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Atlas Shrugged | Part 2, Chapter 9 : Either-Or (The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt) | Summary

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Summary

Dagny Taggart plans to continue to fight for the railroad out of an "unrequited love" for a person she has always "expected to see at the end of the rails beyond the horizon."

Until Dagny gives up, Francisco d'Anconia says, they are enemies; Dagny is "the first person who almost stepped into heaven and came back to earth." Out of love for her, he will keep working for her destruction. She must travel the road to Atlantis on her own. He says Dagny is the destroyer. He's waiting for the coming "Second Renaissance"; Dagny tells him not to wait for her.

Hank Rearden arrives; he tells Francisco he will not let him destroy Dagny as he has destroyed everything else, and he forbids Francisco to see Dagny. Francisco admits Dagny is the woman he loves, and Rearden slaps him. Francisco tells Rearden he is right to do so based on what he knows, and he leaves. Rearden regrets hitting him.

Dagny finally tells Rearden that Francisco was the first man she slept with. When Rearden grabs her, she expects violence; instead, they have sex. Dagny submits, knowing it is Rearden's "conquest of [Francisco] by means of her body." Afterward, Rearden acknowledges Francisco means a lot to him.

Quentin Daniels has written to say he is quitting paid work on the motor in the wake of Directive 10-289. He will continue to work on it privately. Dagny reaches Daniels by phone; he has no plans to disappear. Dagny makes him promise he will wait in Utah for her, and she departs at once. Eddie Willers notices Rearden's monogrammed dressing gown in her room and feels a shock of anguish.

Willers tells the worker in the cafeteria his face is strange because it "look[s] as if [he's] never known pain or fear or guilt." He says Dagny is headed to Utah, and tells him about Quentin Daniels and the motor. He has just realized he has always loved Dagny; he has lost everything—and now her. He cries in despair, "Who will tell us the truth? Who will save us? Oh, who is John Galt?!" The worker rushes off.

Analysis

Francisco d'Anconia's mention of Atlantis makes Dagny Taggart realize he is acting in league with others. Her enemy is larger than she expected. Perhaps Atlantis is not merely a metaphor; perhaps the vanished industrialists are there, ready to commence the "Second Renaissance" Francisco mentions. This recalls the Christian concept of a "Second Coming," as does Eddie Willers's cry for a savior. Dagny almost "stepped into heaven," by leaving the railroad, but returned to her earthly battle. This Christian language underscores the epic spiritual nature of the battle being fought.

Willers's comment about the worker's face indicates this man possesses a rare spiritual quality; he seems beyond the suffering of mere mortals, although he is clearly a man. This duality recalls the quality of Christ, who is both God and man, savior and martyr. Learning of Dagny's trip to Utah, the worker rushes off—but not until Willers links the call for a savior with the name John Galt. The reader is left to wonder what this worker intends to do and who he is. Is it possible this nameless worker is John Galt? Is he the savior Willers calls on and the destroyer Dagny has been fighting? Is he going to take Quentin Daniels from her before she can convince Daniels to stay?

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