I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
Dagny opens her eyes and looks into the face of a man—a face that bears no mark of pain or fear or guilt. His name is John Galt, and he had been the pilot of the plane she followed. He is the man Jeff Allen described. He is also the inventor of the motor and the destroyer Dagny has feared. She has injured her ankle. He carries her away from the wreckage. On the way to his house, Dagny discovers that this remote mountain valley is the home of all the vanished industrialists. The banker Midas Mulligan owns the valley. Hugh Akston, the composer Richard Halley, Judge Narragansett, and many others who have disappeared are all living here. Francisco is also, not surprisingly, a member of the community.
The industrialists have all built businesses, and the valley is self-sufficient. Galt’s motor powers the electricity as well as a special ray screen that hides the valley from the rest of the world. When Galt takes Dagny to see the building where the motor is kept, she reads an inscription above the door: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” This is the oath of the valley, and until a person will say it and mean it, he or she cannot live there.
At a dinner at Mulligan’s home, Galt explains to Dagny that they are all on strike. The only men who have never gone on strike in human history, he tells her, are the men who bear the world on their shoulders. All other laborers have at one point or another presented demands to the world. This, he tells her, is the mind on strike.
The next morning, Dagny meets the pirate Ragnar Danneskjold, who lives in the valley. He has come for breakfast with Galt and Francisco, who has not arrived yet. Although many of the strikers live in the valley, others, like Francisco, go back and forth to the looters’ world. But every June, all the members of the community spend the month in the valley together. Dagny agrees to stay the month and then decide if she will remain. Although Danneskjold has created an account for her at Mulligan’s bank, she refuses to use the money and instead agrees to work as Galt’s maid to earn her keep.
Owen Kellogg arrives on Dagny’s third day in the valley. He tells her that everyone in the outside world thinks she is dead, including Rearden. The next day Francisco d’Anconia arrives at Galt’s home. He has been searching for Dagny’s plane for days and is shocked and overjoyed when he sees her. He tells her he loves her and knows she will always love him, even if she belongs to another man. Galt forbids any outside communication, so Dagny cannot get word to Rearden that she is safe.
Dagny comes to realize that she is in love with Galt and that he loves her too. He is the man she has always imagined finding. He admits he has watched her from afar for years. Since they are still on opposite sides of the strike, she fears they cannot be together. She also fears Galt will hide his feelings out of concern for Francisco, who still loves her. When Francisco invites her to his home, she turns the question over to Galt, who tells her he wants her to stay with him instead. Galt knows this was a test and that by not descending to self-sacrifice, he has passed. He reminds Dagny that no one stays in the valley under any pretense or emotional shield.
Despite her great happiness in the valley, Dagny decides she must return to fight for her railroad. Against the warnings of his friends, Galt decides to return as well, to watch her and wait for her to be ready to return. She promises to keep the secret of the valley and is escorted out blindfolded and flown to the outside world.
In her description of the valley, Rand presents her ideal world. In it, men and women with creative, productive minds live in a self-sufficient community where innovation is encouraged and property and money are respected. All the members of the community are egoists, meaning they are focused on themselves and on seeking their own happiness through the exercise of their unique talents. Men have no moral obligations to each other except to respect the individual rights of others. Everyone takes responsibility for themselves, their actions, and their decisions, and there are no pretenses or false realities—everything is as it seems. The oath the strikers live by is Rand’s own oath and a cornerstone of her philosophy, the philosophy of the ego.
The mysteries that have driven the novel so far are finally solved. Dagny has found everything she was looking for in John Galt: the destroyer, the inventor of the motor, and her life’s love. We now understand what Francisco was trying to explain all along and why the great thinkers have all come here. Even the identity of Eddie’s mysterious friend is now clear. We know from the description of Galt as having “a face without pain or fear or guilt” that he must be the track worker, since this is the exact description Eddie had used. Furthermore, Galt claims he has watched Dagny every day for years, which would only be possible if he worked nearby. But since Dagny doesn’t know about Eddie’s friend, she is still unaware that Galt is her employee.
The mind on strike is a central theme of Atlas Shrugged. To Rand, the mind provides the motive power of the world. The ability to think rationally and to apply rational thought in creative production makes man’s happiness and success possible. The rational mind is behind every idea and invention that has moved civilization forward. Without the mind, men are plunged into chaos and cease to produce. The strike of the mind is no mere concept, but a real action that has had serious consequences. The withdrawal of the strikers’ minds hastened the destruction of civil society and brought the looters closer to their eventual oblivion. This strike is very different from most and throws the logic of labor strikes on its head. As Galt points out, strikes throughout history have been of laborers, and the argument has been that manual labor is the true source of wealth, exploited by industrialists. But Galt’s strike proves that the thinkers are the ones responsible for prosperity. Manual laborers still remain in the looters’ world, but since the guidance of the thinkers has been withdrawn, they don’t know what to do and cannot make progress.
The strikers are sure that the looters cannot change and must be allowed to destroy themselves, but Dagny still believes there is a chance. She thinks the looters are capable of rational thought and will ultimately recognize their errors and step aside for people like her and Rearden to fix the problems they have created. While there is still a chance, she must return to the world. Galt is sure the looters will never be able to look directly at the reality they inhabit and will evade the truth until the end. He is sure that end is coming soon and wants to be near Dagny when she sees it too.