The Dean: “Do you mean to tell me that you’re thinking seriously of building that way, when and if you are an architect?”
Howard Roark: “Yes”
The Dean: “My dear fellow, who will let you?”
Howard Roark: “That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?” (pg. 23)
“But you see,” said Roark quietly, “I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards – and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand in the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.” (pg. 25)
You will either love Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead or hate it. It’s founded on a philosophy developed by the Rand herself. Picture the novel as the overall building, with Objectivism as it’s skeleton and an embracive story that shows off the building’s architect. Some view the building as grotesque and others view it as beautiful and elegant. Without diving in too deep in the philosophy, I must explain a little of the book’s overall concept. Objectivism illuminates an idea of selfishness, in which it also grows society while mindless workers destroy it with uncreativity. The philosophy and the novel is summarized in the intro as Rand explains,
“The man-worshipers, in my sense of the term, are those who see man’s highest potential and strive to actualize it. The man-haters are those who regard man as a helpless, deprived, contemptible creature – and struggle to never let him discover otherwise. It is important here to remember that the only direct, introspective knowledge of man anyone possesses is of himself.” (pg. x)
This philosophy is presented throughout and disguised as masked form of a novel. The main character Howard Roark, a skilled and free-thinking architect battles the world of uniformity that praises the past and shuns originality. Man-haters like Ellsworth M. Toohey object to Roark and attempt to stun his creativity by influencing public disapproval through newspapers and other mediums. He simultaneously encourages Roark’s opposite, the unimaginative, people pleasing, Peter Keating and his work in hopes that Roark’s buildings never see the light of day. Other characters are introduced in this philosophical battle such as city powerhouse, Gail Wynand, and everyone’s love interest, Dominique Francon to give the novel life and flare.
The pace flowed seamlessly. I enjoyed how she explained passing time through the character’s individual age. It gave me more of a connection to the characters instead of just saying, “3 years passed.” From the beginning, Rand presented Roark as a 22-year-old and I watched the characters develop as they grew older.
I love how the 700-page novel is formatted with just 4 parts. In these 4 parts, each focuses on a specific character’s background. The parts allowed me to know the character better and the viewpoint they were coming from. By sectioning the novel in this way, I felt immersed in the character’s mind as I strived to understand their motives.
Rand did fantastic work in influencing me to like the main character. Roark is presented as the best (and, at times, appears flawless) architect in the world, yet his genius is misunderstood by almost everyone around him.
The last pro I gave is also a con. By being misunderstood, Roark is often found waiting in his office doing nothing. His ideals make it hard for him to gather clients at the first, so his rent is often late, food doesn’t come easy, and he doesn’t accept help from others. Sometimes this can make him hard to believe and relate with because he does nothing when work doesn’t come to him.
Another area I found unbelievable is that everyone loves the female love interest, Dominique Francon. She is presented as the diamond that the male characters want to possess. Rand forms her as this perfect form of human that compliments Roark’s ideals, yet unlike him, everyone thinks she’s just the most awesome being in the world. It’s a classic “everyone loves the girl but the girl only loves the main character” type of situation. It’s funny to see them go crazy for her like today’s Kim Kardashian
All in all, the book worked well. It established a philosophy disguised as an underdog novel with a splash of a love story. As I claimed in the opening sentence, you will either love the novel or hate it. I definitely loved it! Although minor flaws, it has empowered me to be and do more than I thought I had the ability to do. People often look down on others for not being who they think they should be or do with their lives. But this novel gave me the green light to contribute to society in my own creativity instead of someone else’s wishes.
This novel is for those who know they are meant for something big and need confirmation to fight the fight they think they are worth. It will help in strengthening a fractured ego that’s weakened by societal influence. Those who love to follow the pack should stay away. This is not for the man-haters.
Check out another article I did on The Fountainhead for an ego boost.
From page 33, a confused Peter Keating asks for Howard Roark’s opinion on a crossroads in Keating’s life:
“You know,” said Keating honestly and unexpectedly even to himself, “I’ve often thought that you’re crazy. But I know that you know many things about it – architecture, I mean – which those fools never knew. And I know that you love it as they never will.”
“Well, I don’t know why I should come to you, but – Howard, I’ve never said it before, but you see, I’d rather have your opinion on things than the Dean’s – I’d probably follow the Dean’s but it’s just that yours means more to me myself, I don’t know why. I don’t know why I’m saying this, either.”
Roark turned over on his side, looked at him, and laughed. It was a young, kind, friendly laughter, a thing so rare to hear from Roark that Keating felt as id someone had taken his hand in reassurance; and he forgot that he had a party in Boston waiting for him.
“Come on,” said Roark, “you’re not being afraid of me, are you? What do you want to ask about?”
“It’s about my scholarship. The Paris prize I got.”
“It’s for four years. But, on the other hand, Guy Francon offered me a job with him some time ago. Today he said it’s still open. And I don’t know which to take.”
Roark looked at him; Roark’s fingers moved in slow rotation, beating against the steps.
“If you want my advice, Peter,” he said at last, “you’ve made a mistake already. By asking me. By asking anyone. Never ask people. Not about your work. Don’t you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know?”
“You see, that’s what I admire about you, Howard. You always know.”
“Drop the compliments.”
“But I mean it. How do you always manage to decide?”
“How can you let others decide for you?”