Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Cinder Buggy - Part 10 - Chapters VIII through XI - Purification and the breaking point; the roots of Gail Wynand

Click here for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of my review of The Cinder Buggy.

Chapter VIII of Cinder Buggy further explores the theme of purification at which the book hinted in the early pages. Much of the chapter develops the plot as it relates to Enoch. Some of that plot deals with his treatment of the workers at the iron mill. The anti-capitalists will seize upon this material as an indictment of the working conditions of the early industrial revolution. Garrett did not intend that meaning. As Cinder Buggy predated the New Deal, Garrett was less focused on the capitalist-socialist battles than he was on the greater themes of his books.

The trials that Enoch forced his men to endure - especially those described on pages 79-80 - were a continuation of the conflict that Enoch and Aaron endured beginning on pages 18 and 19. Enoch continually searched for the "breaking point" of his men. The men feared his " . . . contempt for the man who broke." "They could stand his cruelty; they could not bear his scorn." (page 80). Many men broke. Others did not.

Enoch found the breaking point for his laborers, materials and his junior business partners:

In time the town of New Damascus, like the yard of his mill, was littered with things Enoch Gib had strained to the breaking point. Some, like Tom McAntee [mill worker], were decently covered up in the cemetery. Others were aimlessly walking about.
[p. 81]

This element of Enoch's character may have been a precursor to some of Gail Wynand's (from The Fountainhead) traits. The cold businessman who uses his power to "break" people is one possible (but very incomplete) description of Wynand. But, as with every Rand-Garrett connection, the story is not so simple. Wynand had much greater philosophical reasons for his actions than Gib. Wynand was a complex character with deep roots in Randian fiction.

I have always believed that Gail Wynand's character is the culmination of a progression that began with early Rand characters Commandant Kareyev and Andrei Taganov (that Rand almost diverted into Vesta Dunning). After contemplating Chapter VIII of Cinder Buggy, I now believe that Gail Wynand's character is a little bit more than that. I believe Rand supplemented the Kareyev-Taganov-Wynand character progression with the cruelty of Enoch Gib. But Wynand's cruelty demonstrated and was intertwined with a specific philosophical point. Gib's cruelty is unique to Gib and this story.

Chapter VIII ends by describing a twenty year period of prosperity for New Damascus - which period includes the Civil War (p. 81).

Chapter XI describes the process by which finished iron is made. The reader can follow the purification process as the molten iron makes its way through the mill to the puddling process. (pp. 100-103). I found this description refreshing, as most fiction writers today could not describe an industrial process. Modern entertainment focuses on places with which the writers are familiar (law firms, hospitals, advertising agencies) or on characters whose jobs are described in only the vaguest terms.

These chapters thus advance the "purification" concept - both for the iron process (XI) and for the people of New Damascus (VIII).

It is difficult to describe the plot while avoiding plot spoilers. So I will conclude my discussion of Chapters IX - XI by saying only that the Enoch-Aaron conflict continued, but in a new and different way. Chapters IX, X and XI take place in 1869.

Click here for part 11.

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