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Atlas Shrugged | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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Atlas Shrugged | Part 3, Chapter 8 : A Is A (The Egoist) | Summary



Mr. Thompson asks what should be done, and Dagny Taggart says, "Give up and get out of the way." Thompson decides John Galt might know what to do. Thompson gives orders for Dagny to be followed; she will lead them to Galt, and then they'll "make a deal with him."

On November 23 the radio reports Thompson endorsed Galt's speech. The public panics; violence is widespread. On December 5 the radio begins broadcasting Thompson's intention to "negotiate with Galt"; Galt doesn't respond. The radio cries, "Do you hear us, John Galt?" The jails are full; mobs loot warehouses. Abandoned buildings are marked "in chalk, in paint, in blood ... [with] the sign of the dollar."

On January 22 Hank Rearden's factory goes dark; the government is incapable of running it. On January 26 the People's State of Guatemala refuses the United States a loan of steel. Thompson asks Dagny to reveal Galt's location; she claims not to know. Dagny realizes Dr. Floyd Ferris and his cronies want the death penalty for those who don't cooperate.

Unable to resist, Dagny finally goes to Galt's house. He says they have little time before "the looters' agents," following Dagny without her knowledge, come to arrest him. To save him, he says, she must pretend to hate him. He will kill himself if they threaten her, so their relationship must be a secret. He shows her his lab, containing the motor. The doorbell rings, and Dagny identifies Galt to the armed men. They break into the lab, finding nothing but dust, and take Galt away.

Thompson says he wants to make Galt "economic dictator"; Galt says his first order is to abolish income taxes and fire government employees. Thompson refuses, confused. Galt says Thompson can offer him nothing of value. When Thompson points out Galt cannot leave the room without his help and therefore he is offering Galt his life, Galt says he will do whatever Thompson says, because he is held "under threat of death." Thompson says he doesn't understand Galt. Galt replies, "Who is John Galt?"

Dagny tells Thompson that Galt is "an arrogant egoist" who is after "reality. This earth." Ferris tries to blackmail Galt with a threat to execute children and the elderly if he doesn't tell them what to do. Galt says he will only talk to Dr. Robert Stadler. People are holding trains for ransom out west. Dagny refuses to leave New York, so Eddie Willers goes to California to reclaim the trains.

Seeing Galt, a terrified Stadler breaks down, saying "I couldn't help it ... I'm not to blame for it!" To be a scientist, he had to work with the looters. Stadler becomes aggressive, telling Galt he is "the man who has to be destroyed!" Hearing his own words, Stadler is overtaken with self-hate and runs out. Galt has said nothing.

Galt is escorted by gunmen to a ballroom, where a televised event will be filmed. The announcer claims "the inauguration of the ... John Galt Plan for Peace, Prosperity, and Profit." Thompson tells Galt to give a few words of greeting to the nation. Galt says into the camera, "Get the hell out of my way!"


Having made his speech, John Galt has nothing more to say, other than to tell the looters to get out of his way. Mr. Thompson, predictably, misses the speech's message entirely; he suggests Galt be "economic dictator," while the current faction maintains control of politics. This is an absurd suggestion; Galt understands the political and the economic are inextricably intertwined. Thompson and his men want to have their cake and eat it too, in defiance of the law of identity. Because Galt is Galt, it's impossible for him to be a dictator; it's impossible for him to destroy the Morality of Death while cooperating with its most powerful proponents. Galt is literally held at gunpoint, and his strategy is the same Hank Rearden used at his trial: he undermines the charade simply by doing nothing, by refusing to allot those who hold him by force any authority over his mind.

When Galt meets with Dr. Robert Stadler, the father who betrayed him, Galt's refusal to speak destroys Stadler. Galt is a silent mirror, allowing Stadler to see his own hatred of life and his betrayal of Galt and all that Galt stands for. Lillian Rearden undergoes a similar experience—as will James Taggart in an upcoming chapter. She collapses into herself in the face of a superior morality; simply by holding up a mirror, Galt forces her to see exactly what she is.

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