Quotables from Chapter 2 of Atlas Shrugged

by Andrea Elizabeth

“The red glow of the mills breathed in the sky, a sight as life-giving as a sunrise.” There she goes again. As if smelter’s fire can cause photosynthesis and prevent rickets!

“words were a lens to focus one’s mind”

“His motive in the relationship seemed to resemble the need of an anemic person who receives a kind of living transfusion from the mere sight of a savagely overabundant vitality.”

This last after another motivated by money person, Henry Reardon, feels alienated in his own home by his socially minded family. He has retreated to a distant chair where a friend, Paul Larkin, has approached him and is described above. The reactions are very fluid in this book. Like when Dagny Taggert is listening to music. First you think it’s peaceful, then she describes the same piece as violent. Reardon, in approaching his home, wanted affirmation for the success of his new, extremely ascetically accomplished, metal alloy. He was needy at that point, not savagely vital. When his family only offered him criticism for missing dinner, he turned off towards them. He wasn’t concerned about their priorities either. So if you don’t care about what others care about, and think they are wrong in caring about them, what are you supposed to do? Indeed, the way the mother guilted him about the “parish school, and about the classes in metal craftsmanship, and about the beautiful wrought-iron doorknobs that the little slum children are making all by themselves” sounded exaggeratedly self-aggrandizing.

But his shutting down with them was self-protective. “Did he like them? No, he thought; he had wanted to like them, which was not the same. He had wanted it in the name of some unstated potentiality which he had once expected to see in any human being. He felt nothing for them now, nothing but the merciless zero of indifference, not even the regret of a loss. Did he need any person as part of his life? Did he miss the feeling he had wanted to feel? No, he thought. Had he ever missed it? Yes, he thought, in his youth, not any longer.”

But his wife’s defense of him was patronizing. She started treating him like a child. ‘Thanks for the ugly bracelet, dear.’ As if he meant it to be an ornament. It was a symbol that she didn’t get or care about. Patronizing isn’t the answer either. It’s too fake and condescending. Withdrawing in prayer seems the most genuine thing to do when one feels helpless in relationship. Or some may say he should have been honest and used feeling words. “I feel undervalued by your criticism.” Part of me says Oh Brother to that approach. But the other says it’s incarnational and non-gnostic to go ahead and say it, instead of maintaining the strong, silent approach. Even though some seem to teach said approach.

And a word about the bracelet. If Henry Reardon was only interested in money, then he should have agreed with the criticism that his present should have been a diamond bracelet, instead of a crude, sample piece. It seems that instead of money, Dagny and Henry are really concerned with quality. Diamonds are said to have quality, but the kind Dagny and Henry appreciate is the efficient capability of steel, not the aesthetic beauty of diamonds, which is ironically stronger than steel.