Monday, August 01, 2005

Who is John Galt?

The rhetorical question, "Who is John Galt?" is presented multiple times in the first Chapter. The first section, where Eddy walks through the streets of a crumbling New York City, starts and ends with this question. Both times, it is said by the same "type of man:" the hobo and then Pop Harper. They are men who know what's wrong with the world, but they no longer give a damn about it. Both have become wearied by the toils of the world--the hobo has given up already and Pop has struggled his whole life to finally discover the ultimate amelioration: to give up.

Contrast this "type" of man with Eddie, the common man. Eddie is annoyed by the question, partly because he is still optimistic enough that the world can be saved and partly because he refuses to believe that there is a fatal, deadly, flaw in the world. He does not know what is wrong with the world, but he has this sense of dread, of impending doom. When this fear gets the better of him, he would chide himself that it's silly of him to feel this. He would deliberately avoid the bankrupt stores on the 5th Avenue, to foster impetus to his happiness in the stores that still remain. He ignores the bad, the crumbling buildings, the myriad homeless, and throws his full faith into the good: that there is still that much greatness--the competent bus driver making an expert turn, the clean white curtains--left in the world. Eddie's memories recall the image of the great oak tree, which he had heroized as a child; he remembers when lightning strikes it, his discovery that the tree was only an empty hollow--the sense of immense betrayal. He finds that memory silly to have come up at this moment; he would rather not face the truth. The plight of the common man is that he refuses to see the whole picture, lest it would shatter his dream, and it is this crucial difference that sets him apart from the hero. For, in A.S., the hero is merely the common man who obeys the doctrine of non-contradiction, that A is A. As simple as that may sound, it is the hardest thing in the world, and very few men are capable of it.

Enter John Galt. To the mere mortals of the world, the expression "Who is John Galt?" is one of despair--who would think that one man could bring down the whole world? Then again, that would be possible if the whole world were made and maintained by one man--one "type" of man. Behold, the Randian hero.


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