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 air.