Integrity in The Fountainhead
Integrity is a quality frequently sought after but rarely achieved; once achieved; it is even more rarely maintained. It is an elusive gem with the potential to inspire and transform a person. Unfortunately, it is often compromised – a valuable payment for something of lesser value- whether it be wealth, prestige, or social standing. This odd yet common exchange is demonstrated in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and is explored in the context of architecture. First, the concept of integrity is portrayed through Henry Cameron in the sense that he maintains his integrity yet is destroyed by society due to his uncontainable passion. Second, Peter Keating and partner Guy Francon willingly substitute not only their own integrity, but that of their buildings in exchange for wealth and popularity in society. Finally, Howard Roark defies and overcomes the seemingly destructive and menacing society all whilst maintaining his most precious possession: his honour. As is demonstrated throughout the novel, society despises passion, devotion, and individuality, and will often stop at nothing to destroy any hint of it. However, Cameron and Roark share an understanding necessary for true greatness: it is not only commendable, but desirable to be hated by society, because in being so, the precious gem of integrity has been sustained.Henry Cameron – though an architectural genius – is seen as a commercial failure among societal members. In essence, his unstable career as an architect is spent introducing the supposition to society that it is more admirable to be a commercial failure while maintaining genius, as opposed to sacrificing genius for the sake of social success. Essentially, Cameron fights for integrity in a corrupted society. The corruptor of this society – Ellsworth Toohey – convinces the public to hate Cameron on the basis of poor architectural skills. However, Cameron’s only mistake is that “he love[s] his work” (46), and has an unbridled passion for it. As a result, his passion is evident in his buildings, and screams in the faces of passersby. Ultimately, Henry Cameron’s work is passion; it is honesty, and fearlessness. Subconsciously, society hates Cameron for the sole reason that his early buildings manage to achieve what they cannot: pure honesty and uprightness. In truth, “men hate passion, any great passion” (45) causing them to reject Cameron’s own portrayals of passion. However, armed with Toohey’s excuses of ungodly architecture, society disguises these feelings of inadequacy by condemning Cameron’s work. Cameron admits to Roark that “thirty years of a lost cause” (64) is not as romantic as it sounds, and in a moment of regret, warns him to follow a different path saying “accept them, Roark. Compromise. Compromise now, because you’ll have to later, anyway” (62). Ultimately, in the moments of his career that Henry Cameron is most obsessed with his work, he is most successful. However, when his focus strays from his passion to the menacing public, his career gradually collapses. He begins not only to see them, but to fear them and their hatred; the public condemnation of Cameron, leads to the demise of Cameron. This fear is expressed when he asks Roark “do you ever look at the people in the street? Aren’t you afraid of them?” (64). Following this, Cameron admits that he fears these people, and in saying “the substance of them is hatred for any man who loves his work” (64) he is revealing the reason he has been destroyed by the masses. Only when he begins to recognize and fear the masses, is he overcome. Therefore, though Cameron recognizes that it is desirable to be hated by society for the sake of integrity, his fear of the masses lead to his destruction. By contrast, for Peter Keating and his advisor Guy Francon, their greatest fear is not sacrificing their integrity, but being hated by society. As a result, Keating and Francon readily surrender their honour for social popularity. Like a beggar so desperate for money he yields anything, such is Keating and his thirst for a respectable social standing. Contrary to Roark, who refuses to compromise his integrity for the sake of social acceptance, Keating compromises his morals, interests, and even the love of his life-Catherine-in exchange for prestige and false respect. The respect given him is false, because those who know of his sleazy escapades do not respect him in the least. This willingness to exchange integrity for abstract, worthless possessions is the fundamental difference which places Keating and Francon in an entirely different spectrum than Cameron and Roark. Just as the public hates Cameron’s buildings because they are honest and upright, Keating resorts to despising Roark because he represents everything that Keating never was. Peter claims that “it [is] not necessary to wonder about the reasons. It [is] necessary only to hate, to hate blindly, to hate patiently, to hate without anger; only to hate, and let nothing intervene, and not let oneself forget, ever” (194). In spite of this claim, the reason for his hatred is evident – just as men hate passion, they also hate integrity, for it is a surreal treasure that so quickly vanishes. Despite his contempt for Roark, after decades devoted to appealing to the insatiable public, Keating finally recognizes the truth: that hatred from society for the sake of integrity is not only the most respectable result, but the most desirable. In saying “I am a parasite. I’ve been a parasite all my life” (575) Peter Keating admits that he is truly poor, for even the things he has gained have left him empty. He verbally affirms the futility of all he has strived for when he says “I need a prestige I don’t deserve for an achievement I didn’t accomplish to save a name I haven’t earned the right to bear” (575). Gradually, societal love for Peter Keating only becomes a reminder to him of his readiness to sacrifice integrity, and he begins to desire their hatred instead.The internal tug-of-war between social acceptance and maintaining integrity that Keating struggles with throughout his career is not prevalent in the life of Howard Roark. In truth, it does not even exist. In contradiction to Keating, Francon, and even Cameron, Roark does not consider the opinions of society in the least; moreover, he claims he does not see them, saying “but I never notice the people in the streets” (64). His presence “[makes] them feel that he [is] not there; or perhaps that he [is] and they [aren’t]” (62). It is for this reason that Roark is able to overcome the hatred of society and eventually become not only an artistic and moral success, but also a commercial success – a feat which Cameron does not accomplish. Instead of fearing their contempt, Roark welcomes it, seeing it as a commendable and desirable result, because it reflects his greatest accomplishment: his relentless integrity. Unlike Keating, Roark builds entirely for the purpose of building, and in doing so, his own honour and uprightness are portrayed in these structures. As is the case with Cameron’s buildings, society chooses to reject them because they confidently and unashamedly represent passion and integrity – qualities that the majority of people no longer possess. Roark establishes in his conversation with Austen Heller that “a house can have integrity, just like a person…and just as seldom” (136), demonstrating that his buildings are the essence of what man should be. Unlike Cameron, who fears the masses and their capabilities, Roark expresses his distaste for them strongly, saying “do you not know that most people take most things because that’s what’s given them, and they have no opinion whatever?” (165). It is in this way that Roark and Cameron differ dramatically: while they both recognize integrity as a necessity that must be maintained, Roark overcomes the hatred that possesses society simply by refusing to recognize it as an obstacle. Success only exists if it is recognized as success. Failure only exists if it is declared as such. In the same way, the masses are only an obstacle if they are recognized as one. Roark refuses to see society as an opponent; therefore – until it directly interferes with his work in the case of the Cortlandt Homes – he does not view it as an opponent. Instead, society represents everything that Howard Roark does not want to be: dishonesty, corruption, and compromise. Realistically, if one was adored by people whose morals contradict one’s own personal morals, the present lifestyle would be questioned. Therefore, if Roark is detested by a group of people which stands for such faulty standards, this is not a downfall, but an accomplishment, for he has sustained his integrity. In conclusion, characters such as Howard Roark and Henry Cameron demonstrate that contempt from society is not only meritorious, but it also desirable. For in receiving hatred from those who so readily compromise their own honour, personal integrity is re-established. This is demonstrated by various characters throughout the novel, such as Henry Cameron who – though managing to preserve his own integrity – is destroyed by a society whom he fears. It is contradicted by Peter Keating and Guy Francon, who represent those in society that only realize too late that integrity is one’s most precious possession. Finally, Howard Roark is the image of this ideal as he not only overcomes the masses in the pursuit of integrity, but becomes a moral, artistic and commercial success. In brief, integrity is not only humanity’s most valuable possession, but it is also the most influential, for by fighting to maintain its existence, honesty, truth, and a faultless world are also fought for.
Dynamics of Egotism and Altruism in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead
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
These Rocks: Man-Worship, Power, and Apathy in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead
Man’s fabric, biblically, is dirt. Under the misnomer of “soil,” this substance signifies filth; yet it is essentially pure until Man soils it himself, with blood or spit or footprints, just as Eve first laced it with the juice of an apple. Biologically, the zygotic recipe for a human results from two other humans’ animalistic urges, hormones, and, sometimes, emotions. This act, like dirt, can remain beautiful or become tainted. Thus Man harbors responsibility for his own cleanliness and significance. If he holds a handful of the soil that made him, or observes through a microscope the haploid his cells sprang from, and declares it insignificant or filthy, he has declared himself the same; if he finds beauty, greatness, and potential in his roots, he has discovered these within himself. The latter, classified as “man-worship” by Ayn Rand in her introduction to The Fountainhead, is practiced by several characters, particularly Ellsworth Toohey, Gail Wynand, and her protagonist, Howard Roark. The Fountainhead outlines three basic classes of power: traditional, reversed, and apathetic, applied by Wynand, Toohey, and Roark, respectively. The salient similarity between these men and their techniques is their firm belief in the aforesaid concept of man-worship: the ability to see “not what men are, but what men could be” (328). Each man’s expression of this complements the way in which he commands power, as well as his goals in doing so. Traditionally, attaining power results from outward superiority and intimidation. Such is the practice of Gail Wynand. Born into poverty with “nothing but his two fists” (400), he utilizes his physical strengths for power over his gang, and his intellectual strengths to influence adults; the latter continues into his own adulthood. By the age of fifty-one, Wynand has gained everything he wanted as a child and more. He is also contemplating suicide. Men fear Wynand; by threatening their reputations and businesses, he threatens their security. They feel compelled to give him what he wants in order to save themselves. Yet Wynand also has a sort of “charming complaisance about being used” which lulls others into a false sense of security, only to realize “they had been used instead” (411). This same sort of charm links Wynand to his adversary, Ellsworth M. Toohey. Toohey, like Wynand, learns his preferred form of manipulation early on in life; unlike Wynand, Toohey veers towards his intellectual supremacy. Rather than assert himself as the more powerful person, he humbles himself, even as a child, so that others view him “like a martyr” and treat him with “a respectful solicitude” (294, 295). He instills in others that same sense of safety as Wynand, as well as a deep sense of trust. Also, by admitting his faults openly before others can point them out, Toohey subconsciously convinces others that, in reality, he has no faults. This and, essentially, all of Toohey’s methods, work because of reversal—doing the opposite of what is obvious. Rather than say what he wants people to do, he makes subliminal suggestions until that person thinks he or she not only wants the same thing, but conceived the idea alone. Indisputably, Toohey’s greatest tool is reverse psychology. His motives can sometimes provide justification, such as his exploitation of Hopton Stoddard in order to acquire a home for subnormal children; the fallacy in his charitable intentions, however, is its lack of true function. The home has no true purpose after its conversion from Roark’s temple. Its inhabitants, in fact, “had to be taken from other institutions” while, out in the street, “children from the slums nearby would sneak into the park of the Stoddard home and gaze wistfully at the playrooms, the gymnasium, the kitchen beyond the big windows. These children had filthy clothes and smudged faces…and eyes bright with a roaring, imperious, demanding intelligence” (385). A great deal of Toohey’s endeavors produce the same sort of results, and one begins to question if his goal is truly humanitarianism, or silly entertainment. Either way, intentional or inadvertent, Toohey is driven by oxymoronic motivations: those which are useless. Following his expulsion from architectural school, Howard Roark stands at the edge of a cliff, admiring not the view, but the cliff itself—its material, its structure, the angles jutting from the rest of the landscape—and realizes “these rocks…are here for me; waiting for the drill, the dynamite and my voice…waiting for the shape my hands will give them” (16). Immediately, Roark establishes a crucial principle in Rand’s philosophical school of man-worship: the earth is at Man’s disposal. This is not to say Roark endorses the frivolous waste of natural materials, but rather, wiser, more complete usage. Roark stresses simplicity and integrity, in both men and buildings; unlike most of his mainstream colleagues, e.g., Peter Keating, Roark refuses “to choke [a building] with trimmings” and “sacrifice its purpose to its envelope” (165). He uses only what is needed—much like his lifestyle. Wanting only what he needs and not needing much, Roark frees himself through simplicity; likewise, through apathy, Roark remains emotionally unfettered by societal judgment. These two elements become the source of Roark’s power. Obviously, having obtained it unconventionally, Roark does not harbor the conventional idea of power—that is, influence over others. Instead, he possesses something rarer: influence over himself. Following his graduation, Peter Keating contemplates his future through others’ opinions. When he turns to Roark, he asks, “‘How do you always manage to decide?’” to which Roark responds, “‘How can you let others decide for you?’” (33). The contrast of these two young men, the complete divergence of their previously shared path, is as evident here as it can ever become. Keating continues through life like a lump of clay, taking form from whatever hands touch him, “‘a mirror…to reflect [people] while they’re reflecting too’” (426). Roark, on the other hand, allows few external influences into his life, if any; it is difficult to say if Cameron, Mallory, and Dominique shape him, or vice-versa. Wynand, Toohey, and Roark represent three drastic variances of Man and his assertion of power. Each, however, sees his world from an “aerial view,” able to scan it for strengths and weaknesses without any restrictions. What distinguishes one man from another is what he decides to do with his “view,” be it blatant exploitation, underhanded manipulation, or a silent, subtle revolution.Work Cited:Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. 50th Anniversary ed. New York: New York, 1993.
Morality and Happiness in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead
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.
Human Reason in The Fountainhead
From Aristotle to modern times, the faculty of human reason has been the subject of contrasting depictions in literature. In Crime and Punishment, for example, Fyodor Dostoyevsky emphasizes the tragic outcome of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov’s obsession with rationalization; in the end, the protagonist rejects his intellect and embraces religious faith. With The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand presents an opposing viewpoint – that human reason is the foundation for achievement and happiness. The fictional world of the novel includes the rare few who use their capacity for rational thought, and the masses who, according to Howard Roark, do not want reason on their side. Though Roark never doubts the power of rationality, Dominique Francon and Gail Wynand partially surrender to the reign of absurdity, and Ellsworth Monkton Toohey and his lackey Peter Keating represent the forces of complete irrationality. This spectrum of attitudes serves to dramatize the philosophy outlined in The Fountainhead, or the essential difference between first-handers like Roark and second-handers like Keating.Society in The Fountainhead is remarkably averse to truth and reason. The New York Banner is most successful when it ignores logical evidence in favor of emotionally-charged content. For instance, the Banner attempted to help two individuals, a struggling young scientist and a pregnant chambermaid: “One story was illustrated with scientific diagrams; the other – with the picture of a loose-mouthed girl wearing a tragic expression and disarranged clothes” (408). The logically articulated plea yields less than ten dollars in aid, while the lurid pictures of the pregnant chambermaid attract over a thousand dollars. Wynand shows this disparity to his staff because he wishes to demonstrate what holds more sway among readers: pure emotions and gut-level thinking. The content of the Banner is “without any necessity for an intermediary process of reason, like food shot through the rectum, requiring no digestion” (409). The fact that the young scientist is far more likely to make a significant, beneficial impact on society is immaterial; rational decision-making requires a conscious effort people are unwilling to make.But irrationality has far deeper roots than simple mental lethargy and irresponsibility, especially for members of the New York elite. It provides an excellent escape route from reality. People like Peter Keating depend on others for their existence, because their self-confidence derives entirely from their public image. When Keating meets Guy Francon, they get along fabulously precisely because they do not value each other based on rational criteria, as evidenced by Francon’s demeanor toward Keating: “The approval, together with that wise half-smile, granted him a grandeur he did not have to earn; a blind admiration would have been precarious; a deserved admiration would have been a responsibility; an undeserved admiration was precious” (53). The admiration is undeserved – in other words, without reason. Keating subconsciously knows that he prefers to not be judged by his professional abilities or his personal integrity, but rather in his ability to expropriate the work of others and unquestionably affirm every statement Francon utters. Keating does not want to look in the metaphorical mirror and see his incompetence and dishonesty. Rather, he wants to have his cake and eat it, too – he craves the admiration earned by brilliance and sincerity but does not wish to act accordingly.Characters that subscribe to the perversion of rationality can be divided into two groups: those who understand the implications of their actions, and those who do not. Keating blindly embraces irrationality without understanding that it makes him a hollow man; public adulation never translates into true self-respect and happiness. In contrast, Ellsworth Monkton Toohey understands exactly how he manipulates reality, and the implications thereof. His use of irrationality is a means to a different end, however – one that is far more sinister than wealth and fame. Toohey sees reason as the only threat to his quest for power. Only individuals who possess an independent, uncorrupted mind can succeed in foiling his plan to utterly control public opinion and the masses. He writes in “One Small Voice” that he would rather be kind than right, and merciful than just. Determining what is right and just require the faculty of reason, which Toohey opposes. Instead, Toohey asks that people be kind and merciful, and trust their hearts, not their minds: “Speaking anatomically – and perhaps otherwise – the heart is our most valuable organ. The brain is a superstition” (304). Without reason to guide them, the public is easily manipulated, allowing collectivist propaganda in the form of “One Small Voice” to exert great influence in molding public opinion. In making reason irrelevant, Toohey wants to crush the men of ability; he wants a world flattened to the lowest common denominator, a world of mediocre men and insignificant relationships. The Council of American Builders shows his progress in this direction; the meetings are listless, without rational purpose. The Council of American Writers, too, reflects Toohey’s purpose. Chairman Lois Cook writes in a stream-of-consciousness style that has no profound meaning whatsoever, resembling gibberish more than literature. Toohey knows that with the death of reason will come a new world order, one in which he is superlatively prepared to take control.Compared to other architects and most of his potential clients, Roark’s respect for reason is unimpeachable. He hires his workers not based on their family names or appearances, but their ability: “[I]f a man worked well, he needed nothing else to win his employer’s benevolence: it was granted, not as a gift, but as a debt” (309). Competence at the job is the only logical criterion when it comes to hiring, and thus the only reason Roark considers. Roark also applies his intellect to designing buildings such as the Heller house, which spring organically from the surroundings, with form supporting function, instead of irrationally imposing an arbitrary Classical or Gothic look. Roark also understands that no compromise can exist between reason and anti-reason: the result is always the latter – an abortion of a building, of a life.Similar to Roark, Dominique acknowledges the virtue of rationality. But she finds herself unable to bear the expression of beauty among ugliness – the work of a pure, uncompromising mind in a world of chaotic hypocrisy. She eloquently declares her position at the Stoddard Temple trial: “When you see a man casting pearls without getting even a pork chop in return – it is not against the swine that you feel indignation. It is against the man who valued his pearls so little that he was willing to fling them into the muck” (356). Dominique would rather destroy all genuine artistic achievement than see it unrecognized and scorned. She would rather sink her statue into the ocean than see it accumulate insulting graffiti. For most of the novel, her philosophy can be summarized as thus: if the world is irrational, commit intellectual suicide and conform to it.The architect, not of buildings, but of a massive media empire, Gail Wynand is a could-have-been. Early on a member of a street gang, he shows an adept command of his mental faculties, exemplified by his strategic choice of time in looting the barges and his determined self-education. But he commits a fatal error when he chooses power in exchange for lowering himself to the level of the public and founding his paper on irrationality. A leash is truly a rope with a noose at both ends, and Wynand hangs himself. To please his readers, he must allow his papers to praise mediocrity simply because the mediocrity is created by well-liked people like Peter Keating; he fires Dominique for attempting to uphold the truth. He contemplates suicide when he first understands that true power comes from within, from an uncorrupted ego and intransigent rationality, but it is already too late. His attempts to assert himself over the issue of Howard Roark and the Cortlandt case result in failure, because he has never controlled the public; the public controls him and breaks him. He surrendered his ability to fight them – an unsoiled mind – long ago.Speaking to Wynand in the yacht, Roark identifies disrespect for reason as one of the key characteristics of a second-hander, one who lives not in himself, but in others. Roark affirms, “When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness… second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another” (606). Roark speaks in absolute terms because there can be no compromise. One plus one cannot equal anything except two. Furthermore, Roark knows that reason cannot be distributed and contracted out. Speaking at the Cortlandt case, he states that “there is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise… a secondary act” (679). The primary act must be carried out by each man himself, because to relinquish an independent mind is to leave the ego defenseless; to ignore the sanctity of the ego is to become a second-hander, doomed to self-doubt and unhappiness.Only through perceiving reality as it is and making rational choices can freedom be achieved, ethics followed, and purpose in existence gained. Howard Roark regards reason as critical to architecture as well as life – to him, ignoring reason is tantamount to building with only straw and glue. As glass and steel are to skyscrapers, thus is reason to man. As Dominique rises to meet Roark at the end of The Fountainhead, Roark does not appear dwarfed and weak – the girders of the Wynand Building are made of the same material as Roark’s mind and spirit.
Personification of Objectivisim in The Fountainhead
Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead showcases four men who exhibit varying strength of character, resolve, and ethics to create a concise illustration of the distinct levels of objectivity that pepper the spectrum of the human character. The obvious protagonist of this literary work, Howard Roark, is an exquisite personification of Rand’s philosophy, while the other three main characters are depicted in terms of their opinion of and relationship with Roark. The four parts of The Fountainhead primarily address the character for which they are named, but Roark is a vital, indispensable force throughout the novel, and characterization of the other three men would be impossible without him. By using a writing style that reflects Roark’s Objectivist philosophy – absolute, unwavering, and unadorned – Rand constructs obviously simple characters to present an uncluttered allegory for Objectivism.When we first encounter Howard Roark, his primal intimacy with the natural world is made brilliantly evident through concise, beautifully illustrative language. The Metaphysics of Objectivism, that the external world exists independent of man’s consciousness and that man’s task is to perceive reality, not invent it, are personified in Roark. As he stands on the cliff at the book’s commencement, he appreciates the natural beauty around him while remaining a separate entity. The concept of man shaping nature emerges as Roark muses on the landscape that surrounds him; “He looked at the granite. To be cut, he thought, and made into walls. He looked at a tree. To be split and made into rafters. He looked at a streak of rust on the stone and thought of iron ore under the ground. To be melted and emerge as girders against the sky.” (16.) Roark is further a perfect example of Rand’s doctrine in that he rejects mysticism, particularly in his discussion of the Stoddard Temple. He tells Mallory, “The place is built around it. The statue of a naked woman. If you understand the building, you understand what the figure must be. The human spirit. The heroic in man. The aspiration and the fulfillment, both. Uplifted in its quest – and uplifting by its own essence. Seeking God – and finding itself. Showing that there is no higher reach beyond its own form…” (332) In this assertion, not only does Roark reject faith as a means of gaining knowledge; he explores his confidence in the value of the individual, beautiful, priceless human spirit. Furthermore, he expresses the idea that art should be “a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgements.” In other words, Roark conforms to Rand’s philosophy by remaining true to his art, architecture, throughout the novel in order to preserve it as a unique and primary offspring of no soul but his own.Gail Wynand is The Fountainhead’s only main character who does not fit neatly into the black-and-white distinction between Objectivists and non-Objectivists. While he fully understands and appreciates the philosophy of Objectivism, Wynand has chosen to conduct his media empire as its antithesis because he feels that he cannot survive otherwise. It may be argued that Wynand understands Objectivism even better than Roark does, as Wynand has subjected this system of values to closer scrutiny in order to manifest its polar opposite in himself. It is certain, however, that Wynand appreciates the fact that not all men are equal. He differs from Roark in that he has not attempted to dedicate his life to his own individuality, but he has used this fact to become a model of material wealth and deficit of soul. He takes pleasure in corrupting men with ideals, hoping to prove that an incorruptible man does not exist. After his first conquest, a talented young writer who had a reputation for staying perfectly true to his ideals, “…(Wynand) laughed too long, as if he could not stop it; his laughter had an edge of hysteria.” (414) His private art gallery is a synthetic soul that takes the place of the one he left behind. He acknowledges this, saying, “Every man on earth has a soul of his own that nobody can stare at…everybody but me. My soul is spread in your Sunday scandal sheet…so I must have a substitute.” (413) His appreciation for art is harmonious with the Objectivist mindset, and the gallery allows him to appreciate beauty, yet it serves as a torturous reminder of the ideals of his youth.Wynand does, however, subscribe to reason and capitalism in his own life, for these have facilitated his rise to power. He uses reason to survive in the business world by producing what the public will buy, and he capitalizes on the public’s interest in the absurd, tawdry, and scandalous. When Wynand encounters Roark, they have an instantaneous connection, as is the case with all men who truly understand Roark’s genius and ideals. Roark refuses to be corrupted by Wynand, so Wynand must re-evaluate his worldview. As their relationship becomes stronger, Roark gives Wynand the capacity for redemption, but ultimately the mogul rejects his own salvation so as not to destroy the empire he has built. In his final act of the novel, Wynand acknowledges all that has transpired by commissioning Roark to build the Wynand Building “…as a monument to the spirit which is yours…and could have been mine.” (692)The weakest of the four main characters of The Fountainhead is Peter Keating. While Roark is first introduced naked, alone, in nature, contemplating and reveling in his own genius, Keating is presented shrouded in a graduation robe, constantly mulling over the opinions that others hold of him, comparing himself to others, and evaluating and re-evaluating his opinion of self-worth based on these opinions and comparisons. Initially, he serves as a foil for Roark, but by the book’s end he has become a broken man who is not worthy of such distinction. Keating is in disharmony with Objectivism in that he is parasitically reliant upon others for his sense of value, ideas, and decisions. The need for approval motivates every decision he makes, leading him to inevitable dejection and failure. Searching for what he thinks others will find enviable, Keating only encounters more pronounced emptiness of spirit as his material wealth increases. He both abhors and relies on Roark, his detest intensified by his dependence on his far more talented peer. While working with him at Francon & Heyer, “(Keating) felt a sensual pleasure in giving orders to Roark; and he felt also a fury of resentment at Roark’s passive compliance. ” (91) All of Keating’s suppressed jealousy, resentment, and rage, as well as his mental justifications for his contrived superiority to Roark, explode when he visits Roark. He cries, “Who do you think you are? Who told you you could do this to people? Why should I listen to you? You can’t frighten me! You can’t touch me! I have the whole world with me! Don’t stare at me like that! I’ve always hated you! I always will! I’ll break you some day, I swear I will, if it’s the last thing I do!” (193) Several brushes with understanding escape Keating, the most intense of which, ironically, is interrupted by a phone call from Toohey. When he begins to comprehend the ideals of Objectivism and attempts to reconcile his childhood dream of becoming a painter, Roark unpityingly tells him that it’s too late.From Rand’s introduction of Ellsworth Toohey as “…a thin little body, like that of a chicken just emerging from an egg,” (227) he is the advocate for the small, mediocre, and everyday. Toohey, the antithesis of everything Roark embodies and Dominique desires, strives to suppress and ultimately destroy individual thinkers like Howard Roark and Stephen Mallory. Toohey makes his designs for society obvious in a conversation he has with Dominique, saying, “Don’t you find it interesting to see a huge, complicated piece of machinery, such as our society, all levers and belts and interlocking gears, the kind that looks as if one would need an army to operate it – and you find that by pressing your little finger against one vital spot, the center of all its gravity, you can make the thing crumble into a worthless heap of scrap iron?” (346) This statement confirms Toohey’s calculating nature, and also presents an allusion to world affairs at the time of The Fountainhead’s publication. The world behind the iron curtain, in Rand’s opinion, is nothing more than a worthless heap of scrap iron. Toohey contradicts the Epistemology of Objectivism, that reason is man’s only method of acquiring knowledge, as he tells the thousands who parasitically rely upon his counsel to reject thought in favor of blind belief. Only when the genius of the individual is destroyed in favor of the mediocrity of men like Keating can Toohey gain authority. Both Toohey’s sadistic nature and Keating’s weak soul are manifested as, “Keating knew suddenly that Toohey knew he had not designed the plan of the Cosmo-Slotnick Building. This did not frighten him. What frightened him was that he saw approval in Toohey’s eyes.” (229)Toohey does not meet a concretely ruinous end, however. A Marxist society continues to loom on the horizon and altruism remains a commonly accepted “virtue,” with Toohey already contriving his rise to power. After the Banner is shut down, he takes a job at “…the Courier, a paper of well-bred prestige and uncertain policy,” (689) where he can quickly and easily gain control. These facts are inconsequential, however, because Roark remains true to himself, and he has succeeded in living on his own terms, with the woman he was destined for remaining by his side.It is a truly complex novel that can create such an elaborate web of characters with each one being indispensable to the novel’s development. Rand does just this as tens of assorted supporting characters enter and exit the lives of Wynand, Keating, Toohey, and Roark, all the while creating a masterpiece of an allegory for the unique, priceless, individual human spirit.
Practical Success vs. Morality
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.
The Trials of Howard Roark
Howard Roark’s character in The Fountainhead is unwavering and beyond the effects of time, people, and mass opinion. Much of Roark’s effectiveness and integrity is drawn in contrast, a contrast to the ever-changing beliefs of those around him. These differences, and Roark’s steadfast character, can be tracked through the two trials of Howard Roark. The first trial, the suit against Roark from Stoddard, involves the same cast of characters as the second, when Roark is accused of dynamiting Cortlandt. The differences in these characters’ testimony, the different atmospheres of the court room, and the different nature of the trial all illustrate Rand’s primary theme of the integrity and necessity of the egoist. The differences show not only the changing of mass opinion influenced by the powerful, but also the changes that Roark’s philosophy brings about to those whom he interacts with. The first trial in many ways mimics in a smaller proportion the philosophy brought out in the second. The result is the increased success of Roark’s testimony in the second trial, not towards the verdict, but to the reader.Behind the existence of Stoddard v. Roark is the influence of Ellsworth Toohey. Toohey, the anti-Roark, is the champion of altruism and collectivism. He is opposed to individualism in order to rule the masses: “Empty man’s soul—and the space is yours to fill” (636). Toohey’s influence spreads far and wide. He has created every respectable board in every respectable creative field including architecture, literature, drama, and the press – and through his influence over the people within these boards, along with his architecture column in the well-known newspaper the Banner, he can control public opinion, tell the masses what to think, to love, and in essence destroy their souls. The only thing standing in the way of Toohey’s goal is what he calls the thinking man. As he explains his philosophy to Keating, he pushes the eradication of reason and rationality in man: “You tell him that there’s something above sense. That here he must not try to think, he must feel….Suspend reason and you play it deuces wild. Anything goes in any manner you wish whenever you need it. You’ve got him” (637). Toohey attempts to destroy the freedom of mind and the self-respect of every man. As for the individualism of Howard Roark, he says, “Can you rule a thinking man? We don’t want any thinking men” (637). Thus, Toohey sets out to destroy Roark, to turn the hatred of the masses he controls against him. He uses his influence over Hopton Stoddard to push him into giving the commission for the Stoddard Temple to Howard Roark. Stoddard then embarks on a voyage while the Temple is being built. When it is completed, Toohey criticizes the temple in his column as “the cell of a megalomaniac” that exudes “arrogance, audacity, defiance, self-exaltation” (339). The most important aspect of Toohey’s plan is the choice of the Stoddard Temple. Toohey (with the masses following) and Roark’s philosophy differ in the area of man’s place in the world. Toohey encourages humility and insignificance; Roark exemplifies the ego and greatness of man. Because of this difference, Toohey knows Roark will build a Temple of “self-exaltation,” one that he can easily discredit with the public sentiment of altruism and the religious conviction of self-sacrifice. He just as easily convinces Stoddard to sue Roark. Toohey and his influence on the masses is the driving force behind Howard Roark’s first trial.The audience at this trial is obviously under Toohey’s control, both directly through his testimony and indirectly through his influence over public opinion. The crowd consists of all of Toohey’s proteges and colleagues, “everybody knew almost everybody else.” The atmosphere radiated a feel of “‘our bunch,’ ‘our boys,’ ‘our show'” (348). As a result, when Toohey testifies, his speech that proves the Stoddard Temple as a “monument to a profound hatred of humanity” elicits a burst of applause from the audience (350). The effect of this atmosphere is also apparent over the judge of the trial. Although the lawyer objects to Dominique’s testimony, the judge lets her continue because “he knew that the audience was enjoying it, in the sheer excitement of scandal, even though their sympathies were with Hopton Stoddard” (356). The audience seems to be driving the verdict towards Stoddard’s victory.The two most important pieces of testimony, besides Toohey, are those of Peter Keating and Dominique Francon. Keating is Rand’s exemplary case of a “second-hander,” all his life Peter had never created architectural works of his own mind, but used history and Roark to construct his greatest buildings. At the start of his testimony, Keating is asked to list his great masterpieces, among which is the Cosmo-Slotnick building, a building designed by Roark. A change comes over Peter as he testifies against Roark, the man who is responsible for his success. His behavior is marked both with guilt and a desire for public approval: “He kept his eyes on the audience…he looked as if he were begging the crowd for support—as if he were on trial before them” (351). Keating uses this feeling, and his discomfort with Roark’s integrity, to turn his testimony into a drunken rage against Roark. Keating doesn’t understand he is a second-hander, but does understand that it is Roark who is making him feel inadequate and soulless. He blathers “I don’t see what’s so wrong with trying to please people” and later, talking about Roark’s respect for architecture and his true creative field, “What’s so damn sacred about it? …We’re only human…Why can’t things be simple and easy? Why do we have to be some sort of God-damn heroes?” (352). It is only later with Roark’s help that Keating realizes what he has become, what he in fact has always been. But at the first trial, Keating lashes out against his sense of inadequacy, made visible by Howard Roark.The plaintiff’s case proceeds with a string of architectural greats, men who have built their careers copying the great buildings of history without a single new idea, and ends finally with the testimony of Dominique Francon. Dominique is perhaps the most complex character in The Fountainhead. It is clear she recognizes Roark’s genius yet does not believe such genius can exist in this world of mass opinion and widespread collectivism. She loves Roark, yet she tries to destroy him. Her testimony at the first trial illustrates her conflicting feelings, feelings that will change by the time Roark’s second trial begins. To begin, Dominique seems like she’s testifying against Roark. She says that Stoddard should have sued “‘not for alteration costs, but for demolition costs'” (355). She says she agrees with all the preceding testimony against Roark, and she agrees that the Stoddard Temple is a threat to humanity. But she adds that the witnesses have not told the whole truth. “The Stoddard Temple is a threat to many things. If it were allowed to exist, nobody would dare to look at himself in the mirror…don’t ask them to achieve self-respect. They will hate your soul” (356). Dominique understands why the masses hate Roark. Roark has never succumbed to the opinion of others, has always upheld his convictions and ideas. She blames Roark not for building the Stoddard Temple incorrectly, but for building something most of the world can never understand or appreciate. She asks, “What is the use of building for a world that does not exist?” and later adds, claiming to prove the attorney’s case, “The Stoddard Temple must be destroyed. Not to save men from it, but to save it from men” (356-357). After Dominique’s testimony, the plaintiff rests.Throughout the plaintiff’s case, Roark refuses to question witnesses. After each witness, he says calmly, without fail, “No questions.” Roark does not offer a defense because he feels he doesn’t need to. His attitude, like the Stoddard Temple that Dominique describes, triggers hatred from the masses. Before the trial begins, the audience stares at Roark, alone at the defense table, and notices angrily that “he did not look crushed and he did not look defiant. He looked impersonal and calm.” The crowd could not accept this reaction to a public scandal, and could not accept that Roark was unaffected by the public’s opinion of him. As a result, all of the audience “hated him after the first few minutes” (349). A similar theme occurs on the witness stand. Each witness the plaintiff presents offers an opinion of Roark’s temple, and Roark doesn’t care about the opinion. Roark’s independence of opinion is evident through out the novel. For example, when Toohey is finally alone with Roark and asks what Roark thinks of him, Roark simple says, “But I don’t think of you.” Roark is completely independent, and the Tooheys of the world have no power over him. Accordingly, when asked to cross-examine witnesses who only have expressed opinions about him, Roark refuses. He also calls no witnesses of his own. He simply lays pictures of the Stoddard Temple in front of the judge to see. This reaction is very different from that of his second trial. But it is not because Roark has changed over the course of the novel, but because of the nature of the second trial itself. Because the second trial is fundamentally different from the first, Roark is able to testify. For now, however, public opinion wins, and Hopton Stoddard wins his suit against Howard Roark.Many years later, Howard Roark is put on trial again, for destroying a low-rent housing project called Cortlandt. Peter Keating, whose business is now failing, asks Roark to help him design Cortlandt in order to revive his firm. Roark agrees on the condition that the buildings are not altered in any way. Cortlandt is Roark’s masterpiece, a problem he had been working on for years, and a building he could never build because of the public’s opinion against him. However, Keating breaks the agreement, and, partially because of Toohey’s agenda, the buildings are altered by “two second-handers” that Toohey is trying to glorify. However, the trial does not exist because of Toohey, as in that of the Stoddard Temple. The trial exists because of Howard Roark’s ideals. Toohey, although he did know Roark designed the housing project, did not plan that Roark would go to the extreme of destroying Cortlandt. Roark himself is behind his trial because Roark needed to destroy the building. The nature of the second trial of Howard Roark is essentially different from that of the first. In the first, Roark was asked to justify his own work to others, which he felt no need to do. In the second, he must justify the destruction of not simply Cortlandt Homes, but what the altered Cortlandt Homes stood for.The atmosphere of the trial is changed. Toohey’s entourage is still in tow, but many others are present at the trial, “the human mass” whose “faces stood out, separate, lonely, no two alike” (674). Although they had come to witness the sensation of the trial, this audience is very different from Toohey’s celebrities of the first trial. These people “each had known a moment when, in lonely, naked honesty, he had felt the need of an answer” (675). This crowd is not under the utter control of Ellsworth Toohey. True, the crowd is referred to as the “human mass” and they’re motives for coming are not for sympathy on either side of the case. But they all are searching for an answer, an answer that Roark can provide for them.Another difference in this second trial is the presence of the jury that Roark, as defense, has a hand in choosing. The decision of Roark’s fate is no longer in the hands of a judge who simply wants to please the crowd or his own whims. Roark also chose a “tough-looking jury,” one made up of a variety of occupations (675). Each jury member looked as if he would not respond to an appeal for mercy. The jury is consistent with Roark’s philosophy. Roark does not appeal for mercy – he sees pity not as a virtue but as a vice. By choosing such a jury, Roark is choosing a fair judgment, one free of the altruism that he opposes. Therefore, by the decision of this jury , and by the masses searching for “an answer” at the trial, Rand recognizes that the masses are capable of understanding Roark’s philosophy, and affirms that the reader, too, can understand.The prosecutor’s case, unlike the plaintiff’s, exists not as a string of opinions about Roark, but only a string of evidence proving Roark was in fact the builder who blew up Cortlandt. On the second day of trial, the prosecutor’s only sensational witness is a much-changed Peter Keating. Although the testimony was supposed to be that of “a famous architect publicly confessing incompetence,” Keating bored the audience with his admission of guilt. Unlike at the first trial, when Peter cries out against Roark, Keating now knows that it is too late for him, that he is a second-hander. Earlier, he goes to Roark for approval, but this time for the paintings that he had always wanted to paint, but had forgotten because of his motivation for the lucrative profession of an architect. Roark had only to say that it was too late. Now Keating knows he has lost his soul. His testimony is described as having the tone of “only indifference” (676). Even the audience notices Keating’s surrender to his loss: “When Keating left the stand, the audience had the odd impression that no change had occurred in the act of a man’s exit; as if no person had walked out” (677). Keating realizes that he has lost his soul to collectivism under the guidance of Toohey. He can do nothing to save it. Dominique, although directly involved in the case, is not asked to testify. She now understands Roark, and is able to fully love him.Finally, after Keating’s testimony, Roark makes his case. He is now able to testify, because he need not defend what he created, but explain what he destroyed and why he destroyed it. He destroyed the evils of collectivism that Cortlandt Homes represented, and he is defending the destruction of the collectivism that is engulfing the United States. Roark’s testimony describes the persecution of the thinking man, the egoist, throughout the ages of history. He also describes a choice, not between altruism and domination, but between dependence and independence. Within independence is “the only gauge of human virtue and value” (681). He describes the second-handers, who only use the creations of others and depend on what others think of them. He describes the rulers of men who are not egoists but second-handers who depend on the submission of their subjects to rule. And he finally describes the true creators to which he dedicates his testimony. Roark’s speech is extremely abstract. It is only effective, not to the jury, but to the reader, because of the changes that have taken place from one trial to the next. We have seen the extremes Roark is discussing in each of the characters of The Fountainhead. Because of the reader’s close relation to the characters, there is a concrete foundation upon which Roark’s abstract philosophy rests in the reader’s mind. Rand uses the changing characters and build-up of philosophy between the trials to support Roark’s testimony. Between the first and the second trial Keating surrenders to the loss of his independence to Toohey, Toohey outlines his philosophy clearly to Keating, Dominique finally accepts Roark as part of this world, Gail Wynand, not born to be a second-hander, almost saves himself and then succumbs to the mass opinion. The path of each character shifts and converges at Roark, whose path is unchanging. The culmination of these transformations and philosophies is in the second trial, and Roark’s testimony achieves the purpose of The Fountainhead – to spread the ideals of individualism and objectivism. And because the jury picked by Roark understands, as Rand believes the reader should understand, he is acquitted.
Function of a Foil: Dominique Francon and The Fountainhead
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.
Selfishness and Selflessness in The Fountainhead
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.