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Reciprocity. (Atlas Shrugged—spoiler alert)

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On 7/27/2008 at 12:21 PM, EC said:

"We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?" she whispered.-- Dagny Taggarrt

"No, we never had to." John Galt in response.

I know that's two lines, but one implies the other and together they are a work of art.

These are two lines cited by Gena Gorlin as being her personal favorite quote (from Ayn Rand's works).

These lines also appear twice in Atlas Shrugged (albeit in slightly different forms).  The first time, as cited, as quoted in the chapter 'Atlantis', the second time in the chapter 'In The Name of the Best Within Us':

     She fell down on her knees by the side of the mattress. Galt looked up at her, as he had looked on their first morning in the valley, his smile was like the sound of a laughter that had never been touched by pain, his voice was soft and low:
     "We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?"
     Tears running down her face, but her smile declaring a full, confident, radiant certainty, she answered, "No, we never had to."

It is also mentioned twice in the Journals of Ayn Rand (citing the two different contexts):

— 11 - (AS) The Mind on Strike
— 12 - (AS) Final Preparations

In "The Letters of Ayn Rand, The Later Years (1630-1981), a reply to Mr. Williams, August 29, 1960 cites:

You ask me about the meaning of the dialogue on page 702 of Atlas Shrugged:

     "'We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?" she whispered. "'No, we never had to.'"

     Let me begin by saying that this is perhaps the most important point in the whole book, because it is the condensed emotional summation, the keynote or leitmotif, of the view of life presented in Atlas Shrugged.

     What Dagny expresses here is the conviction that joy, exaltation, beauty, greatness, heroism, all the supreme, uplifting values of man's existence on earth, are the meaning of life—not the pain or ugliness he may encounter—that one must live for the sake of such exalted moments as one may be able to achieve or experience, not for the sake of suffering—that happiness matters, but suffering does not—that no matter how much pain one may have to endure, it is never to be taken seriously, that is: never to be taken as the essence and meaning of life—that the essence of life is the achievement of joy, not the escape from pain. The issue she refers to is the basic philosophical issue which John Galt later names explicitly in his speech: that the most fundamental division among men is between those who are pro-man, pro-mind, pro-life—and those who are anti-man, anti-mind, anti-life.

     It is the difference between those who think that man's life is important and that happiness is possible—and those who think that man's life, by its very nature, is a hopeless, senseless tragedy and that man is a depraved creature doomed to despair and defeat. It is the difference between those whose basic motive is the desire to achieve values, to experience joy—and those whose basic motive is the desire to escape from pain, to experience a momentary relief from their chronic anxiety and guilt.

     It is a matter of one's fundamental, overall attitude toward life—not of any one specific event. So you see that your interpretation was too specific and too narrow; besides, the Looters' World had never meant anything to Dagny and she had realized its "sham and hypocrisy" long before. What she felt, in that particular moment, was the confirmation of her conviction that an ideal man and an ideal form of existence are possible.





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