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I bought the 35th anniversary edition of AS as a freshman in college. After a long while I read it. It reaffirmed a view of life that everyone around me contradicted. Later in life, having passed that edition on to someone, at some time, I bought a newer version. Reading it again, and examining the concept/rationale of the justified use of force, I thought that one scene had changed since my first reading. I still wonder whether I inaccurately recall my first reading or whether the text was changed. So, am in incorrect in my recollection that when Dagny and the others seek to free Galt from his captors she, confronting a guard, decides that there is no ability to reason with this guard about the situation and chooses to shoot him based upon that judgement? I would swear (other than the fact I distrust my own memory) that her thought process for arriving at that conclusion was detailed in the text but I can no longer find it. Specifically, I recall some language about Dagny looking in the eyes of the guard and knowing that there was no ability to reason with him, she decided to shoot him. I was also wondering if this was changed because it comes very close to an initiation of force, rather than a retaliation, and the curators of her estate perhaps wanted to clarify the issue.

asked Dec 10 '12 at 23:45

MarcMercier's gravatar image

MarcMercier ♦

edited Dec 11 '12 at 10:36


I find it hard to believe that the text would change at all for such a cowardly reason. I know, however, that some editions of Atlas Shrugged had some horrendous typos, and even some omissions of some short paragraphs or sentences.

For example, one Atlas Shrugged edition, in Galt's speech, when he first mentions the "right of property", replaced the phrase with "right of poverty".

A friend of mine cataloged all these typos at the time. They were eventually fixed in later editions.

(Dec 11 '12 at 13:34) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Some earlier versions of the book were dedicated to Nathaniel Branden and later ones to Frank O'Connor.

(Dec 11 '12 at 13:38) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

Not sure why you consider clarifying the issue to be cowardly. I appreciate the other information however.

(Dec 11 '12 at 22:10) MarcMercier ♦ MarcMercier's gravatar image
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The scene in question is easy to find. It starts at the beginning of the very last chapter in the book, Chapter X in Part III, and runs for nearly two pages. The guard was blocking the door to the building where John Galt was being held prisoner. The door was locked, and the guard had the key. Dagny first tried talking to the guard with authority, then pulled a gun and gave him a choice: let her in or die (or try shooting her first, if he could). He wants to go inside and ask his chief, but Dagny tells him not to (she didn't want the chief to be alerted prematurely). The guard is confused; he can't decide what to do, with no one but Dagny to tell him; and he can't bring himself to shoot her, because she said she was acting on authority from Mr. Thompson. They go back an forth about him making a decision on his own, which he can't do, either. So she gives him a count of three to let her in or die. He still can't decide. The count is reached; the deed is done; and she is joined by Hank, Francisco and Ragnar who had taken care of three other guards nearby, and they go in.

It's actually a scene about living without being conscious, referring to the guard. He "had wanted to exist without the responsibility of consciousness." He was also blocking Dagny's way.

Make no mistake: retaliatory physical force sometimes involves killing. Sometimes it's the only way to "destroy destruction." The main choice rests with the initiator. Dagny certainly gave the guard plenty of opportunity and warning.

(Incidentally, I found a note of mine confirming that the 22nd printing of the book did, indeed, include N. Branden on the dedication page, while my 28th printing, which I still have, does not. And the scene with Dagny appears exactly the same, unchanged, in a 1985 edition of the book, which I also have.)

answered Dec 11 '12 at 23:04

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

No. Ayn Rand generally didn't revise her published fictional works, except for Anthem, between its European and American editions.

She even found a small error (the use of "egotist" rather than "egoist" ) in The Fountainhead, but specifically chose to leave the error in, for the sake of integrity.

I'm not an authority, but I strongly doubt she made any post-publication changes to Atlas Shrugged. The scene where Dagny shoots the guard, specifically, demonstrates a point which I think there's no way Ayn Rand would choose to weaken: if the facts require you must kill a man, you must kill a man -- you cannot evade the decision.

answered Dec 12 '12 at 11:34

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

edited Dec 12 '12 at 11:35

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Asked: Dec 10 '12 at 23:45

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Last updated: Dec 12 '12 at 11:35