Atlas Shrugged Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary

Ayn Rand

Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary

As Dagny crosses the plains, she is depressed by the desolation she sees along the way. At one stop, she sees the conductor pull a tramp off the train. There is some quiet dignity about him that impresses Dagny, so she invites him into her private car. He explains that he has been traveling around without holding a job long over the past several years. He was a factory worker, but all the factories kept closing not long after he was hired. He introduces himself as Jeff Allen and tells Dagny that he used to work at the Twentieth Century Motor Company in Wisconsin, where she had found the motor. He tells her of the Starnes heirs, the owners of the factory, and their new policies. The workers were told to work according to their abilities but were paid according to their needs. The workers were to vote on whose needs were to be met first. Soon, a subtle resentment began to build up. Production began to drop, so a new plan was instituted in which a worker who was not producing enough would have to work extra hours without pay. Morale plummeted as the honest workers felt punished, and dishonest workers began to manipulate the system. Finally, one man stood up and said that he quit. He would leave and stop the motor of the world. The man’s name was John Galt. It was Allen and the other workers who started the phrase, “Who is John Galt?” as all the factories began to close, presumably as the result of John Galt’s efforts.

When the train suddenly stops, Dagny checks on the engine crew, who have disappeared. This has become a common occurrence as the railroad workers protest the strictures of Directive 10-289. Dagny discovers that Owen Kellogg, a former Taggart employee, is also on the train. He claims that he is on vacation and refuses to run the engine. Dagny and Kellogg walk to a phone at a post a few miles down the line and call the nearest station. The night operator refuses to send out a crew until Dagny threatens him and tells him he will be fired. She accepts full responsibility. Dagny is shocked when Kellogg offers her a cigarette with the dollar sign on it. She asks him where he got them, but he will not tell her; he simply states that someone makes them for his friends. He eventually gives her the pack, which she puts in her purse.

Not having luck procuring help for the train quickly enough, Dagny walks to a nearby airfield and rents a plane. When she lands, she discovers that Quentin Daniels has just taken off in another plane. She flies off to catch him but crashes in the Colorado Mountains.