Eddie Willers

Piksmeat's picture
Submitted by Piksmeat on Wed, 2006-10-25 11:34

Is there a place for Eddie Willers in Galt's Gulch. He represented the 'best of the rest'. Yet he doesn't make it in the novel. Is Galt's Gulch purely for the 'prime movers'? I understand that Galt's Gulch is not meant to be taken literaly but surely there would have been a place for Eddie?

( categories: )

Have we not questioned love?

antony's picture

From the text it could be assumed that Eddie loved Dagny. Now, if Eddie followed his rational self interest (openly pursuing Dagny) he would have found himself in conflict with all the numerous men in Dagny's life. Given this fear or the fear of outright rejection Eddie never openly confronted Dagny thus rejecting his own self interest and intrinsically sacrificing himself to the interest of others. Thus he failed the rules of Galt's Gulch.

Just an alternate, hopefully rational, perspective.

When a quote is not a quote.

Ptgymatic's picture

"Mindy wrote:
(quote):"I don't care, it is right (or, it's NOT right) and nothing else matters." That is the essence of a Rand hero. The capacity to be certain, and the courage to stand by it." (end quote) " this is from Xray's post of 10-9. The excerpt makes it seem that "I don't care..." are my words, a direct statement of mine. But that is not the case.

I wrote that a certain state of mind, which might be recognized by a feeling of certitude which "I don't care, it is right..." expresses, is part of everyone's experience, on at least rare occassions, and that this state of mind was relevant to understanding the realism of Rand's characterizations. The words, "I don't care..." are not to be attributed to any actual speaker.

The way you excerpted it, Xray, gives a false impression.


Brant Gaede wrote:

Xray's picture

Brant Gaede wrote:

"If you live inside the world of Atlas Shrugged you'll put an unseen noose around your neck."


Where do you see the specific danger when it comes to living "inside the world of Atlas Shrugged"?

Mindy wrote: "I don't care,

Xray's picture

Mindy wrote:
(quote):"I don't care, it is right (or, it's NOT right) and nothing else matters." That is the essence of a Rand hero. The capacity to be certain, and the courage to stand by it." (end quote)

Problem is, that is the essence of ideologists (and fanatics) in general, whatever the provenience. Those e. g. who crashed the planes into the Twin Towers - my guess is they too thought of themselves as heros having "the capacity to be certain, and the courage to stand by it". ("I don't care, it is right and nothing else matters").

Where do we take it from there?

(Quote) (Mindy):
"To Xray: The seeming self-interest of all men depends on judging their motivation short-range. Jim Taggart makes deals to feel important. Then he closes his mind to the fact that he despises the nature of that "importance." In his heart, it is control of Dagny and Francisco that he covets. They are real and powerful and important. If he can be ahead of them, if he can dictate to them, he would be even more important, more competent, really something." (end quote)

In short, there exists no such thing as as "altruistic" behavior. It can ALL be traced back to self-interest. Rand's crusade against "altruism" reminds me of Don Quijote fighting the windmills. Smiling


Brant Gaede's picture

Well, 80-89 is "dullness" and -79 is feeble-minded. 90-109 is "average."

I'm glad you found such people who performed as you said they did and I'm glad for them. I still suspect the scores.

My college best friend/buddy told me he had tested at 109. He went on to get a PhD in hydrology in the highly rated Un. of AZ hydrology program after getting the highest GPA to date as an undergrad. in that program. That was before grade inflation and included a lot of higher mathematics. All beyond me.

The way you put it I accept, however; your testimony is better than mine for I've none at all.



Ptgymatic's picture

I do not over-rate 80-IQ people. I've worked with them. Within the sphere of their independence, they can vary just as anyone else does in being honest with themselves, thinking carefully, and refusing to accept what does not make sense to them.

What is the basis of your statement that I over-rate 80-IQ potential? You do know there is science on this question, I hope.

I live. That means I live in a world in which the potentials portrayed in Atlas Shrugged are real. I live in a world where greatness is real. I live in a world where life is rewarding. I live in a world where problems can be solved. I live a life in which thought is successful, reasoning dependable, creativity natural, enjoyment deep. I do not need an invitation to Galt's Gulch to live this life of mine. I thank the makers of Western civilization, the American Founding Fathers, Aristotle, and Rand particularly, for teaching me how to live this way, for the gift of living in America, for a world transformed by science and technology.



Brant Gaede's picture

It can be hard to understand whom you are talking to. In my case I was referring to Rand's general psychological acumen compared to her ability for particular insights.

If you live inside the world of Atlas Shrugged you'll put an unseen noose around your neck.

You grossly overstate what someone with an 80 IQ is capable of. Someone who does what you say will end up with a higher IQ.


They are real.

Ptgymatic's picture

Man is actually like that. I would suggest the "intransigent" element exists in your own make-up and experience, also, but you do not focus on it and name it when it is dominant.

Think of times when you felt an absolute certainty about something. It would have to be something of some significance, but not necessarily life-changing. Possibly a conflict with someone in an authority position in your life. Recapture the state of mind you had when you thought something like--"I don't care, it is right (or, it's NOT right) and nothing else matters." That is the essence of a Rand hero. The capacity to be certain, and the courage to stand by it.

I suggest that if you recall several such incidences in your own life, and spend some time analyzing your feelings and state of mind, you will see the similarity to what Rand's heroes demonstrate as a constant.

There is a higher state of mind possible, in which clarity and certainty dominate, and eager purpose and confidence move you constantly forward. Man's is a self-made soul. "The sleep of reason brings forth monsters." The dimension that spans man's highest potential and the most depraved psychological development is, I assert, the greatest scale in the universe.

Man's is a self-made soul. You make your soul moment-by-moment by setting yourself intellectual standards. To think everything through. To face all facts. Do not speak or write a word you do not think you will be proud of the rest of your life. Make something of yourself. Then make something more of yourself.

To Xray: The seeming self-interest of all men depends on judging their motivation short-range. Jim Taggart makes deals to feel important. Then he closes his mind to the fact that he despises the nature of that "importance." In his heart, it is control of Dagny and Francisco that he covets. They are real and powerful and important. If he can be ahead of them, if he can dictate to them, he would be even more important, more competent, really something.

Of course, the only effect he can have on them is a destructive one. It is easy to destroy. His successes mean nothing. But mental equivocations and evasions and substituting public impressions for facts lets him delude himself. What is man? Is he an illusion, a fiction of others' imagination? That is the reality Taggart builds for his self. His self is reduced to a press release. His selfishness is to seem bigger, not even directly to himself, but indirectly, through the impression of others, others he does not respect.

What you call selfishness in such people is a life-time of effort to shore up the lie of what they are. What does it take to shore up a lie? Destruction of the truth. For an organism that lives by its intellect, a plan of action devoted to destruction of the truth is not actually "self"-serving. Man has a specific nature. And he can kill himself slowly.

Man MUST know himself. If he doesn't know his own, biological nature, which means the importance of living by his mind, he will act selflessly when trying his best to help himself.

I want to note that high intelligence is NOT the issue here. High intellectuality is. Someone with an 80 IQ can live intellectually by deliberately and self-consciously checking the reasoning of what he hears; by choosing to think and re-think choices and decisions; by refusing to accept what does not make sense to him, etc.

This is a critical distinction, and much needed in people interested in Objectivism. Dagny is not more moral than Eddie, or more deserving. Engine wipers, good ones, are as deserving of respect as Ellis Wyatt. The reason the novels focus on people of exceptional ability is that that is how the INDIVIDUAL'S role in society and civilization can be dramatized.

Rand is all about the role of the mind in man's life. The mind is an individual trait, of course. The social trends of Communism, and the growing Socialist tendencies in the West attack freedom by ignoring the individual, and promoting the group. In demoting the individual, they destroy the mind.

Of course, promoting the group is only an excuse for stealing from the productive. The whole scheme is at base simple theft. Personally, the battle is for your own mind. You must make it strong and independent. Politically, the battle is for your mind's expression and use--for personal freedom. Individual rights are the battle-cry, and the relationship between freedom and productivity is the lesson society must learn.



Brant Gaede's picture

I missed your last post on this thread.

I'd say Rand's insight had to do with particulars and she didn't too well with overall understanding.

It's been reported from several sources how she was able to zero in on a new acquaintance with just the right question or remark making that person feel extremely visible. That was a great talent of hers, not that that was from my personal experience. It wasn't.


Mindy wrote: "These types

Xray's picture

Mindy wrote:

"These types are entirely real! The story is an abstraction..." (end quote)

I disagree with your judgement regarding the alleged "reality" of the characters in AS.
How "real" for example is a Francisco D'Anconia, who right from the start is introdced in the novel as the wonder kid and later the young man who can do everything, excels at everything. He is of course (surprise, surprise :rolleyes)Smiling dazzlingly good-looking also.
And the "bad guys" lik e. g. Wesley Mouch are mostly ugly. Quite a primitive psychological pattern exposed there, isn't it?

It made me laugh when reading Rand's description of Rearden & Co (cold, determined look, "taut skin", etc.) because it produced in me the mental image of some comic strip like figures. Big smile

"The integration of what they thought and how they acted is absolutely essential to Rand's message." (Mindy)

It sure is. The characters were the vehicles promoting her message. Her heros versus "the altruists" . The ony problem is: those altruists don't exist, for Jim Taggart & Co are driven by self-interest every bit as much as John Galt & Co, they only differ in what their self-interests are.

Piksmeat wrote: "One of the

Xray's picture

Piksmeat wrote:
"One of the concerns I have with Atlas Shrugged is the treatment of Eddie Willers. I thought it was wrong to treat a loyal employee that way. I'm not John Galt or Howard Roark and I'm sure nobody here is either. The best we can hope for is to be like Eddie Willers. But at the end of the novel he is just left to rot like everyone else as the world goes to hell in a handcart." (end quote)

I have a lot of concerns with AS, as well as with The Fountainhead.
Howard Roark's lack of empathy is almost autistic and that Rand created this character "as man should be" is quite disturbing imo.
John Galt reminds me more of an automaton, and his 'happy valley' makes me think unfavorably of some other version of Brave New World.
Imo the reason why many readers like Eddie Willers is because he is one of the few halfway 'human' characters in the novel.

Not a literary disagreement, but...

Ptgymatic's picture

...though plot determined what characters she created, and what personalities and philosophical beliefs, etc., they had, her characters are not the blanks that Agatha Christie, for example, writes, where their actions are all we have to understand who they are.

It you take that distinction too far, Brant, you are separating an entity's identity from its actions. The integration of what they thought and how they acted is absolutely essential to Rand's message. The various "good" people make the mistakes they do because of specific mistakes in their thinking/beliefs, and the same for the bad ones.

The psychology of someone like James Taggart is gone into extensively, with views of his childhood, his professional, his political, and his personal lives. That is an unusually deep, and integrated look at a character.

I think there is a degree of diss-ing Rand's "psychological" depth due only to the fact that she doesn't do a reality-TV sort of description of the small and unimportant details of her characters' lives.

If you see other lacks in her psychology, give me some examples, would you, I'd like to consider them.


Hold It!

Brant Gaede's picture

You may learn a lot about human character by reading Rand, but little about human psychology. Plot drives her characters, her characters don't drive her plots. (By and large.)


I suggest you might need to expand your social circle

terynclarke's picture

That's why I came to this site.

These types are not real??

Ptgymatic's picture

I suggest you might need to expand your social circle. These types are entirely real! The story is an abstraction...

Your observations about expressiveness or emotional openness fails, it seems, to take into consideration the social context. Most scenes in which Rand mentions the expressionless manner of a character are ones in which the character is interacting in opposition to James Taggart, the Wet Nurse, Rearden's family, etc. The emotions they would have are negative. Increasing degrees of formality are the civilized way of dealing with people beyond one's intimate friends, when the tone of the interaction is negative, when there is conflict. I suspect you mistake that formality for "emotional self-control." Rand's heroes have intense emotional lives.

Your disparagement of Eddie Willer's open interactions with "the worker" regard, in contrast, the private conversations of like-minded people. Though Eddie says he doesn't understand why he trusts the worker, he senses Galt's rationality, and his judgment of the man is right-on.

The social metaphysical second-handers use emotion to manipulate others, but the heroes of Rand's novels are, largely, not susceptible to such manipulation, and they certainly don't employ it. They are dealing with people formally because they do not like them and wish to have the minimum of interaction with them. There is no point in expressing one's emotions in such a situation.

Thinking people often find themselves emotionally at odds with mediocrity. Thinking people will want to minimize such interactions, and make them formal.

Eddie Willers has loved Dagny since their childhood, knowing he has no hope of a full response from her. He has suffered both his own difficulties, and those he sees her facing. He shows great, constant self-control in this connection!


You may conclude

terynclarke's picture

that I'm not a Prime Mover

"rarely" and "appropriately" rather than "never"

terynclarke's picture

My point was Rand's emphasis on self control, and Eddie showed less than the PMs. The PMs did show emotion when it was warranted, and to people who were deserving of it. However, Eddie lacked inhibition of his emotions and information with the track worker/Galt. These characters were as near to perfect as Rand could create, so obviously the characteristics they exhibit are nearly absolute. We may aspire to some of these attributes, but clearly this level of self control is not likely attainable in reality. I don't think that emotion is pathologic, and agree that lack of emotion is. It is a novel, these characters are not real, so I think searching for DSM-IV codes to classify them may be a little aggressive.

Thanks Ellen!

Olivia's picture

I'd say your post about settles it. Eddie chose to stay.

Emotion is a part of being a healthy human being

Duncan Bayne's picture

All of the Prime Movers show immense self control, their faces never show emotion, ...

Are you implying that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness, a character flaw? All the evidence I have shows that the healthy (as opposed to maladaptive) expression of emotion is a vital part of psychological wellbeing, of human existence.

The type of immense self-control you describe, to the point of never showing emotion, is in fact a form of psychopathology (details):


The excessive inhibition of spontaneous action, feeling, or communication -- usually to avoid disapproval by others, feelings of shame, or losing control of one's impulses. The most common areas of inhibition involve: (a) inhibition of anger & aggression; (b) inhibition of positive impulses (e.g., joy, affection, sexual excitement, play); (c) difficulty expressing vulnerability or communicating freely about one's feelings, needs, etc.; or (d) excessive emphasis on rationality while disregarding emotions.

I think that Rand recognised this. Consider that The Fountainhead begins with the sentence "Howard Roark laughed."

Anecdotally, the 'prime mover' types I've known tend to be more emotionally expressive than the norm; it's the 'salarymen' who tend to be more reserved with their emotions both in private and at work. If you know something to be true or valuable, you should be emotional about it!

It was Eddie's choice.

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I've so often over the years heard or read people wondering in effect, Why didn't Ayn Rand consider Eddie Willers worthy of admission to the Valley? Yet the text implies that Eddie would have been admitted. ~He~ told Dagny to leave without him and said that he didn't "even want to make a new start."

Here's the text from Atlas. (Sorry, I don't have a page reference immediately to hand; I'm picking this up from another site where it was quoted.)

"I can't leave New York," she answered stonily.

"I know," he said softly. "That's why it's I who'll go there to straighten things out. At least, to find a man to put in charge."

"No! I don't want you to. It's too dangerous. And what for? It doesn't matter now. There's nothing to save."

"It's still Taggart Transcontinental. I'll stand by it. Dagny, wherever you go, you'll always be able to build a railroad. I couldn't. I don't even want to make a new start. Not any more. Not after what I've seen. You should. I can't. Let me do what I can."

"Eddie! Don't you want—" She stopped, knowing that it was useless. "All right, Eddie. If you wish."

"I'm flying to California tonight. I've arranged for space on an army plane.… I know that you will quit as soon as … as soon as you can leave New York. You might be gone by the time I return. When you're ready, just go. Don't worry about me. Don't wait to tell me. Go as fast as you can.… I'll say good-bye to you, now."

She rose to her feet. They stood facing each other; in the dim half-light of the office, the picture of Nathaniel Taggart hung on the wall between them. They were both seeing the years since that distant day when they had first learned to walk down the track of a railroad. He inclined his head and held it lowered for a long moment. She extended her hand. "Good-bye, Eddie."


A belated thanks to Stephen Boydstun for his post below (#25483) suggesting possibly deliberate likenesses between Kira's and Eddie's final scenes, and between the beautifully written description of the "lonely little tree" in the final scene of We the Living and that of "the birch trees" in the final scene of Atlas Shrugged. I'd forgotten the similar details, if I'd ever noticed them before.



Ross Elliot's picture

...was sacrificed by Rand for the purposes of story. There had to be someone standing there on that track, and for that she chose him.

Cheryl was another.

Your face is showing emotion,

Ptgymatic's picture

terynclarke, what should we conclude about you?

Dagny left him behind

terynclarke's picture

Eddie was never my favorite, while reading, and re-reading AS. I thought his inability to control himself while babbling to the "track worker" showed weakness. All of the Prime Movers show immense self control, their faces never show emotion, his did. Dagny had the opportunity to save him, and she hesitated, kept silent, and let him go to California, knowing he would perish. She knew at that point that he had been divulging her secrets to John Galt. Although Eddie's slipped information clearly benefitted the eventual relationship of John and Dagny, perhaps she had a lack of trust or respect for him because of those indiscretions on his part. I think her disappointment in his divulging her personal information was alluded to when she asked Eddie if Galt had ever asked him what she looked like when she slept in the office. I don't think that Rand required a character to be of superior intelligence to get to Galt's Gulch (the truck driver) but I think she did require self control, which kept poor old Eddie out.

Eddie and Dagny

Leonid's picture

But of course Eddie would be gladly accepted in Galt Gulch. The problem is that he couldn't leave. Essentially he has the same problem as Dagny, only Dagny managed to overcome it and only under severe duress-capture and torture of her beloved.

"John Galt
I know it. For twelve years, since I left Twentieth Century Motors I was here, waiting for you. I love you, Dagny. Want me to join you and go to work? Want me to repair that interlocking computer system of yours within an hour?

Dagny No!

John Galt laughs Why not?

Dagny I don’t want to see you working for them.

Galt And yourself?

Dagny I can’t let it go!

Galt Not yet."

I felt a pang of sorrow too

Jameson's picture

Poor Eddie - he was the best of the mediocre men.

I find it a bit cruel that

Splicerslicer's picture

I find it a bit cruel that the entire crew for Ragnar's ship were mentioned to be building homes in Galt's Gulch and that Rearden's secretary as well as all of his foremen were taken there but Eddie, essentially the same type of man is never offered a place there and, from all that we can tell, is never sought after. I can't remember the exact wording but I remember something said by Galt to Dagny about the amount of time she is willing to endure being relative to the extent of her virtue--Eddie stuck with it until the end. Perhaps his role was to show that not everyone wins all the time or the price of allowing the mystics of muscle or spirit into power in the first place.

As Kipling put it:

Ptgymatic's picture

"And see the things you gave your life to broken/And stoop, and build them up with worn-out tools,"

Eddie Willers couldn't.


p.s. Still waiting, Matty 


Eddie Willer couldn't quit.

Leonid's picture

Eddie Willer couldn't quit. For him, as for Dagny, railroad was everything he had in life. Dagny eventually found enough power to leave,but for Eddie apparently wasn't any life without railroad.


Newberry's picture


Your last reponse about a sublime state that anyone can achieve was excellent.


Now back to Eddie. Eye


Some not capable of true happiness?

Ptgymatic's picture

I'm glad you re-visited this thread, I hadn't read it.

I disagree with you that AS, or Rand, had "...the worldview...[that] not everyone was capable of attaining the same level of self-sufficiency and happiness [as] the elite."

Neither a high IQ nor advanced education are required to live independently, thoughtfully, morally, and satisfactorily. Reason isn't difficult in that sense. It takes self-discipline, purpose only, and the facts that teach us the value of reason are abundant in everyone's life. Very few of us could survive alone. That isn't the self-sufficiency Rand emphasizes. It is, rather, the self-sufficiency of thinking for oneself. It's insisting that things make sense to you before you adopt them, ideas, practices, goals, etc. It's valuing your own mind, protecting your mind, keeping your mind clear and your ideas pure. It's having a religious fervor about your beliefs, acting as if any false idea or compromise in understanding is a toxin that could weaken or destroy you.

It doesn't take being a "prime mover" to be intransigent, whole, successful, or happy.



MDG's picture


MDG, you say that Rand came

Jmaurone's picture

MDG, you say that Rand came "dangerously close...to portraying an informal caste system..." based on your description of Eddie Willers. 

May I point out, at this point, the truck driver in the valley?  The one who said "I'm just a truck driver...but I didn't want to remain one?"

 Give Rand just a LITTLE more credit than that...:) 

Down with the Ship

Newberry's picture

I recall that Rand set up Eddie from the beginning to go down with the "ship." Early in the novel when we learn about him, he thought that Taggart Railroad would last "forever." And I believe the "track worker" discussed with Eddie, Eddie's past, and asked him if he really said "forever", which Eddie confirmed he had. ahhahahaha, if he hadn't said and thought that he would still be alive today.

There was also Eddie's childhood scene in which freaked out about the hollowness of the great oak tree, discovered after lightning struck it. Eddie thought that it had been indestructible, and he never understood or resolved the fear he experienced when that happened.

These touches showed that Eddie had a blind spot, something that would block him from re-accessing new information, take in the new facts, and then act accordingly. Perhaps she did this to show that good people can close a blind eye to horrors of ruthless regimes and somehow think that if I don't acknowledge it, it might go away?

Moral of his story: great cultures, great enterprises, great countries can perish...it can never be assumed that they will always be great and will last forever.



Of all the characters in

MDG's picture

Of all the characters in Atlas Shrugged I find Eddie Willers greatly under-analyzed. To be honest, what he represents in terms of Ayn Rand's worldview is a little troublesome to me. As it has been established, he is honest, hardworking, and moral. His limitations, however, are what bother me. He spent his life in the shadow of the Taggarts and seems to have hit a ceiling. He is not one of the Prime Movers. He is portrayed more as an instrument of the Prime Movers, either by Dagny to run the railroad or Galt to gather information. If this is Rand's attempt to portray the common man, I have to take issue. Of the many lessons I have taken from her philosophy, one is that I am capable of lifelong improvement and of being a Prime Mover. So why isn't Eddie Willers? Rand comes dangerously close (a little too close in my opinion) to portraying an informal caste system of the wicked, the Prime Movers, and a gaggle of inept plebs.

This may be the root of why I prefer the Fountainhead to Atlas Shrugged, and why I find it necessary to reexamine the latter in light of the former. The Fountainhead sent a clear message about the philosophical underpinnings of success and happiness for the individual. Atlas Shrugged sent a similar message, but wrapped it in a worldview in which not everyone was capable of attaining the same level of self-sufficiency and happiness of the elite. Eddie is one example. 

I disagree. This is why, in spite of the fact that Atlas Shrugged was Rand's attempt to tackle society at large, I still find it more useful (and less objectionable) to interpret it as a macrocasm of a successful individual. It demonstrates the conflict between the philosophy of self-denial and that of egotism. An individual, like the society portrayed in Atlas Shrugged, will collapse without a firm and self-sustaining philosophy.

Limitless Night

Stephen Boydstun's picture

Limitless night / Endless plain / Tree, snow, spring

From the closing scene for Eddie: "He lunged in the direction of the rabbit, as if he could defeat the advance of the enemy in the person of that tiny gray form. The rabbit darted off into the darknness---but he knew that the advance was not to be defeated. . . . He collapsed across the rail and lay sobbing at the foot of the engine, with the beam of a motionless headlight above him going off into a limitless night."

There is a likeness there with the final scene for Kira in We the Living. Kira "fell on the edge of a slope. She knew she could not rise again. Far down, below her, an endless snow plain stretched into the sunrise. The sun had not come. A band of pink, pale and young, like the breath of a color, like the birth of a color, rose over the snow . . . . A lonely little tree stood far away in the plain. It had no leaves. Its slim, rare twigs had gathered no snow. It stretched, tense with the life of a future spring, thin black branches, like arms, into the dawn rising over an endless earth where so much had been possible."

The closing scene for Eddie resonates with Rand's earlier, 1935 scene for Kira, which has brought so many to weep. Right after the close for Eddie, we have the final vignette for Atlas. Here may be another resonance with the earlier creation. It has always seemed to me that the final vignette for Atlas contains a personal allusion to the tree for Kira, simultaneous with its allusion to the great old tree in the childhoods of Eddie and Dagny. I suggest that the following contains a personal allusion to Kira's final scene. "There were shelves of snow on the granite ledges and on the heavy limbs of the pines. But the naked branches of the birch trees had a faintly upward thrust, as if in confident promise of the coming leaves of spring."

A useful thought...

EBrown2's picture

how many "Eddies" lived in Russia, circa 1922?

Does Loyalty to Friends Count for Nothing?

Ted Keer's picture

A non-Objectivist friend of mine who high-lighted every single one of the essential passages and even sentences of Atlas Shrugged with the acumen of a literary critic/philosopher said that the novel's greatest flaw was the exclusion of Willers. I said that I agreed that loyal friends would have come to rescue him. When I read the book, I assumed that this did happen, just later and off-stage.



Sandi's picture

I am assuming that you have just finished read Atlas Shrugged, as have I, because (aside from the many, many pages I have bookmarked) this was the very question I was asking myself at the end.

I wonder if I missed the role attributed to Eddie?

His loyalty did not print a passport to the Gulch.
Did, Eddie go wrong, or did he go right?

Does not Dagny employ the best?

Did not the members of Galt's Gulch revere the best of people?
It seems to be a contradiction that Eddie was the best (according to his position) and was not invited to Galt’s Guch. He was quite obviously not one of the dynamics, so maybe his position in the Gulch, came at a later time. A time as per order of merit, like who is next in line?

Was his to loyalty to Dagny his undoing?

Honesty and integrity were the underlying principals Eddie seemed to maintain.

I would have thought that these principals would have been ideal in Galt’s Guch, given that there must have been a great need for “labour “. Frisco, for example would surely need labour for his mines, Dagny for her railroads, Hank for his steel, Galt for his motors etc. Or are these people such perfectionists that they do everything themselves which would not only be impossible, its more ideological than logical.

I like to think that Eddie did eventually reach Galt’s Gulch.

I really want to have a say in this

Sandi's picture

But I haven't finished it yet. I started with The Fountainhead and couldn't put it down. It totally blew me away and I gushed over poor Spice Boy. He gave me good advice, that Atlas Shrugged needed time and indeed he was so very correct (thanks Ross). I can't wait to comment and I am not looking at your posts, but don't let this thread slide cos I want a ride on it.....ok!!

Thank you, I agree with

Piksmeat's picture

Thank you, I agree with that

Eddie Willers is my favourite character in Atlas Shrugged.

Yes Lance

Olivia's picture

And Eddie Willers experienced human greatness first-hand for most of his life, so he of all people would have had the ability to create a haven if he wanted one.

Make your own

Lanza Morio's picture

We have to create our own gulches and hideaways. And we can.

The original questioner missed the point of AS.

Excellent Landon, well said!

Marnee's picture

Excellent Landon, well said!

I too have enjoyed everyone's take on this, with the exception of Piksmeat of course, clarifying my own notions. I just wanted to say that.

My 2 cents

Landon Erp's picture

So far I've loved most everyone's responses. There are many ways to interpret Eddie's fate at the end of the novel.

I always viewed Eddie's decision to stay as such. I agree with Marnee that Reardon, Dagny etc were given a huge decision and had to undergo a significant amount of change (growth) of character in order to make their decision. At the time he would've been capable of asking to leave for the valley (Dagny/Frisco probably could've pulled it off) the question is never uttered precisely because he hasn't grown enough to understand what it means yet. He is still convinced that the world they are in can be saved and he does his best to do so.

Only when this leads to the stalled train does the issue finally connect with him. He has his moment of understanding on the tracks, only it's come to late.

Could a man like this survive in the wilderness on his own until the return of the prime movers? It's likely. But the part I understood about his character is that he couldn't have avoided knowing about the valley by that point, yet he never brought himself to ask, and he paid the consequences in the moment he finally understood them.


Inking is sexy.


Galt's Gulch...

Ross Elliot's picture

Galt's Gulch is a massive plot device. Yes, it's a refuge, a place to be truly free, a place for Dagny to discover the truth while still rejecting it, etc., but primarily, it's symbolic. It stands for the world as it could be, as it will be.

Practically, it's not Mount Olympus or the Elysian Fields. It's the Batcave.

So Eddie doesn't really come into it. He was always going to be left on the outside; used as a reminder as to the fate of a good man when faith & force are honored in place of freedom & reason. Eddie's real prominence in the story comes from his use as a conduit through which Galt learns about Dagny, and her struggle.

Wow. I never thought of

Marnee's picture

Wow. I never thought of Eddie Willers as the type who would let himself "rot along with the others." You have a very negative idea of Eddie!

He was more than capable of getting on in his life and being productive without the prime movers -- starting a enw world in the desert where he was left off, yes? Wasnt that the point? Its our time NOW to create and produce, rely on ourselves. Its Eddie's time at the end of the novel.

Also, are you saying that Galt had a duty to bring Eddie in becaue he was loyal to Dagny? Dagny and Rearden had to go through a SERIOUS transformation and realization before they were invited! Eddie had not gone through this yet, had he? I dont think so. That is the point as well.

Or Piksmeat are you just dying to criticize Rand for something, anything? Are you afraid that she is right?

The rot

Fred Weiss's picture

"Left to rot" by whom?

Who and what is the primary cause of the rot?

Your comment suggests - as do many of your questions - a serious inversion of justice. You put the blame on those most victimized by the very ideas which led to Eddie Willers plight. Certainly it is not Eddie's fault that the society is rotten. But it is not the striker's either. They, like Eddie, are its victims - and yet you demand that they save him.

As for your own whine that you, too, would be allowed to rot, what are you complaining about? The rot is caused by your views, which it is clear that you do not grasp.

Not quite

Craig Ceely's picture

"But at the end of the novel he is just left to rot like everyone else as the world goes to hell in a handcart."

Actually, we don't know that. We don't know what became of Eddie Willers, just as we don't know where the members of Ragnar's crew are quartered when ashore.

Other strikers

Craig Ceely's picture

Mr Boydstun,

Good points. Remember, too, that John Galt's own supervisor at the Twentieth Century Motor Company was also one of the strikers and, while he did vacation in the valley every year (not even telling his own wife where he'd be!), he did not live there.

One of the concerns I have

Piksmeat's picture

One of the concerns I have with Atlas Shrugged is the treatment of Eddie Willers. I thought it was wrong to treat a loyal employee that way. I'm not John Galt or Howard Roark and I'm sure nobody here is either. The best we can hope for is to be like Eddie Willers. But at the end of the novel he is just left to rot like everyone else as the world goes to hell in a handcart.

Drama of a Novel

Stephen Boydstun's picture

Mr. Johnston,

I'm glad you asked this question, which a number of my friends have asked me over many years. I like John Drakes' reply and Craig Ceely's reply.

I have an further thought on this. The story of Atlas Shrugged is enriched by not having all the characters one has come to love be safe in the valley at the final collapse. Leaving Eddie outside provides the way to make that tremendously moving scene with him in the stalled train, with the vision of his life with Dagny from their childhoods and their long joint struggle for the railroad. The human cost of the collapse needed to be brought home to the reader by the case of this wholly sympathetic character.

Our memories of things tend to prune the complexities of things. I think it works that way for our memories of complex stories such as the story in AS. Certainly over decades, I have found myself remembering lines of novels as more simple than they truly are when you look them up. Here are a couple of pruned memories of mine that illustrate this tendency. From AS "All life is struggle; man's life is purposeful struggle." From Fountainhead "Never the words, only the music."

Rand's story for AS does not bring all the creative and productive people into the valley. That is not the full story told. The author has her character John Galt (my favorite character from first I read the book) address such people, anonymous to him and to the reader, in his radio speech. He urges them to follow his own pattern of creating isolated enclaves for themselves for the near future.


Craig Ceely's picture


The truck driver

John Drake's picture

Eddie Willers would have been welcome in Galt's Gulch had he choosen to follow Dagny.  I don't remember his name, but as Dagny was being given the grand tour of the valley, she was introduced to a truck driver.  That truck driver was not introduced as any sort of 'prime mover', only as a man who recognized the philosophic importance of prime movers.  So I would say that Galt's Gulch was not purely for the 'prime movers', but primarily for them.  It was a safe-haven and private retreat (owned of course by Mulligan).  Strikers were invited to the valley by Mulligan, Galt, Francisco, or Ragnar.  For the most part that only included the prime movers, because those are the individuals that they wanted to save from the collapsing world around them. 

John Drake

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