Atlas Shrugged Atlas Shrugged discussion


593 views
What happened to Eddie Willers?

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Lance Hartland Why wasn't Eddie Willers allowed into the Galt cult? Was it his inability to fix the Comet? What was the point of him not willing to let go of his emotional attachment to the railroad?


Jeff Bottrell Rand would probably say that Willers proved his unworthiness of entering the Galt Utopia by demonstrating insufficient virtue. He was too much of an underling, not enough of a leader and innovator. I feel sorry for him at the end, with his hopeless and unrequited love. I guess a real man would have been more coolly dominant and fearless, as all her heroes are. It's a bit warped.


Daniel Lance wrote: "Why wasn't Eddie Willers allowed into the Galt cult? Was it his inability to fix the Comet? What was the point of him not willing to let go of his emotional attachment to the railroad?"

She said that he wasn't allowed in because he wasn't good enough. He had all the right views, morals, and opinions, but he basically wasn't born special enough (brilliant ideas don't come to him spontaneously, for example) to ever have any chance of getting in.


Emerson Fortier Eddie Willers final scene, for me, is one of the most haunting scenes in the entire book. I don't know what Rand said his function was, or why he wasn't admitted, but I think it is one of the most human moments in the entire story.

On a literary level, reasons actually included aside, I think he provides us with a character to really truly connect with. What an unsatisfactory ending if there is not someone left who must now do something in the face of the end of the world.

I don't know why she included him, and frankly it doesn't bother me much, because like the "There is no black and white, just shades of grey" line from "American Hustle" it leaves us with something to think about that does NOT necessarily agree with the theme of the book (even if Rand designed it to do so it takes her saying it to make it clear). That's powerful.
It also happens to be a tremendously awesome scene of defeat. In the face of the theme every character here besides Eddie is new, and every one of them is examined in the face of the theme and found to hold at least some small seed of the greatness that might be fanned into a fire that could rebuild the world. Which is also tremendously exciting to me as a reader. New insights and hopes tied to the end of a story seems to be another really awesome tool.

Anyways, that's Eddie's story as I see it.


Priyanka This is one thing that kept nagging at me after I finished the book. Eddie Willers did everything right, he wasn't one of the leechers. His character was one I could really identify with, not a super human, just an honest human being.
The last scene really broke my heart. I agree that it was the most human moments in the entire story.
The author justified all minute details in the story during the brilliant John Galt speech. How could she not justify Eddie Willers??


Emerson Fortier From the writers perspective I would agree with Jeff and Daniel above. Rand seems to justify it by saying that we are either born a god or a peon and only Gods go to Galt land. Basically, like you said, he seems to be us, and Galt is trying to tell us that we aren't good enough so we better step up our game.

I don't agree with everything Rand has to say so I might be softening the blow she's trying to land but she wasn't Jesus, so I'm not gonna take every word as Gospel. You could read it a myriad ways, I think it's best this way whatever her reasons might be.


Ajay I believe that Eddie Williers' aim in life was not concrete enough to get him into Galt's Gulch. (I know, mine isn't...)

Eddie comes from a family which was working for the Taggarts and Dagny was his childhood friend. When they used to play, I believe that Dagny asked Eddie what he wanted to do when he grew up... to which he replies "whatever is right." Now take this same answer years forward and applying it to the situation when all railroads had broken down and there was nothing "right" happening in the world- Eddie Williers is caught in a situation where there is no right and there is nothing to look up to as an ideal so he can just sit and do nothing.

Strangely same is the case of Cheryl Brooks who married James Taggart on the supposition that he was someone to look upto when the world was falling apart. But sad to find later that she had married a moocher, she ended up falling to her death in a burst of emotion.

Rand I guess, uses these characters to show the people who are neither moochers nor geniuses but just having a "feeling of doing good" and what their fate is when Atlas shrugs.


message 8: by Daniel (last edited Jul 29, 2014 06:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Daniel Emerson wrote: "From the writers perspective I would agree with Jeff and Daniel above. Rand seems to justify it by saying that we are either born a god or a peon and only Gods go to Galt land. Basically, like you said, he seems to be us, and Galt is trying to tell us that we aren't good enough so we better step up our game. "

It's not meant to motivate. Rand said he was simply not good enough. There is nothing he could ever do to be worthy. He was born unworthy. There is no earning it.

Rand believed very firmly in Aristocracy (some people are better and more important than others and that's just how it is and they should be treated as superiors by everyone they encounter). She just has a different way of choosing who gets to be in that group, though since it's still basically based on birth, it's not really any less arbitrary.

It makes sense since she was "supposed" to be given land and titles and money and be treated as superior to everyone else when she was born (russian noble family), but did not get that due to the October Revolution. She spent the rest of her life trying to collect her due by designing a world in which she was still given all that and anyone who took it from her or did not treat her as superior to them was a monster. That's why the villains are always the same (people who are not entitled to what she is entitled to and yet think they should get it anyway).

It's understandable that she would want to structure the world in such a way that not only was she automatically superior to everyone else, but that because it was a "moral superiority", then it could never be taken from her.

I think many if not most people would do this. If you were to survey the world with the question "What characteristics should a person have that would make them deserve money and fame and power and adoration?" I suspect that a great many people would name only traits they themselves posses (or at least traits they think they posses). A short person isn't going to suggest that you should have to be tall, a bald person isn't going to suggest that hair should be a requirement and so on.


message 9: by Marc (last edited Jul 30, 2014 09:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc Allen Eddie is "The rest of us." He wasn't EXCLUDED from the Valley, he was just one of the millions of decent, rational, honest, hard working men who are FULLY the MORAL equal of Galt, Dagny, Francisco, et al, but who lack their superlative ability. Eddie's story is tragic, but he is not a tragic character (in Randian terms) because he continues fighting even when he knows he cannot move the train. He admits earlier in the novel that he couldn't have created the railroad himself, but, observe that he WAS capable in his capacity as Dagny's right hand (no small position).


Galt's Gulch was NOT an exclusive club for heroes, it was a spontaneous community. It was never intended as a hideout for the heroes after the collapse of the world, it just worked out that way. Galt didn't know how long the strike would take, and, one suspects they were all surprised it happened so quickly.
The men who ended up there were chosen primarily because at the time Galt "took" them out of the world, each of them was the "Atlas" of the moment. Theirs was the crucial industry at the time: the one that was most urgently needed at the time in the story and the one whose disappearance would lead to the most dire consequences for the Looters. Galt's Gulch became the necessary hideout for the "Deserters" when the Government put a bounty on their heads. It became a permanent community when they strikers realized that the collapse of the the country was at hand.

Bear in mind also that the beginning of the end of the total collapse was the destruction of the Taggart Bridge and, the time between that event, the rescue of Galt and the escape to safety in the valley was only a few days. Eddie was in the middle of God knows where when it all went down and Dagny couldn't have found him is she'd tried. Thus, Eddie wasn't callously left behind, he was one of millions of victims left to live in the world without the prime movers.

Bear in mind ALSO, that it is entirely possible that, BEING who he was, Eddie survived until the return.


Andrew I just want to thank you for your comment Marc Allen. I've read several sites discussing the issue of Wilers and you covered some points I hadn't seen anywhere else. My only issue I've come to have a problem with is the fact that Galt cleary used Eddie as an informer on the inner workings of TT as well as Dagny's personal life and yet none of this motivated Galt to offer Eddie the chance to come to the Gulch which is ironic given that based on all the information Galt got from him, Eddie was the one man Galt needed the most.


message 11: by Dana (new)

Dana A lot of these comments are incorrect, in a big way, forgetting an important character in the novel: the young mother that lived in John’s Galt to raise her children in a better environment. She wasn’t a superhuman genius. I believe Eddie wasn’t never invited to John’s Galt because although he never succumbed to the weak minded & the looters, his love wasn’t never for him himself and his own ability, what drove him was his love for Dagny. She knew the entire time, and odds are John Galt knew it too because of how Eddie spoke of her. He wasn’t living his life for himself, he was living it for Dagny, and that’s their #1 rule in John’s Galt.


message 12: by Dana (new)

Dana Sorry for all the typos, I wrote that from my phone and it kept autocorrecting my grammar. You get my point.


Anusha Murthy Dana wrote: "A lot of these comments are incorrect, in a big way, forgetting an important character in the novel: the young mother that lived in John’s Galt to raise her children in a better environment. She wa..."

Dana, you nailed it I think.. It was hardly ever about talent or efficiency. It was only about who the man held highest..his own self or not..If yes, you are already in Galt's Gulch..

I am re-reading this book after about 15 years.. And when i am passing through the passages when Eddie is having all those conversations with John, it is very clear John never talks to Eddie about Eddie unlike the other men John talks to.. If it wasn't for Dagny, John would not have reached out to Eddie ever..

For all the while that Eddie was in charge as Vice President of TT, he did harbor a lot of guilt for being in the position he thought he didn't deserve.. Contrast this with the conversation Hank had with Ken Danagger when when Ken offers a rebate to Hank when Hank had to sell his coal mines to Ken as a result of the Equal Opportunity Bill.. Ken feels those mines are unearned, but without guilt he offers that rebate to Hank..And that lack of guilt is what does not let Eddie soar as a man.

I could never imagine Eddie to be a very strong man. It seemed to me that he had a mentality of a slave.. He came across as a very efficient, but a weak man..A very sad man..Lost in the world without Dagny..And i think such men as Eddie, were the collateral damage of the strike!


message 14: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Smith I'm now very late to this discussion but want to contribute because no one's got this right as of yet - sorry if that sounds obnoxious.

The story of Eddie Willers is a tragedy. Eddie was deserving of Galt's utopia, but never arrived there because of his own devotion to virtuous ideals in a system that did not reward virtue. This is exactly the position Dagny was in before she drew the dollar sign in lipstick. To join Galt's utopia, one has to give up the objects that they have outside of that utopia.

It was only when Dagny gave up Taggart Transcontinental that she was able to stay there; only when Hank gave up Rearden metal. By staying with the train, Eddie was unable to leave and join the others.

This is because the world functioned in such a way that the leeches - Jim, Wesley, Dr Stadler... - leeched on the intelligence and hard work of the heroes of the story. Eddie continued to feed them by not ceasing his hard work. At the end of the story, this is his downfall. The leech continued to feed on Eddie until he had nothing left.


message 15: by Vlad (new) - rated it 4 stars

Vlad Lots of great answers in this thread that I think provide a good enough idea for why Eddie suffered the fate he did at the end of the novel... Dana's answer was certainly right when she pointed out that Eddie did not live or strive for any of his own interests; he was just an underling fawning over Dagny. His virtues and moral ideals may have been in the right place.. but at the end he was just an underling who, faced with extreme circumstances, couldn't even have the guts to pull through for simple survival.

I think with his character, Rand is trying to tell the reader that, no matter if you follow her philosophy or sense of virtue, or admire certain capitalists, you cannot just be an underling for the rest of your life. Because you will eventually be left behind. I think, for example, Eddie had a side business going on, no matter how small, that served only his interests, he would make it to Galt's Gulch, because by that he proves that he has the guts to put HIMSELF out there for criticism in the free market rather than relying just on Dagny's railroad.


message 16: by E.D. (new) - rated it 2 stars

E.D. Lynnellen So,...

A crack dealer putting himself out there in the market, is deserving of a place in the gulch.

An engineer at Amazon is a leech.

Am eye 'raght?


message 17: by Shae (new) - rated it 5 stars

Shae I don't think a person's professional hierarchy matters. It's just about a person being able to take control of situations or matters of his/her expertise; about being able to concretely point to his ambitions and pursue them relentlessly; about being stubborn enough to stand by your beliefs when they are put to question. And of all, not waiting for other's to point/lead you to any solutions or answers. Probably that's why Eddie wasn't included, cz though he knew what was right, he never took any standpoint of his own. He always seemed the kind of person to second a thought, not one to place any forward or to voice concerns upfront for that matter. It should also be accounted that, throughout the sketch, there had been individuals like some of the train men, station masters,etc (people working in the railways dpt under supervisors), who were mentioned to had been invited to the gulch (For instance the person whistling Richard's harmony and one with the dollar signed cigarette). It should be noted that they too, were working under someone and were down the hierarchy.

Also, I remember a quote of her stating to not whine about the limits of your intelligence or capabilities and just try to excel within whatever boundaries that you rationally can operate inside.

Having said all that by speculating what might have been Rand's perspective, I'd also admit that it was excruciating- the angst of seeing Eddie alone in that world of second-raters, after all that he had done for Taggart's !


message 18: by E.D. (new) - rated it 2 stars

E.D. Lynnellen In the film Gladiator there is a retort by Senator Gracus to Comodus's lapdog:

"I do not profess to be a man of the people. I do try to be a man for the people."

Quite different approach than declaring one's superiority over the inferior masses as an ethical virtue beyond social equivocation.


message 19: by Steve (new)

Steve D Actually I think Eddie would have been asked to join the Gulch. After all, it is insinuated, that Rearden took his secretary Gwen and his chief engineer. Since Eddie had a relationship with Galt and was a loyal and hard working employee of Dagney, why wouldn't he have been granted access? Remember, Eddie was travelling back from California and got stuck in the Arizona desert while the world collapsed around him. Dagney, Galt, Rearden and Francisco,etc were flying back from New Hampshire and nowhere NEAR Arizona and wouldn't have known where he was or would have been able to save him.


Miroslav Kovář It wasn't because he wasn't special enough, as some of the posters say. Some of the people accepted to Galt's church were described as seemingly ordinanary. But what separated them was, in short, rational selfishness as Rand saw it.

Yes, it may be just that Dagney, Galt, Rearden and Francisco didn't know where he was, but I don't think that is just an unfortunate accident.

Eddie wasn't rationally selfish according to Rand. He didn't put himself first. Instead of dedicating himself to pursuit of continual self-improvement and mastery, he became religious about Taggart Transcontinental, to the point of sacrificing himself for it.

Dagny herself found it hard to give up the railway, and it may be that Eddie wouldn't ever feel complete without it, that he would fail that test.


Alternon I just finished the book and I don’t think it has anything to do with Eddie not being special enough. Don’t get me wrong I believe Rand believed some people were innately more or less superior than others but not in the sense that they had to have a genius level intellect or strength of character to get into Atlantis (or survive). The problem with Eddie Willers from the beginning is that when he sees the Taggart station he considers it be like a Church. He would never abandon the rail road which is why Dagny never seems to bother to even ask him. At the end of the book he even sacrifices himself in the most extreme way rather than abandoning The Comet. I’m really upset about what happened to him, he was one of my favorite characters but he paid a high price for self sacrifice. People tend to attack Rand for believing in Aristocracy but she didn’t and it’s clear in her book saying multiple times that anyone worthy of receiving an inheritance would not need it she believed people were born with innate ability. I don’t agree with a lot of what she says and believed but I almost never see anyone challenge her on the things I disagree with her about.


Talon Kartchner This has been an amazing thread. I have to say, people who can make it through Atlas Shrugged are the kind of people I want to have discussions with.


Geoffrey Aronson And I hated her books and hated her characters being so limited and hope never to read any of her crap again. Yes, I am trolling and yes, I hate her selfishness and am glad to have never met her. Hurray for John Steinbeck, Thomas Hardy, and PD james. now those are people who understood people and had a heart. This woman doesn't have a heart. She was born with a stone substitute and a crooked nose.


Latika Rani It felt as if John and Dagny discarded him at the end.


Priya P. I think Rand was trying to say that you either fight the system or go down with the system and Williers probably got smushed in the riots if he survived the breakdown (emotionally) of Taggart Transcontinental.

As for him not joining Galt's Gulch, as much as he resented the system, he was still too dedicated to previous ways of being that he would not embrace the new world that Galt wanted to bring into existence.


message 26: by Easytarget (new)

Easytarget Talon Kartchner wrote: "This has been an amazing thread. I have to say, people who can make it through Atlas Shrugged are the kind of people I want to have discussions with."

One day hopefully you'll intellectually grow up and realize just what infantile drivel this is.


message 27: by Quiche (last edited May 02, 2020 11:31AM) (new)

Quiche Just finished a re-read.

Firstly, I disagree with others who say that the valley was spontaneous, therefore the people living there were not chosen for their superlative ability. It was spontaneous and they were allowed to live there and earn gold because they were supremely able. They lived on Midas' land and would not be able to work, let alone get there, without a cosign from the golden trio.

The mother with her children was the wife of a highly able man and they both shared Galt's vision. Right before the mother was introduced, Rand displayed her ideas re: wifely duties and child rearing via Dagny cooking for Galt. The wife of a superlative man is superlative herself for being worthy of being his wife. So that woman belonged there, she wasn't tagging along just because. Had Rearden and his wife been still married, he would have had to ditch her because she didn't share their values or live up to them.

As for Eddie, sadly, he didn't live for himself, which is the first rule of the valley and he couldn't give up the railroad, which is the same thing Hank and Dagny struggled with for most of the novel. Plus, I think his lack of natural ability or willingness to be "great" played a part in it.

And Galt would not show pity towards him enough to offer him a place in the valley "unearned," nor would he feel any type of guilt or obligation to help Eddie after siphoning information out of him for twelve years.

(btw, I found Galt to be incredibly hypocritical w/regard to pity when it came to Dagny crashing into the valley and Fransico wanting to warn Hank vs Francisco being able to warn Dagny as soon as Hank was out of her reach lol)

So Eddie's end was sad, if it indeed was his end. However, the worst part about it was Dagny's behavior/response... although it seemed completely normal for her to hop in and out of ideation.


back to top