Hank Rearden & The Wet Nurse
Returning from a meeting with bureaucrats in Washington, Rearden discovers havoc unfolding at this steel mills. Gunshots, screams, armed men burning the gatehouse all pour into sight as he climbs the winding road home – pure havoc. Rearden reacts swiftly and efficiently, veering off the main road onto a side road to reach the eastern gate to reassess the situation and get back in command.
However, as he’s speeding at 60 miles per hour down the dirt road, he spots a man waving for help at the bottom of a ravine.
It’s the Wet Nurse – the boy responsible for mending workplace injuries at Rearden’s mills. He’s been shot.
The Wet Nurse in Atlas Shrugged is one of a few characters who isn’t blessed with superlative intelligence, but is blessed with a strong moral compass and a desire to do right – in spite of the world around him repeating that life has no meaning, that reason is a faulty fool’s tool, that there are no values, that there is no Good in the world, that there are no Good men, that there is no such thing as Good achievement. His character understands these concepts from his college education, but from the start rebels against them. He doesn’t know how to live otherwise, because no example other than Rearden exists in his life to contradict the adages of the age through a lived experience. There exists no data, other than Rearden, to contradict the professorial slander of life that represents Ayn Rand’s dystopian world.
But the Wet Nurse lever loses his moral compass. Compelled by something inside of him, he must tell the truth to Rearden. He warns them of Washington’s plots to loot his empire. His unwillingness to sell-out and destroy Rearden leads him to being shot by a government thug, and thrown down a ravine – which Rearden must rescue him from.
The boy tells Rearden of washington’s plans. He tells him that the government has been planting goons and thugs in his mills for some time, that they’ve hired more actors to insight a riot, and that the media’s angle on the event will be that Rearden is mistreating his workers and not paying them a living wage. Rearden therefore must be stopped for the sake of the public welfare, and naturally a “Steel Unification Plan” must be enacted to nationalize Rearden’s mills and establish government control over the last industrial bastion of private property left in America for the equitable redistribution of his empire’s wealth.
In this moment, when Rearden sees the boy was willing to sacrifice his life in the name of what he valued – truth, justice, integrity, honor – he loved him. He desired the boy to live. He kissed his forehead in reassurance to all that the boy had endured and suffered through to reach the peak experience of aliveness that comes from putting one’s life on the line in the name of that which is Good and True.
Page 905 – 911, Atlas Shrugged.