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Cheryl Taggart

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*SPOILERS*

I'm trying to piece together what I understand about Objectivism with what I've read in the fiction, and Cheryl Taggart's suicide doesn't fit. Rand clearly states that Cheryl was with "full consciousness of acting in self-preservation". I interpret this to imply that her suicide is moral. Is this correct? If that is true, but the ultimate value is life (ie, choosing between living and dying), and choosing to live is always seen as moral, then how can it be true? Is she or is she not acting rationally?

Is it simply a matter of having enough information? In other words, if she had known about Galt's Gulch, she would've tried to go there instead of killing herself. But from what she knew, she thought the whole world was out to get her. So does it then become rational and moral to kill yourself, given your knowledge? If so, why didn't Galt also kill himself as soon as he realized the ugly truth?

Edited by brian0918
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Cherly's sense of helplessness led to her letting herself be overcome by her emotions, a combination of despair and defiance. Galt is not helpless.

If it was simply emotion, why the pages of explaining her understanding of how, no matter what she does, she will always have to interact with a looter? And why the statement "with full consciousness of acting in self-preservation"?

Edited by brian0918
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I think the other important line was the last thing she said, "Not YOUR world" (or something like that). I consider it to have been moral in the same sense of a hostage who denies his captor the use of his life by removing it from his captor's possession. In the same sense, Cheryl is removing her life from the possession of the looters because it is HER life, not theirs.

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I don't know if this helps, but I was somewhat confused at the fates of both Cheryl Taggart and Eddie Willers (left on the tracks wallowing in misery) and it was explained to me that they represent the "average" person. It's as though they "get it" and realize what's wrong with everyone else, yet they lack the ability to deal with it or the courage to fight it all.

My question came up and the above answer provided while my Objectivist group was reading Philosophy: Who Needs It. The essay was Don't Let It Go. Perhaps reading that essay would help you understand? I can't remember what specifically in the essay led me to wonder about Cheryl and Eddie's characters and I don't have the book with me, so that's all I can offer for now.

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I don't know if this helps, but I was somewhat confused at the fates of both Cheryl Taggart and Eddie Willers (left on the tracks wallowing in misery) and it was explained to me that they represent the "average" person. It's as though they "get it" and realize what's wrong with everyone else, yet they lack the ability to deal with it or the courage to fight it all.

Cheryl lacked the knowledge. She made a mistake in thinking Jim Taggart and his ilk were more powerful, or that evil was more powerful, so good didn't stand a chance. Sure, Dagny could build and run a railroad, but Jim could take it over and loot it, or he could take over d'Anconnia Copper, etc.

Eddie's different. He had the ability and he didn't lack courage, but he also wouldn't stop working for the Jim Taggart's and Wesley Mouches of the world. Therefore he dies still trying to keep their world going (what Cheryl refused to do).

You may also want to consider Eddie's feelings for Dagny. He couldn't have her, after all.

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Her self-preservation, it seems to me, was preserving herself from further complying with the looters and saving her soul—dying physically before she could be broken in spirit. It parallels a person in tremendous pain who wants to be euthanized. Rather than live in suffering, where only biological and not spiritual life is possible, he chooses to die. In a sense, this is preservation of one's life as a value. If she were to continue living a life that was of no value, it would turn her life into something she did not want it to be--and so she felt that she must preserve it as a good by ending it.

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Sheryl gave up. Seeing no way to beat Mouch and the rest she made the logical and self interested decision to die rather than live in their world.

Had she gone to Dagny as Dagny told her to, she would have learned about Galt's Gulch and found the will to live.

Her death is one of the saddest parts of the book for me. I had hoped she would become one of the strikers. :P

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It's important to understand that the fates of some of the "average" characters in Atlas Shrugged are the way they are not because Ayn Rand thought that average people were worthless but because of the dramatic necessity of the story. AS is about the *destruction* of the world at the hands of the looters--what happens when the mind is withdrawn from man's life. It is not about a few heroes saving everyone.

Cherryl, Eddie, Tony the Wet Nurse, what's-his-name from the 20th Century, they are not "The Men of the Mind". They are people who depended upon the men of the mind in a benevolent fashion--hero worshippers instead of heroes. When the prop that supported them was knocked down, they were lost in the abyss.

Think of how the meaning of AS would have changed if Galt et al had undertaken to save *everyone* who was *vaguely good*. Instead of being a novel about egoists, it would have become a vaguely mushy novel about self-sacrificing do-gooders.

The fate of Cherryl (and Eddie) is most properly read as a cautionary tale about the hazards of going through life without an explicit philosophy. While the world remains a benevolent place full of good people, you're okay. If it changes, you're screwed.

And Cherryl wasn't a trophy wife. Sheesh.

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I would further interpret Cherryl and Eddie as demonstrations that not all people can or need be heroes--but that they are less ideal than heroes. I often think of when Rand said something along the lines of, "If you're not a great, productive mind, then get out of the way!" I see Eddie and Ms. Ives, and Rearden's superintendent (before the directive--10-289?) as people who did their best to be productive, but ultimately got out of the way of the real producers. They also made sure that nothing and nobody else got in the way of the producers, either. To the best of their ability.

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From

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophy_wife

The marriage of former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith to oil magnate, J. Howard Marshall, was widely followed by the U.S. media, as an extreme example

Sounds like the marriage of a pretty dime store clerk to the president of a national railroad to me.

Edited by KevinDW78
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Maybe. But then again - she would have had nothing to strike from. She was a trophy wife, not a producer lol :)

Doesn't Rand say that it isn't the work, or even the importance of the work being done by a person but the devotion to doing it the best that one can that separates productive people or men of the mind from moochers, looters and thugs?

Seems a lot of people here are eager to write off some characters based not on their actions but on their ability. Sure Sheryl may never have had the ability to compete on a productive scale with Dagny, Fransisco or Hank but that does not mean that she was worthless.

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As I recall there was one "perfectly ordinary" truckdriver (who was in fact somewhat out of the ordinary in aspiring to be much more) in Galt's Gulch, as well as a brakeman (aspiring musician). They were not (yet) leaders of industry or science or art. They were simply lucky that a striker had spotted them and invited them in. Cheryl Taggart could possibly have been in this class if things had happened differently.

Many others like the brakeman no doubt died in the chaos outside the gulch. That is of course illustrative of the tragedy of allowing altriusm, relativism, et. nauseating al. to run rampant in our culture and politics.

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  • 4 months later...
As I recall there was one "perfectly ordinary" truckdriver (who was in fact somewhat out of the ordinary in aspiring to be much more) in Galt's Gulch, as well as a brakeman (aspiring musician). They were not (yet) leaders of industry or science or art. They were simply lucky that a striker had spotted them and invited them in. Cheryl Taggart could possibly have been in this class if things had happened differently.

Many others like the brakeman no doubt died in the chaos outside the gulch. That is of course illustrative of the tragedy of allowing altriusm, relativism, et. nauseating al. to run rampant in our culture and politics.

The brakeman I thought was one of the strikers, was he not whistling the fifth concerto? :lol: <----- first post.

Thanks for this thread guys I was going to ask the same question only regrading Eddy but come to think on it I really did not like what happened to Cheryl as well. I was thinking that what happened with Eddy was to illustrate what could have happened to Dagny had she not forsaken the rail road, but the way he was arbitrarily pulling levers on the stalled train and then sobbing and attacking that bunny... that seemed to me like a James move.

Every time I read this book I forget what happens in the end. When Eddy sees the light bobbing in the distance I always think, "Ok here comes the strikers to pick him up!" but then they don't and I get kinda bummed.

You guys are right though the book needs these characters fates to really round out the philosophy.

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Seems a lot of people here are eager to write off some characters based not on their actions but on their ability. Sure Sheryl may never have had the ability to compete on a productive scale with Dagny, Fransisco or Hank but that does not mean that she was worthless.

See episode 38 of Leonard Peikoff's podcast for more info on this; a questioner wrote in asking about a perceived bias against blue collar workers among Objectivists. As I understand it a person can be on an equal moral footing with John Galt as long as they live rationally.

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