Monday, July 22, 2013

Francisco sat down on the couch beside him, and slowly moved his hand over Rearden's forehead

I admit I skimmed much of chapters 3 - 6 of Atlas Shrugged. As Bennet Cerf said to Rand, when he pleaded with her to edit, she's already hit the same points three or four times. So I didn't miss much by skimming.

The Galt's Gulch chapters are so much more enjoyable than these, because, although the Gulchers are just as implausible as the parasites in the outside world, they are implausible in virtuous ways, like angels. It isn't a constant misery to read about their appearances and their activities.

Whenever the chapters are about moochers/looters/parasites Rand has to inform the reader again that they are stupid, have goofy names, are ugly, fat (she uses the word "fattish" to describe two different parasites on two consecutive pages), flabby, loose-mouthed, cowardly, hypocritical, cruel, stupid, emotional, Buddhists, soy bean growers, sneaky, sloppy, impotent and stupid.

And nobody is spared. James Taggart's wife shows up after 300 pages so that she can be driven to suicide by Taggart - and just when she and Dagny became friends. So Dagny still has no female friends. But then again, she lives in a world where this is how social workers are:
The social worker was a woman whose gray face and gray coat blended with the walls of the district. She saw (James Taggart's wife)... approached her and asked severely, "Are you in trouble?" -and saw one wary eye, the other hidden by a lock of hair, and the face of a wild creature who had forgotten the sound of human voices but listens as to a distant echo, with suspicion, yet almost with hope.
The social worker seized her arm: "It's a disgrace to come to such a state... if you society girls had something to do besides indulging your desires and chasing pleasures, you wouldn't be wandering, drunk as a tramp, at this hour of the night... if you stopped living for your own enjoyment, stopped thinking of yourself and found something higher - "
This is what sends Cherryl Taggart to her death.

And biographer Jennifer Burns was not kidding when she said that Rand blames intellectuals for everything in Atlas Shrugged:
(Rearden) felt an anger too intense to identify except as a pressure within him: it was a desire to kill. 
The desire was not directed at the unknown thug who had sent a bullet through the boy's body, or at the looting bureaucrats who had hired the thug to do it, but at the boy's teachers, who had delivered him, unarmed, to the thug's gun - at the soft assassins of college classrooms who, incompetent to answer the queries of a quest for reason, took pleasure in crippling the young minds entrusted to their care.
Not only incompetent but cruel too. So let's see, social workers are evil, college professors are evil - what's left? Oh yes:
...there was this boy's mother, who had trembled with protective concern over his groping steps, while teaching him to walk... then had sent him to be turned into a tortured neurotic by the men who taught him he had no mind and must never attempt to think.
And would you believe a large segment of intellectuals failed to find much to like in Atlas Shrugged. What's wrong with some people?

So anyway, the world outside of Galt's Gulch is falling apart thanks to all those parasites who didn't express gratitude to Richard Halley for his music, among other thought-crimes. But there are a few bright spots. Like when Hank Rearden, in the Randian Superman tradition, puts himself in Dagny's friend zone before anybody asks him to:
...I know it and accept it: somewhere in the past month you have met the man you love, and if love means one's final, irreplaceable choice, then he is the only man you've ever loved.
After Dagny admits this is true, Rearden responds in a way that is completely alien to everything we've been told about his character. Remember, this is the guy who punched d'Anconia for merely stating that he loved Dagny:
I think I've always known that you would find him. I knew what you felt for me, I knew how much it was, but I knew that I was not your final choice. What you'll give him is not taken away from me, it's what I've never had. I can't rebel against it. What I've had means too much to me - and if I've had it, can never be changed. 
Well how convenient for Dagny. But then again, maybe we already know why it was so easy for Hank and Francisco to give Dagny up without a fight:
It seemed to Rearden that his consciousness shot forward ahead of his body, it was his body that refused to move, stunned by shock, while his mind was laughing, telling him that this was the most natural, the most-to-have-been-expected event in the world...'ve been torturing yourself for months," said Francisco, approaching him, "wondering what words you'd use to ask my forgiveness and whether you had a right to ask it, if, you ever saw me again - but now you see that it isn't necessary, that there's nothing to ask or to forgive." 
"Yes" said Rearden, the word coming out in an astonished whisper, but by the time he finished his sentence he knew that this was the greatest tribute he could offer. "Yes, I know it." 
Francisco sat down on the couch beside him, and slowly moved his hand over Rearden's forehead. It was like a healing touch that closed the past. 
"There's only one thing I want to tell you." said Rearden "I want you to hear it from me: you kept your oath. You were my friend." 
"I knew that you knew it. You knew it from the first. You knew it, no matter what you thought of my actions. You slapped me because you could not force yourself to doubt it." 
"That..." whispered Rearden, staring at him, "that was the thing I had no right to tell you... no right to claim as my excuse..." 
"Didn't you suppose I'd understand it?" 
"I wanted to find you... I had no right to look for you... And all the time you were - " He pointed at Francisco's clothes, then his hand dropped helplessly and he closed his eyes. 
"I was your furnace foreman," said Francisco, grinning. "I didn't think you'd mind that. You offered me the job yourself." 
"You've been here, as my bodyguard, for two months?" 
"You've been here, ever since - " He stopped. 
"That's right. On the morning of the day you were reading my farewell message over the roofs of New York, I was reporting here for my first shift as your furnace foreman." 
"Tell me," said Rearden slowly, "that night at James Taggart's wedding, when you said you were after your greatest conquest... you meant me, didn't you?" 
"Of course." 
Francisco drew himself up a little, as if for a solemn task, his face earnest, the smile remaining only in his eyes. "I have a great deal to tell you," he said. "But first, will you repeat a word you once offered me and I... I had to reject, because I knew I was not free to accept?" 
Rearden smiled. "What word, Francisco?" 
Francisco inclined his head in acceptance, and answered, "Thank you, Hank." Then he raised his head. "Now I'll tell you the things I've come to say, but did not finish, that night when I came here for the first time. I think you're ready to hear it." 
"I am." 
The glare of steel from a furnace shot to the sky beyond the window. A red glow went sweeping slowly over the walls of the office, over the empty desk, over Rearden's face as if in salute and farewell.
The chapter ends there with the shooting steel and Hank and Francisco, murmuring each other's names. What better segueway could there be into Chapter Seven, John Galt's Long-ass Speech?