Study Guide

Atlas Shrugged Volume 2, Chapter 10

By Ayn Rand

Volume 2, Chapter 10

The Sign of the Dollar

  • In a recall of Dagny's introductory scene, she is riding alone in a train car, listening to the wheels and thinking about Big Issues.
  • The journey is very slow and depressing, since Dagny is seeing what a sorry state the country is in.
  • She hears a ruckus in the hall – a tramp has hopped on and a railroad employee is trying to throw him off. Dagny says to leave him alone and asks the tramp if he'd like to be her guest for dinner.
  • Dagny starts talking with the tramp, who is very polite.
  • He lets her know how bad things are in the country – he can't find work and he has to watch out for the government, since they've started arrested unemployed people.
  • He tells her he used to work in factories and had been in Colorado. But then everyone disappeared and the factories closed.
  • He says before all this he worked at the same factory for twenty years and was a foreman. Then he asks who John Galt is.
  • But this guy says he knows who he is, or at least is afraid that he does. OK, but this had better not be a myth.
  • He settles in to tell her a long story.
  • Turns out the tramp worked at the Twentieth Century Motor Factory.
  • He worked there for twenty years while Jed Starnes ran the place. Then Jed died and his awful kids took over.
  • We learn that the kids were communists.
  • They said they were going to run things differently and turned the factory into a "family." Their motto was "need not greed."
  • They planned to do away with salaries and said they would start paying everyone according to their "need," which was determined by a vote at a mass meeting that happened a few times a year.
  • This turned into a huge disaster. People of ability were forced to work more hours to help pay for those who were more "needy." Honorable people didn't speak up about their "need" and weren't paid much; dishonest people used the need system to get tons of money by lying about their "needs."
  • All the people in the factory and the factory town gradually grew to hate each other. They started drinking, gambling, fighting, etc.
  • People were turning into monsters, and the Starnes children were horrible: Eric was slimy and hung around wanting to be everyone's "pal"; Gerald was greedy and flaunted all the money he was paying himself; and Ivy was vindictive and loved humiliating people by making them come to her with their "needs" and ask for money.
  • Twelve years ago, at the initial meeting where this plan was proposed, everyone voted yes for it and thought they were doing a moral thing. But one guy stood up and said that this was horrible and that he was going to "stop the motor of the world."
  • The guy's name: John Galt. Holy cow!
  • Scene cut. Dagny is sleeping, or trying to. She can't stop thinking about the tramp's story and she realizes that John Galt is the destroyer she's been looking for.
  • The train stops moving. It's a frozen train and the entire crew has gone.
  • A guy walks up to her: it's Owen Kellogg!
  • Dagny and Owen are glad to see each other and team up to take care of business.
  • Dagny makes a speech to the passengers, who all act like whiny brats. Dagny basically tells them to shut up.
  • Owen says he'll walk with Dagny to find a telephone, since it's nighttime and going alone would be dangerous.
  • Dagny tells everyone that she's leaving her tramp friend in charge while she's gone. She asks his name: it's Jeff Allen.
  • Owen and Dagny set off into the night, and it's very creepy.
  • They talk and Dagny tries to figure out Owen's motive for working menial jobs.
  • He tells her his mind is no longer on the labor market since it exploits people.
  • He then says he is about to head off for a one-month vacation. A clue!
  • He gives her a cigarette, and Dagny flips when she sees it has a dollar sign on it.
  • Owen gives a mini speech about how the dollar sign represents all the best of America.
  • He gives her the pack to remind her that she has a true homeland.
  • They finally reach a phone and Dagny has a hilarious conversation with a total imbecile. Getting the person to do anything to help her is like pulling teeth, and Owen can't believe she's actually working with people like that.
  • In the distance is an airfield. Owen tells Dagny to go get a plane if she can and get where she needs to. He'll wait for the men to show up to run the train.
  • Dagny says thanks and gives him a few messages in case something happens. She says to tell Eddie to hire Jeff Allen and to let Hank know what's happened. She'll call as soon as she can.
  • Dagny then runs off and buys a plane on the spot.
  • She takes off for Utah.
  • But when she arrives she learns that Quentin just left and she sees him flying off in another plane.
  • Dagny chases after the plane. It's an airplane chase sequence!
  • Dagny is upset and at the end of her rope. She feels she has to find this destroyer or die trying.
  • Looks like the last bit is likely. Dagny follows the plane into Colorado and then the plane disappears in a mountain range. Dagny tries to follow and can't figure out where the plane could have landed.
  • She does some daredevil stunts in her search and ends up losing control of her plane.
  • She crashes, and as she's going down her last words are: "Oh hell! Who is John Galt?"

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