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Atlas Shrugged | Part 1, Chapter 10 : Non-Contradiction (Wyatt's Torch) | Summary

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Summary

Lillian Rearden tells her husband it is his job to figure out what would make her happy, even if it means lying to her. When Hank Rearden asks her what she lives for, she replies, "What a crude question! No enlightened person would ever ask it."

Dagny Taggart embarks on a quest to find the motor's inventor; she puts the motor in a vault under Taggart Terminal. Finally, she meets the widow of William Hastings, who confirms Hastings's assistant invented the motor. After William Hastings resigned from the factory, he vacationed for a month each summer in an undisclosed location. The widow suggests Dagny visit a diner in Wyoming where the cook knows the motor's inventor.

Dagny talks to the cook; he turns out to be the philosopher Hugh Akston, formerly of Patrick Henry University. He taught Francisco d'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjöld; of his third star pupil, Akston says, "His name would mean nothing to you. He is not famous." Dagny insists she will find the motor's inventor, and Akston replies, "Not until the day when he chooses to find you—as he will." He gives her a cigarette she's never seen, printed with a dollar sign.

Riding back, Dagny reads about Wesley Mouch's directives to cripple industry in Colorado. Dagny worries she has led the John Galt Line's investors into a "looters' trap"; she fears the looters will destroy Ellis Wyatt. Suddenly the train stops; Dagny sees "the hill of Wyatt Oil" is a "solid sheet of flame." Ellis Wyatt has vanished, leaving only a sign: "I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours."

Analysis

Wesley Mouch has attained a dictator's powers: he issues orders without needing approval by any elected official. The national emergency, created by the government's interference in the economy, now provides justification for Mouch's unlimited powers.

Lillian Rearden's insistence that Hank Rearden must make her happy at the expense of his principles has nothing to do with her desire for happiness; it is her attempt to hold Rearden hostage by his marriage vows. She evades his question about what he lives for, but her evasion conceals her answer: it insults both the question and her husband, the questioner. She lives to avoid looking at herself by antagonizing her husband. Happiness is a red herring; her true desire is to destroy Rearden by convincing him to act against his moral code.

Dagny Taggart correctly senses Mouch's directives will break Ellis Wyatt; she wants to reach him before he vanishes, but she is too late. Unwilling to feed the looters on the spoils of his enterprise, Wyatt lights the oil fields on fire before vanishing.

The reader must wonder why Hugh Akston would refuse to say a name Dagny wouldn't recognize anyway; the implication is Akston is attempting to protect this third pupil. Earlier, Dagny told Francisco d'Anconia she wants to fight John Galt; perhaps Francisco conveyed this information to his former professor, and the third pupil is John Galt. Akston's claim that Dagny will not find the motor's inventor until he chooses to find her echoes Francisco's claim that John Galt will come to claim Dagny's line. The reader is left to infer John Galt may be the motor's inventor and the mysterious third pupil, and he seeks Dagny as much as she seeks him.

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