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Atlas Shrugged | Part 3, Chapter 3 : A Is A (Anti-Greed) | Summary

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Summary

Dr. Robert Stadler uneasily attends the first public demonstration of Project X in Iowa. Dr. Floyd Ferris tells the crowd Project X uses sound vibrations that destroy all structures. A laboratory on the hill contains the Thompson Harmonizer; its panel controls the long-range sound ray. The demonstration vaporizes a farmhouse in the distance. Ferris tells Stadler the weapon is "a practical appliance ... based upon [his] theoretical discoveries," which will promote public security and will be useful against "internal enemies."

Cuffy Meigs is administering the Railroad Unification Plan at Taggart Transcontinental. All railroads have been "unified into a single team," pooling their track and revenue; the pooled revenue is distributed by Washington to each railroad based on the miles of track it owns. James Taggart tells Dagny Taggart she must speak to the nation on Bertram Scudder's radio show that evening to promote Directive Number 10-289.

Lillian Rearden visits Dagny and tells her she made Hank Rearden sign over his Metal by informing the bureaucrats of his adultery. Rearden did it to protect Dagny's honor. Unless Dagny appears on the radio show, Lillian will broadcast the evidence of their affair. Dagny thanks her and agrees to appear.

On the show Dagny announces she was Hank Rearden's mistress for two years and says he was blackmailed into signing over his Metal to the government. After she is cut off, she goes back to her apartment, where Rearden is waiting. He tells her he loves her. Because she spoke of their affair in the past tense during her speech, he realizes she has now met someone else—the man she truly loves. Dagny says she cannot have that man. When Rearden asks the man's name, she replies, "Who is John Galt?" She tells him there is a place where the industrialists all live. Dagny and Rearden agree to keep fighting until they "win or ... learn that it's hopeless."

Analysis

Lillian Rearden's only weapon is the threat of exposing Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden's affair. When Dagny publicly announces the affair herself, she disarms Lillian. Unlike Rearden, Dagny didn't need the affair to be secret; she felt no guilt over her sexuality and broke no marriage vows. As Rearden did at his trial, Dagny outwits those who would persecute her by following her values. Because she is willing to take responsibility for her actions, and her actions align with her moral code, she is immune to shame, guilt, and manipulation. The adultery is no threat to Dagny's honor; it reflected her highest values. By speaking honestly in the past tense, she subtly communicates to Rearden the affair's end. He accepts this happily, for his love is pure. He wants not to control Dagny but rather to see her follow her own truth.

It is significant that when Rearden asks the name of Dagny's true love, she replies, "Who is John Galt?" Depending on Rearden's level of understanding, her answer both reveals and conceals the truth within this commonplace expression.

Project X demonstrates the danger of being a man of thought but not a man of action. Dr. Robert Stadler is interested only in pure theory, not in potential applications. Stadler never anticipates how Dr. Floyd Ferris, a man of action, will employ his theoretical discoveries for nefarious practical purposes. In Ferris's hands, a sound wave has the power to destroy the world. Even when Stadler sees this, he tolerates his own unease, making no objection. His main objective is to protect his job—unlike the strikers, with whom Stadler belongs, who willingly gave up their jobs to protect their integrity. The fruit of not following one's principles is terrifying: a weapon of mass destruction. Ayn Rand's heroes are men of thought and action: John Galt develops the theory for the motor and then makes it.

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