Thursday, August 18, 2005

Chapter 18: By Our Love

The idea that the heroes are held by bondage to torture--by their love--is made obvious in its application to Dagny Taggart in this short chapter.

Dagny's resignation from Taggart Transcontinental to Woodstock is supposed to be a time of peaceful resting, but she is too often agitated by feelings of despair. She would wake up in the middle of the night with TT tasks that need to be done, analogize the repetition of common events--cooking, gardening, fixing up her cabin--to the futility of a circle; a circle being movement proper to physical nature without consciousness and a straight line--that of the tracks of a railroad--being the "badge fo man." The despair would come when she realizes that it's all useless, and yet, she longs for it--a part of her certain that "the truth and the right" to her railroad were hers. A part of her feels compelled to fight--"her rightful acheivement had been lost, not to some superior power, but to a loathsome evil that conquered by means of impotence"--that renunciation would be more evil than giving up. The pain blunting her capacity to feel joy is tremendous. Once, she had viewed the act of leaving TT as a sort of amputation, and indeed, it is as if a part of her were severed--her love of her work, of TT, makes it seem as if she has sacrificed it to the looters...

Moreover, Dagny is hopefully optimistic. She believes that evil is only temporary and unnatural. Francisco tracks her down (most likely by word from John who heard from Eddie), and he states that "we can never lose the things we live for. We may have to change their form at times, if we've made an error, but the purpose remains the same and the forms are ours to make." In short, the immortals (heroes) create the values and meaning of material objects. (The mortals (looters) would rather prefer that the immortals don't exist, a view that is in sync with their idea that the industrial is completely materialistic, devoid of the spiritual--the mind--that any muscle and brute force can run an industry; the mortals believe that the objects hold both meaning and values.)

The producers created the wealth of the world, but let their enemies write its moral code. Although the heroes live by a different code, they accept punishment for their virtues--betraying their own code. It is the love of the producers that binds them in bondage--the looters know that the producer would bear anything to work and produce. The heroe's moral code is that achievement is man's highest moral purpose, that he can't exist without it, that love of virtue is the love of life. There is no effort too great in the service of one's love, and even if the looters don't know why the heroes love what they do best, the looters know that they love their work and will use that as a neverending source of funds.

Francisco's visit and impending "conquest" would be cut short by the announcement of an emergency broadcast--the Taggart Tunnel catastrophe. It is tragic that Dagny would fight to go back with the desperate intensity of strength of a cornered animal--it is instinctual that she saves her love, her work by which she is bound.

The second section begins with implicating the general reason behind the villains' version of quitting the world. That of escape from the mess they've created, the blame. That they would bribe doctors to claim they've a fatal disease (Locey) or have a pre-written letter of resignation (James Taggart) to escape the consequences of the Winston Tunnel catastrophe.

Taggart attempts to wring from Eddie Dagny's location. Eddie, however, protects her locale, as if guarding a citadel--her sentry against the world. Dagny rushes in, and Eddie collapses into sobs, foreshadowing his deeper attachments to Dagny. Mouch calls, but Dagny does not want to speak to him because of what he did to Rearden (viz., double-cross him while he was Rearden's Washington man for a position in the Bureau), and she would only speak to Mr. Weatherby. She tells Weatherby to not interfere with her work, and it seems like the looter government would comply to her orders completely. Dagny believes they are now on her terms because they need her, but she returns home and finds herself wanting to wash away the metaphorical dirtiness she now feels towards her work.

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