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"Eddie Willers sold his soul to the railroad – and not to the ultimate value of his own life and happiness. He evaded or rejected many higher-value alternatives in many choices over a long period of time. He shared the same fate as the railroad accordingly. All his actions were in the wrong direction because he had the wrong values, despite perhaps having all the right virtues. It's your own responsibility to choose to fight for the ultimate standard of value which is your own life and happiness, and to check your premises and the consequences of your actions by that ultimate standard. It's your own responsibility to be your own John Galt. If you end up dying alone and defeated in the wilderness, failing miserably by that ultimate standard, even when alternative choices abounded around you for a very long time even up to the very end, then you are the very picture of immorality."

 

Hello Episte, Could you please let us know who has quoted this and on what basis. Can it be argued that Eddie Willers was loyal to TT or Dagny in terms of services he provided in return for a payment in terms of monetary amount ? If that is the case, is it correct to say that he had sold his soul ?

 

It been a while since I had read AS. Please correct me if am wrong, but creative Genius is the only value that Eddie lacked when compared to Hank, Dagny, Galt or Fransico. He was rational and accepted facts as they were.

 

"Rationality means never placing any consideration above one's honest grasp of the facts. Eddie practices this method as fully as Galt. His rationality is shown throughout the story, but his early dialogue with James Taggart regarding the Rio Norte Line is a specific example. Eddie tells Taggart that there's been another wreck, the track is shot, and the Phoenix-Durango provides superior service. Eddie also says that the railroad can't wait any longer for Orren Boyle to deliver new rails. Taggart argues that if his company can't get the rail because of unavoidable delays at Associated Steel, nobody can blame him for Taggart Transcontinental's shoddy track or poor service. Eddie seeks to fix the track, but James Taggart only looks to avoid blame. Where Eddie is concerned with the facts, Taggart's sole regard is for public opinion. The difference between their specific concerns reflects the deeper difference between their cognitive methods. Taggart's thinking is ruled by the opinions of others; facts rule Eddie's thoughts."

 

 

"....All his actions were in the wrong direction because he had the wrong values, despite perhaps having all the right virtues...."

 

Virtue is the action by which one gains and keeps a Value.

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There are already a number of threads on very similar topics if you want to search for them. However, why did John Galt have an obligation to save anyone? And why are you assuming Eddie Willers want

Yes, and I think we should also assume that Eddie has basically given up at this stage: as good as dead. He might live out the motions of being alive, or he might even meet up with someone with whom h

I believe that there is an as-yet unresolved tension between "life as survival" being the standard of value, versus some other vision of "life," as played out in conversations such as these.   If su

...

 

 

Virtue is the action by which one gains and keeps a Value.

 

Eddie didn't value his life enough to save it. He placed the train, which had been brought to such a state by the looters, above his own life - like a captain, he chose to sink with his ship. 

 

Is it still okay to say "poor him"?

 

He was virtuous in the context of other values, such as perfection, reliability etc. 

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Here is a quote from AS:

 

"James Taggart smiled: it was a thin smile, amused and cold. 'It's touching, Eddie,' he said. 'It's touching--your devotion to Taggart Transcontinental. If you don't look out, you'll turn into one of those real feudal serfs."

"That's what I am, Jim."

 

This quote in taken in the context of Eddie informing Jim that the track that they have ordered from Orren Boyle will not be delivered, the desperate situation of the rails and the importance of maintaining them to retain customers such as Ellis Wyatt.

 

After the destruction of the taggart tunnel, there is the following:

 

"Years of training had made Taggart able to watch any audience around him, without appearing to do so. He saw the tight, closed faces of the staff, faces that were not his allies. All had a look of despair, except the face of Eddie Willers. The 'feudal serf' of Taggart Transcontinental was the only one who seemed untouched by the disaster. He looked at Taggart with the lifelessly conscientious glance of a scholar confronted by a field of knowledge he had never wanted to study."

 

In some ways, Dagny acted like a serf in that she turned over the John Galt line to TT. However, her primary interest was in running a railroad. When she realized that she could no longer do that, she became part of the strike. Eddie, sitting on a dead train in the desert, could not face the reality that he could not get even that one train to move. When offered the opportunity to leave safely, he refused, insisting that he stay with the train. To stay with the train was a failure to ackowledge reality and was deeply irrational. It stemmed from his identity with the railroad. Without TT he was nothing in his own eyes.

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....

 

In some ways, Dagny acted like a serf in that she turned over the John Galt line to TT. However, her primary interest was in running a railroad. When she realized that she could no longer do that, she became part of the strike

 

....

 

I agree with your assessment of Eddie, but not of Dagny. It was in her own self interest that she turned over the John Galt line to TT. Everybody knew that Dagny WAS Taggart Transconinental. She was not a serf to TT because TT was not an entity that was being served by her and at her expense. TT was the reflection of her own self. Technically, she was working on  the Rio Norte. It was out not  being allowed to do her job, that she took the extreme measure of setting up a new company.

 

She did not trade a higher value for a lower value. She has never been a  serf anywhere in the novel, in think.

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ucwp76,

 

I agree. I did not intend to imply that Dagny was acting as a serf, only that it may have seemed that way from an outside observer. I did point out that she was actually acting out of her interest in running the railroad.

 

Concerning Eddie, another Rand character that acts as a sort of serf is Andrei Taganov. He serves the Soviet Union and the Communist Party in particular at his own expense. Rand puts these words into his mouth just before he commits suicide: "Any man worth calling a man lives for himself." These words are what Eddie Willers never realized.

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Here is a quote from AS:...

One cannot assume that Taggart's commentary is meant to be the author's view. In fact, it is better to assume the opposite. In these quotes, Rand shows that Taggart has no clue why someone like Eddie would love TT so much.

... Eddie, sitting on a dead train in the desert, could not face the reality that he could not get even that one train to move.

One cannot judge Eddie's whole life based on the last moment of utter depression, when all that he has loved is gone and he sees nothing to live for anymore.

Rollback to the last point where Dagny was still working on the railroad. At that point, what had Eddie done different from Dagny, in terms of showing either loyalty or serfdom to TT?

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One cannot judge Eddie's whole life based on the last moment of utter depression, when all that he has loved is gone and he sees nothing to live for anymore.

Isn't it Eddie's fault that all that he loved was gone yet he had nothing new to love in its place? Dagny managed to develop new values, everyone else admirable managed it. Eddie, apparently, did not. When he lost TT and knew Dagny wouldn't reciprocate his love of her, he had nothing. Creators make values. Eddie didn't create anything beyond or separate from TT.

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Isn't it Eddie's fault that all that he loved was gone yet he had nothing new to love in its place? Dagny managed to develop new values, everyone else admirable managed it. Eddie, apparently, did not. When he lost TT and knew Dagny wouldn't reciprocate his love of her, he had nothing. Creators make values. Eddie didn't create anything beyond or separate from TT.

 

Eddie had a passion for a specific way of life and fought to maintain it.  Did Dagny, Hank or Francisco do otherwise?  Different tactics perhaps and certainly a better hideaway, but had the gulch been discovered, who do you think would have rushed to their defense??

 

Nothing new to love?  How about the knowledge that the people he admired and CHOSE to work for were safer because of his efforts, and would rise again.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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One cannot assume that Taggart's commentary is meant to be the author's view. In fact, it is better to assume the opposite. In these quotes, Rand shows that Taggart has no clue why someone like Eddie would love TT so much.

 

Exactly. How about this quote:

 

"[Jim] You're lucky- you've never had any feelings. You've never felt anything at all.

 

[Dagny] No Jim, she said quietly, 'I guess I've never felt anything at all."

 

Now obviously we're not to conclude that Dagny has never had feelings. SNerd hit the nail on the head.

 

As SNerd also said earlier in this thread, it seems like a lot of this confusion is arising from the idea that survival is the standard of moral evaluation instead of 'life'. If survival is the standard, then Eddie's actions are unintelligible. If Life is the standard, they make a lot of sense.

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Eddie had a passion for a specific way of life and fought to maintain it.  Did Dagny, Hank or Francisco do otherwise?  Different tactics perhaps and certainly a better hideaway, but had the gulch been discovered, who do you think would have rushed to their defense??

 

Nothing new to love?  How about the knowledge that the people he admired and CHOSE to work for were safer because of his efforts, and would rise again.

If he had things to love still, then he's just stupid or dogmatic to stay and die. No other way to put that. Then again, Eddie's fate is open-ended, so he might have changed his mind. Maybe the passage above isn't Rand's view, but that isn't to say Rand is right and Jim is completely wrong. Eddie seemed to have a passion to be a servant to Dagny or imitating the virtuous without acting in a fully matured sense of egoism. In other words, Eddie never matured into an egoist as Dagny did. If anything, the story of Eddie is a tragedy, not just in terms of his fate, but also his development.

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Eddie was very much alive at the end of the story.  It's not like he stood in front of the train while it was still moving, or threw himself under it..  I'd like to think Dagny would eventually have tried to find him, or he her.  There's no tragedy in being a valuable employee, unless  you saying that employees who never become employers are tragic examples of undeveloped potential.  I suppose then students who never become teachers are similarly deficient.

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Serf?  Really?  

 

There is NO economic or political derivative to pull from the end of the story outside of the fact the author used it to show what happens to moral people in an amoral system - They become victims.  

 

In fact the book is the progress of good people being victimized and being replaced by the kind of vermin that benefit from a corrupt system. Rand just brilliantly turns it into a mystery to support the theme (what happens when the people that think stop). Eddie lasted the longest, by author fiat, due to being connected to Dagny and once she was gone he went the sad route of the rest - A good man lost.  

 

That is theme of the book being dramatized - nothing more or less.  

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In fact the book is the progress of good people being victimized and being replaced by the kind of vermin that benefit from a corrupt system. Rand just brilliantly turns it into a mystery to support the theme (what happens when the people that think stop). Eddie lasted the longest, by author fiat, due to being connected to Dagny and once she was gone he went the sad route of the rest - A good man lost. 

Why is Eddie the one lost? Why isn't Dagny lost, too? I understand that some people unaware of the gulch or people like Dagny, those people we can consider, if they're virtuous, as good men lost. But Eddie wasn't in that situation, and if Dagny being gone is what sends him to his fate, then he was dependent on Dagny in a deep way. I'm pretty agnostic on if Eddie really dies, I don't have any reason to think he'd be able to last. He is no paragon of independence. If there are examples of Eddie being independent, I'd like to see some - it's been a while since I read AS.

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That is theme of the book being dramatized - nothing more or less.

Yes, and I think we should also assume that Eddie has basically given up at this stage: as good as dead. He might live out the motions of being alive, or he might even meet up with someone with whom he can make some type of life, but the odds are that his life is over at this point. It is wrong to evaluate Eddie's character primarily by that last decision, even if we assume that he is committing suicide.

Clearly, Eddie is not a prime-mover of evil, nor a hanger-on at the courts of evil. He's on the good team. He is a person of average competency, and someone in whom conscientiousness allows him to use this average ability to create a lot of value -- in a world made by the "super-competent". Rand intends Eddie to be a good guy who may not be as introspective as the best, who may nor be able to think as creatively as the best, but who is able to recognize the good, and to respond to it with admiration rather than with envy.

In that sense, Eddie is person who reads Rand and admires her heroes, but who never creates the quantity and quality of values they can... at least not unless he can live in a world that they create. By this token, Eddie is the average Rand fan, and the message is: "you cannot survive -- at least not in our complex division-of-labor world -- without these great people you admire".

Edited by softwareNerd
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Why is Eddie the one lost? Why isn't Dagny lost, too? I understand that some people unaware of the gulch or people like Dagny, those people we can consider, if they're virtuous, as good men lost. But Eddie wasn't in that situation, and if Dagny being gone is what sends him to his fate, then he was dependent on Dagny in a deep way. I'm pretty agnostic on if Eddie really dies, I don't have any reason to think he'd be able to last. He is no paragon of independence. If there are examples of Eddie being independent, I'd like to see some - it's been a while since I read AS.

 

Dagny was not lost because the plot demanded that Dagny be the last person to join, in part due to her character and in part due to the fact she is the literary window into the collapse. Eddie did not make it because he was a secondary character who was not on the same level as the others, therefore could not survive the destruction wrought my the looters.   

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I think this needs to be stated again - You cannot read things like "leech", "serf", and other consequences you want to impose on the character.  The novel is a work of art.  It dramatizes a theme and the characters actions and direction are set according to the theme by the author, not the judgments we want to impose the characters.  Eddie's situation is chosen by the author to reflect the themes of the book.

 

Look - If you want to play back seat driver to the novel then riddle me this - Why didn't Galt get Eddie to quit early in the novel.  Galt went out of his way to steal every person important to Dagny to speed up the collapse.  To "make it as hard as possible on you" as he told Dagny in the gulch.  He SHOULD have taken Eddie from her in the first chapter by the logic of Gaults quest.  Eddie is Dagny's right hand man and they worked the long hours together to constantly save the company, so he should have disappeared right away.  Why didn't he?  Because Rand needed the character in the game participating until the better end.  She needed him there to offset the heroes and dramatize the novels theme from his character's perspective.  

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Dagny was not lost because the plot demanded that Dagny be the last person to join, in part due to her character and in part due to the fact she is the literary window into the collapse. Eddie did not make it because he was a secondary character who was not on the same level as the others, therefore could not survive the destruction wrought my the looters.

True. Also, each of the strikers made the decision at his own pace. When Dagny had to make hers, she was in the valley: she had seen the real, concrete alternative. She could have decided to stay or to return. One can rationalize her decision to return, but I doubt many readers thought "if I was her, at this point in the story, I would not stay in the valley, with all these cool people, with this cool life they have made for themselves" The outside world was already dangerous at this time.

So, imagine that we suspend the rationale of the plot after the point when Dagny leaves, and allow some tragedy to intervene. Imagine that she is arrested to put pressure on Galt to return, and killed by some incompetence on part of her captors. We might well say that her decision to return was a bad one, but we would not judge her whole life and character by that single decision. We would not judge her as immoral based on the last important decision. Of course there was a difference between her decision and Eddie's: she was trying to keep the looters' world running (being Galt's worst enemy) while Eddie had pretty much given up. If anything that would make her decision worse, even if not more immoral. But, in any case, the key is that one does not judge character based on a single wrong decision... particularly not based purely on the outcome that happens to transpire.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Dagny was not lost because the plot demanded that Dagny be the last person to join, in part due to her character and in part due to the fact she is the literary window into the collapse. Eddie did not make it because he was a secondary character who was not on the same level as the others, therefore could not survive the destruction wrought my the looters.   

If that's the case, morality makes no difference to one's survival. We can judge the characters independently of any author's desired intention, within the story, so what Rand -wants- Eddie to be doesn't have to be the case. I just need some book quotes really.

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Look - If you want to play back seat driver to the novel then riddle me this - Why didn't Galt get Eddie to quit early in the novel.  

 

Because Eddie did not live by the principles of the strikers. He was dedicated to an institution over his own life as illustrated by how the author left him to the wolves. He got what he deserved.

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Because Eddie did not live by the principles of the strikers. He was dedicated to an institution over his own life as illustrated by how the author left him to the wolves. He got what he deserved.

 

...or, because Eddie was more useful to John for information about Dagny's activities.

 

One of Eddies principles was loyalty, and that distinguished him from the strikers who were in it for themselves.  Eddie admired the strikers as heroic beings and dedicated his life to fighting for their way of life; a life that included him as a valuable employee/friend/confidant.  He was left among the wolves several times in the story and performed admirably on his own, most notably in San Francisco by negotiating the reopening of the railway station in a most hostile environment.  When his train breaks down on the return trip, is it any wonder he goes a little nuts from the frustration of it all?

 

He got what he chose.  What he deserved isn't revealed at the end, and I'm frankly astonished to hear Objectivists claiming he deserved to be defeated for not letting the good he believed in go to the wolves.

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One of Eddies principles was loyalty, and that distinguished him from the strikers who were in it for themselves. 

A big point of the book is that the strikers were only in it for themselves! If Eddie wasn't in it, the strike, only for himself, he is literally not living by the principles of the strikers. That isn't to say he was useless or as bad as people at large, but he didn't learn to be wholly egoistic. I want to look up some quotes tomorrow, as any good literary criticism would cite specific passages. In a way, Eddie became Nietzsche's "Last Man" at the end, and unable to keep going because his comfort and security of TT was gone (except he didn't see it as a good way to live as the last man might i.e. without any dreams or passions).

Edited by Eiuol
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Yes, I understand that you are claiming Eddie wasn't acting selfishly, and yet his action was chosen by himself in response to that which he held dear.  To put it as clearly as I can, he selfishly chose to be loyal to those he cared about, i.e., it was in his self interest to fight for their survival.

 

He fought, they survived, he won.

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It should go without saying that pursuing something dear is not always selfish. The whole question is if Eddie was being selfish, rather than "possessed" by TT and pursuing the well-being of TT as though it was his master. You specifically distinguished Eddie as someone who wasn't in it for himself, which is by any definition not selfish.

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