The Cinder Buggy - part 25 - Danville, PA; Ayn Rand; Secret of the League
Click here for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 of my review of The Cinder Buggy.
Cinder Buggy is many things. As I stated in Part 17 of my review, I believe Cinder Buggy served as raw material for many of Ayn Rand's later works. Finding and reading Cinder Buggy is the equivalent of Hank and Dagny finding the motor in the abandoned factory in Atlas Shrugged:
As with the other areas of Garrett/Rand overlap, Garrett's writing would serve as an allegory that Garrett could not have anticipated. While Garrett wrote of using pig iron as a raw material, the real story of Cinder Buggy is its own function as raw material for Ayn Rand. In the same way, Cinder Buggy and the other forgotten Garrett novels served as the motor that Dagny and Hank Rearden found among the ruins of the factory in Atlas Shrugged. By studying and comparing Garrett with Rand, we can watch that relic being converted into a working motor.
The difference between Cinder Buggy and the old motor from Atlas Shrugged is that, unlike Hank and Dagny, we already have the finished product as we read and discover the contents of Cinder Buggy. We don't need to undertake a worldwide search in order to find and use the finished product. We use the raw version (Cinder Buggy) to help us understand and appreciate Ayn Rand's finished motor(s).
Cinder Buggy provides a somewhat less philosophically developed version of the following items that would later enrich the Randian novels:
- the love triangle between and among the heroes of the story.
- a precursor character to Gail Wynand.
- previews of Hank Rearden's struggle to invent Rearden metal.
- miscellaneous items that apparently influenced Rand, but are less specifically related to the Randian novels.
The poem at the beginning of the book seems to summarize the downfall of the iron industry. Iron is pure, while steel is an alloy. Iron suffered the fate foreshadowed in the poem. I cannot connect the poem to the personal stories in the book.
Cinder Buggy is epic in scope, taking place over more than a century and four generations. The Randian novels and the other Garrett novels that I have reviewed do not cover nearly that much time (Blue Wound may be an exception - as it covers centuries of human history - but Blue Wound does not contain personal stories that one would expect in a novel. Blue Wound is more of an essay than a novel).
Cinder Buggy also far exceeds the scope of the other pre-Rand novels - (Calumet K and Secret of the League). Calumet K is, essentially, a preview of the construction of the "John Galt line," while Secret of the League proposes an idea for overthrowing a socialist state. Neither of these books cover nearly as much time as Cinder Buggy.
Secret of the League provides an interesting contrast, as Secret includes a level of ideological focus that was present only in Rand's novels. Secret was written in 1907, yet it reads like a post-New Deal story. Secret makes socialism the enemy. I have written that Garrett's novels were not fully focused on the fight against socialism because Garrett wrote those novels pre-New Deal. Secret somehow achieved this focus even though it pre-dated the New Deal by 26 years.
Today, one can walk the streets of Danville and visit the places that inspired the events of Cinder Buggy. By extension, the visitor would also be experiencing the places that inspired the raw material for the Randian novels.
While standing outside the Montgomery House in Danville, one can imagine not only the foundations of the iron and steel industries, but the raw material for the Randian novels that now celebrate 70 year anniversaries and enjoy screen adaptations and DVD releases. The connections are not apparent to the casual tourist, but they are real.
Modern culture is rooted in the past. Ayn Rand's fiction has achieved a lasting place in modern culture (despite tremendous opposition). As long as Rand's literature flourishes, Garrett's literature will have its place too. As long as Garrett maintains that place, then so will 19th century Danville and industrialized Pittsburgh and the iron and steel revolution. The birth of steel and the revolution that followed are among the most momentous events in world history. While their importance is downplayed, minimized and ignored in the 21st century, Garrett's works help preserve their memory for the day when they will one day be rediscovered.