Atlas Shrugged Volume 2, Chapter 1 Summary
The Man Who Belonged On Earth
- This chapter title is a reference to an upcoming line of Dagny's, just FYI.
- We start our new Volume with Robert Stadler freezing in his office at the State Science Institute in New Hampshire. It's May but still cold.
- We've clearly jumped forward in time several months, since when we left Hank and Dagny it was either late summer or early fall.
- The winter was a bad one – lots of accidents and shortages across the country.
- Stadler is waiting on Dr. Ferris. He is feeling lonely and depressed.
- He recalls giving an interview a year ago where the guy garbled everything he said.
- Dr. Stadler has Dr. Ferris's new book on him: Why Do You Think You Think? Sounds like a winner, although nothing tops The Vulture is Molting in our opinion.
- We get some sound bites from the book. Ferris writes things like science is useless, no one can know anything, reason doesn't exist, everything is a contradiction, etc. It's very down on thinking and people in general.
- Stadler is really upset by the book since he doesn't believe anything it says.
- Ferris finally ambles in and is disrespectful toward Dr. Stadler.
- Stadler asks Ferris about the oil shortage. Ferris gets defensive and says the government is doing the best it can to fix the mess in the Wyatt Oil Fields. He also insists that the fire was an accident and that Wyatt died in it.
- Stadler is confused – he doesn't really know anything about Ellis Wyatt at all; he was just wondering why the building is freaking freezing.
- Ferris is relieved and says that the whole country was short on fuel this past winter and he'll make sure Stadler is more comfortable in the future.
- Stadler says this is stupid – the Wyatt Oil Fields couldn't have been the only source of oil in the whole country.
- Ferris hems and haws and says that the other closures in Colorado have been causing problems. Turns out Andrew Stockton has disappeared, too.
- Stadler then asks about Project X, which freaks Ferris out.
- He didn't need to worry, though, cause Stadler is clueless as usual.
- Project X stands for Project Xylophone; it's super secret and has to do with sound.
- Stadler finally asks Ferris what the heck is up with his book.
- Ferris seems smug and is mocking Stadler, which confuses Stadler.
- Ferris says he knows it's all garbage and that people are idiotic enough to believe it.
- Stadler is really just mad that there's an endorsement from him on the book.
- Ferris laughs and says that Stadler has as much contempt for society as he does, so chill out.
- Ferris then explains that the book gives people an excuse not to think by explaining that they can't think, and that this book is the road to popularity. Popularity means money from Congress.
- Stadler thinks this is all stupid; he hates having to deal with politics.
- Ferris finally leaves but lets us know that Lawrence Hammond has disappeared now, too. Ferris has it in for all the businesspeople who are disappearing.
- Stadler throws the book in the trash after Ferris leaves and feels very depressed.
- But then he gets a phone call from Dagny. She wants a meeting.
- He's thrilled to hear from her and offers to come up to New York to see her in person.
- Scene cut! We catch up with Dagny now.
- The past few months have been very hard for her, since all her friends and fellow businesspeople from Colorado are disappearing.
- This is also causing difficulties for her railroad, since they are losing customers.
- No one knows why the people are disappearing or where they are going.
- We learn that the fires in Ellis Wyatt's oil fields have finally been put out, except for one oil well that's still burning. People call the lingering flame Wyatt's Torch.
- Dagny is fed up with the corruption in Washington. There's all sorts of shady dealing going on. People with connections can magically get trains and transportation, while other businesses are cut off without any help.
- The government has also started freezing people's bonds and accounts, but people with connections can get their accounts magically "unfrozen," while others are just screwed over.
- Dagny refuses to quit, though, and she hasn't given up on her quest to find the inventor of the Magical Motor.
- She took the cigarette that Hugh Akston gave her, with the dollar sign on it, to that newsstand man from way back in Volume 1 who collects cigarettes.
- She also brought in scientists and showed them the motor, but they either weren't smart enough to understand it or were scared of it.
- Silly Dagny, don't you know by now that you have to do everything yourself?
- Stadler finally shows up and is full of kind words for Dagny, but she brushes him off and gets down to business.
- She gives Stadler the lowdown on the motor and he is thrilled. He's totally confused about the inventor though. He doesn't get why the inventor didn't publish fancy articles about his theories, and he can't figure out who the person could be.
- Stadler wants to put out a classified ad for the guy, but Dagny talks him out of it, saying that the inventor probably wouldn't respond to anything connected to the State Science Institute.
- Stadler sadly agrees.
- He asks to see the motor and Dagny shows him.
- Stadler then goes on one of his patented random rants, something Dagny seems to inspire in him. He carries on about how he is desperate to find cool, smart people in the world since he's always surrounded by brown-nosing morons.
- Dagny can feel his pain there.
- Finally Stadler tells her about a scientist named Quentin Daniels who lives in Utah. Daniels didn't want to have anything to do with the State Science Institute, apparently, so Dagny is down with that.
- As they are walking out of the tunnel where the motor is, someone asks our favorite question: who is John Galt?
- Stadler says he actually knew a John Galt. Let's hear it, Stadler!
- Stadler insists John Galt has to be dead, though, and he sounds freaked about the whole thing.
- Scene cut! Hank is back.
- He's gotten a letter from the State Science Institute wanting him to sell them some Rearden Metal for the mysterious Project X.
- Hank says no way and his secretary Gwen Ives is happy with that call.
- We learn that Hank's been dealing with lots of restrictions on his Rearden Metal and other bad stuff over the past few months.
- Hank is peeved because he isn't allowed to sell his metal to people who really need it, like Ken Danagger and Dagny.
- He also has a new person from Washington keeping an eye on his plant. It's a young guy that Hank derisively nicknames the Wet Nurse.
- The Wet Nurse is hip and tells Hank to go with the flow and get with the program and other such clichés. Hank tells the Wet Nurse to stop spouting off party-line garbage all the time.
- We learn that Hank is becoming increasingly disillusioned. He actually laughed (scaring himself a little) when he heard that Ellis had torched his oil fields and split town.
- The Wet Nurse tells Hank that he'll be in trouble with Washington if he doesn't hand over his Rearden Metal to the State Science Institute.
- Hank says that he won't cooperate with a bad government that basically steals things from people.
- A guy comes from the State Science Institute and tries to convince Hank to hand over the metal, but Hank refuses again.
- Hank tells the guy that if the government wants to barge in with guns and take his metal they can do so, but he won't help them pretend they aren't stealing from him or forcing him to do stuff he'd rather not.
- The man tells Hank he'll regret this. Then he cackles evilly.
- Scene cut! Dagny is lounging at home, waiting for Hank.
- She decides that the only times she's really happy is when Hank is with her.
- Hank comes in with an expensive present – a ruby necklace.
- Dagny protests that it's too extravagant to wear anywhere. But Hank has an idea: he has Dagny strip and put the necklace on. And then they play chess. Oh, wait.
- Hank tells Dagny that she's like a work of art. We learn through a series of flashbacks that Hank has been spoiling Dagny with really elaborate gifts, like tropical flowers in the winter, crystal glasses, a gold necklace, and a fur cape. Kind of over-the-top, really. But Dagny is having fun with it as long as Hank is.
- The night he gives her the cape he takes her out for dinner.
- During the drive Dagny thinks about Hank and can't understand why he lets his family push him around and make him miserable.
- Hank tells Dagny that he enjoys spoiling her and finally has a reason to spend his money.
- At dinner Hank notices all the miserable people around them and can't figure out why the world is the way it is.
- He tells Dagny that when he was working hard in his youth he wanted to earn a life of luxury and a night like the one they're having.
- We cut back to the present. Hank is walking to Dagny's place and thinking Deep Thoughts.
- He arrives and he and Dagny talk a while about life, their shared values, and the motor.
- Hank has a little epiphany and decides that as long as there's one person out there who could invent the motor, he won't lose his faith in the world or in people.
- Hanks explains his realization to Dagny. He says that the creeps running the country need some sort of moral sanction or approval from people and that he and Dagny can't cooperate with them.
- They both feel happier after this and embrace.
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