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Dr. Stadler realizes that whether or not Galt relents,
Stadler no longer has a place in Washington. To carve out a position
of power for himself, he drives to the site of Project X, hoping
to seize control of the weapon, but he is too late. Cuffy Meigs
has already arrived with the same idea. As they fight over control
of the weapon, the weapon is detonated, and the countryside is destroyed
for hundreds of miles in all directions.
The Washington men are unnerved and desperate. Dr. Ferris
convinces them to try torturing Galt. Dagny hears their decision
and telephones Francisco. Just as she is about to leave to meet
him, a panicked engineer rushes into her office and tells her that
the Taggart Bridge has been destroyed in the Project X disaster.
For the first time, she does not try to fix the problem. When she
meets Francisco, she solemnly recites Galt’s oath to him. She is
now on strike.
At the State Science Institute, Galt is tortured with
a device called Project F, as Dr. Ferris, Wesley Mouch, and Jim
Taggart look on. The device runs electrical currents through his
body. Dr. Ferris tells him that he will not be allowed to leave
the room until he provides a complete outline of the measures he
intends to take as economic dictator. Galt endures the torture without
speaking. When the machine breaks down, he tells the man operating
it how to fix it. The operator realizes in horror what is happening
and rushes out of the room. In his overwhelming desperation to see
Galt destroyed, Jim finally realizes his true nature as a nihilist,
and the knowledge is too much to bear. He screams and collapses.
The strikers—Dagny, Rearden, Francisco, and Danneskjold—rescue
Galt in a dramatic gunfight. They climb aboard Francisco’s airplane,
which has been waiting outside, and fly toward Colorado.
The locomotive of the Comet, eastbound from San Francisco, breaks
down in the middle of a desert in Arizona. The conductor informs
Eddie Willers that the engineer is working on the problem, but the
look of resignation in his eyes implies that nothing can be done. Eddie
is angry and frustrated. He had worked relentlessly to restore service.
He is bitterly determined to hold on to the railroad and his faith
in the world. When the crew and passengers are rescued by a caravan
of covered wagons, Eddie refuses to desert the train.
With the complete collapse of the looters’ way of life,
the residents of the valley are finally ready to return to the world
and rebuild it according to their beliefs.
Stadler’s death in the Project X disaster is perfect justice.
Through his denial of the mind, he has embraced its opposite—brute
force. In the end, he is no better than the thug Cuffy Meigs, who
is also hoping to use the weapon to rule others. The weapon
itself is the manifestation of the enslaved mind. It represents
Stadler’s mind, or more specifically, the science his mind produced,
which has been harnessed to the machine’s evil purpose. Having lived
by the enslavement of the mind, it is only proper that Stadler should
die by it as well.
Until now, Dagny has been the last holdout among the industrialists.
She has continued to believe that the looters are willing to see reality,
at least in terms of their own survival. Now she understands that
they are willing to sacrifice everything in order to avoid facing the
world they have made. Although they desperately need Galt and the
mind he represents, even to repair the machine they torture him with,
still they will risk his life and even kill him. Such willingness shows
they have come to embrace death. The strikers were right all along,
and she must now withdraw her mind. Her refusal to help with the
Taggart Bridge disaster is her resignation.
The belief system embodied in John Galt and the striking
industrialists is intensely important to Rand, as evidenced by the
near-religious imagery in the novel’s final scene. Galt’s gesture
is a benediction as he blesses the valley and the world to which
they return with his most sacred symbol—a dollar sign drawn in the
Ace your assignments with our guide to Atlas Shrugged!