Francisco d’Anconia bursts onto the pages of Atlas Shrugged just as “he flew through the days of his summer months,” “like a rocket” (94). Through Dagny’s eyes, Ayn Rand introduces Francisco as larger than, and full of, life—a being of pure joy; a shining beacon of ability, productiveness, purpose. It is no wonder that Dagny expects great things from Frisco d’Anconia.
Yet, Dagny is crushed by what Francisco does become. He “changes his course,” leaving Dagny, and the reader, with the question: how could Francisco d’Anconia, purpose and productivity incarnate, a man who, even as a boy, understood that industry is “the most important thing on earth” and that to study a motor is to “[absorb] the culture of the world” (95)—how could he become the thing which, by his own admission, is “the most depraved type of human being:” “The man without a purpose” (99), a worthless playboy?
Francisco later reveals that he chose deliberately to pose as a playboy as “camouflage… for a purpose of [his] own” (493). He explains to Dagny that, upon becoming president of d’Anconia Copper, he “began to see the nature of the evil” (766) of the world. He saw that the world had abandoned reason—abandoned the mind. “I knew it,” he tells her, “I saw no way to fight it. John found the way” (766).
John Galt’s solution, “the strike of the men of the mind” (738), prompts many men to leave their challenging professions and take on less impressive and less conspicuous careers. Yet, Francisco, uniquely among the strikers, remains where he is, as president of d’Anconia Copper. As Francisco explains it, he faces a challenge not faced by the other strikers. While industries like Taggart Transcontinental are “precision machinery,” requiring constant, focused thought to guide their every function, copper mines could be “crudely, miserably, ineptly” (617) run by slave labor for generations. If Francisco is to hasten the fall of the world of the anti-mind, the world of Robert Stadler and Cuffy Meigs, he must take on a torturous task; he must remain among the mindless, in his post as president, and “[destroy] d’Anconia Copper, consciously, deliberately, by plan and [his] own hand” (617). And, “in order not to let the looters suspect [him],” and stop him, “while…destroying d’Anconia Copper in plain sight of the world” (765), he must disguise his purpose. But how?
Francisco’s disguise must make him look “safe” (765) to the looters—like a normal, mindless denizen of the anti-mind world. Yet, Francisco is famous, and he will arouse suspicion if he does not remain as himself. Knowing, however, that the looters fail to understand the role of his mind in producing his identity, Francisco does have one “safe” (765) choice of disguise—the exact anti-mind version of himself. He must become a mindless Francisco.
Francisco’s unique situation, therefore, requires that the nature of his disguise be determined by who he is. So, to understand why Francisco became, of all things, a playboy,...