The Driver - part II
Click here for part I.
Chapter I ("Phantasma") of The Driver demonstrates a point that would later introduce Garrett's most famous work, The People's Pottage. I have written previously about the effect of the New Deal on Garrett's writings. The New Deal was the focal point of the American socialist movement. Prior to 1933, leftism in America was not backed by the power of government. The New Deal changed that. The New Deal turned leftism into a powerful and pervasive force that effects every area of our lives. More than any other factor, the New Deal turned leftism into "The Drumbeat." Garrett wrote about this transformation in the introduction to People's Pottage:
A time came when the only people who had ever been free began to ask: What is freedom?pp. 5-6 (1953 edition)
Who wrote its articles – the strong or the weak?
Was it an absolute good?
...Since it was clear to reason that freedom must be conditioned, as by self-discipline, individual responsibility and many necessary laws of restraint; and since there was never in the world an absolute good, why should people not be free to say they would have less freedom in order to have some other good?
What other good?
And beyond that?
Beyond that the sympathies of we, and all men as brothers, instead of the willful I, as if each man were a sovereign, self-regarding individual.
Well, where there is freedom doubt itself must be free. You shall not be forbidden to interrogate the faith of your fathers. Better that, indeed, than to take it entirely for granted.
So long as doubts such as these were wildish pebbles in the petulant waves that gnaw ceaselessly at any foundation, perhaps only because it is a foundation, no great damage was done. But when they began to be massed as a creed, then they became sharp cutting tools, wickedly set in the jaws of the flood. That was the work of a disaffected intellectual cult, mysteriously rising in the academic world; and from the same source came the violent winds of Marxian propaganda that raised the waves higher and made them angry.
Even so, the damage to the foundations might have been much slower and not beyond simple repair if it had not happened that in 1932 a bund of intellectual revolutionaries, hiding behind the conservative planks of the Democratic party, seized control of government.
After that it was the voice of government saying to the people there had been too much freedom.
Why does this matter in a discussion of the The Driver? The Driver was written in 1922, 11 years before the New Deal began. Socialism in America constituted nothing more than the ". . . wildish pebbles in the petulant waves that gnaw ceaselessly at any foundation. . . " to which Garrett referred in People's Pottage. They were just beginning ". . . to be massed as a creed." Garrett would have no way of knowing that the revolutionaries would soon seize control of government.
The Driver reflected this 1922 perspective (even though the story took place beginning in 1894 - "Fourth year of the soft Money Plague" - p. 1). Chapter I is sprinkled with random pebbles of leftist references in the quotations attributed to bit characters:
But a great majority of them were earnest, wistful men, fairly aching with[p. 17]
convictions, without being able to say what it was they had a conviction of, or
what was wrong with the world.
"They blamed the money power . . . . " etc. [p. 17].
These references provided only a small influence on the plot, but the very nature of this minor role for these references reflects the times in which Garrett wrote.
Part III of the review of The Driver.