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Atlas Shrugged | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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Atlas Shrugged | Part 3, Chapter 2 : A Is A (The Utopia of Greed) | Summary



The next morning Ragnar Danneskjöld arrives for vacation. Danneskjöld says Hank Rearden soon will be ready for the valley. He says John Galt is "draining the soul of the world," and his piracy is draining its body. Dagny Taggart will remain all month; then she may choose to leave. Galt hires her as his "cook and housemaid."

Owen Kellogg tells Dagny the world thinks she is dead. No outside communication is permitted all month. Francisco d'Anconia arrives, and for the first time he tells Dagny he loves her. He explains his playboy lifestyle was camouflage, and he left that life when he understood the fate awaiting Dagny. D'Anconia says he is glad Hank Rearden is her lover because he cannot be. Dagny knows Rearden is no longer her lover, but she knows she might not choose Galt over the railroad. Her feelings for Francisco were "a celebration of her future," while Galt brings her the feeling of "the full and final present." Disdaining the idea of perpetual aspiration without achievement, she struggles to decide whether to "give [Galt] up or give up the world."

Galt, for his own protection, refuses to tell Dagny his position in the outer world. He feared Dagny, knowing she "would be the last to join ... and the hardest one to defeat." Francisco added her name to their recruitment list. When Galt first saw Dagny, he knew "abandoning [his] motor was not the hardest price [he] would ... pay for this strike." Dagny, horrified, knows she would have shot him had he come to her. Galt says if Dagny goes back to the railroad, it will "collapse upon [her] head." She is tortured by her desire for him and the choice she must make.

Richard Halley plays piano for Dagny. He tells her the same "sacred fire" within an artist also burns within an industrialist. Meeting some valley children, Dagny experiences a "recaptured sense of her own childhood"; their mother says the children "represent my particular career."

Hugh Akston says Galt "left home at the age of twelve to make his own way." Dr. Robert Stadler, the father who betrayed the three pupils, committed the "mortal sin" of never identifying "his proper homeland"; he viewed Akston as his rival. Stadler is the guiltiest of all; he "delivered science into the power of the looters' guns." The irrational society made Galt, the inventor, into a laborer; d'Anconia, the industrialist, a playboy; and Ragnar Danneskjöld, the philosopher, a man of violence.

Francisco says Galt sent him to Dagny's cabin, telling him, "If you want your chance, take it. You've earned it." Francisco asks Dagny to spend her final week as his houseguest. Dagny wants Galt to decide, and he decides against it. Dagny realizes she feels like Galt's wife, but their consummation is "still to be earned."

They spot Hank Rearden's plane overhead, searching for Dagny's wreck. Reminded of his courageous fight, she realizes she hasn't given up on winning the battle.

With one day left, Dagny has not decided whether to stay in Galt's Gulch or go back into the world to fight for her railroad. Galt advises her to follow her reason. The railroad's collapse will mean the end of cities. Midas Mulligan says the Taggart Bridge will collapse; Dagny, insisting it won't, decides then to return. Francisco says he should have realized Galt would see the same things in Dagny as he himself saw. He hands Galt and Dagny silver goblets of wine, telling Galt, "Take it ... You've earned it—and it wasn't chance."

Galt admits he wants to be in New York when Dagny decides to return. She realizes he is the man she "always loved and never found ... whom [she] expected to see at the end of the rails beyond the horizon." She is returning to fight for the world's deliverance to Galt; if she fails, she will be forever exiled.

As Galt leaves Dagny outside the valley the next day, he tells her not to look for him; she won't find him until she wants him for what he is.


The chapter's title refers to Galt's Gulch as a "utopia of greed." Ayn Rand inverts the negative connotation of greed; although the world called the valley's denizens greedy, they live in harmony, working, using little money, and enjoying their lives.

Galt's Gulch is a utopia; it is Rand's vision of an ideal society. The valley's individualist heroes have formed a collective that creates well-being for all. Each resident works for his or her own rational self-interest; charity is forbidden. The result is a transparent, voluntary economy that promotes innovation and happiness. There is no government; the residents associate voluntarily and govern themselves according to a few basic principles: one must always see for oneself, and nothing is given but all is fairly traded.

Dagny Taggart senses she is properly John Galt's wife but will not earn the position until she has chosen the valley over the railroad. Their relationship is blessed by both Hugh Akston and Francisco d'Anconia—metaphorically, Galt's father and brother. Francisco's blessing is sealed as Galt and Dagny drink the wine he offers; the ritual recollects the Christian Eucharist and thus metaphorically unites them in the savior's blood. It remains for Dagny to secure Hank Rearden's blessing—and she returns to the world, where he searches for her.

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