Prior to his job on The Banner, Ellsworth Toohey spent awhile as a career advisor at a college. One of his distinctive traits as a career advisor was that he usually advised people against doing what they really wanted to do, which directly lead to at least one person's eventual suicide:

People noticed that Ellsworth Toohey seldom let a boy pursue the career he had chosen. "No, I wouldn't go for law if I were you. You're much too tense and passionate about it. A hysterical devotion to one's career does not make for happiness or success. It is wiser to select a profession about which you can be calm, sane and matter-of-fact. Yes, even if you hate it. It makes for down-to-earthness."...

After leaving college some of his proteges did quite well, others failed. Only one committed suicide. It was said that Ellsworth Toohey had exercised a beneficent influence upon them - for they never forgot him: they came to consult him on many things, years later, they wrote him, they clung to him. They were like machines without a self-starter, that had to be cranked up by an outside hand. He was never too busy to give him his full attention.

We already know from elsewhere in the book that Elsworth Toohey is actually power-hungry, narcissistic, and sociopathic (hence, for example, his attempted takeover of The Banner's editorial policy). But why this? Is it just for the pleasure of having power over them?

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The key part of the quote is:

It was said that Ellsworth Toohey had exercised a beneficent influence upon them - for they never forgot him: they came to consult him on many things, years later, they wrote him, they clung to him. They were like machines without a self-starter, that had to be cranked up by an outside hand.

Ellsworth Toohey is driven by a need to exercise power over others. Effectively, he made these young men dependent on him (and therefore gave him power over them). As he told Peter Keating later:

"What do you... want.. Ellsworth?"
"Power, Petey."...
"You... always said..." Keating began thickly, and stopped.
"I've always said just that. Clearly, precisely and openly. It's not my fault if you couldn't hear. you could, of course. You didn't want to. Which was safer than deafness - for me. I said I intended to rule... I shall rule."
"Whom?"
"You. The world. It's only a matter of discovering the lever. If you learn how to rule one single man's soul, you can get the rest of mankind. It's the soul, Peter, the soul. Not whips or swords or fire or guns. That's why the Caesars the Atillas, the Napoleons were fools and did not last. We will. The soul, Peter, is that which can't be ruled. It must be broken. Drive a wedge in, get your fingers on it - and the man is yours. You won't need a whip - he'll bring it to you and ask to be whipped. Set him in reverse - and his own mechanism will do your work for you. Use him against himself... Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspirations and his integrity..."

The last phrase quoted about killing their aspirations and integrity is particularly telling - that's exactly what he was doing as a career advisor.

His statement that "It's only a matter of discovering the lever" to control people is also particularly telling. This seems strangely like a serial killer perfecting his M.O. in a way. I don't have direct textual proof for this, but it seems at least textually plausible that Toohey was essentially perfecting his method in his job as a career advisor.

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