Study Guide

Atlas Shrugged Love

By Ayn Rand

Love

"What do you care which records? Richard Halley. She loves the music of Richard Halley. Outside the railroad, that's the only thing she loves." (1.3.3.7)

It's interesting that Eddie says that Dagny only loves Halley's music and her railroad. In a sense, these two things are the expression of Dagny's values, which define what she loves and why she loves. These two symbols express the "type" of love Dagny is capable of feeling.

There was some unbreakable link between her love for her work and the desire of her body; as if one gave her the right to the other, the right and the meaning; as if one were the completion of the other – and the desire would never be satisfied, except by a being of equal greatness. (1.8.2.15)

The link between the mind and the body is a running theme throughout the novel; the love of the mind is expressed through the body.

Because it took her a moment to regain the art of breathing, she realized for the first time how much that voice meant to her. "All right...Francisco," she answered. They needed to say nothing else. She thought, replacing the receiver, that his return was natural and as she had always expected it to happen, except that she had not expected her sudden need to pronounce his name or the stab of happiness she felt when pronouncing it. (1.5.2.222).

It's notable that Dagny never comes right out and says she loved Francisco until they reconcile. In a way it's as if she refuses to remember how much she loved him because it hurts too much. Scenes like this reveal the full depth of her feelings for Francisco.

She thought: To find a feeling that would hold, as their sum, as their final expression, the purpose of all the things she loved on earth....To find a consciousness like her own, who would be the meaning of her world, as she would be of his....A man who existed only in her knowledge of her capacity for an emotion she had never felt, but would give her life to experience. (1.8.2.14)

Dagny's quest is for more than just a "Prince Charming." The man she loves must embody her entire value system. He must be more of a kindred spirit rather than a romantic "soul mate."

"I am thinking of the fifteen years that Sebastián d'Anconia had to wait for the woman he loved: He did not know whether he would ever find her again, whether she would survive...whether she would wait for him.... But when he carried her across the threshold of his house, as the first Señora d'Anconia of a new world, he knew that the battle was won, that they were free, that nothing threatened her and nothing would ever hurt her again." (2.5.1.240)

The epic saga of Francisco's ancestor provides us with significant insight into his motives and hopes. It's important that this story doesn't act as a prophecy; in a book with lots of "living legends," this legacy doesn't come true: Francisco doesn't get the girl.

Such was the code that the world had accepted and such was the key to the code: that it hooked man's love of existence to a circuit of torture, so that only the man who had nothing to offer would have nothing to fear, so that the virtues which made life possible and the values which gave it meaning became its agents of destruction.... (2.6.3.77)

Hank realizes the true evil of the looters' system here – they flip everything around so that desires become sins and joy becomes torture.

Dagny, he thought, you would not let me do it if you knew, you will hate me for it if you learn – but I cannot let you pay my debts. . . .

I love you, he said to the girl on the flatcar, feeling as if the light of that summer's sun were touching his forehead, as if he, too, were standing under an open sky over an unobstructed earth, with nothing left to him but himself. (2.6.3.107-8)

It's significant that Hank says "I love you" to his memory of Dagny. In a way he rewrites history, if only in his own mind, saying what he felt that day when he first saw her. Later, it's notable that Hank tells Dagny he loves her in person in order to "redeem" their past relationship. Love has the power to fix the past and to wipe out past pain here, which is an idea we also see in Dagny's relationships with Francisco and John.

He made a step toward Francisco; he asked, pointing to Dagny, his voice low and strangely unlike his own voice, as if it neither came from him nor were addressed to a living person, "Is this the woman you love?"

Francisco closed his eyes.

"Don't ask him that!" The cry was Dagny's.

"Is this the woman you love?"

Francisco answered, looking at her. "Yes."

Rearden's hand rose, swept down and slapped Francisco's face. (2.9.1.104-9)

This is one of the only scenes of jealousy we get in the whole book, which is both notable and surprising. Hank is jealous of Francisco because of his value issues. He later realizes that his love for Dagny is a reflection of his own values, so there's no need to feel jealousy over others Dagny might love as a reflection of her own values.

"But I know that they're doomed, both of them, and so am I , and so is everybody, and she was all I had left....It was so great, to be alive, it was such a wonderful chance, I didn't know that I loved it and that that was our love, hers and mine and yours – but the world is perishing and we cannot stop it. Why are we destroying ourselves?...Why should I care that she's sleeping with Hank Rearden?...Oh God! – what's the matter with you?" (2.9.2.44)

It's interesting that Eddie puts his love for Dagny in terms of their shared values and love for life. It's more than just him being attracted to her or admiring her.

"The only man I ever loved." It came from Ken Danagger, who had never expressed anything more personal than, "Look here, Rearden." He thought: Why had we let it go? Why had we both been condemned...to an exile among dreary strangers who made us give up all desire for rest, for friendship, for the sound of human voices? Could I now reclaim a single hour spent listening to my brother Philip and give it to Ken Danagger? (2.2.6.5)

Ken and Hank give us a great example of a different kind of love here: one of friendship and brotherhood. Their relationship is significant in a book that largely focuses on romantic relationships. Friendship is an important part of the strike, even though it receives somewhat less attention.

She noticed that Dr. Akston's eyes kept coming back to her, as if with the quiet pride of displaying his students to an appreciative observer. His conversation kept returning to a single theme, in the manner of a father who has found a listener interested in his most cherished subject. (3.2.4.25)

Dr. Akston is notable for being practically the only positive parent-figure we get in the whole novel. His love for his three "sons" demonstrates the theme of choosing your own family.

"What you meant to me can never be changed. But the man I met – he is the love I wanted to reach long before I knew that he existed, and I think he will remain beyond my reach, but that I love him will be enough to keep me living."

He took her hand and pressed it to his lips. "Then you know what I feel," he said, "and why I am still happy." (3.3.3.82-83)

For Dagny, the fact that she feels the love she does for John is a positive thing, since it reflects her values. In a way, unrequited love isn't an issue here, because her love is about herself and her values, not about wanting a reciprocal sentiment from John. It's also important to note that Dagny wasn't looking for her dream guy her whole life; she was looking for a way to embody and express her values and her joy for living. Within Galt's value system, all emotions come back to the individual.

"I want to be loved for myself – not for anything I do or have or say or think. For myself – not for my body or mind or words or works or actions."

"But then...what is yourself?"

"If you loved me, you wouldn't ask it." (3.4.1.203-5)

James's wacky definition of love contrasts greatly to Galt's. James sees love as something people "owe" him. Love is about what other people can do for him, not what he feels for other people or what reflects his values.

"I was here. I was waiting for you. I love you, Dagny. I love you more than my life, I who have taught men how life is to be loved." (3.5.3.141)

Leave it to Galt to be egotistical when declaring his love for someone. Of course, that's the point of his philosophy – that love is more about yourself than the other person.

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