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Atlas Shrugged | Part 1, Chapter 7 : Non-Contradiction (The Exploiters and the Exploited) | Summary

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Summary

Rearden Metal rails are being laid on the Rio Norte Line, and Hank Rearden shows Dagny Taggart a plan for a new type of bridge made of Rearden Metal. When Dagny tells him he's saving her railroad, he says his motivation is selfish: he wants a bridge of Rearden Metal to show the country.

Refusing to publicly debate whether "Rearden Metal [is] a lethal product of greed," Dagny goes into a diner, where a customer tells her John Galt "is the man who found the fountain of youth."

Dr. Potter of the State Science Institute comes to Rearden and pressures him to keep Rearden Metal off the market; the Metal threatens to put less-productive companies out of business. At Rearden's first refusal, Potter attempts to buy the rights to the Metal. At Rearden's second refusal, Potter says the institute will issue a statement condemning Rearden Metal.

Dr. Floyd Ferris, the institute's coordinator, issues the statement. Dagny meets with the institute's head, Dr. Robert Stadler. He says the statement is "disgusting ... but what can you do?" Stadler personally regards Rearden Metal as a "brilliant achievement" but refuses Dagny's request to state his opinion publicly. He explains Rearden Metal is a threat to the publicly funded institute, whose own achievements have been negligible. Stadler says when he worked at Patrick Henry University alongside philosopher Hugh Akston, they had three brilliant students who majored in physics and philosophy: Francisco d'Anconia, Ragnar Danneskjöld, and a third, unnamed student who vanished without a trace.

Dagny takes a leave of absence from Taggart Transcontinental to complete the line, which she renames the John Galt Line to throw the "fear, despair, and futility" of the phrase "Who is John Galt?" in the public's face. Francisco d'Anconia is shocked at the name, which Dagny says represents "the unattainable." Dagny vows to fight John Galt, saying he should "come and claim the railroad" she's building for him. Francisco responds, "He will."

When Hank Rearden hears the Equalization of Opportunity Bill has passed, he feels he is "being delivered to destruction with [his] hands tied behind [his] back." He longs for a friend, and he thinks of Francisco d'Anconia.

Analysis

The government's Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule and Equalization of Opportunity Bill have harmed national industry; now the government continues its program of damage by attempting to remove Rearden Metal, which could potentially revolutionize and revitalize the nation's struggling industries, from the market.

It now seems John Galt is a person, rather than merely an expression of futility; whether Galt is mythological or real is unclear. Whatever treasure the Galt of legend found, he was unable to bring it back to society. In either case, Dagny Taggart is right: John Galt represents "the unattainable," and the question, "Who is John Galt?" is the public's cry for help. Dagny rejects myths and saviors as much as she rejects the idea of the unattainable. In renaming her rail line the John Galt Line, she adds to the constellation of meanings surrounding the question, "Who is John Galt?" It is a defiant move: with her rail line, Dagny has attained the unattainable.

Dr. Robert Stadler has resigned himself to immoral sacrifices, having repeatedly given up his own principles to keep his government job. He is a self-aware participant in a conspiracy to hide the truth about Rearden Metal. If the public discovers Rearden Metal is a wonderful innovation produced by an independent capitalist, they will lose their respect for the State Science Institute as well as their belief that government control creates the greatest public good.

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