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Atlas Shrugged | Part 1, Chapter 8 : Non-Contradiction (The John Galt Line) | Summary

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Summary

When they were teenagers, Dagny Taggart told Eddie Willers she felt the railroads were "held in the hand of a man beyond the horizon" whom she'd one day meet. One late, lonely night in her office, she watches the shadow of a man at her door; he cannot seem to decide whether to enter.

Wesley Mouch has been appointed Assistant Coordinator of the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources and no longer works as Hank Rearden's lobbyist.

Knowing of Taggart Transcontinental's financial struggles, Rearden tells Willers to defer payment on the John Galt Line rails. Willers's sense of honor makes him reluctant to accept, but Rearden assures him his motives are selfish.

That summer the media pushes public opinion to oppose Rearden and Taggart Transcontinental, claiming they threaten public safety for the sake of profit. When the engineer's union disapproves of the line, Dagny is overwhelmed with volunteers to make the first run. Dagny and Rearden give a press conference where they tell a shocked crowd of journalists they are indeed motivated by profit.

On July 22, the day of the first run, a reporter asks Dagny, "Who is John Galt?" "We are!" she replies. During the ride, Dagny thinks the rails represent "the purposeful motion down the straight line of a single track to a chosen goal." As they cross the Rearden Metal bridge, she hears Halley's Fifth Concerto in time with the wheels' rhythm. At the end of the line, an enthusiastic Ellis Wyatt meets them and invites them to stay at his house overnight. That evening, Dagny and Rearden become lovers.

Analysis

Teenage Dagny Taggart's idea that the railroads "were held in the hand of a man beyond the horizon" whom she'd one day meet reeks of faith without reason. That which is beyond the horizon is always unattainable; believing she could meet a man there seems contradictory to Dagny's rational nature. In the previous chapter, Dagny challenges John Galt to come and take her railroad; were he to do that, he would be metaphorically holding the railroad in his hand. Decades before the John Galt Line, Dagny seems to have intuited the current situation. Now her teenage longing for this man has been transformed into a hostile challenge for this man to come and fight her. The man who comes to stand in indecision outside Dagny's office may be John Galt, struggling over whether to heed Dagny's summons.

Dagny adds yet another meaning to the question, "Who is John Galt?" Her reply, "We are!" is a triumphant celebration of her reaching the moment that seemed unattainable, the moment the John Galt Line begins running. She is her own savior; the successful first run will save Rearden Metal from the public's condemnation, and her John Galt Line will save Colorado industry. Presently unconcerned with an unknown man who lies beyond the rails, Dagny turns to the man before her, Hank Rearden, and becomes his lover.

Despite the government and media's smear campaign, the public trusts Dagny's judgment. By stating they work for profit and then proceeding to complete a successful first run on the John Galt Line, Dagny and Rearden undermine the government's authority, rejecting its morality and proceeding to do what the government insisted was unsafe. This is not intentional defiance; they are merely following their own code of acting in accordance with their reason.

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