Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Cinder Buggy - part 12 - chapters XIV, XV, XVI; Agnes Gib

Click here for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of my review of The Cinder Buggy.

In Chapter XIV, the personal conflict among the characters intensifies subtly.

In Chapter XV, the stage is set for that conflict to intensify more dramatically. Enoch's reclusive daughter Agnes takes center stage in Chapter XV. That her role is rooted in factual history was hinted at in the hand-written inscription that I copied in part 4. A major difference between Garrett's and Rand's fiction is the nature of the personal stories and conflicts. In Cinder Buggy, the personal conflicts are at least partially rooted in history. They do not appear to be an extension or objectification of the main philosophical point of the book. With Rand, every action of the characters demonstrates a philosophical point. In Cinder Buggy, Garrett's ability to summarize and illustrate grand historic trends served as a landscape, a canvas and a backdrop for the personal conflict that continues building and increasing in complexity throughout the middle chapters of the book. History and philosophy served as more than these elements in Randian fiction.

The party scene in Chapter XVI is reminiscent of Dagny Taggart's (from Atlas Shrugged) debutante ball (even though Agnes appears to be headed for a very different future than was Dagny). With Garrett, the failure of the ball was due to circumstances unique to the Cinder Buggy story. In Atlas Shrugged, the ball flopped because the men who attended, having been softened by decades of New Deal paternalism, were not worthy of Dagny.

The different treatment of these "coming out" parties reflects the different times in which the books were written. Garrett wrote pre-New Deal, and thus could truthfully develop stories that were not overshadowed and influenced by the ever-growing federal leviathan. Once the New Deal became entrenched in the United States, any fictional story, in order to be credible, would be forced to use characters that either were forged and strengthened in resistance to the ever growing socialist state or that were weakened and pacified by it. The all-powerful state has become so pervasive that even a fictional story must recognize the effects of such influence on its characters. Without such recognition, modern fiction often seems unrealistic. Such recognition was not necessary for Garrett in the 1920's, so he was free to resolve his plots solely on bases traditionally recognized by literary analysis.

It becomes harder to analyze and discuss the plot without spoiling it at this point, but Chapter XVI hints that the main conflict that has dominated the story is about to turn violent. This is the old Aaron-Enoch conflict in a new form and results from Agnes' "coming out" party instead of any issue related to iron or steel.

Click here for part 13.

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