Friday, May 11, 2012

The Cinder Buggy - Part 15 - chapters XXI and XXII - The Flying Triangle

Click here for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of my review of The Cinder Buggy.

Chapters XXI and XXII take place exclusively in Pittsburgh, as the characters begin their life outside of New Damascus and the reader anticipates their role in the coming supremacy of steel.

Chapter XXI begins on an exciting note for any true Ayn Rand fan, as Garrett refers to the Agnes-Thane-John love triangle as the "flying triangle." I do not fully understand the reference to the term "flying" in this context, but it appears that the concept of an enduring love triangle will be important to the plot. The outcome of this triangle remains unclear at the end of Chapter XXII and beyond.

Ayn Rand placed some version of the Roark-Dominique-Wynand love triangle in the center of the plot of most of her fictional works. This triangle appeared in various forms in Red Pawn, We the Living, The Fountainhead and even Atlas Shrugged - each one more complicated than the last until it was modified almost beyond recognition in Atlas Shrugged. Through these love triangles, Rand developed her broader philosophical points. There was no separation of her philosophy from the resolution of her fictional plots, including the resolution of the love triangles. Rand's love triangles (especially Red Pawn, We the Living and Fountainhead) enjoyed common characteristics:

  • The love triangles were resolved ultimately on philosophical grounds.

  • The female in the love triangle knew that she ultimately would not stay with her current man.

  • The female was with the "wrong" man in the triangle for the benefit of the other man (or, as in Fountainhead, because of her loyalty to the ideals of the other man).

  • The "wrong" man in the triangle had (1) committed some moral or philosophical error that necessitated or justified the secret triangle and (2) had enabled (and provided strength to) the evil forces against which the main characters fought.

  • The female was driven by larger forces to be with the "wrong" man in the triangle while the right man's problems were resolved in the context of the larger plot.

  • The female was lying to the "wrong" man while the "right" man suffered in silence as long as the triangle existed.

  • As the "wrong" man discovered the triangle in a climactic scene, the female threw Rand's philosophy in his face and more than justified her actions.

Rand used these plot pieces to create ever more complicated stories as her career continued. Each telling of this "triangle" story found more creative, surprising, painful and beautiful ways to present these scenarios. I do not anticipate this level of complexity in Garrett's Thane-Agnes-John triangle. Most of the above elements do not yet exist as of Chapter XXII.

At most, Rand was intrigued by Garrett's triangle in Cinder Buggy and added her own unique elements set forth above. Those above elements form the link between the personal stories and the larger historical/philosophical/economic issues. Rand's love triangles enable her to personify her philosophy. This link is largely missing in Garrett's books. While Garrett provides compelling personal stories and philosophy, there was always a separation between those two elements. Garrett's philosophy did not sufficiently drive his characters' romantic stories.

Rand wrote Red Pawn in 1931. If you understand the triangle in that story, you have found the basic skeleton of the plot of We the Living and Fountainhead (although Fountainhead is much richer philosophically). If Rand's triangles were influenced by Garrett, there was only a short window of eight years between Cinder Buggy and Red Pawn for such influence to take place. Rand's detractors accuse Rand of having discovered long-dormant Garrett works decades later and then stealing the name "Galt" in the belief that no reader would remember the original Garrett work. But if Rand's romantic triangles (the very basis of her plots) were influenced by Garrett, such influence took place during the height of Garrett's career. Rand did not plagiarize from a long dormant writer. At most, she provided unique philosophical insight while building upon a love triangle, the original form of which was much simpler than her own nearly contemporary version in Red Pawn.

Rand's life after publication of The Fountainhead was characterized by her own love triangle. While all accounts of this episode are more bland than her own fictional creations, one cannot help but speculate on the influence that her own fictional triangles (and Garrett's) played on her own life. Rand's own triangle had serious consequences not only for her own life but for the objectivist movement. Those consequences are outlined in numerous books and even one nonfiction movie. Were these consequences influenced (even created) not only by Rand's own fiction, but by a scenario that began near midnight on the streets of New Damascus among the "flying triangle" of The Cinder Buggy?

We will never know the answer to that question, but the question itself must be asked as long as Garrett's fiction works remain unknown.


Click here for part 16

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