Good News: We’re on the final chapter of Part Two!
Bad News: There’s still an entire Part Three.
More Bad News: This is a really, really long chapter. Make popcorn. Oh, and the Frogurt is also cursed.
I’m actually regretting the fact that I didn’t see Part II: The Completely Recast Movie while it was in theatres, because I’d love to know how they handled this chapter. The Book is set in the 1940s, which explains the importance of train travel and the proliferation of dimes, but The Movie is set in 2016 to Make A Serious And Timely Political Point.
The problem with moving the timetable up 70 years, however, is that here in the 21st century, everyone has cell phones – and Part I: The Filmening showed people using cell phones. Yet the action of this entire chapter relies for its very existence on the fact that all non-face-to-face communication has to be carried out over landline telephones manned by indifferent operators. So how did they deal with this in the movie? (Besides “crappily,” which I take as given.)
Midway through a mental litany of her First World Problems, Dagny steps out into the vestibule of her private train car to loot some fresh air. There’s a tramp in the vestibule! There’s also a conductor (train flavor, not orchestra flavor) in the vestibule.
As Dagny steps into the vestibule, the conductor in the vestibule is trying to order the tramp in the vestibule to get out of the vestibule, even though the only “out” for the tramp in the vestibule is to leap from the vestibule at full speed, surely resulting in a bloody, albeit vestibule-free, death. Dagny intervenes and invites the tramp out of the vestibule and into her private train car so as to have somewhere more comfortable to sit.
The tramp sits. He then tells a fairy tale of the Bolshevik Revolution from the point of view of Ayn Rand pretending to be a fictional tramp in a train car talking to Ayn Rand pretending to be the Mary Sue version of herself. Turns out the Bolshevik Revolution took place entirely within a single privately-owned motor factory in Wisconsin and involved the production of yachts for everybody but
Ayn Rand the tramp. (I can believe this, about the yachts. Russia is very big on yachts.)
The tramp then offers a highly astute analysis of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis:
It took us just one meeting to discover that we had become beggars – rotten, whining, sniveling beggars, all of us, because no man could claim his pay as his rightful earning, he had no rights and no earnings, his work didn’t belong to him, it belonged to ‘the family,’ and they owed him nothing in return, and the only claim he had on them was his ‘need’….
of No Child Left Behind:
There’s no surer way to destroy a man than to force him into a spot where he has to aim at not doing his best, where he has to struggle to do a bad job, day after day. That will finish him quicker than drink or idleness or pulling stick-ups for a living.
and of 1984:
But when a bastard…puts on an act and keeps spouting that he doesn’t care for material wealth, that he’s only serving ‘the family,’ that all the lushness is not for himself, but for our sake and the common good, because it’s necessary to keep up the prestige of the company and of the noble plan in the eyes of the public – then that’s when you learn to hate the creature as you’ve never hated anything human.
The tramp goes on in this vein for about ten pages total. They’re surprisingly refreshing to read; it’s like Ayn Rand finally dropped all pretense of writing a novel and just started ranting in the way she’s been trying not to for 666 pages. Her arguments are still crap, but at least she’s not pretending to entertain us anymore.
The tramp ends with the tale of John Galt, a “tall and slim” engineer who bailed on the Twentieth Century Motor Co. – for that, apparently, is where the Bolshevik Revolution took place – the day the
Bolsheviks heirs take over.
“John Galt exists? Oh my gosh!” said no one ever.
The next thing Dagny Taggart knows, she’s waking up to the sound of the train grating over some
human bodies super-crappy rails. Probably the Bolsheviks’ fault.
It is definitely the Bolsheviks’ fault when the train stops completely, abandoned eleventy miles south of Crap Nowhere, Kansas. Because The Book is set in the 1940s and there are no wireless telephones, Dagny has no choice but to abandon the train herself and walk to the nearest emergency phone – wherever the hell that is – to call the nearest division point, wherever the hell THAT is.
This is where I really want to know what The Movie version is, because Dagny’s need to abandon the train in The Book is the but-for cause of the entire rest of the novel – but it wouldn’t happen at all today, because cell phones. Unless cell phones are also a thing of the past in Post-Apocalyptic Badly-Produced 2016? I guess I’ll find out when Part II: Electric Sequelaloo comes to Netflix.
The tramp, who turns out to be named after my stepfather, gets promoted to deputy-conductor and proxy-Vice-President-of-Operations, which seems to be intended as a literary vote of confidence but actually just sounds like bad judgment on Dagny’s part. Since when are “good at telling fairy tales” and “a dude I randomly fell asleep in the presence of for undisclosed reasons” job skills? But I digress.
Dagny Taggart takes Owen Kellogg, who is a dude who used to work for her but doesn’t now and JUST HAPPENS to be on the train, and walks down the tracks into the darkness, passing the time by earnestly discussing with Owen just how few of these shenanigans Nat “Kilt Him a B’ar” Taggart would have had to put up with (very few) and how few of these shenanigans Owen Kellogg is willing to put up with (even fewer).
When our heroes reach the nearest service phone, it is OF COURSE dead, because mice are all looters. So they keep walking into a failed extended metaphor about walking away from a dead train and into the darkness.
Owen Kellogg lights a cigarette. It’s one of those fancy dollar-sign ones Dagny has been trying to track down ever since smoking that one in the diner in Part One that we’ve forgotten all about! Naturally, Dagny immediately asks where Owen got it. He “answers” with a lecture about the creation and damnation of profit. Dear Ayn Rand: making every other character in your book treat the protagonist like an idiot is not an effective way to create dramatic irony.
Dagny Taggart asks Owen Kellogg to sell her the rest of the pack and is told it will cost her five cents in gold. I feel a Bretton Woods joke coming on.
Dagny and Owen reach the next phone, and although some lazy sod named Jessup answers, it turns out that he’s even less useful than that broken phone five miles back. No, he won’t send a crew out to the abandoned train. No, he won’t let Dagny talk to his supervisor. No, he won’t do a damned thing, because he’s not a Taggart Transcontinental employee. He is a honey badger.
Dagny Taggart holds the line and has her 5994th existential crisis of the novel.
Then Dagny walks another half-mile down the track toward some shiny lights that, lo and behold, belong to an airfield. Did you know Dagny Taggart could fly a plane? I didn’t know Dagny Taggart could fly a plane. I also don’t know how Part II: Honey, I Shrunk The Fuel Supply copes with this scene.
Dagny loots the first plane she can find on the airfield and flies to Afton, only to learn that Quentin Daniels (remember him? the whole damn reason Dagny is on this Rube-Goldberg-ian quest in the first place?) literally just took off from the same airfield. So she does what any rational action-movie heroine would do: she jumps back in her plane (fuel? what fuel?) and pursues Quentin’s, Carmen-Sandiego style.
A (not at all) thrilling chase scene ensues! Dramatic music! Tension-mounting scene cuts! Audience members choking on their cursed Frogurts!
The plane goes down! And those fateful words flash across the screen: Who is John Galt, and why can’t he fly a damn plane?