The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

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Roark, Toohey and Keating and Rand’s Set of Values in The Fountainhead

February 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

At face value, The Fountainhead may seem like nothing more than a story of an architect who is not fully accepted by his society. However, Ayn Rand is much more clever than simply telling a fictional narrative. Through The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand is revealing what she believes to be as the fault in human society. The basic ideas presented throughout the novel such as independence, or lack thereof, is not particularly presented through the story’s society, but rather through Rand’s character choice and portrayal of these characters. By accentuating her beliefs through Roark, Toohey, and Keating, Rand is attempting to convince readers of the importance of individualism and reason in both societies and individuals.

Ayn Rand believes Roark to be a ‘creator’. In the first instance the readers are introduced to him, it is very evident the type of persona the young man has. Although at times it seems like Howard Roark has poor social skills and does not know how to interact with others, his overall sense of morals are very consistent throughout the novel. In almost every instance where Roark is presented with the opportunity to advance his agenda, he never takes it. The first prominent example is when he is given another opportunity to attend his University under special circumstances, after being kicked out for atrocious and overly modernistic buildings. Similar situations present themselves to Roark throughout the novel. Take for example when Roark is presented with the opportunity for large commissions or an opportunity for popularity. Unless Roark is able to construct his buildings in the exact image he imagined, he will not take any set of circumstances that further his agenda or destroy his original plans. Rand’s intention for Roark as a character becomes very clear as he continues to reject all of these incredibly amazing opportunities. Ayn Rand wanted Roark to seem almost like some kind of perfect being, who had absolutely no other intention than to do what he loved. He is a character who did not want to advance his career for his well-being. This attitude was for the “conquest of nature”. He wanted to see himself get better, not to manipulate others to further himself in either the world of architecture or just overall popularity. Roark is the true exemplification of individualism and pure logic.

Toohey in contrast to Roark is completely evil. He is an extremely interesting character only for the reason that he seems to have a silver tongue when he interacts with other characters. But his intentions are completely impure and corrupt. He is a ‘parasite’ in the regard that he uses people who are weak to make himself look better by comparison. With no talents of his own, he manipulates people to become an amiable figure in the eyes of the public. Toohey creates this false image of himself to seek validation and popularity from his society. This is prevalent with the progression of his niece, Catherine (Katie) Halsey. At first, Catherine is given small tasks that she believes are helping her uncle. They are extremely insignificant and Keating even sees them as such. Toohey realizes this, but uses it as a way to make Katie feel validated and gain her trust. He constricts her and coerces her to become a social worker. It is a profession he knows Catherine will only be mediocre at and if she follows the career, she will not be living up to her full potential. This is something Toohey admits to doing many times in his portion of the novel. Toohey preaches egalitarianism and altruism but in reality is only looking to gain power and recognition within his society. Rand wrote Toohey to be a true antagonist, making him the complete opposite of Roark and a personification of all the shortcomings of mankind

And lastly, there is Peter Keating the charming architect. When Rand first introduces him he seems to be a very likeable character. He is charismatic and charming, and constantly garners the attention of his peers. However, the further his character is developed the more convoluted the man seems to be. Keating epitomizes a ‘parasitic’ nature. This becomes especially evident within the first hundred pages of the book. Keating, despite his amiable characteristics to other characters in the book, is manipulative and disingenuous much like Ellsworth Toohey. He takes the jobs and tasks of other people at the Francon and Heyer architecture firm, until his coworkers are considered obsolete and no longer useful. Those people are then fired and Keating takes their position for his own upward mobility within the company. Keating does not once consider how he would be affecting the lives of others when he knows that his career will advance. He purposefully sabotages his best friend who was the main designer to take his position and even threatens Mr. Heyer into retiring so that Keating can become Francon’s new business partner. In the novel, Keating even admits to knowing that the shock of Keating’s plan to blackmail Heyer would shock him and when he died before Keating, it was exactly what he wanted subconsciously. And at times, he goes to Roark for help with his architectural drawings and take credit for them to become popular and advance his career. Keating continuously presents himself as a deceitful and underhanded man, who is only looking out for his well-being and not for the overall advancement of his profession or the well-being of his coworkers. Peter Keating is the embodiment of greed and one who is guided purely by emotions

“The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of men.” Through the over exaggeration of each of these characters’ core set of beliefs, Rand exemplifies her set of values. Rand shows exactly what she believes to be mankind’s downfall through the characters Toohey and Keating. These two characters show the selfishness and greed of human nature and are a complete contrast to Roark. Roark embodies Rand’s ideals, and fully symbolizes individualism and reason.

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171

A Theme Of Freedom in Fountainhead Novel

February 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

At the end of Part II, Ellsworth Toohey confronts Howard Roark and says, “Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me?” To which Roark replies, “But I don’t think of you.” This so called “brief exchange” may seem insignificant, but in reality, this moment summarizes the main theme of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. It surrounds Roark’s striving for independence in the dependent world he lives in. He chooses to think, decide and act for himself in his life choices and his career; he sees his ideas and his ways the only way to proceed on projects and he does not enjoy to take on other’s opinions. Roark is an example of free will. This theme of independence and freedom for choice is present throughout the entire novel, with how Roark speaks of himself and his actions with other characters, and by him trying to influence others to think for themselves.

In the fourth part of The Fountainhead in chapter four, Roark states “My work done my way. A private, personal, selfish, egotistical motivation. That’s the only way I function. That’s all I am.” Roark, throughout his life and his career, shows no evidence of being influenced by his wealth, history, family, religious background, or his social status. He defies the common notion that people are shaped by society by revolving his life around the choices he makes, but because of his act of independence other characters see him as being defiant towards social normality. Roark represents many great philosophers and scientists who have made many great discoveries but who were also treated like outsiders and seen defiant of the social norm. Galileo Galilei for example was persecuted by the church in the 1600’s for his scientific beliefs which kept science and truth from advancing for many years thereafter. More evidence of Roark expressing his self-determination is in part four in chapter eleven, when Roark says to Wynand “I could die for you, but I wouldn’t and couldn’t live for you.” This adds to the main theme of the novel by enforcing Roark’s independent personality. He refuses to let other people shape how he chooses to speak, act, and especially how he creates and designs architecture. Even though Roark and Wynand have a unique relationship in the novel, Roark still refuses to let even Wynand have some influence over him, further expressing his self-sufficient personality.

Roark uses his independent personality to try to influence others to become less involved and worried about other people and their opinions. In part one, chapter one, Roark says to Peter Keating “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?” Roark is telling Keating that if he had to ask about his own work, then he doesn’t know what he wants. Many people believe that asking others for advice and opinions about their own individual work is helpful when in reality it becomes less of the artist’s work and more of the other person’s work because they conformed their work based on others opinions instead of listening to their own intuition. Although the artist is glad to have the other person enjoy their work, the artist will not be truly happy with their work, because they see it as not theirs, and it will constantly remind them that their own ideas aren’t good enough to have other people enjoy their work, that they must depend on other people’s opinions. This is what Roark is trying to avoid and what he is trying to prevent for others, like for Keating. Another example of when Roark tries to influence others to adopt his self-reliant beliefs is in part four, chapter eight, in the trial against Roark for the explosion of the Cortlandt building, he gives a long speech to the people in the courtroom. One excerpt from his speech is when he says “Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn’t done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity.” His speech talks about the value of one’s own abilities and talents and how man cannot be dependent on others to succeed. Roark’s life is an example of this philosophy. His actions are not influenced in any way by other people, even the ones who he thinks are close to him. He uses this speech to try to influence others to take on his lifestyle, to accept that being different from the social norm is okay, and that independence is not the bad thing that many think it is. His speech eventually saves him, and he is later asked to design a monumental building, sealing his independence for himself and for everyone else.

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Familiar Ideas in The Fountainhead And 1984 Novels

February 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

Big Brother in the Big Apple

“Do you know the proper antonym for Ego? Bromide, Peter. The rule of the bromide.”

Ellsworth Toohey, The Fountainhead

Earning purpose in life entails pursuing ideals that can be considered ends in themselves. Socratic thinkers view the quest for virtue to be the rationale for existence and, for them, living out the meaning of such virtues endorses their lives with purpose. However, it is possible to choose wrongly. Twist some concept into an ideal, forcibly enshrine and pursue it, place fulfillment of it above all else—then you have false purpose. In The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Ellsworth Toohey is the archetypal embodiment of evil, one who pursues the ideal of power above all else and manipulates the Banner to that end.

At its time of publication in 1943, The Fountainhead, was considered a controversial and idealistic book. But, in the years since, the book also has proven to provide a disturbingly accurate portrayal of a worldview that is frighteningly prevalent today, showing the threat to society when men like Ellsworth Toohey conceal their thirst for power with proclamations of their altruism. Indeed, Rand’s vision may have inspired Orwell, an author of a different political bent who shared her contempt for collectivist government. In his book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell creates a chilling picture of one possible outcome of Toohey’s socialist vision. O’Brien, a party member who deceives the main character, Winston Smith, speaks words that describe the fundamental motive of the party and evoke the ethos of Toohey: “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power…We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end.” (Orwell 153). The organization’s pursuit of power comes at the price of all other absolutes, destroying personal freedom among other self-contained, ideals. Power is predatory, unsustainable, the opposite of self-sufficient, and therefore not an absolute; the party, then at the height of its authority, needs subjects to deceive and subjugate just as a lion needs the flesh of its prey to live.

Ellsworth Toohey, on the other hand, is a figure at an earlier stage of power-acquisition. While O’Brien’s party primarily wears the mask of bromide, indoctrinating its subjects with maxims such as “War is peace,” “freedom is slavery,” and “ignorance is strength,” Toohey wears the mask of altruism and the mask of the Banner, knowing both to be perfect vehicles of his mission. Manipulative and subtle, Ellsworth crusades, hell-bent, to seize control of the Banner because he is ravenous for power and knows the newspaper, thanks to its widespread readership and well-established consumer base, is the tool he must harness to amplify the reach of his ultimate objective: to impose his ideologies of altruism and collectivism upon the masses, to control them like one colossal, swaying, preternatural puppet, and stamp out the selfish and individualistic nature of people like Howard Roark, because he believes there is no alternative to his way the world must operate.

To Toohey, the Banner is a conduit through which the people of New York receive the propaganda of his socialist vision. He seeks to make men feel weak, humbled, commanded by the newspaper and the seemingly omniscient men behind it, those immortalized by the guise of their printed voice. He woos them with lofty language, proselytizing to those dimmer minds of the common man, albeit allegorically: he writes under cover of the subject of architecture, appealing to the collective subconscious by connecting the nature of buildings with the nature of man. In one speech he gives before a congregation of strike sympathizers, Toohey mesmerizes listeners, including Peter Keating: “Keating stood, his mouth open. He did not hear what [Toohey’s] voice was saying. He heard the beauty of the sounds without meaning. He felt no need to know the meaning; he could accept anything, he would be led blindly anywhere” (Rand 90). Here, Toohey’s speech is one of hypnotizing execution, but little actual substance; the man emanates authority and through his stately and authoritative manner, he attracts blind followers such as Keating.

In his job as a columnist, Toohey writes about the creations of others; rather than inventing anything himself, he elevates himself by praising and, in certain cases, vehemently condemning the handiwork of his betters. The man’s livelihood, his very purpose and identity is dependent on those who create, therefore he is, as Rand puts it in For the New Intellectual, nothing but a dastardly “second-hander.” In an early column, Ellsworth reviews the Melton Building, speaking of the stringcourses and ornamentation as if they are direct insults to man’s ego: “There is no freak exhibitionism here, no perverted striving for novelty, no orgy of unbridled egotism” (Rand, The Fountainhead 51). Toohey grants approval of the Melton edifice by acknowledging that which, in his tainted opinion, spoils a given building—“freak exhibitionism” and “unbridled egotism.” To him, people like Howard Roark indulge in such “orgies.” They erect structures that are insolent in their individualism. He sees these buildings to evince a terrible and masturbatory motive of making unique statements to the world; however, to assert individualism, he contends, is to insult the opinions of those who outnumber you. A structure, Toohey purports, belongs to the public; even a lonely street urchin meandering through the city should be able to turn his head to the sky and see a grand building, full in the glory of its stringcourses and superfluous ornamentation, and be comforted in his inadequacy because in admiring the building, the world stands with him, artfully made manifest in the brick and mortar at his side.

Just as a building constructed in the style of the collective preference of its time can humble a man, shape his idea of what a good building should look like, so can the words of a newspaper impregnate minds with preconceived notions, ideas specially crafted to control. Guy Francon likens Toohey’s tongue to an “icepick;” that is, his words have the power to lobotomize men, destroy their ability to think for themselves (Rand, The Fountainhead 51). During a transorbital lobotomy, the icepick enters the brain above the eye with a few simple taps of a rubber mallet; similarly, Toohey’s words insidiously penetrate the weak minds of the multitudes ensnared at shops and newspaper stands, where they purchase Wynand’s papers. The Banner is this man’s megaphone, his soapbox.

If Howard Roark is a paragon of the rationally independent, creative man, then Ellsworth Toohey is his antithesis. Power is Toohey’s God, and reason—the golden calf. Toohey may not have much against reason itself, but in his scheme of deceit and control, it has no place. He says: “Men have a very powerful weapon against you. Reason. So you must be very careful to take it away from them…can you rule a thinking man? We don’t want thinking men” (Rand, The Fountainhead 637).

Toohey has witnessed how no one can rule Howard Roark, learning that the man’s sense of reason informs all his value judgments. A truly rational man does not allow himself to be ruled, therefore Toohey destroys his subjects’ sense of self-worth before they realize any potential to become a thinking man. In a monologue to Peter Keating he says: “Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspiration and his integrity. That’s difficult. The worst among you gropes for an ideal in his own twisted way. Kill integrity by internal corruption. Use it against itself. Direct it toward a goal destructive of all integrity. Preach selflessness.” (Rand, For the New Intellectual 71).

Selflessness and altruism both strengthen a man’s sense of unworthiness, and a man who is already weak yearns for some sort of external force to give him strength. What people do not realize is that fortitude comes from within; the only way to bolster self worth is to rely on the self, not on some external entity. Christians would insist on becoming closer to God through arbitrary prayer, supplication to a mystical force supposedly up in the sky to provide guidance. Followers of Jesus put “faith” in “their Lord and Savior,” place certainty outside themselves, saying things like: “The Lord is my rock.” Confidence in the self is invaluable because it removes the ridiculous notions of meaningless faith, indiscriminate love, and emotional decision-making, replacing them with reason, Toohey’s ultimate adversary, the only way through which man can properly come to terms with his world and acquire knowledge.

The Fountainhead is the unintentional crusade of an individual against the forces of collectivism. Roark’s actions are not contingent upon anything outside himself; the only thing that compels him to action is himself, therefore his provocation of Toohey and other collectivists is unintentional, and the crusade he wages is merely a product of him being himself. While The Fountainhead is a story of triumph, the heroism of the intransigence of Howard Roark, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a story of loss and futility, the dark prospect of Ellsworth Toohey’s future fully realized.

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How Ayn Rand Pushes Philosophy Over Altruism In Her Novel, ‘The Fountainhead’

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

A Balancing Act: How Ayn Rand Pushes Her Philosophy Objectivism over Altruism

In Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, the author uses her protagonist, Howard Roark, to represent the ideal man. Roark is characterized as static, passionate about architecture, and indifferent towards others. If he displays benevolence, it is because it benefits him and does not detract from his identity. Rand’s philosophy depicts selfishness as the way, but while promoting it, she discredits altruism. However, both are important. A balance can be found through recognizing altruism’s place in society.

Selfishness is seen as immoral. Time spent on one’s self can be spent helping others. However, there are different forms of selfishness that Ayn Rand does not expand on. There is one-sided selfishness, neutral selfishness, and two-sided selfishness. Acts such as robbery or murder can be considered one-sided selfishness. These are iniquitous because they are beneficial to no one while also harming others. The criminal gets what they want but the repercussions, such as jail or guilt, outweigh the positive. Neutral selfishness is something that has no negative effects. Spending extra time in the mirror because one wants to be attractive does not hurt anyone. Two-sided selfishness is when both parties benefit. Swapping lunches can suffice as an example. In The Fountainhead, Roark displays neutral selfishness when he says, “My work done my way. A private, personal, selfish, egotistical motivation. That’s the only way I function. That’s all I am” (Rand, 580). This is what Rand lauds. Selfishness is a part of Objectivism. Each person should be treated as an individual, not a whole, and reason trumps religion. People need to think for themselves and put themselves before others. There is no “for the greater good” in Objectivism. Roark shows this through his career. He says, “I don’t intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build” (Rand, 26). He continually squanders opportunities because he lives by this belief system. Eventually, it pays off, but only as modernism rises and people learn to accept his work and the conditions that come with hiring him. In Roark’s testimony, he shows that selfishness is what caused progress and everyone else are just parasites, living off of the creators while simultaneously persecuting them. He says, “He had left them a gift they had not conceived and he had opened the roads of the world…The great creators — the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors — stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won” (Rand, 737). This shows that egotists are to be thanked for all inventions because they came to be through one person’s ideas; they “served nothing and no one.” Roark attributes creation to selfishness because “only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.” Why is it bad to be selfish? Because people said so. They have come to believe that the whole is greater than the individual without realizing that the whole is built off of individuals and it is each person’s unique abilities that allow society to function successfully. Objectivism can definitely be favorable, but as the saying goes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The creators had amazing ideas, but they created for themselves. The “parasites” are what allowed society to advance because they shared the ideas of the creators. Selfishness alone is not ideal.

The antagonist of this story is Ellsworth Toohey. Toohey represents society- he works for the whole, not the individual. His belief system is run by altruism, the practice of selflessness. Rand shows this as a negative idea through a conversation Toohey has with Peter Keating. He says, “Tell men altruism is the ideal. Not a single one of them has ever achieved it and not a single one ever will. His every living instinct screams against it” (Rand, 635). Toohey is explaining to Keating how he controls people. To be selfless is not a part of their nature, but man likes to think he is invincible. To break the soul is to break the man, and the soul is broken by giving him something impossible to achieve. People are born selfish. It is “a law of survival.” Throughout time, though, selflessness became praised as men were “taught that their first concern is to relieve the suffering of others. […] To make that the highest test of virtue is to make suffering the most important part of life” (Rand, 680). Soldiers say no man left behind. Religions preach that people give to the poor. Sports display cooperation and teamwork, but what constitutes one thing as being profane versus another being righteous? Typically, gain. Someone helps someone else because that person may return the favor in the future. People feel as if they are upright when they volunteer. They are helping others, yet there is personal gain involved because mentally it sits right with them. Katie, for instance, becomes a social worker because she enjoys helping others and she believes it is right due to the ideology Toohey preaches. So can these acts really be considered selfless? To be selfless is to be concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own. The best example of a selfless person is a mother. Their job is to nurture and to care. There are so many stories of mothers who give up their lives for their children. Selflessness is a charitable idea. The main negative factor is that it is hard to achieve, but society could definitely use more selfless people. Katie was not jocund because she tried to be something that she was not. She lost a part of herself in following her uncle. Becoming a social worker was not truly a selfless act due to the reasoning behind her becoming one. Altruism is admirable because it helps others. Rand assumes that one would loses themselves when putting others first, but this not always the case. The whole is equally important to the individual.

Some may argue that it is one or the other. However, Rand fails because she tries too hard to make Roark the champion when the ideal person knows how to be an individual and conform when it is needed. Selfishness is not the epochal, but neither is selflessness. The world is all about balance. It needs both. Not good, not bad. While it would be optimal to not have nefarious people, action is only taken and flaws are only noticed after something has happened. Change is a reaction. Wrongdoings are needed to serve as an example. They are needed to be the defining line between right and wrong because “we cannot know what will be right or wrong in a selfless society, nor what we’ll feel, nor in what manner. We must destroy the ego first. That is why the mind is so unreliable. We must not think. We must believe.” Nonetheless, too many selfless people are not desriable. After all, no betterment would come if all mothers died for their children. There would be far too many orphans. On the other hand, if everyone was selfish, then society would not have been allowed to come as far as it has. People tend to work well together. Even the best inventions became better once someone improved upon them. Cell phones are a great example of that. One idea became better as it was shared with the world and more people put their own spin on it. The Fountainhead pushes Objectivism over altruism. It is not one or the other, though. They both serve a purpose.

Selflessness and selfishness are both important parts of our world. Rand was a failure not because she argued for selfishness but because she argued against selflessness. Life is short. People should be allowed to live their lives without judgement. It is up to the individual to decide what philosophy, if any, they wish to live by.

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Doing What You Believe In, a Source Individual Satisfaction

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Perhaps one of the most potent methods to elucidate the strengths and weaknesses of a protagonist, a foil illuminates the meaning of a work with character balance and meaningful juxtaposition. In The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand indeed makes use of such a foil, by the name of Dominique Francon, to bring out the unique characteristics and qualities of Howard Roark into the limelight, thus highlighting the very philosophy he embodies: objectivism. Although both Dominique and Roark represent the essence of Rand’s interpretation of selfishness that she attempts, and succeeds, to convey, the contrasting manner in which they present themselves to society demonstrates the potential of Rand’s philosophy in action and how it functions in the real world.

From the onset of the novel, Howard Roark’s brilliant and laconic nature is evident. He is characterized with such an enormous uniqueness that emulating this very character would be difficult, if not impossible. His intrinsic affinity for architecture, a raw talent, is negatively portrayed by society. As a nonconformist, he is misunderstood by the majority of society who values opinion over art itself. In Dominique and Roark’s first encounter, her initial impression of him immediately throws the reader off-guard: his usual cold look, which repulses others, immediately draws her in, as she recalls a “cold brilliance” and empowering “strength” within Roark. She thus symbolizes one of the few characters that understand the enormity of what he encapsulates and truly understand the remarkability of individualism Rand tries to put forth. The difference Dominique offers in character reveals that she is at once eerily similar, yet a glaring counterpoint in Roark. With a vivid knack for the truth, she truly appreciates art in its raw state and not for the fame and success it brings. Like Roark, she does not ingratiate herself with others. By having an awareness of the “great” qualities Roark possesses, she herself demonstrates an understanding for Rand’s advocation of selfishness. For instance, when Dominique talks about her hatred towards mankind, she alludes to a corruption, a lack of understanding of objectivism, or the “right” way to live one’s life. In a sense, she is one of the few characters with a mindset attuned to selflessness, yet she hides this selfishness because she is aware of the consequences of a society that shuns. She envies what Roark is able to achieve, the ease at which he is able to fully yet unknowingly embrace selfishness for art itself in disregard for outside opinion. The difference between the two characters sees its root in Dominique’s hesitance to truly become a selfish, individualistic character because unlike Roark, she cares about how she fits in with society. She thus demonstrates a need to hide what both she and Roark have, emphasizing on the far-reaching greatness that Roark represents.

Ayn Rand utilizes Roark himself as the epitome of objectivism. The interactions between Dominique and Roark not only highlight the qualities Roark embodies, but also the overarching concept of individualism itself and how it is portrayed by society. By giving Roark a god-like complex, Dominique is in a sense a less extreme version of Roark that is more attuned to society. As a conformist rather than a nonconformist, she only inwardly displays the news in which Rand glorifies, in fear of being “shunned” by society or misunderstood. Through Dominique’s reluctance to fully embrace a selfish character, Rand suggests the discordance between the general views of society and an individualist standpoint. She notes a certain corruption within society that is unable to accept, or grasp, this notion of objectivism. As expressed by Dominique, she would rather “destroy” Roark herself rather than see him get destroyed by a society that may never understand his greatness. In a sense, she cannot bear to see such a flawless idea get destroyed. Thus, when she criticizes Roark in the novel, she seemingly criticizes himself and his art in a very twisted manner. Perhaps, true art as an outcome of objectivism is too “beautiful” and personal to be shown in public. Dominique ultimately serves as a foil to Roark not only to accentuate his character, but to express both a great concept that is nowhere near suitable for a corrupted society. In essence, the originality and nonconformist within Roark will eventually put him down.

While Dominique’s ideas of objectivism parallel with those of Rand and emphasizes on the greatness of Roark’s character, her behavior further accentuates objectivism yet opposes the behavior of Roark; it is at this point where she a Roark truly diverge. Her behavior brings out the social sacrifices one must make for selfishness. The closing segment of the book witnesses a character development in Dominique: once afraid of the reaction of society, she then fully joins Roark’s side, breaking her pessimistic barrier and stripping herself of her fears. No longer vulnerable to the retaliation of society, she reclaims her old job on “The Banner.” The full circle ending truly exemplifies the greatness of objectivism, where Roark is depicted as a figure high up in the sky, encapsulating the image of Rand (and Dominique’s) ideal, perfect man. In Dominique’s eyes, Roark ultimately stands triumphant.

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Dynamics of Egotism and Altruism in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead

August 1, 2019 by Essay Writer

The Russian Revolution of 1917 greatly influenced the lives of Russian citizens as socialism became a driving political force. Ayn Rand, who grew up during this time of political change and uncertainty, experienced firsthand the effects of socialism and therefore developed a feeling of enmity toward everything socialism stood for. Rand’s experience in Russia served as a catalyst in forming her philosophy that is the basis of her novel The Fountainhead: that true human integrity can be attained only by resisting society’s corruptive influence by performing selfish acts, and never compromising one’s ideals and individuality. Rand uses two specific characters to develop this theme throughout the course of her novel. The first character and hero of the novel, Howard Roark, embodies the perfect man. Even through overwhelming adversity he does not compromise his beliefs, which ultimately attributes to his great moral success. In direct contrast to Roark is Peter Keating, a “second-hander” who lives to gain the approval of others. Although he experiences financial success, his inability to live by Rand’s “standards for moral success” eventually lead to his character’s demise. By examining the contrast that drives this novel through the opposite ideals that Roark and Keating live their lives by, and by following their architectural careers, as well as their relationships with others, Rand is able to demonstrate to readers the theme that has held a great influence in her own life: that society weakens man’s ego, and society’s harmful influence can only be resisted if one acts to promote his own self interest above all else.Because The Fountainhead is set around the course of Roark’s and Keating’s architectural careers, the actual art of architecture plays a large role in Rand’s development of the two characters. Readers are able to see the major differences in the two men by viewing their careers alone. Roark’s view of how buildings ought to be, and his inability to compromise his architectural designs to even the slightest degree play a large part in Rand’s presentation of Roark as the “ideal man.”Roark’s view on how buildings should be designed is evident in the opening scene of the novel when his unique and individualistic approach to architecture is described as being, “not Classical, […] not Gothic, […] not Renaissance. They were only Howard Roark” (Rand, The Fountainhead 7). When Roark’s design leads to his expulsion from the Stanton Institute of Technology, the Dean also brings Roark’s unique style of architecture to attention. He notes that Roark’s designs are “ ‘contrary to every principle we have tried to teach you, contrary to all established precedents and traditions of Art’” (Rand, The Fountainhead 9). As his meeting with the Dean continues, Roark continues to ask the Dean why past architecture is important and even goes as far as to criticize the Parthenon, an extremely distinguished monument throughout architectural history. Through this meeting with the Dean, Roark’s intentions are clear: that the past and even the present do not determine his design of a building. According to Roark, “A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme and to serve its own single purpose” (Rand, The Fountainhead 12). Through this line, Rand is using the art of architecture to convey her theme that man must follow his own ideals, not the ideals set by society.In many incidents throughout the novel, Rand also demonstrates her theme by Roark’s refusal to compromise his architectural design on many projects that could have brought him great financial success. One instance is during the building of the Sanborn house. Roark refuses to add a few simple changes that would have pleased the home owners, and also when he realizes that an addition needed to be made during construction, he actually pays for it himself, just to get the satisfaction of designing, in his mind, a perfect house. When his perfect house is finally constructed though, Mrs. Sanburn refuses to live in it. This obviously does not affect Roark because as he viewed everything else in life, he only designs to please himself, not his customers. This philosophy is demonstrated when Roark says, “‘But why should you care about what people will say? All you have to do is please yourself’” (Rand, The Fountainhead 24). In this situation, Roark realizes that his refusal to change would eventually lead to him not receiving commission on the house, but that did not faze him, for maintaining his integrity was of a much higher importance to Roark than money would ever be.Another instance of Roark’s staunch insubordination to mainstream architecture is shown in a scene in which a successful architecture firm, Francon & Heyer, ask Roark to design a building in a Classical Greek style. Because this is for a man who pays mass amounts of money to the firm, this project would have essentially gained Roark a very much needed paycheck. But, because Roark says he would only design something innovative, he is fired on the spot. During this part of the novel, Roark is nearly broke, and yet the fact that he still refuses to design something classical shows his strong and obstinate character.One major event that projects Roark as an “incorruptible man” is after Roark establishes a friendship with Gail Wynand, editor of The Banner a major architectural newspaper. Because of events in his past, Wynand is convinced of the fact that a truly perfect man, a man unable to be touched by society’s influence, a man like Howard Roark, does not exist. After meeting Roark, however, Wynand’s mindset slowly begins to shift. The event that truly accomplishes this though was when Wynand asks Roark to design a home for him. He tells Roark though that he will only allow this to happen if Roark agrees to design exactly the way that Wynand tells him to and that he “ ‘obey the will of the majority’ ” (Rand, The Fountainhead 556) for the rest of his career as Wynand’s personal architect. He explains that Roark will get to design quite a bit of houses and that although he won’t like them, he “‘will make money for [them] both’ ” (Rand, The Fountainhead 557). While accepting this offer would have put Roark in a state of financial stability for the rest of his career, something that he hadn’t be able to establish throughout the novel thus far, Roark adamantly tells Wynand to “ ‘shut up’ ” and to “ ‘[never] let [him] hear any architectural suggestions’ ” (Rand, The Fountainhead 557). It is at this instant when Wynand’s entire philosophy on mankind changes; he realizes that men like Roark do exist in the world, and for the time being, his character has reached total redemption through witnessing Roark’s strong character.Though Roark displays innumerable examples of his refusal to compromise throughout the novel, perhaps the most significant and violent example occurs during an event in which Roark blows up a construction site in which his original plan had been altered. During this scene, Peter Keating is asked to design Cordlandt Homes, which is considered a major architectural challenge. Keating knows he is unable to design something like this on his own and goes to Roark for help. Because Roark designs for his pure love of it, not the money, he agrees to help Keating and let Keating take the credit and money for his work, but only under the condition that Keating does not change Roark’s design. When Roark goes to visit the construction site one day though, he sees that his plans have indeed been altered. At this point in the novel, readers are able to notice the clash between forces in which Roark’s architectural ideals, and those of the mediocre majority, come head to head. Roark takes care of the incident in a fashion that is typical of his character: by blowing up the building, an act that cannot be reversed or countered, and an act that demonstrates Roark’s strong defiance to mediocrity. During the scene in which Roark is on trial after his demolition of the Cordlandt development, it is his speech that he offers in defense to the jury that portrays Rand’s message. Through a moving speech, Roark delivers all of the principles that The Fountainhead are based on. Roark begins by celebrating “creators” and “men of unborrowed vision” (Rand, The Fountainhead, 710), and explains how it is human nature to seek truth, rather than to serve others. He condemns “second-handers” like Keating and establishes the difference between men like Keating and men like him by saying, “The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime motive’” (Rand, The Fountainhead, 712). Roark sees himself as a creator and explains how he had given Cordlandt to others, but once it had been changed he could not stand to see his vision corrupted and therefore had to destroy it (“Sparknote on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead). After this speech is delivered, the jury finds Roark not guilty. Through this speech, Rand is able to offer her opinions that drive the novel. Roark’s selfish character triumphs over the mediocre majority and therefore, Rand’s message triumphs as well. Roark remained steadfast in his convictions through everything he was faced with throughout the novel and never compromised his integrity, and because of this, he was able to resist society’s corruption, allowing him gain complete moral achievement, which means more than money or recognition by society.As Roark’s architectural career is being established throughout the novel, Rand also juxtaposes the career of Peter Keating, whose career starts out very similar to Roark’s, but ultimately develops into something opposite, and in turn has a large influence in the derailing of Keating’s moral character by the end of the novel. Keating’s motivations for designing buildings, as well as the manner he does his work by sets him in direct contrast to Howard Roark, and also make him the antithesis to Rand’s philosophy. Through examining Keating’s career, it is obvious that Keating represents everything that Roark is not, a man that “[smiles] and [smiles], yet [is] a villain.” Keating keeps a perfectly respectable façade, but continually uses others to succeed and has no problem lying, cheating, or stepping on anyone along the way.Though Peter Keating’s career in architecture is a successful one, the way he views his work, and architecture in general as “only unavoidable details on the surface of his days” (Rand, The Fountainhead 57), are that of a direct contrast to Roark’s. For example, Keating is first introduced in the novel at his graduation ceremony. At this time Keating is offered a scholarship to study at a prestigious French architectural school, and is also offered a job at Francon & Heyer, a very successful and well known architectural firm in New York. While Keating knows that additional schooling will make him into a better architect in the long run, he struggles with the decision because taking the job at Francon & Heyer will further his reputation amongst his peers. Because his flawed personality does not allow him to decide things for himself, he immediately seeks advice from others. Keating’s mother offers him advice saying, “‘of course if you go [to Beaux-Arts], Mr. Francon will take somebody else. People will talk about that. Everybody knows that Mr. Francon picks out the best boy from Stanton every year for his office. I wonder how it will look if some other boy gets the job?’”(Rand, The Fountainhead, 23) That comment was enough to force Keating to accept the Francon job, for he did not want to be looked upon poorly by his peers.It is at this point in the novel readers also learn Keating’s motivation for becoming an architect. While Roark’s motivation for being an architect is his pure love of it, and his never changing goal to always design the perfect building, Keating, on the other hand, “hated himself for having chosen to be an architect” (Rand, The Fountainhead 63) and had wanted to be an artist, but his mother chose architecture as an alternative that would hold a better use for his skill in drawing. Keating notes that his mother “had pushed him into his career,” (Rand, The Fountainhead 20) telling him, “‘Architecture is such a respectable profession. Besides, you meet the best people in it’” (Rand, The Fountainhead 20). This scene shows readers that Keating obviously has no passion for his profession, if he didn’t even aspire to be what he is on his own. This lack of passion is obviously reflective of the mediocre work he does throughout his career.Readers are also able to witness many instances of cheating in Keating’s career through his continual habit of taking Roark’s work and calling it his own. This is first witnessed during Keating’s first design job after being named chief designer at Francon & Heyer. Keating puts together a design but because of his inconsistent character, he does not have enough confidence in himself to simply turn it in, and he must seek the approval of someone else, which in this case was Roark, to finish his design. Keating continually expresses his uncertainty and low confidence in himself by repeating phrases such as “I’m not sure” and “What do you think?” (Rand, The Fountainhead 64). Keating’s doubtfulness in himself and his choice to take his work to Roark to alter once again shows Keating’s defective personality as he can never remain steadfast in his opinions and has no problem compromising his work in order to gain success. It is here that readers also see Keating turn away from selfish ideals when he doubts himself and his skills because selfishness and self-esteem are related (Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness xi).Another scene in which Keating’s desire to cheat to gain success is one in which Keating chooses to enter an architecture contest for a prestigious motion picture company, Cosmo-Slotnick. Keating spends many hours trying to put together an acceptable design. When he finishes, it is noted that “It looked good… it might be good… he was not sure. He had no one to ask” (Rand, The Fountainhead 171). As seen before, Keating does not know how to please himself. This scene demonstrates Keating’s perpetual need to rely on the opinions of others in order to gain satisfaction; and because he had yet to gain anyone’s approval other than his own for his design, he could not send his entry in yet. This prompts Keating once again to shamefully go to Roark to get his opinion. After spending hours altering Keating’s design, Roark gives Keating a new and improved design to send to the competition. Keating sends in the design on the behalf of himself and his firm, and in the end, wins the competition with Roark’s work. As Rand is trying to convey though, Keating cannot last forever by living for the approval of others, especially in his career. As the novel continues and the art of architecture changes through the course of time, Keating gains a reputation of being too old fashioned, and without other men to recommend him, he is unable to gain any commissions. Keating’s last professional opportunity lies in a housing development plan, and as usual, he recognizes that he cannot complete it alone and goes to Roark for help. It is at this point in the novel that Keating realizes what he has made of himself his entire career and that Roark has helped him “for the sake of architecture, not our of pity or to gain the upper hand”(“ Sparknote on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead”). He says to Roark, “Howard, I’m a parasite. I’ve been a parasite all my life. You designed my best projects at Stanton. You designed my first house I ever built. You designed the Cosmo-Slotnick Building. I have fed on you and on all the men like you who have lived before we were born.[…] I have taken that which was not mine and given nothing in return. I had nothing to give” (Rand, The Fountainhead 601).Keating’s realization comes too late though as he is unable to save himself from the hollowness of his own life, and it is clear that Rand shows no sympathy for him, or men like him (“Sparknote on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead”). The demise of Keating’s career plays a large role in Rand’s portrayal of her theme. Since moral achievement is concern with what exactly is in one’s self interest, accepting what needs to be done to reach it, refusing to betray it, and not compromising one’s values, (Branden, 70) Keating is said to reach a “moral failure.” He had based his entire career solely off of the opinions of others and was motivated to design only to gain the approval of other people, not himself. By having no set of standards to promote himself and always compromising even for standards that were lower and of no value to Keating, he had completely went against the selfish message that Rand preached, and therefore, his character had to fail (Branden, 67).Along with The Fountainhead’s architectural backdrop that allows Rand to portray her theme, readers must also consider the relationships Roark and Keating hold with other people in order to fully grasp the ideals Rand is trying to get across. While Roark selects friends that will make him happy instead of how they will look to the rest of society, Keating does the opposite and chooses friends based on whether or not they will further his reputation (Schein, 306-307).The first major difference between Roark and Keating is how they view people in general. Because Roark felt that he did not need people in order to advance himself, “He had not made or sought a single friend on the campus” and he “refused to join a fraternity” (Rand, The Fountainhead 14). In fact, it was noted that Roark “had no sense of people” (Rand, The Fountainhead 64) at all. His concern with only himself is demonstrated in the line, “Howard Roark saw no one. For him, the streets were empty. He could have walked there naked without concern” (Rand, The Fountainhead 5). In many instances, it is mentioned how Roark’s eyes saw straight through others. This is most adequately described by Peter Keating’s mother, who notes, “He stood looking at her. She knew that he did not see her. No, she thought, it was not that exactly. He always looked straight at people and his damnable eyes never missed a thing, it was only that he made people feel as if they did not exist”(Rand, The Fountainhead 5). Once again, Roark’s eyes are also noticed by the Dean who notes, “Roark made [the Dean] uncomfortable. Roark’s eyes were fixed on him politely. The Dean thought, there’s nothing wrong with the way he’s looking at me, in fact it’s quite correct, most properly attentive; only it’s as if I were not here”(Rand, The Fountainhead 9). In another scene Keating notes Roark’s eyes in the line, “Roark’s eyes made [Keating] uncomfortable and that made [Keating] angry (Rand, The Fountainhead 23). Rand uses these scenes that indicate how Roark literally views people to demonstrate to readers the true essence of Roark’s personality; that he sees no need for others, as they do not affect how he lives his live.Along with the fact that Roark saw no one but himself, he also aroused feelings of resentment in other people for no particular reason. This is shown through the lines, “Some remained staring after him with sudden resentment. They could give no reason for it: it was an instinct his presence awakened in most people” (Rand, The Fountainhead 5). Another scene which expresses resentment towards Roark, takes place after Roark’s expulsion from college. Mrs. Keating reacts negatively to a message sent from the Dean that he would like to speak with Roark in which it is noted, “It was not her curiosity alone that prompted her to action; it was a secret fear that the sentence of the Board might be revoked” (Rand, The Fountainhead 8). In this scenario, Roark had never wronged Mrs. Keating in the past, or done anything at all for her to dislike him, yet she did based on instinct alone.In direct contrast to Roark’s stoicism and his opinion that people did not matter to him, is how Peter Keating views other people. Keating places others in high regards and lives his life in order to gain their approval, and never wanting to offend anyone. Roark most accurately describes how men like Keating view people saying, “What was his aim in life? Greatness—in other people’s eyes. Fame, admiration, envy—all that which comes from others. Others dictated his convictions, which he did not hold, but he was satisfied that others believed he held them. Others were his motive power and his prime concern. He didn’t want to be great, but to be thought great. He didn’t want to build, but be an admired builder. He borrowed from others in order to make an impression on others […] It’s his ego that he’s betrayed and given up” (Rand, The Fountainhead 633).This line shows how important Keating feels that other people are to him, and unlike Roark, how he works only to please them.Keating is immediately established as Roark’s opposite from the first time he is introduced. Keating is first introduced as he is sitting at his graduation ceremony. Unlike Roark, he is constantly focused on who is looking at him and his concern is shown through the line, “[…] he knew that many people were looking at him and would look at him later. He did not glance back, but the consciousness of those centered glances never left him” (Rand, The Fountainhead 17). In another scene it is noted that “He wondered, as he walked, whether people were looking at him” (Rand, The Fountainhead 20). These two scenes show Keating’s obvious concern on how he is portrayed to others, even others who do not know him.While readers already know how Roark tends to stay away from people, Keating is described as opposite to Roark in that he was “the star student of Stanton, president of the student body, captain of the track team, member of the most popular fraternity, voted the most popular man on the campus”(Rand, The Fountainhead 17).Also in contrast to Roark is how Keating’s eyes are described. In one line it mentions that “Keating’s eyes had glowed with an instant kind of warmth, as if Shlinker were his most precious friend; Keating’s eyes glowed like that on everybody” (Rand, The Fountainhead 19). In another scene it mentions that Keating “[caressed] those he passed with the soft glow of his eyes, the brilliant eyes that seemed to pick each man in turn out of the room, out of the universe, as the most important specimen of humanity and as Keating’s dearest friend”(Rand, The Fountainhead 28). These descriptions of Keating’s eyes help to show readers just how important other people are to him which is something that he heavily relies on through the course of the novel.Along with how Roark and Keating view people in general, the relationships that the two establish with others also offer large insights in developing the personalities of the two men. The people who are attracted to Roark and the people Roark befriends are those who are similar to him, people who are independent, and can recognize genius when they see it. The introduction of Roark to many of the characters who are similar to him prompt those characters to reevaluate their own views on people and life. On the other hand, the people who are attracted to Keating are those who celebrate mediocrity, and those who also need others in order to be successful. Keating has virtually no effect on these people, as he is too weak to gain recognition for doing anything that would set himself away from his peers.Readers first come across an independent man who Roark admires and asks for a job in Henry Cameron. It is important to understand Cameron’s background to understand why Roark admires this man and wants to work for him. Cameron was once an extremely popular architect but after the explosion of architecture that was to be based off of former designs, Cameron lost almost all of his clients because he refused to compromise his work. Cameron’s philosophy on buildings was very similar to that of Roark’s. Like Roark, Cameron believed that “the form of a building must follow its function; that the structure of a building is key to its beauty […] (Rand, The Fountainhead 35). Cameron’s demeanor was also similar to Roark’s in that he “had never known to face people. They did not matter to him” (Rand, The Fountainhead 35). Cameron reflects on his own experiences when talking to Roark and warns him that because he has integrity, society will crush him. He tells him that he should compromise now so he does not end up the way Cameron has. Cameron warns Roark that mediocre architects will always get commissions while Roark will be reduced to nothing. When he questions Roark if he wants that kind of future Roark replies “yes.” Roark’s relationship with Cameron is furthered when Roark spends Cameron’s last dying days with him. In Cameron’s dying words he tells him to ignore what he had previously said about compromising and to continue to remain steadfast in his convictions. This revelation shows readers how Cameron’s philosophy on how people should live life had been altered after coming in contact with Roark. After learning of Cameron’s past and seeing the similarities between him and Roark, it is clear to readers why Roark had chosen to ask Cameron for a job, because the men that he chooses to associate with are strong uncompromising men like him. Even minor characters in the novel that are strong men like Roark are affected by his ingenuity. For example, while Roark is working on a job site one day in a brief stint with Francon & Heyer, he meets an electrician named Mike who is very impressed with his skills. Mike and Roark instantaneously establish a connection, and the two become good friends. In a line describing Mike, there are major similarities between himself and Roark. It is said that People meant very little to Mike, but their performance a great deal. He worshipped expertness of any kind. He loved his work passionately and had no tolerance for anything save for other single-track devotions. He was a master in his own field and he felt no sympathy except for mastery. His view of the world was simple: there were the able and there were the incompetent; he was not concerned with the latter (Rand, The Fountainhead 86).This description of Mike shows how he views people like Roark. Because he loves his work as Roark does, and how he would not settle for anything less than perfection, it is obvious why he would be attracted to a man like Roark. Mike also mentions how the only architect that he has ever liked was Cameron, and when Roark mentions that he worked for Cameron, Mike is relieved that architects like Cameron still exist.Another minor character that is affected by Roark’s personality and immediately takes to him is Stephen Mallory. Readers learn earlier that Mallory once had tried to kill Ellsworth Toohey, who represents altruism to the fullest degree and has Marxist ideals that require others to follow and sacrifice their own individuality and self dependence (Novels for Students, 107). This incident gives readers foresight that Mallory will agree with the ideals of Roark, because he tried to eliminate the ideals that are diametrically opposed to Roark’s. When Mallory and Roark finally meet and speak to each other, Mallory breaks down into tears with the recognition that uncompromising men like Roark still exist in the world. He says to Roark, “‘I’m very grateful for you. Not for giving me a job. Not for coming here. Not for anything you’ll ever do for me. Just for what you are’’ (Rand, The Fountainhead 338). This scene once again demonstrates the effect Roark has on men that are similar to him–one simple meeting can cause them to reevaluate everything that they have ever believed about humanity.One of the most important relationships that is developed in The Fountainhead is that of Roark and Dominique Francon. Dominique is introduced as being very similar to Roark. Dominique chooses to isolate herself from society because of her belief that society destroys all that is beautiful and pure (“Sparknote on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead”). Dominique believes that the mediocre majority will ruin the world, and refuses to love anything, because of her belief that society will eventually destroy that too. This all changes after meeting Roark for the first time. While Dominique does everything to resist Roark, she cannot help herself from caring for him. This occurs during a scene in which Roark rapes Dominique. Although this is considered a violent act, Dominique needed it to awaken herself from her “loveless existence”(“Sparknote on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead”). Because she believes in the beauty and purity of Roark and his integrity, she desperately seeks to destroy him the rest of the novel before society gets the chance to. While Dominique makes frequent trips to see Roark during the night, during the day she spends her time pitting the media against Roark and attempting to stop him from gaining commissions. In reality, Dominique desperately hopes that Roark will not be affected by her attempts at ruining him which would consequently change her world view. By the end of the novel, Dominique is able to see that Roark had remained unchanged during society’s attack against his character. Dominique’s entire perception of the world had changed as her and Roark become married. Roark’s relationships he establishes with others show Rand’s theme by that Roark will not befriend people that have lower standards than he does, for that too would equal a compromise of ideals, which would obviously indicate a corruption of Roark by society. While Roark develops relationships with only the men who can understand and admire his character, Keating, on the other hand, is never able to develop a healthy relationship with anybody. Keating uses people to get himself ahead and because of this, he does not have any kind of impact on anyone’s life and is never able to love. For example, while Roark chooses to work for an architect that he admires, rather than someone renowned, Keating chooses to work for Francon & Heyer, and immediately befriends Francon. Readers soon learn that the success of the firm comes from the design of a man named, Stengel, and that Francon does not do much at all in the office. The fact that Keating befriends a man like Francon parallels the plagiaristic attribute of his own personality, and shows that like Keating, Francon gained his position through others, not on his own. In another scene, Lucius Heyer, Francon’s partner at the firm and another man whom Keating had befriended, is dying. Instead of being concerned with a dying friend, all Keating can focus on is how the position at the firm will be left open. Although Keating has a large chance of gaining the open position by winning an architectural competition that is being offered during this time, Keating’s lack of self confidence leads him to believe that he will not win, and will therefore have to find different means of gaining the promotion. While Keating is sitting at Heyer’s bedside, instead of comforting him in one of his final hours of life as Roark had done with Cameron, Keating chooses to blackmail Heyer into retiring before the results of the competition could be announced. Because this idea makes Heyer flustered and nervous, he suffers a stroke and dies. By witnessing Keating’s cruelty towards a dying friend, it is evident to readers that men are nothing more to Keating than objects used to further his own career and reputation.While strong men similar to Roark are attracted to him, men that celebrate mediocrity, namely Ellsworth Toohey, are attracted to Keating. Toohey makes a living celebrating the mediocrity of the majority, making it impossible for individualistic people like Roark to succeed. Because of this, he is instantly drawn to Keating. Toohey sees the mediocrity in Keating’s work and works hard to promote him and make sure he is successful. Toohey drives much of Keating’s career and delivers his speech promoting selflessness as he says to him, “Only when you learn to deny your ego, completely, […] only then will you achieve the greatness which I have always expected of you”(Rand, The Fountainhead 330). Toohey’s sentiments are the exact opposite than that of Roark’s which is why it was most fitting in developing a contrast between Roark and Keating, to pair Toohey and Keating together. By the end of the novel though, Toohey’s true motivation shines through when Keating, convinced that he and Toohey are close friends, asks him to recommend him for a certain project. When Toohey coldly tells him no, Keating notices Toohey has taken on a new favorite and essentially left Keating out to dry. It is here that Toohey reveals his true nature and motivations telling Keating, “‘I don’t believe in individualism, Peter. I don’t believe that any one man is any one thing which everybody else can’t be. I believe we’re all equal and interchangeable. A position you hold today can be held by anybody and everybody tomorrow’” (Rand, The Fountainhead 595). He continues by saying he advocates mediocrity to thwart the abilities and success of truly talented men. It is here Keating realizes that he and Toohey were never friends, and Toohey never saw anything special in him. Similar to how Keating uses people, he too learns that he was used by Toohey to help hinder Roark’s career. This scene helps to show the beginning of Keating’s demise because rather than following his own ideals and befriending people that he truly admired, he took to men like Toohey who had no use for Keating other than to use him for his own separate plans.Another relationship Keating establishes in the novel is one between him and Dominique Francon. Unlike Roark who befriends people who will make him happy, Keating proposes to Dominique to help elevate his position at Francon & Heyer. Keating knows he does not love Dominique, but realizes that other men will be jealous of him, which because of his personality, is obviously very pleasing to him. At one point it is noted that “He had added the impossible to his possessions—Dominique Francon” (Rand, The Fountainhead 436). The fact that Keating views Dominique as no more that a mere possession to him shows his characters disinterest in developing personal relationships but rather looking good as a result of those relationships to the public. Dominique, on the other hand, chooses to marry Keating to punish herself. She is in love with Roark and cannot stand to live in a world that does not understand him (“Sparknote on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead”) Dominique knows she would never love a man like Keating. The marriage between the two characters is essentially a sham, and they both know it. This is why it comes as no surprise when Keating sells Dominique to Gail Wynand for money and a housing contract. This event sparks the beginning of Keating’s demise. Keating realizes that Dominique actually made him happy and now he had lost her. At the same time he had also lost the “friend” he had in Toohey, and because Keating used the praise and approval of others to gain internal strength, now that he was deprived of others, he had no strength because of his inability to rely on himself. (“Sparknote on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead”)Another relationship that helps to drive Rand’s theme that selflessness will eventually lead to complete moral failure is the one between Keating and Katie Halsey. While Katie unconditionally loves Keating, her personality is just as weak and selfless as his is, and this leads to their relationship’s eventual collapse. In one scene, Katie expresses her deep fear of her uncle, Toohey, and asks Keating to marry her. Keating initially agrees, but after his mother calls Katie a “nobody” and tells him to “‘stop thinking about [himself] for a moment and think of others a bit!’”(Rand, The Fountainhead 152). He promptly puts off the wedding. The scene ends with Keating feeling a “dull persistent feeling that told him he had missed a chance that would never return; that something was closing in on them and they had surrendered”(Rand, The Fountainhead 155), and Katie feeling “empty and cold”(Rand, The Fountainhead 155). Towards the end of the novel, Keating runs into Katie on the street. The two have lunch and Keating realizes that Katie has turned into a completely selfless individual and that the spirit he used to know in her was now dead. This meeting makes Keating even more self aware of his own life and realizes that he has nothing meaningful in it. At this point in the novel though, Keating’s realization has come too late as his character has long been on the path to his demise, and the damage he had cause himself was irrevocable.By examining the way Roark and Keating view other people, and by following the relationships they establish with others, readers are able to notice how although Roark befriends those who are similar to himself, he does not live for them, but through his selfish acts he actually serves as a beneficiary in the lives of his friends as well. These friendships hold true to Rand’s theme; Roark does not compromise himself for others, and in turn he grows morally, as do the people he interacts with. Keating’s relationships with others on the other hand, help to lead to his character’s moral failure. Because he places others in such a high regard, without them, a “second-hander” like Keating is rendered useless and empty, unable to gain strength from him. Because Keating only lived for others, it was only natural that without others to support him, his character had to fail as well.Throughout the course of The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand juxtaposes the careers and relationships of two opposite characters in order to develop her theme that in order to have moral achievement in a society full of corruption, one must perform selfish acts and never compromise his ideals. By following the architectural career of Howard Roark and analyzing the relationships he develops with others; his refusal to compromise to even the slightest degree drives him to complete moral achievement by the novel’s conclusion. Though altruism still thrives, Roark truly triumphs because of his ability to remain unchanged when faced with the opposition of society and because he is able to inspire those he comes in contact with. While Roark’s moral achievement is gained by following Rand’s “recipe” for success, Robert Keating, miserably fails at achieving anything at all. Because he personifies Rand’s antithesis, his concern for others above himself leads to his architectural career being a complete fraud, and he destroys every relationships that he establishes. Through the use of these characters, Rand staunchly delivers her theme that would allow all to combat society’s damaging effects on the ego. As Rand ends her novel with the line “Then there was only the ocean and the sky and the figure of Howard Roark”(Rand, The Fountainhead 727), she is sending a message to readers that it is the human spirit alone that matters, and by maintaining one’s integrity, one can truly experience complete moral successWorks CitedBranden, Nathaniel. “Isn’t Everyone Selfish?” The Virtue of Selfishness. Rand, Ayn. New York: Signet. November, 1964“The Fountainhead.” Novels for Students, Volume 16. Farming Hills: Gale, 2002Philips, Brian. Sparknote on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. April 9, 2007 .Rand, Ayn. Introduction. The Fountainhead. By Ayn Rand. New York: Signet, 1964. i- xxi.Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. New York: Penguin Group, November, 1994.Schein, Dina. “Roark’s Integrity.” Essays on Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead.” Ed. Robert Mayhew. Lanham, 2007.

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Morality and Happiness in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead

June 24, 2019 by Essay Writer

Which man ultimately prospers: the man of integrity, or the hypocritical, unethical man? In The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand questions the relationship between the moral and the practical. Many people in real life – as well as Gail Wynand and Dominique Francon in the novel – believe that practical success requires the individual to betray his or her moral principles. Some say that one must “play the game,” or conform to the principles of one’s company or profession if such conformity will lead to practical success. However in The Fountainhead, Rand builds a convincing argument that this cynical view is wrong. The character of Howard Roark is the author’s argument against the idea that moral bankruptcy allows for practical success and that there is an inversely proportional relationship to the two realms. He is ultimately successful because he adheres to his morality and refuses to compromise the integrity of his buildings or the conception of his designs in the face of harsh consequences such as destitution and jail. The character of Peter Keating is the author’s argument that moral bankruptcy only leads to destruction, and Gail Wynand, who has the ability to think autonomously and build values, is also destroyed by betraying his own principles. The novel demonstrates that through the development of characters and plot that the only way for man to achieve happiness and practical success is to be moral. Howard is an independent, creative genius with a clear sense of self and the potential to gain insight into mankind without abdicating autonomous thought. Rand shows that he is both moral and practical through the development of the plot. When the board of the Manhattan Bank Building wants to alter his design, Roark rejects the proposal for the new design, calling his behavior “the most selfish thing you’ve ever seen a man do.” Despite the consequences of destitution, he gives up a lucrative, publicity-generating commission in order to stand by the integrity of his design-and he calls this “selfish.” Howard adheres to his values throughout the course of the novel, and because he does not abdicate his values and free will, he succeeds in putting his thoughts and values into practice. The integrity of the design is far more important to him than the money or recognition that will accrue from the commission. In remaining true to his values and judgment, Roark is true to the deepest core of his self. This is selfishness in its highest and best sense. He symbolizes courage and strength, is fully committed to the artistic integrity of every one of his designs, and he prefers to take a laborer’s job in a granite quarry rather than compromise on the smallest detail of his building. He is also practical, and as a demonstration of his practicality, Roark – above all other characters in the novel – is a can-do giant of supreme competence, excelling at every aspect of building. By the novel’s end, he has achieved significant commercial success and, on his own terms, becomes established in architecture. Roark’s buildings, his ultimate commercial success, and his happiness are a result of living by his own thinking. To attain practical success, one cannot betray his or her mind. Rand suggests that moral virtue is a requirement of practical success, not a hindrance to it. Peter Keating, on the other hand, is a conformist. He abdicates his judgment, and lets other people define his actions and life. In this regard, he is Roark’s foil. While Howard may end the section “Peter Keating” morally strong and financially bankrupt, Peter ends up financially strong and morally bankrupt. However, by the end of the section “Howard Roark,” Howard is morally strong, and consequently, practically and financially strong, while Peter Keating is both morally and practically bankrupt. In all the important decisions of his life, Keating gives in to the coercion of an antagonistic society, as he lacks the strength of character necessary to stand on his own judgment. Keating desires prestige above all else, and while he and his ambitions would be deemed as selfish in the conventional sense, Ayn Rand demonstrates how he has a selfless nature of a status-seeker. He sacrifices and surrenders any and all desires and values to have status, and relinquishes autonomous thought almost completely. A selfish man, Ayn Rand argues, must be true to his values and the thinking he does to form them. Gail Wynand publishes vulgar tabloids that oppose Roark’s principles, but also loves man’s noblest achievements and owns a private art gallery. His private life is a product of his choices, while his professional life is dependent upon the worst of public opinion. Gail Wynand is a man with the mind, talent, and initiative to do great things, but he brings disaster on himself by means of his own errors. Under naturalist premises, Wynand erroneously chooses to believe that a man can either dominate or be dominated. He believes that the majority of human beings are corrupt and mindless, and as an intelligent, competent man he can only survive by attaining society’s conceptions of power, money, influence, and a readership. But in the process, he, like Keating, betrays his own mind. Wynand is a man of contradictory thinking and actions, which ultimately leads to his downfall. When he defends Roark in The Banner, he fails to understand that vulgar people cannot appreciate morality, and faces the fact that his concept of control was dangerous speculation. He crashes about as fast as the Stock Market did in 1929, because he betrays his self to such a degree that he decidedly gives in to coercion and cannot redeem his principles beyond Howard’s conception of the Wynand Building. The novel suggests that the only power a man should seek is that of his own mind and body, of his spirit and his heart, and that seeking it through others will have dire consequences. Because Wynand did not express his morals to those who could seriously appreciate morality in journalism, he was defeated by society. Not appreciating Howard’s statement, “Don’t give in,” Wynand subjected his own will to that of the masses. Dominique Francon believes that the majority of men have no interest in living up to man’s highest nature, and that this unthinking majority has all the power in society. She behaves as a philosophical pessimist, holding that the good have no chance in this world. She significantly exemplifies Ayn Rand’s malevolent universe premise: that the world is closed to the aspirations of good men and that only evil holds power. She is one who believes the conventional view, and although she loves Howard and his genius, she sees no hope for his survival. She allies with Toohey to destroy him before society can, in her acts of mercy killing. “Let us say we are moles and we object to mountain peaks,” she admonishes the court and gallery at the Stoddard trial, stating that the temple must be torn down in order to save it from the world, not the world from it. Because of Dominique’s fear that an antagonistic world will snub out any trace of noble men and creative works and positive goal-seeking, she refuses to pursue either values or goals. Because of her capacity for autonomous thought, she will be able to see the error of her pessimistic philosophy, and accept Howard’s benevolent universe premise as true. She observes the lives of Howard Roark, Gail Wynand, Peter Keating, and Ellsworth Toohey. She sees that despite every obstacle that society places in Roark’s path, it cannot stop him. She witnesses the life of Gail Wynand, observing that, ultimately, Wynand’s pandering brings him destruction, not joyous success. She sees that Keating’s career does not merely collapse, but does so because of his lying, manipulative nature, which leads to his public exposure as a fraud. She notes that Toohey’s power-seeking is utterly defeated in the two major attempts of his life: He can neither gain control of Wynand’s Banner nor prevent Roark’s artistic and commercial success. Dominique observes that the facts of these men’s lives contradict her belief that the good will inevitably fail and the evil triumph. Based on the facts, she changes her mind, realizing that Roark’s benevolent assessment of life’s possibilities is true and her own malevolent view is mistaken. The implication of The Fountainhead is that man must let his own judgment and values serve as his compass, since this is the sole means to attain happiness. Howard Roark commits to autonomous thinking, his principles and judgments, and then he creates revolutionary designs which he will not let be adulterated and compromised by others. He is not convicted for dynamiting Cortland, because that would condemn self-preservation and the right to one’s own work. Those who possess second-hand ambitions, becoming morally betraying and bankrupt, Toohey, Keating, and Wynand, are destroyed and impotent compared to the heroic Howard Roark. Howard is a moral giant, with enduring success and happiness in all avenues of his life, he is absolutely selfish, but in a good way, he is the tallest of men, standing on the tallest of buildings. The author convinces individuals that thinking independently, building values, setting goals that adhere to those values, and demonstrating integrity are the means to being successful in life. First an individual must be able to see a favorable outcome, and then by following his or her values he or she can attain it. Happiness is the result of successfully adhering to and fulfilling one’s principles. “Great men” like Howard Roark understand the value of morality, and that in itself is a valuable moral the novel promotes. Be true to reason and the self; be happy.

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Practical Success vs. Morality

April 26, 2019 by Essay Writer

In her historic novel, The Fountainhead, author Ayn Rand presents one man’s struggle to reconcile his desire for success with an admirable vision of morality. One can define both success and morality in a variety of ways. On the one hand, success can represent a person’s power, prestige and wealth; on the other hand, success may imply personal happiness, integrity and self-respect. Morality might be understood in the most literal sense, where one acts in accord with standards of right or good conduct, but in the context of Rand’s story, morality represents a character’s ability to think for himself. While the initial success of Peter Keating, the pessimism of Dominique Francon, the power of Gail Wynand, and the popularity of Ellsworth Toohey suggest that Ayn Rand upholds the conventional theory that success and morality cannot coexist, the final triumph of protagonist Howard Roark supports the theory that characters can achieve practical success and be moral at the same time.A constant foil to Roark, Peter Keating is the antithesis of the morality that Roark represents. Envious of others, Keating ruthlessly uses other people in order to advance his own position, acquire money, and achieve fame. For instance, although Keating is aware that Roark is more talented than he, Keating pretends to be Roark’s friend and uses him whenever he is stuck on a problem. Despite his immorality, Keating is astonishingly successful, graduating from Stanton with high honors while Roark is expelled. He is a pet at Francon’s office while Roark worries about how to pay the electric bill. He basks in the glory of Cosmo-Slotnick while Roark works in a quarry under the sun. In a confession to Catherine, Keating exclaims, “I am getting ahead. I think I can have any job I want in the place eventually…” (p. 58) For Keating, a disregard for morality is a key factor in his success. Had he not used underhanded methods to get rid of his competitors one by one, Keating would not have advanced in Francon’s company so quickly. Had he not hardened his heart to kill Heyer, Keating would not have earned the partnership before the result of Cosmo-Slotnick. His disregard for moral conduct, combined with its reliance on the opinions of others, leads to Keating’s eventual failure. “Always be what people want you to be. Then you’ve got them where you want them,” he discloses to Roark at a party. In the end, this credo ruins Peter Keating, as he falls into Toohey’s trap, becoming too dependent on other people.A more powerful practitioner of Keating’s reliance on public opinion, Gail Wynand panders to the public taste with his Banner, “deliver[ing] his paper, body and soul, to the mob.” (p. 408) A prime example of Wynand’s deference to others’ whims lies in the case of Pat Mulligan. Despite Wynand’s knowledge that Mulligan, “the only honest man he had ever met in his life” has been framed, Wynand fails to defend him. (p. 406) Wynand faces a moral dilemma: either he loses his job defending Mulligan, or he follows the orders of his superiors. He chooses the latter. Had Wynand chosen the moral decision, he would never have had a chance to succeed and to later build his Empire. Although Wynand has sold his soul to obtain that fortune, when Dominique and Roark enter his life, he finally decides to be true to himself by defending Roark in Banner, this time ignoring the public opinion. However, Wynand’s gallant attempt is unsuccessful, proving that practical success and morality cannot coexist. His power lies in his submission to others.While Dominique lacks Wynand’s sense of submission, she has her own weakness: pessimism. Although she recognizes Roark’s genius and falls in love with him, she believes that he has no chance in a world dominated by second-handers. She deprives Roark of commissions and says to him, “You know that I hate you, Roark. I hate you for what you are, for wanting you, for having to want you… and I’m going to destroy you.” (pp. 272-273) While she understands Roark’s greatness, she destroys both Roark and herself, tainting her nobility by marrying Peter Keating and then Gail Wynand. Throughout the novel, Dominique believes that evil will triumph over goodness, just as dependence will trump independence, collectivism will trump individualism, second-handers will beat out creators, and most importantly, immorality will triumph over morality. In her characterization of Dominique, Ayn Rand explores the incompatibility of practical success and morality; evildoers hold the majority and only the immoral can succeed.Ellsworth Toohey’s popularity further supports the conventional view that practical success and morality cannot coexist. While Toohey is extremely popular, a saint in the eyes of the public, he is in no way moral. Seeking to ensnare others’ souls, he preaches self-sacrifice, telling Keating that he “missed the beautiful pride of utter selflessness. Only when you learn to deny your ego, completely, only when you learn to be amused by such piddling sentimentalities as your little sex urges – only then will you achieve the greatness which I have always expected of you.” (p.322) “We must not think. We must believe,” Toohey advises his niece, one of his numerous victims. (p. 365) Revealing his true nature, Toohey explains to a frightened Keating, “I use people for the sake of what I can do to them. It’s my only function and satisfaction. I want power. I want my world of the future.” (p. 638) Just as Roark seeks power over nature, Toohey seeks power over men, dreaming about “a single word – collectivism. And isn’t that the god of our century? To act together. To think together. To feel together. To unite, to agree, to obey. To… unite and rule.” (p. 639) An independent thinker, Roark is a serious threat to Toohey, since Roark represents the type of person over whom Toohey can never have control.Leo Durocher, a baseball manager, once said that, “nice guys finish last,” implying that one cannot be both moral and successful at the same time. While Ayn Rand does not support Durocher’s view in her presentation of Roark, The Fountainhead’s protagonist, she suffuses elements of this view throughout the novel in all her major characters. For example, a member of the “moral” horde, Roark is forced to work in a quarry, just as Wynand has to accept the reality that he is not in charge. In contrast, among the “immoral” horde, Keating reaches a high point in his career, while Toohey is always popular. While Ayn Rand did not intend to endorse Durocher’s view, one cannot deny its existence in The Fountainhead. An embodiment of the ideal man, Howard Roark must battle and triumph over the collective desire for success in order to persist as a free-thinking creator.

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Function of a Foil: Dominique Francon and The Fountainhead

April 5, 2019 by Essay Writer

Perhaps one of the most potent methods to elucidate the strengths and weaknesses of a protagonist, a foil illuminates the meaning of a work with character balance and meaningful juxtaposition. In The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand indeed makes use of such a foil, by the name of Dominique Francon, to bring out the unique characteristics and qualities of Howard Roark into the limelight, thus highlighting the very philosophy he embodies: objectivism. Although both Dominique and Roark represent the essence of Rand’s interpretation of selfishness that she attempts, and succeeds, to convey, the contrasting manner in which they present themselves to society demonstrates the potential of Rand’s philosophy in action and how it functions in the real world.

From the onset of the novel, Howard Roark’s brilliant and laconic nature is evident. He is characterized with such an enormous uniqueness that emulating this very character would be difficult, if not impossible. His intrinsic affinity for architecture, a raw talent, is negatively portrayed by society. As a nonconformist, he is misunderstood by the majority of society who values opinion over art itself. In Dominique and Roark’s first encounter, her initial impression of him immediately throws the reader off-guard: his usual cold look, which repulses others, immediately draws her in, as she recalls a “cold brilliance” and empowering “strength” within Roark. She thus symbolizes one of the few characters that understand the enormity of what he encapsulates and truly understand the remarkability of individualism Rand tries to put forth. The difference Dominique offers in character reveals that she is at once eerily similar, yet a glaring counterpoint in Roark. With a vivid knack for the truth, she truly appreciates art in its raw state and not for the fame and success it brings. Like Roark, she does not ingratiate herself with others. By having an awareness of the “great” qualities Roark possesses, she herself demonstrates an understanding for Rand’s advocation of selfishness. For instance, when Dominique talks about her hatred towards mankind, she alludes to a corruption, a lack of understanding of objectivism, or the “right” way to live one’s life. In a sense, she is one of the few characters with a mindset attuned to selflessness, yet she hides this selfishness because she is aware of the consequences of a society that shuns. She envies what Roark is able to achieve, the ease at which he is able to fully yet unknowingly embrace selfishness for art itself in disregard for outside opinion. The difference between the two characters sees its root in Dominique’s hesitance to truly become a selfish, individualistic character because unlike Roark, she cares about how she fits in with society. She thus demonstrates a need to hide what both she and Roark have, emphasizing on the far-reaching greatness that Roark represents.

Ayn Rand utilizes Roark himself as the epitome of objectivism. The interactions between Dominique and Roark not only highlight the qualities Roark embodies, but also the overarching concept of individualism itself and how it is portrayed by society. By giving Roark a god-like complex, Dominique is in a sense a less extreme version of Roark that is more attuned to society. As a conformist rather than a nonconformist, she only inwardly displays the news in which Rand glorifies, in fear of being “shunned” by society or misunderstood. Through Dominique’s reluctance to fully embrace a selfish character, Rand suggests the discordance between the general views of society and an individualist standpoint. She notes a certain corruption within society that is unable to accept, or grasp, this notion of objectivism. As expressed by Dominique, she would rather “destroy” Roark herself rather than see him get destroyed by a society that may never understand his greatness. In a sense, she cannot bear to see such a flawless idea get destroyed. Thus, when she criticizes Roark in the novel, she seemingly criticizes himself and his art in a very twisted manner. Perhaps, true art as an outcome of objectivism is too “beautiful” and personal to be shown in public. Dominique ultimately serves as a foil to Roark not only to accentuate his character, but to express both a great concept that is nowhere near suitable for a corrupted society. In essence, the originality and nonconformist within Roark will eventually put him down.

While Dominique’s ideas of objectivism parallel with those of Rand and emphasizes on the greatness of Roark’s character, her behavior further accentuates objectivism yet opposes the behavior of Roark; it is at this point where she a Roark truly diverge. Her behavior brings out the social sacrifices one must make for selfishness. The closing segment of the book witnesses a character development in Dominique: once afraid of the reaction of society, she then fully joins Roark’s side, breaking her pessimistic barrier and stripping herself of her fears. No longer vulnerable to the retaliation of society, she reclaims her old job on “The Banner.” The full circle ending truly exemplifies the greatness of objectivism, where Roark is depicted as a figure high up in the sky, encapsulating the image of Rand (and Dominique’s) ideal, perfect man. In Dominique’s eyes, Roark ultimately stands triumphant.

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Selfishness and Selflessness in The Fountainhead

March 18, 2019 by Essay Writer

The impact literature can impose on society remains striking even to this day. Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead contains themes that resonated so significantly with readers that it triggered a political movement, and assisted in forming the Libertarian party. The Fountainhead often referred to as “a novel of ideas,” brings some illuminating claims surrounding selfishness and selflessness to surface. The novel provides unique definitions for selfishness and selflessness, supporting Rand’s central theme of celebrating and encouraging individualism and freedom of speech. Rand explains her beliefs regarding selfish and selfless actions through each main character in the novel, exposing the nature in admirable characters versus malicious characters. Rand uses the often negative connotation associated with the word ‘selfish’ and the positive perception of the word ‘selfless’ to her advantage by reversing the roles for the theme of the novel.

In The Fountainhead being selfish is the virtue, while being selfless is a fault. Rand argues that you must identify yourself as an individualist and not continue to live life depending on other people’s judgments. An example of this is stated by self-proclaimed selfish (and proud) character Howard Roark in the following passage: “The thing that is destroying the world. The thing you were talking about. Actual selflessness.” “The ideal which they say does not exist?” “They’re wrong. It does exist—though not in the way they imagine. It’s what I couldn’t understand about people for a long time. They have no self. They live within others. They live second-hand. Look at Peter Keating” (Rand 633). Although being selfish continues to have a negative connotation attached to it, Rand suggests selfishness is simply the act of putting your own desires and opinions first, instead of seeking approval or advice from others. The only way to maintain the pursuit of happiness and ultimately achieve your goals is to put yourself and your wants first.

The theme of selflessness is also an important component to understanding Rand’s beliefs toward selfishness. Rand believes a selfless person is an unfulfilled person with zero sense of self or identity. In the quote above, Rand even goes as far to say that selflessness is “the thing destroying the world.” Selflessness in “The Fountainhead” means the lack of self and identity, rather than a selfless action (done for another) that commonly receive such high acclaim. Rand also goes on to state that despite evil being typically related to selfishness, the more accurate conclusion is that the most “despicable action” is due to the lack of one’s self. This notion is evident though character Ellsworth M. Toohey throughout the novel, but especially for being the “ultimate collector of souls.” This notion is also evident through Peter Keating’s malicious climb to the top of the architectural industry, and inevitable fall back to his mother’s house. Rand further commends selfishness when she introduces the idea that a person cannot be selfish (despite selfish actions) if they have no sense of self or individualism. Rand defines a selfish character as one who acts solely for their personal wants, while a selfless character acts only for the approval and admiration of others. Peter Keating is representations of this idea through the development of his character. Once a famous, successful, and praised architect, Keating is left at the end of the novel empty and almost lifeless. Rand uses Keating’s rise and fall tale to expose that true success and happiness does not come from what people think about you.

According to Rand, success is measured by a confident individual with an establish sense of self. Rand’s definition of selflessness directly ties to a person’s indecision. More often that not, people allow the opinions of others to influence their own decisions. Rand argues that a person should not seek the advice of others regarding important, life-changing decisions. An instance of this is demonstrated on page 22 when Howard Roark states, “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?” (Rand 22). This clearly demonstrates indecision as a problematic selfless action and should only be dealt with by finding one’s sense of self. Rand is stating her dissatisfaction with indecision while encouraging each individual to think for him or herself, and act based on what they desire.

Through The Fountainhead, Rand expresses the importance of identity, individualism, and thinking for one’s self. By expanding on such abstract subjects like selfishness and selflessness, Rand presents numerous ideas through one central theme. These words already had presumptions tied to them, but by not conforming to general beliefs Rand creates a complex and interesting outcome. The idea of selfishness is looked at as a virtue and admirable trait for expressing individualism, self-worth, and opinions. Moreover, the notion of selflessness is looked at as a fault, because of the absence of identity and the disgraceful actions that stem from its nonexistence. Rand also presents the notion that a person cannot be selfish without having a sense of identity or self. Or in other words, a person cannot act for oneself (selfishly) if he does not know him or herself. Lastly, selflessness inevitably ends up crawling in bed with indecision, a crippling problem creating the “cult of incompetence” within our society. Rand’s message is clear; think for yourself, be who you are, follow your dreams, and continue onto the pursuit of happiness with your freedom.

Works Cited Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. New York: Penguin Group, 1943.

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