by Ayn Rand
Ellis Wyatt is pretty hardcore. He shows the rest of the world what he thinks of them when he torches his own oil fields. He definitely has the most dramatic exit of all the strikers, even more dramatic than Dagny's vandalizing Nat Taggart's statue on her way out. (Fires trump graffiti.) There is more to Ellis Wyatt than rebelliousness and attitude, but you wouldn't guess it at first:
"I came here because I understand you're the only ones with brains in this rotten outfit."
"What can I do for you?"
"You can listen to an ultimatum....So here is my ultimatum: it is now in your power to destroy me. I may have to go; but if I go, I'll make sure that I take all the rest of you along with me." (126.96.36.199-15)
Oh, Ellis. Leave it to him to barge into the office of someone he's never met before (Dagny) and threaten to take her out if she screws him over. He's hardcore, but he's also a brilliant guy with very high standards. It's no mistake that he is the first of the Colorado guys to go on strike. We get the sense pretty early that something may be amiss with Ellis:
She heard the crash of the glass against the wall in the same instant that she saw a circling current...to the terrible violence of his hand that flung the glass across the room. It was not the conventional gesture meant as celebration, it was the gesture of a rebellious anger, the vicious gesture in which movement is substituted for a scream of pain. (188.8.131.52)
In true rebel fashion, Ellis is angry about everything wrong with the world and lashes out accordingly. But his character undergoes a considerable shift over the course of the book. First off, Ellis is highly present throughout the novel, even when he isn't physically there. He's a bit like John Galt in that respect.
Ellis comes to represent all the people disappearing on strike, and Dagny frequently thinks of those who have disappeared in terms of him. He isn't physically present at all in Volume 2, but a symbol of him is: his Torch. Wyatt's Torch acts as an important recurring symbol throughout the book. It's the last thing the people in the Taggart Tunnel disaster see. Dagny notices it every time she's in Colorado. And it's also featured in the novel's very last scene.
But far in the distance, on the edge of the earth, a small flame was waving in the wind, the defiantly stubborn flame of Wyatt's Torch, twisting, being torn and regaining its hold, not to be uprooted or extinguished. It seemed to be calling and waiting for the words John Galt was now to pronounce.
"The road is cleared," said Galt. "We are going back to the world." (184.108.40.206-10)
Wyatt's Torch symbolizes Galt's entire quest and the resistant strikers who refused to be "extinguished," so to speak. It makes sense that Wyatt himself is also linked to one of the most important themes of the strike: the idea of "manufacturing time." We'll let Ellis explain it:
"The two hours I saved are mine – as pricelessly mine as if I moved my grave two further hours away from every five I've got. It's two hours released from one task, to be invested in another – two more hours in which to work, to grow, to move forward. That's the savings account I'm hoarding." (220.127.116.11)
Galt's strike is largely about giving people their time back: time in which to lead full and happy lives rather than time wasted slaving away for a regime of looters. It makes sense that Ellis, as sort of the chief Colorado striker, is the one who expresses that idea clearly to Dagny. He also explicitly ties together the ideas of time and growth. This Ellis Wyatt, with time to spare, is a much happier and calmer individual than the furious and rebellious man we meet at the start of the novel. Ellis helps to demonstrate how Galt's strike is as much about helping individuals as it is about grand philosophical ideals.