Summary—Chapter VII: “This is John Galt Speaking”

Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his errors—the greatest of your philosophers, has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.

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Rearden vanishes, sending Dagny a note that says only, “I have met him. I don’t blame you.” Without him, the output of the steel industry shrinks. The country is panicky, and violent gangs gain control. Newspapers tell conflicting stories, mostly in the form of denials, but everywhere the collapse of society is obvious.

In an attempt to calm the public, the government announces that Mr. Thompson, the Head of State, will give a speech on all stations to address the crisis. The date and time are announced repeatedly for a week. At the moment the speech is to begin, the airwaves are taken over, and John Galt addresses the public instead. Galt delivers a long, detailed speech about the state of the nation and the strike of the mind and its reasons.

He denounces the mystics who claim God as the highest moral authority, and the socialists, who claim one’s neighbors as the highest moral authority. He argues that morality is not an arbitrary system imposed from the outside, but an integral part of man himself. Man’s reason, Galt says, is his moral faculty. Serving himself is the highest goal of the moral man. He describes the principles under which every man must live: reason, purpose, and self-esteem. These principles, he declares, imply and require all of man’s virtues: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, and pride. He calls for a general strike, asking those with any shred of reason left to withdraw their sanction and stop supporting their own destroyers. He urges people to accept reality and to stop shrinking from knowledge, but accept it and reclaim the concept of an objective reality.

Summary—Chapter VIII: The Egoist

After the speech, Mr. Thompson and the other Washington men are terrified and desperate. Dr. Stadler suggests coldly that they should kill Galt. Mr. Thompson thinks that Galt is a man of action, precisely what the nation needs, and that he can get the retired industrialists back. Thompson wants to negotiate with him.

After the broadcast, Eddie tells Dagny that he knows John Galt, that for years he has talked to him at the Taggart cafeteria. He wonders if he was helping to save or to destroy the railroad. Dagny asks him to keep his knowledge of Galt’s employment secret, because the government is desperate to find him.

The country falls deeper into chaos. The government searches for Galt, while a steady flow of broadcasts announce that John Galt will solve the country’s problems. Thompson asks Dagny if she knows where to find Galt. He hints that the situation is now desperate. He can no longer control the government’s dangerous faction, and if they were to find Galt first, they might kill him. She tells Thompson that she does not know where Galt is. After her conversation with Mr. Thompson, Dagny is so afraid for Galt that she rushes to his apartment. When she reaches him, he tells her that she was followed by government agents, and in a short time they will storm the apartment. He tells her that she must pretend to be against him. If they realize the nature of Galt and Dagny’s relationship, they will use her to torture him. When the agents appear to arrest him, she pretends he is her enemy.