by Ayn Rand
We would totally be BFFs with Ken. First off, he has a great last name. Sounds like Danger. Second, he's a fan of Hank. And third, he gets some of the best scenes in the whole book, and he's not even around all that much. Why give Ken such good material? Well, he helps demonstrate the benefits of going on strike in terms of personal relationships.
When we first meet Ken, he's a detached, stern older guy who's willing to go to the mats for Hank. He's very no-nonsense and is described as not having friends or family. But then Dagny encounters him after his "conversion" conversation with John Galt:
It was not the face she had seen in the courtroom, it was not the face she had known for years as a countenance of unchanging, unfeeling rigidity – it was a face which a young man of twenty should hope for, but could not achieve, a face from which every sign of strain had been wiped out...to form a composition of hope, eagerness, and guiltless serenity: the theme was deliverance. (188.8.131.52)
Ken Danagger further emphasizes the nature of his change by giving Dagny a message for Hank before he disappears:
"Will you tell him that I...You see, I've never cared for people, yet he was always the man I respected, but I didn't know until today that what I felt was...that he was the only man I ever loved." (184.108.40.206)
There's a lot going on here. Ken is the only striker we see immediately after his conversion, so this scene highlights the process for us and shows us how important a total life is to Galt. Galt's idea of life is about loving work and having time for friends and emotions and downtime. Freed from the burdens of working for the looters, Ken is now able to regain his youth and fully express his emotions.
Danagger also ties into the theme of brother-love through his relationship with Hank. We often see brotherly love abused in book, like Philip with Hank and James with Dagny. Ken shows us a genuine love and respect for a friend, or what brotherly love should be.
The final thing to note about the supposedly "unfeeling" Ken Danagger is his deep compassion, which the strike helps unleash. When Dagny arrives in Atlantis he plays the role of a very supportive friend, telling her that she's done well and encouraging her to lay down her burdens. Who knew Ken had it in him? Well apparently Galt did, since the strike is what got Ken to open up emotionally. Ken shows us how the strike is more than just a political quest.