Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Cinder Buggy - part 8; (Chapters VI and VII); Esther; Steel almost comes to America; Atlantis

Click here for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of my review of The Cinder Buggy.

Chapter VI introduces a new element to the story, as Aaron and Enoch meet Esther. Esther is the daughter of the boys' banker (Bruno Mitchell).

Chapter VI describes the conversations between the boys and their banker in the "social atmosphere" of the Mitchell home:

They debated the future of iron, metallurgical processes, the blundering stupidity of Congress.
[page 38]

While this statement (about Congress) might accurately summarize the conversations of Garrett's time (1920's) (or later), it seems premature for Aaron and Enoch's time (early-mid 1800's).

Without spoiling the climax of Chapter VI, I can say that the romantic triangle involving Esther, Aaron and Enoch reminded me of the more famous triangles involving Ayn Rand's Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged. The more I read of Garrett, the more I am convinced that Garrett influenced many of Rand's subplots. While Rand critics will seize upon these similarities as some sort of evidence of Rand's wrongdoing, the opposite, in fact, is true. Rand used the romantic triangles in Atlas Shrugged to develop specific philosophical points and to underscore her overall philosophy. Garrett left these points undeveloped.

The storylines for these triangles developed differently in Cinder Buggy than in Atlas Shrugged. Much as she did with pieces of The Driver, Rand took elements from Cinder Buggy, built upon them, added unique elements and took them to new levels. As I wrote here:
Ayn Rand appears to have built upon Garrett's work and improved upon it with her own elements.

and here:
Rand's plots were all her own, with only an element or two from prior novelists. Rand's novels were unique. She built on elements from prior authors, but she created something new and distinct.

and here:
While Ayn Rand may have been influenced by Garrett, the plots of her novels were far more developed and intricate than those of Garrett. Rand's novels conveyed more themes and delved more deeply into philosophy.

In Chapter VII, we see another element that Rand would ultimately build upon. Cinder Buggy calls for Aaron to make his own effort to develop the steel industry in the United States. (pp. 62-66, pp. 71-72). As I read these pages, I was reminded of Hank Reardon's efforts to develop Reardon Metal in Atlas Shrugged. The difference was that Rand used Reardon's efforts to explore the philosophical underpinnings of capitalism and objectivism. Reardon's efforts and lifelong struggle could never be duplicated by the leftists that would seize and regulate his production. Nearly a decade before the New Deal, Garrett did not foresee the need to accentuate the owner's struggle in order to combat the obligatory class warfare that would soon dominate literature and public discourse. Garrett chose instead to make a different point from Aaron's struggle (pp. 67-71) (See part 9 of my review for a lengthy quotation from Aaron in this regard).

The other element that seems vaguely Randian is the concept of the disappearing factory. While Aaron took his factory far away for reasons that relate to Esther and Enoch (p. 73) (instead of the strike in Atlas Shrugged), the concept of the factory that goes away only to reappear in faraway places years later must have intrigued Rand. More than 35 years later Rand's plot would identify entirely different causes for industrialists to abandon their work (and usually their entire factories). But a reader of both Garrett and Rand can imagine Rand's fascination with this concept as she writes of her characters searching through the ruins of a long dead factory or puzzling over the legend of Atlantis while they seek some long gone factory owner.

Click here for part 9.

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