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From the opening lines of Atlas Shrugged at the beginning of chapter 1:

"Who is John Galt?"

The light was ebbing, and Eddie Willers could not distinguish the bum's face. The bum had said it simply, without expression. But from the sunset far at the end of the street, yellow glints caught his eyes, and the eyes looked straight at Ellie Willers, mocking and still - as if the question had been addressed to the causeless uneasiness within him.

"Why did you say that?" asked Eddie Willers, his voice tense.

The bum leaned against the side of the doorway; a wedge of broken glass behind him reflected the metal yellow of the sky.

"Why does it bother you?" he asked.

"It doesn't," snapped Eddie Willers...

Eddie Willers walked on, wondering why he always felt it at this time of day, this sense of dread without reason. No, he thought, not dread, there's nothing to fear: just an immense, diffused apprehension, with no source of object. He had become accustomed to the feeling, but he could find no explanation for it; yet the bum had spoken as if he knew that Eddie felt it, as if he thought that one should feel it, and more: as if he knew the reason.

To what extent did Eddie learn why he felt that later, or why it bothered him so much? Why did he tell the bum that it didn't bother him when they both knew that it did? Who was Eddie trying to convince - the bum or himself?

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He actually understood a fair amount about his situation towards the end of the book.

His feeling here is at least partially represented by a giant calendar that a mayor had had erected over the city so that people could tell the date in the same way that they told the time. He realized shortly after returning to the office that the phrase that the Calendar represented to him was "your days are numbered."

He was present with Dagny when they went to what was supposed to be Mr. Thompson's radio speech on the national crisis (which turned into a lengthy speech by John Galt instead), and he heard the entire speech. He had, of course, spent a fair amount of time with John Galt even before that speech without realizing who he was.

He even realized (and admitted) that he had feelings for Dagny towards the end of the book.

He also realized fairly early on how dependent he was on the Railroad, at one point expressing the belief that if the Railroad went down he'd "go down with the ship." He also knew that, since he lacked the creative genius of Dagny Taggart or Hank Rearden, he'd need Dagny's help to be able to recreate it.

In terms of who he was trying to convince that it didn't bother him: I think it was probably both of them.

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