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[Warning: Spoilers] At the end of Atlas Shrugged, Eddie Willers winds up stuck by the side of an abandoned train in the middle of nowhere while the rest of the producers go off to the valley... Why doesn't Eddie get invited to go along?

asked Oct 08 '10 at 07:03

Andrew%20Miner's gravatar image

Andrew Miner ♦

edited Oct 10 '10 at 08:56

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Publius ♦

Ayn Rand said that Eddie's fate was deliberately left up in the air. What she wanted to convey was that what happens to honest but average men of ability under statism is accidental. The best minds find a way to rebel. The worst are destroyed. But the average man? It can go either way. In Eddie's case, she said that if the strikers happen to stumble upon him, he'll be saved--if they don't, he won't be. As with everything in Atlas, Eddie's fate is determined by the novel's theme.

answered Oct 08 '10 at 10:00

Publius's gravatar image

Publius ♦

There are actually two perspectives from which this question can be asked: (1) within the logic of the story, why wouldn't Eddie have been invited to go where Dagny had decided to go near the end of the story? (2) Why did Ayn Rand, as the artist creating Atlas Shrugged, leave Eddie's fate uncertain, intentionally, instead of merely having him come along with Dagny?

The second perspective has already been well answered. It turns out that the first perspective isn't quite as it is often represented. Eddie made a conscious choice to go to California while Dagny remained in New York. Eddie knew that Dagny was ready to quit, to join the strike. He could have remained in New York, and Dagny offered it to him. But he desperately wanted to save Taggart Transcontinental if he could, and the events in California urgently needed high-level attention. Eddie chose to go. He did so knowing that he would probably never see Dagny again after she quit. In a truly poignant scene, masterfully integrated by Ayn Rand, several different issues all come together in this one "good-bye" scene: Eddie's determination to save Taggart Transcontinental, Dagny's preference that he not go, Dagny's readiness to quit after having sought so hard for so long to save Taggart Transcontinental herself, Eddie's romantic feelings for Dagny even after discovering (earlier in the story) Hank Rearden's bathrobe hanging in her closet, and the fact that Dagny knew how Eddie felt. He voluntarily said good-bye to her and left for California in the face of all that. (The scene appears in Part 3, fairly late in Chapter VIII, p. 1036 in my paperback edition.)

The desire to save the railroad is the same motivation that took Dagny and the other strikers such a long time to walk out on the collapsing society. Eddie, like the others, believed strongly in the world as it exists, and in the deeply motivating importance of always continuing to "try hard," no matter what barriers nature or other men may impose. It is because Eddie has not yet understood and accepted the principle of the sanction of the victim that he is not yet ready to follow Dagny's path and walk out. (He is not the highest of victims anyway, but he deeply admires them and wants to support them.) He wants to continue trying, in whatever way he can, to keep the railroad and the world running in spite of the rapidly rising, overwhelming forces of destruction. It's the same principle that kept the other strikers going for such a long time and made it so hard for them finally to walk out. In Eddie, we see that principle at work in an "average man" of uncommon pride and integrity.

answered Oct 09 '10 at 22:51

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

That phrase, "the highest of victims," is not one Rand would be expected to craft, I don't believe.

(Nov 08 '10 at 19:09) Mindy Newton ♦ Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

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Asked: Oct 08 '10 at 07:03

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Last updated: Nov 08 '10 at 19:09