Atlas Shrugged

by: Ayn Rand

Part Two, Chapters VII–VIII

The mysterious Ragnar Danneskjold is finally revealed, and Francisco’s mysteries also become clear. On meeting Danneskjold, Rearden finds him to be a thoughtful and articulate man with a rational approach to his activities, far from the criminal thug Rearden imagined. Danneskjold represents justice in the story as he seeks to right the wrongs committed by the looters. In order to fight for justice, he must become a criminal, which is ironic, but when robbery is sanctioned by law, restitution becomes a crime. Although Rearden has always despised Danneskjold, after learning Danneskjold’s true story, Rearden is compelled to protect him from the police. The gold Danneskjold gives Rearden becomes a source of strength for him as the chaos intensifies.

As for Francisco, we learn he is one of the vanished businessmen, but he has chosen to stay in the looters’ world to further its collapse and urge others to withdraw. His conversations with Rearden and Dagny have been part of his recruiting effort. When he tells everything to Dagny, he nearly succeeds in getting her to leave, to withdraw her mind and ability in order to speed up the inevitable collapse of society. But in the same way that the furnace fire pulled Rearden back to his mills, the tunnel disaster pulls Dagny back to her railroad, just when she was ready to leave it. Dagny and Rearden both know they are held to the corrupt system by their love for their work. They know they are helping to feed the parasites, but their love is still too compelling.

With no one of substance or intelligence left in leadership roles, the Taggart Tunnel disaster is inevitable. Dagny would have let rational facts rule her decision and would never have allowed the train to enter the tunnel, regardless of the consequences for her. But Clifton Locey’s only concern is his own place in the hierarchy of influence and favor. He refuses to upset a powerful Washington man, even if his refusal ultimately kills the man. Although he will not say no to running the coal train, he is also very careful not to say yes either. The fear of taking responsibility is a characteristic shared by all of the looters. The issue of personal responsibility is critical to Rand’s philosophy. Her heroes are always decisive and responsible regardless of the situations they face.