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.