metal rail. He intended this as an act of defiance of the laws under which he was to stand trial the next day. At that trial, instead of offering a formal defense, he rebuked the court directly and said that he did not consider what he had done to be a crime. The court fined him $5000, and then suspended the sentence.

The John Galt Line Closes

Henry Rearden was not able to fulfill that order. It was the first failure in the history of Rearden Steel. Dagny would learn the reason only later: a load of copper, on a fleet of ships flying Francisco d'Anconia's company flag, fell under the guns of Ragnar Danneskjöld, who sent them to the bottom of the Caribbean. But by the time the new rail would have been needed, it no longer mattered. A series of delays, mainly due to the mismanagement of the Dannager Coal Company by Ken Dannager's ne'er-do-well cousin, had contributed their share to more economic destruction and chaos. Then on February 15, 2019, the Board of Directors of the TTRR voted to close the John Galt Line for lack of revenue. The line had its last run on March 31, 2019. Dagny and Rearden rode on that train, in her private car. She would learn later that this act would enable Lillian Rearden to figure out that Dagny and Henry were "an item."

The only person to express any sympathy for her was Francisco d'Anconia. But his sympathy meant little to her, since he could not and would not do anything about the situation.

Directive 10-289

The next significant event that affected Dagny was the promulgation of Directive 10-289, on May 1, 2019, the last calendar year before history as she knew it would stop. Dagny learned of it first from Francisco, who called her at her office and asked her, "Well, what do you think of the moratorium on brains?" Francisco would not elaborate, so Dagny ordered someone to bring her a morning newspaper. Eddie Willers, with a pained expression, brought her the paper and said that none of her employees had wanted to be the one to break the news to her.

What Dagny read filled her with shock and anger. According to this Directive, all persons were legally attached to their jobs, and furthermore, all inventions were to be placed in the public domain, and no more patents or copyrights would be granted.

Dagny marched to her brother's office, folding the paper into a tight roll as she walked. She threw it in Jim's face, and said,

There's my resignation, Jim. I will not work as a slave, or as a slave driver.

She then returned to her own office and announced her resignation to Eddie. Eddie said that he wanted to resign, too, but could not bring himself to do this. Dagny then told Eddie that she would take a cabin at a mountain retreat in the Berkshire Mountains. The last other person she called before she left was Henry Rearden, who said that he would wait for a Washington representative to come to collect his signature on a public-domain release, refuse that signature, and then join her.

Henry Rearden did not join her. But on the morning of May 28, Francisco d'Anconia did. (How he even learned where she was staying, she would learn only later: Eddie Willers had let this slip to John Galt, not even knowing whom he was talking to, and John Galt had told Francisco. Dagny accused Francisco of pumping Eddie directly for the information, a charge Francisco denied.) And on that occasion, Francisco told her an incredible story.

Dagny had suspected for some time that Francisco d'Anconia's persona as an irresponsible playboy was a sham. Now Francisco admitted it. He then said that he was destroying D'Anconia Copper, and doing so deliberately. He said,

I will not leave it as I found it; I will leave it as Sebastián d'Anconia found it, and then let the world try to get along without him or me.

Dagny was horrified, more for Francisco's sake than anything else. Then Francisco told her something else: that he had been acting under the orders, as it were, of the very "Destroyer" who had been encouraging people to quit and vanish for so many years. Now Francisco invited Dagny to come away with him.

Dagny was torn between Francisco and Henry, and perhaps one cannot infer what decision Dagny would have made, had not a breathless special radio bulletin interrupted them. That bulletin was the announcement and description of the destruction of the Taggart Tunnel. "Gross violation of safety regulations...coal-burning steam locomotive...Passengers were breaking windows...overcome by the fumes...Freight Special crashed into the rear...explosion..." The description filled Dagny with horror and revulsion. She knew that she had to go back, to untangle the mess that had been made. Francisco tried to tell her, "In the name of anything held sacred to you, don't go back!" But she went back anyway.

She found her brother haranguing Eddie Willers to force him to confess her whereabouts, and also found her office decorated with a lot of magazines with distinctly liberal content, all of which she threw away. Then she got down to business. She served notice on Wesley Mouch and his people that she would have none of their regulations, and would do what was necessary. Then she telephoned Henry Rearden to tell him that she had returned, and to place an order for steel rail to re-lay the long-abandoned line through the mountain pass that the Taggart Tunnel had originally made unnecessary.

The clue

That night, Dagny waited at her apartment for Henry Rearden to come and see her. Francisco showed up first, uninvited. Dagny accused him of being "The Destroyer," but he denied that. But neither did he deny any knowledge of such a person. Francisco also insisted that in the end she would take the same road he had—to a place he called Atlantis. This was not the classical Atlantic of Greek myth, but, she saw, a different kind of place, or perhaps only a concept.

Before Francisco could explain further, Henry Rearden let himself in. The two men were each shocked to confront the other in this place of all places. They argued—about Dagny—and finally Henry, realizing at once that Francisco had been Dagny's original lover (a secret she had never before revealed to him), Rearden struck Francisco in a jealous rage. Francisco almost brutally restrained himself from striking back, and then left without another word.

Not long after that, Dagny's apartment house superintendent handed her a special-delivery letter from Quentin Daniels that forced her to go west immediately, instead of the next night as she had planned. Daniels had written to say that he was not going to do any useful work anymore. He would work on the motor, but accept no remuneration, and—the key—would refuse to share his solution, if he found any, even with Dagny.

Dagny reasoned that he was ready to quit completely, and she might dissuade him from that—but only if she could reach him before the mysterious "Destroyer" could. She was, of course, convinced that the Destroyer was on his way to visit him, as he had visited Ken Danagger.

Dagny called Daniels at once, to ask him not to make any such decision until she could see him in person. Then she departed New York for what was almost the last time, aboard the Taggart Comet, the TTRR's signature luxury train.

En route to Afton, Utah, where Daniels lived, Dagny spotted the conductor as he was about to order a hobo to jump from the train. Something about this hobo convinced Dagny that he was not an ordinary bum, so she invited the man to stay and have dinner with her in her private car. This man was Jeff Allen, who had once been a skilled lathe operator, and last worked that job in Colorado for the Lawrence Hammond Car Company, until Lawrence Hammond had quit and vanished. But he had held his very first job for twenty years, and had held it at the Twentieth Century Motor Company. In fact, he had worked sixteen years under Jed Starnes, and the last four under the administration of the Starnes heirs. In the course of half an hour, he told Dagny the story of what working at a factory was like where the people worked according to their abilities but were paid according to their needs. As Dagny expected, it was not pleasant. Nor was it successful, because in this manner the Starnes heirs had run the company into the ground.

Then the man gave Dagny an electrifying clue. On the day that the new business plan was inaugurated, Gerald Starnes, Junior, had told all the employees to:

Remember that none of you may leave this place, for you are all bound here by the moral code which we all accept.

One young engineer had stood up to say that he did not accept this code, and furthermore that he would "put and end to this once and for all." When Gerald Starnes asked him how, he said,

I will stop the motor of the world.

The name of that engineer was John Galt. And from that, Jeff Allen was convinced that he and his fellow employees had been the source of the half-cynical, half-fearful question, "Who is John Galt?" that everyone was now asking. They had started asking that since they realized that the Twentieth Century Motor Company was not the only company that was failing, and that other "prime movers" were quitting their jobs just as Galt had.

Dagny was probably convinced that at last she had a clue, not only to the electrostatic motor, but also, and more importantly, to the Destroyer. She might have realized, though the novel does not make this clear, that if Destroyer and inventor were one and the same man, then that man somehow knew that someone was reverse-engineering his invention, and would seek to stop him from doing that, for the same reason that he had wrecked his own prototype to begin with.

A frozen train and an air crash

That night (May 30, 2019), the train stopped unexpectedly. She realized at once that she was on a "frozen train," whose engineer, fireman, conductor, and trainmen had simply stopped and abandoned. She recruited Jeff Allen to take over the situation as "deputy conductor and proxy-Vice-President for Operations," and then walked forward to a track telephone, accompanied by none other than Owen Kellogg, who had also been on the Comet when it stopped. At one point she saw Kellogg smoking a brand of cigarettes that she had never seen before: its filters carried the sign for the United States dollar. He would not offer her a cigarette for free, but suggested that she might buy it for five cents—payable in gold.

Dagny concentrated on getting the Comet moving again. After much almost fruitless discussion she managed to convince, or rather threaten, someone to get a relief crew to take the Comet on to its destination. She found this activity distasteful, because she was not used to having men work for her who would respond only to threats.

That left the question of her own trip. As she walked on, she came to a small airstrip, the proprietor of which had a modern monoplane to rent to her. She took off in this aircraft to the town that had been her target. Upon arrival, she found out that another pilot had flown in shortly before her, and had taken off again—with Quentin Daniels as a passenger.

Furious, she took off again, caught sight of the other aircraft, and gave chase. Her quarry headed into the mountains, then started to spiral down into what looked like a rocky valley. And suddenly that aircraft was no longer visible.

Dagny did not understand how this could be, but she was not willing to abandon the search. She, too, started to spiral down. At an altitude of 8700 feet, a bright flash of light filled her cockpit, and her aircraft's motor cut out. Now she was in a tailspin and was descending—but not into a rock tumble, but into a valley that was suddenly green and in fact gave every appearance of a small farming community. She did not have time to sort out the incongruity of what she saw on the ground, not when that ground was rushing up at her at a dangerous speed. She fought desperately to bring her aircraft down in a soft landing, but still crashed and lost consciousness.

John Galt

She awoke lying on a soft patch of grass, with a relieved-looking man smiling down at her. Without thinking, she looked up into that face and said, "We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?"

The man answered, "No, we never had to."

Then she came to her senses and tried to move, but the man cautioned her not to. Then he told her his name: John Galt.

The man picked her up and carried her into the center of what turned out to be a small town with a thriving industrial district. The inhabitants of that town were all famous businessmen that she knew about—famous for quitting and vanishing from their businesses. One of them was Midas Mulligan, who dumbfounded her by calling her "the first scab."

John Galt then explained what had happened to her aircraft, and why such a green valley had looked rocky until her descent. The valley floor was at an elevation of 8000 feet. At 8700 feet, John Galt had installed "refractor ray" projectors to project the false image of an actual rock tumble five miles away. Dagny had descended to that level, a result that John Galt had never predicted, and the rays had shorted out her motor.

Dagny spent the night alone in a room in what turned out to be John Galt's house. She noticed that the walls of the room were richly inscribed with cryptic messages, and signed by more of the vanished ones.

Later, Dagny attended a meeting with all the leading citizens of the little community. Each of them told of something new that he or she had invented, but also that they would not be sharing it with the outside. Dagny asked them what they were all doing, and finally John Galt explained:

We are on strike.

John Galt then confirmed that he had been the inventor of the electrostatic motor, and he had called the great strike after the Starnes heirs had put in place a business plan modeled after The Communist Manifesto, which he could never accept. He and the others gave Dagny a brief history of the valley and of their own reasons for joining the strike.

In the morning, she received a very strange visit: from Ragnar Danneskjöld. Mr. Danneskjöld took this opportunity to explain what his privateering activities were all about: he was seizing government "global relief" cargoes and selling them to smugglers, and bringing the gold they paid him back to this secluded valley. He deposited this gold in the bank that Midas Mulligan had re-established in the valley, which he actually owned. (This is why John Galt called the place Mulligan's Valley, though the others called it Galt's Gulch.) Ragnar went on to explain that he intended to refund the income-tax payments of the vanished ones and of a few people, including Dagny and Henry Rearden, who had not yet quit. But Dagny's refund would be less than that of the others, because Ragnar could not refund to her the taxes paid on the dividend from the stock of Taggart Transcontinental, since her brother had run the company in an unwholesome alliance with the government. She therefore would expect a reimbursement only of the taxes on her salary as Operating Vice-President.

Ragnar went on to describe a meeting he had had with Henry Rearden, but John Galt stopped him before he could finish describing it.

Dagny furiously declared, when Ragnar had left the house, that she would never accept money taken, as she saw it, at the risk of another man's life. John Galt said that he would draw on her account to pay for her room and board, and then Dagny offered to work for her room and board as his cook and housemaid. For a reason that she would not fully appreciate until much later, that proposal struck John Galt as uproariously funny. Nevertheless, he accepted it.

That night, Francisco d'Anconia, whom Galt and Danneskjöld had both missed, finally made his appearance. Galt allowed Francisco a tearful reunion with Dagny, at which time Francisco revealed that he had been searching for the wreckage of her plane since the airport attendant had reported her long overdue.

Galt's Gulch

Dagny spent a month in the valley and learned all about how its society ran. A few days after her arrival, Owen Kellogg came to the valley and informed her that everyone outside the valley believed her dead, including Henry Rearden. John Galt would not allow her to send any messages outside.

She had two heart-rending moments during her stay. One of them occurred at the site of "D'Anconia Copper No. 1," a mine that Francisco d'Anconia had driven into one of the mountainsides that ringed the valley. Dagny told Francisco that he was wasting a great deal of time hauling his copper ore to the valley floor on muleback, and offered to build him a railroad to the valley floor. But then she said that she could not lay three miles of rail and abandon a transcontinental system. At this point John Galt told her that, if she decided to stay, she would hear all of the details of the eventual demise of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad.

On that same occasion, Francisco offered to have Dagny stay with him, instead of with John Galt. Dagny protested that John Galt was her employer, and she could not leave without at least giving notice. When John Galt said that it was actually her decision, she declared that she wanted John Galt to make that decision himself. He refused Francisco's offer, and then laughed again, saying that Dagny had put him to a test to see whether he would actually practice "the lowest form of altruism."

Then came the second heart-rending moment. When she returned to the valley floor from Francisco's mine, she saw another aircraft start to descend and circle above the valley before finally pulling up and leaving. Dagny knew, almost without looking, that Henry Rearden was the pilot of that craft, and could only imagine the pain he must feel.

Finally, the end of June arrived, and Dagny needed to decide. Dagny decided to return to the world. She told the assembled strikers that she would fight for their ideals on the outside, and try to convince the authorities to "give up and get out of the way." John Galt regarded that plan as futile and told her so. Nevertheless, he would not hold her against her will. Accordingly, the next day he put a blindfold on her and took her out of the valley in his own aircraft.

End of summer

Dagny returned to the Taggart Terminal and learned, first of all, that Taggart Transcontinental now operated under the so-called Railroad Unification Plan, under which all the nation's railroads would "work as a team," pool their revenues, and be paid according to the track they owned. Dagny was disgusted with the plan, primarily because it meant that Taggart Transcontinental was essentially stealing from other, more efficient railroads. The cost to the company was that the Director of Unification, one Cuffy Meigs, could peremptorily order service cancellations in order to prepare special trains to haul, among other things, grapefruit.

On that very day, James asked Dagny to participate in a special radio program, hosted by the noted radio host Bertram Scudder, to assure the public that she had not been among the vanished ones, and extol the "noble decision" by Henry Rearden to sign away his rights to Rearden Metal. Dagny refused. Later that day, Lillian Rearden came to see her. She said that if she did not appear, then Lillian would reveal to the world that Henry and Dagny had been lovers. Lillian also revealed the real reason for Rearden's action: the government had learned, from Lillian Rearden through James Taggart, all about Dagny and Henry's affair.

Dagny attended the program, but decided to avenge herself and Rearden, een if it cost her her relationship with John Galt. She described her affair with Rearden in detail. Then she told the radio listeners that Henry Rearden had been forced by blackmail to place his invention in the public domain. Scudder threw the microphone to the stage when she said that, but the damage was done.

She returned to her apartment to find Henry Rearden listening to the now-silent radio. He thanked her for her performance, and then noted that she had used the "past" (actually, the pluperfect) tense to describe their affair. This indicated to him that their romance was over. He politely asked who the new man in her life was, and she sardonically asked, "Who is John Galt?"

Rearden realized at once that the "John Galt" that everyone had been asking about was a real man, and furthermore that he must have been "The Destroyer" who had encouraged all those brilliant people to quit and vanish. Dagny knew that she could never reveal to Henry the secret of Galt's Gulch. But she could illustrate her problem, and she did, by asking him whether he could give up Rearden Steel. With a look of pain he admitted that he could not—at least, not yet.

Suicide of Cheryl Taggart

In August, Cherryl Brooks Taggart paid Dagny a visit, and told Dagny how unhappy she was being married to James Taggart, a result that Dagny might have predicted. Dagny tried to persuade Cherryl not to return home, but Cherryl returned anyway. Dagny never learned the full particulars, but apparently Cherryl had a humiliating scene with Jim, in which Cherryl somehow realized that she was married to a spiritual "killer." Cherryl Taggart walked out of the townhouse, ran to the shore of Manhattan, and threw herself into the East River. Dagny found about it from Jim and told him that she did not want him to tell her his troubles, especially since they had cost a young woman her life.

"Brother, you asked for it!"

On September 2, Jim Taggart asked Dagny to his office for a discussion. He spoke ramblingly and disconnectedly about the unprofitability of the railroad and the untenability of the situation. Jim then said that Dagny must "do something" to prevent almost certain disaster, and even suggested that she somehow owed him this as a favor because he was her brother.

In the middle of this conversation came an announcement on the radio. At first Jim asked Dagny to stay, saying that this was the announcement he had wanted her to hear. But as the announcer went on, Jim became horrified. The announcement was about the attempted nationalization of D'Anconia Copper by the People's State of Chile—and the discovery that the D'Anconia Copper Company was now totally worthless. Francisco d'Anconia had destroyed every remaining asset in the days leading up to the nationalization.

The last thing Dagny heard as she left Jim's office was Jim calling someone named "Rodrigo" and protesting about having lost a lot of money, while at the same time yelling at Orren Boyle on another telephone to "shut [his] trap." Dagny probably never learned the full particulars of those conversations, but she might have guessed that Jim had bought into the government holding company that had been set to receive the nationalized assets of D'Anconia Copper SA, and now those assets amounted to zero.

That evening, Dagny and Henry discussed that disaster over dinner. Henry remarked casually that he had met Ragnar Danneskjöld. Dagny remembered Ragnar's remark about that meeting and said so. Henry then said that he had "met one of their agents," and Dagny said that he had met two of them. Henry realized that she was talking about Francisco.

At that momemt, the city's scrolling calendar rolled to the next day—except that instead of September 3, the display read,

Brother, you asked for it!

It was signed with all of Francisco's names in full.

The harvest debacle

On September 14, 2019 Dagny received a call from a track walker in Minnesota, saying that several freight cars, which should have been sent to Minnesota to pick up the nation's wheat crop, had not been sent. She learned quickly that Cuffy Meigs had diverted the freight cars to Louisiana to pick up a crop of soybeans from an experimental project by Emma Chalmers, also known as "Kip's Ma," the mother of the late Legislative candidate Charles "Kip" Chalmers, who had died in the Taggart Tunnel disaster. The wheat perished in its fields, and in spite of the special treatment, the soybeans turned out to be moldy and unfit for human consumption.


On October 15, 2019, the Terminal's signal interlocking system failed. Dagny rushed to the terminal, arranged to hire an engineer from a rival line, and then organized the track walkers and other unskilled laborers into a lantern brigade to move the trains in and out of the Terminal by hand. On that occasion she discovered that John Galt was a Taggart Transcontinental employee, and furthermore was employed in the lowest possible capacity. The two of them at last consummated their own affair, an act that John Galt knew would place him at risk, and said so. He told her that he would wait for her to declare her intention to quit the outer world, and that all she need do was chalk a dollar sign on the plinth of Nathaniel Taggart's statue in the concourse, and he, Galt, would come for her at once.

The Vanishing of Hank Rearden

On the morning of November 5, 2019, Dagny awoke at ten o'clock in the morning to an incessant buzzing. She found Jim Taggart outside, leaning against the buzzer. He told her, breathlessly, that Henry Rearden had quit his mills and vanished—and that "a whole bunch" of his employees had vanished after him when his disappearance became known. Jim begged Dagny to somehow bring Henry back, but Dagny said that she could not bring him back, and wouldn't if she could.

Not long after Rearden's disappearance, Dagny received a cryptic note from him. It read only,

I have met him. I don't blame you.

Dagny realized at once that Henry Rearden could only have been talking about John Galt. She little realized that the entire country would soon "meet" John Galt, if only at a distance.

The great speech

On November 15, 2019, Mr. Thompson, the Head of State, announced that he would deliver a "report on the world crisis" on November 22, on every radio and television station. On that night, Jim asked her to accompany him to the New York broadcasting station (probably Madison Square Garden) where Mr. Thompson was to deliver his speech. Eddie Willers accompanied her, and she noticed several Washington men present, including, oddly enough, Robert Stadler.

Dagny announced her refusal to participate, but before anyone could say anything about compelling her to participate, the broadcast engineers announced that every frequency was suddenly jammed, and that Mr. Thompson could not get on the air. Mr. Thompson started threatening to fire everyone in sight, and then everyone present heard a man's voice:

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Thompson will not speak to you tonight. His time is up. I have taken it over....

Dagny recognized that voice immediately as that of John Galt. She noticed that Robert Stadler and Eddie Willers recognized that voice also. Robert Stadler she could understand, because Hugh Akston had told Dagny all about John Galt's former relationship with Stadler, and how it had soured when Stadler had endorsed the establishment of the State Science Institute that he supposedly headed. But why Eddie Willers should recognize John Galt's voice remained a mystery for now.

For three hours, John Galt explained, in a cold and implacable manner, who he was, why he had called the strike of the men of the mind, and a primer on philosophy. He gave no terms for negotiation. Instead he encouraged all his listeners to "stop supporting [their] own destroyers."

Dagny took that occasion, probably the last that she would ever have, to tell the Washington men to "give up and get out of the way." They would not listen, of course, but Robert Stadler communicated his own refusal in a tone that showed that he, unlike the overconfident politicians, was very badly frightened.

Dagny would never see or speak to Robert Stadler again. But Eddie Willers revealed to her that John Galt was the same man as a track walker with whom Eddie had shared lunch many times in the Terminal, and to whom he had given every move that Dagny had made. Now Dagny knew why so many men had quit after Dagny had started reaching out to them: John Galt had been spying on her all this time.

Dagny gave the "looters' government" ten days to disintegrate. When that much time, and several times as much time, expired, she still waited, like everyone else. In the weeks that followed, even more people quit their jobs and vanished. From the fragmentary accounts that reached her, Dagny realized that most of those people had set up their own versions of Galt's Gulch, chiefly armed camps in nearby forests.

She also read, with anguish, the reports of the gradual decline of Rearden Steel. The reports ended with a fire that destroyed several structures on January 22 of the next year. From that day forward, Rearden Steel was no more.

The Arrest

In the weeks that followed the shutdown of Rearden Steel, Mr. Thompson came to see her, to ask her what to do. She told him, quite simply, to start decontrolling the economy. Of course, he refused.

Now Dagny made a major mistake. Using the personnel records, she traced John Galt to his walk-up apartment in New York. John received her, embraced her, and then told her that he fully expected to be arrested, because Dagny was almost certainly being shadowed. He then told her to pretend to be cooperating with the authorities, and that at the first sign of any threat against her, he would kill himself to make the threat moot.

The last thing he did before the authorities arrived was to show Dagny the small physics laboratory that he operated in the apartment. He could run such a laboratory because, with his electrostatic motor, he could provide his own electric power and draw exactly as much current from the municipal grid as anyone would expect—no more and no less. He also revealed that he had kept the news photograph of Dagny posing next to the locomotive that had made the opening run on the old John Galt Line, now long since closed.

When the authorities did arrive, they took him into custody and then tried to force their way into the laboratory, because he had closed and locked the door. Before they could get into the room, everything within it had dissolved to ashes. John Galt, determined never to let anyone take any part of his talent by force, had rigged his laboratory with a self-destruct mechanism.

The Defection

Shortly after the arrest, Dagny found a note slipped under her apartment door. The note was from Francisco. It gave her the telephone number of a direct line that would reach him, and asked her to call him the moment she had reason to believe that John Galt was in danger of his life.

Though Dagny did not and could not know it, she was not the sole "agent on the ground" that Francisco had in New York City at the time. She was, however, closer to the authorities than any of them. She could not know, but would learn later, that the Galt's Gulch Militia had thoroughly infiltrated New York, and was quite prepared to storm the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, where the authorities held Galt for another week or to. That they didn't was only because they feared that the authorities would "liquidate" Galt as soon as the militia got close.

Francisco likely had another reason to offer Dagny this opportunity to participate as his spy. This would complete her recruitment.

Dagny would not see John Galt again until much later, when Mr. Thompson announced the inauguration of the "John Galt Plan for Peace and Prosperity." Dagny suspected that John Galt would never go along with such a plan, but she still attended the March 20 broadcast where the Plan would be announced. Sure enough, when John Galt's turn came to speak, he moved rapidly enough to reveal that someone was pointing a gun at him. Then he gripped the lectern with both hands and said,

Get...out of my way.

Dagny covered her mouth to stop people from seeing that she was ready to laugh out loud. No one paid her any heed, though; they were too busy smashing and sweeping down the microphones and cameras.

Dagny remained at the Wayne-Falkland long enough to overhear the Washington men talk about their next plans. Most of these men wanted to do nothing but cry. Clarence "Chick" Morrison, the Director of Morale Conditioning, threw up his hands, said, "I resign!", and fled the scene; Tinky Holloway revealed that Morrison "ha[d] a hide-out all stocked for himself in Tennessee," but not a man present would lay odds that he would reach it, or find it intact if he did.

Then Floyd Ferris proposed putting John Galt to torture at a secret installation of the State Science Institute. Mr. Thompson helplessly said, "I can't help it. Do whatever you want."

This was enough for Dagny, who managed to walk away, not exactly unnoticed, but certainly unsuspected. She ran down the street to a public telephone booth (one may infer that the cellular telephone systems had crashed for good in the three years after the index date, if not earlier). She called Francisco and gave him all the intelligence she had. Then she went straight to her apartment, changed out of the formal clothes she had been wearing, and packed two bags. In one of them she placed the bracelet of Rearden Metal that she had earned in the outer world, and a five-dollar gold piece she had earned in the valley.

She then went to the Terminal to recover some unnamed documents, a portrait of Nat Taggart, and a map of the railroad. While she was gathering these items, an employee rushed in to report that the Taggart Bridge over the Mississippi River had been destroyed in one second, and with it everything within a one-hundred-mile radius of the Project X installation, apparently by a malfunction (or so the employee half understood) of the Xylophone. As she had when she had heard about the Taggart Tunnel disaster, she thought first about taking command and perhaps commissioning some kind of ferry service across the Mississippi. But this time she forced herself to put down the telephone that she had snatched up almost by instinct, and declared that this time, even she did not know what to do.

As soon as she was left alone, she left the Terminal for the last time. She stopped briefly at the plinth of the statue of Nathaniel Taggart that commanded the courtyard. Using a lipstick, she drew a dollar sign at the foot of the statue in a final salute. Francisco d'Anconia met her there, and she raised her right hand and swore the oath that John Galt had written thirteen years before:

I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.


How Francisco got Dagny off Manhattan Island, the novel does not describe. Manhattan did not have too many areas, even in those days, where one could take off in a private aircraft. But somehow, not only did Francisco and Dagny get off the island; so did the militia, with orders to proceed at once to Lyme, NH, and the campus of the State Science Institute (probably at the site of the real-life United States Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory).

There, Ragnar Danneskjöld laid on a commando-style raid on the Institute facility where John Galt was being held. The main militia force, under the command of Ellis Wyatt, waited nearby while Ragnar, Dagny, Henry Rearden, and Francisco d'Anconia went in by themselves to take the facility by stealth.

Dagny drew the first blood in that attack: she killed the guard at the door of "Project F" when he would not get out of her way. He was typical of the men who guarded that facility; they were not only incompetent but also afraid to decide even the simplest things. Francisco d'Anconia entered the building and manged to gain the advantage over the two guards inside. From them he learned how many guards remained to deal with: nine in the main laboratory on the second floor, and one guarding the stairs leading to the cellar where the real business of Project F, that being torture by electric shock, took place.

Hank Rearden entered the main laboratory, with Francisco and Dagny guarding his flanks. Hank Rearden received a flesh wound, but Francisco, Dagny, and Ragnar Danneskjöld (who would swing in through a window) managed to kill four more guards and take the other four into "custody." Francisco let one remaining guard lead him to the cellar door, where he ordered the last guard to surrender himself. Then the four of them raced down the cellar stairs to a locked door.

Ragnar picked the lock. Francisco opened the door and briefly barred Dagny's way with his arm. Then he lowered his arm and let Dagny enter. She saw John Galt, lashed to a mattress and connected to an electroshock generator. John assured them all that he was unharmed, and that he had known all along that his torturers would never deliver a lethal shock. Hurriedly they unbound him and allowed him to dress. Ragnar destroyed the torture machine completely, and the rescue party then took Galt to Francisco d'Anconia's aircraft, which Ragnar had landed nearby.

As they overflew New York City, Dagny gasped as she beheld it plunged into darkness. John told her sternly not to look down, but Dagny had already seen. The lights had gone out, and were not likely to come back on until the society was totally collapsed.

Dagny spent the early spring in the Gulch, now as John Galt's wife; presumably they were married in a civil ceremony presided over by Judge Narragansett, the original trial judge in the case of Hunsacker v. Mulligan. (He had joined the strike after being reversed on appeal in that matter.) But now Dagny built the railroad that she had said that she could build for Francisco d'Anconia's copper mine. Presumably she used rails of Rearden Metal, and ordered the first-ever electrostatic locomotives from a company that John Galt could at last build.

Before the last snow had melted, John took Dagny on a hike to the lip of the ring of mountains around the valley. As they surveyed the now-desolate landscape, John Galt said,

The road is cleared. We are going back to the world.

So saying, he traced a dollar sign in the air before them.

Spoilers end here.


Dagny is the true heroine of the novel. At first she regards John Galt, or, as she knows him, "The Destroyer," as a villain. But by the end of the story, she has re-evaluated all her notions of where her duty lies, and realizes that she cannot do the work she loves, and keep loving it, if she is not free to exist. Of course, her success does not come without cost: she must abandon the railroad system that her ancestor built and start practically from scratch.

In addition Dagny Taggart is Ayn Rand's idealized version of herself. To be sure, Ayn Rand never did anything remotely similar to running a railroad. Nevertheless, Dagny Taggart is the woman that Ayn Rand herself wanted to be, just as John Galt and Henry Rearden are two versions of the ideal man whom Ayn Rand always wanted to fall in love with. Rand would later say that Dagny Taggart was herself without her tiredness or snappishness or other flaws. (Rand did not explicitly say this, but Dagny Taggart was also a trim-and-slim version of Rand.)


Nathaniel Branden, in his essay "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand," criticized Rand for creating such "over-the-top" characters as Dagny Taggart and John Galt—characters who, furthermore, never seem to speak to one another on a simple human level, apart from a slavish attention to the philosophical implication of every thought, word, and action. Among other faults, Branden noted that when Dagny discovers John Galt working as an unskilled laborer in the Terminal, the two of them have a brief tryst—and then immediately afterward, John Galt is talking like a philosopher again.

I have reason to believe that Galt has a great many imitators around the country, and I also know that it is driving wives and girlfriends crazy![1]

Whittaker Chambers, in his review of Atlas Shrugged published in National Review, criticized Rand on a much simpler and perhaps not well thought-out ground: simply for creating in Dagny Taggart a character who was impossibly beautiful.[2]

In her own defense, Rand often fell back on her understanding of what constituted good novelist's craft. This included creating characters that were somewhat larger than life. Rand complicated the matter by using the novel form to communicate her philosophical ideas. This, of course, results in a character who makes a three-hour speech and who talks like a philosopher even in an intimate moment, and another character who accepts such behavior. For that matter, it results in two characters who have an affair and take time to discuss all its moral and philosophical implications.


  1. Branden N, "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand," audio presentation, 1984. Transcript hosted at <http://www.nathanielbranden.com/catalog/articles_essays/benefits_and_hazards.html>.
  2. Chambers W, "Big Sister Is Watching You," National Review, December 28, 1957. Hosted at National Review Online, published January 5, 2005. Accessed May 1, 2009.<http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/222482/big-sister-watching-you/flashback>
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