Roark, Toohey and Keating and Rand’s Set of Values in The Fountainhead
At face value, The Fountainhead may seem like nothing more than a story of an architect who is not fully accepted by his society. However, Ayn Rand is much more clever than simply telling a fictional narrative. Through The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand is revealing what she believes to be as the fault in human society. The basic ideas presented throughout the novel such as independence, or lack thereof, is not particularly presented through the story’s society, but rather through Rand’s character choice and portrayal of these characters. By accentuating her beliefs through Roark, Toohey, and Keating, Rand is attempting to convince readers of the importance of individualism and reason in both societies and individuals.
Ayn Rand believes Roark to be a ‘creator’. In the first instance the readers are introduced to him, it is very evident the type of persona the young man has. Although at times it seems like Howard Roark has poor social skills and does not know how to interact with others, his overall sense of morals are very consistent throughout the novel. In almost every instance where Roark is presented with the opportunity to advance his agenda, he never takes it. The first prominent example is when he is given another opportunity to attend his University under special circumstances, after being kicked out for atrocious and overly modernistic buildings. Similar situations present themselves to Roark throughout the novel. Take for example when Roark is presented with the opportunity for large commissions or an opportunity for popularity. Unless Roark is able to construct his buildings in the exact image he imagined, he will not take any set of circumstances that further his agenda or destroy his original plans. Rand’s intention for Roark as a character becomes very clear as he continues to reject all of these incredibly amazing opportunities. Ayn Rand wanted Roark to seem almost like some kind of perfect being, who had absolutely no other intention than to do what he loved. He is a character who did not want to advance his career for his well-being. This attitude was for the “conquest of nature”. He wanted to see himself get better, not to manipulate others to further himself in either the world of architecture or just overall popularity. Roark is the true exemplification of individualism and pure logic.
Toohey in contrast to Roark is completely evil. He is an extremely interesting character only for the reason that he seems to have a silver tongue when he interacts with other characters. But his intentions are completely impure and corrupt. He is a ‘parasite’ in the regard that he uses people who are weak to make himself look better by comparison. With no talents of his own, he manipulates people to become an amiable figure in the eyes of the public. Toohey creates this false image of himself to seek validation and popularity from his society. This is prevalent with the progression of his niece, Catherine (Katie) Halsey. At first, Catherine is given small tasks that she believes are helping her uncle. They are extremely insignificant and Keating even sees them as such. Toohey realizes this, but uses it as a way to make Katie feel validated and gain her trust. He constricts her and coerces her to become a social worker. It is a profession he knows Catherine will only be mediocre at and if she follows the career, she will not be living up to her full potential. This is something Toohey admits to doing many times in his portion of the novel. Toohey preaches egalitarianism and altruism but in reality is only looking to gain power and recognition within his society. Rand wrote Toohey to be a true antagonist, making him the complete opposite of Roark and a personification of all the shortcomings of mankind
And lastly, there is Peter Keating the charming architect. When Rand first introduces him he seems to be a very likeable character. He is charismatic and charming, and constantly garners the attention of his peers. However, the further his character is developed the more convoluted the man seems to be. Keating epitomizes a ‘parasitic’ nature. This becomes especially evident within the first hundred pages of the book. Keating, despite his amiable characteristics to other characters in the book, is manipulative and disingenuous much like Ellsworth Toohey. He takes the jobs and tasks of other people at the Francon and Heyer architecture firm, until his coworkers are considered obsolete and no longer useful. Those people are then fired and Keating takes their position for his own upward mobility within the company. Keating does not once consider how he would be affecting the lives of others when he knows that his career will advance. He purposefully sabotages his best friend who was the main designer to take his position and even threatens Mr. Heyer into retiring so that Keating can become Francon’s new business partner. In the novel, Keating even admits to knowing that the shock of Keating’s plan to blackmail Heyer would shock him and when he died before Keating, it was exactly what he wanted subconsciously. And at times, he goes to Roark for help with his architectural drawings and take credit for them to become popular and advance his career. Keating continuously presents himself as a deceitful and underhanded man, who is only looking out for his well-being and not for the overall advancement of his profession or the well-being of his coworkers. Peter Keating is the embodiment of greed and one who is guided purely by emotions
“The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of men.” Through the over exaggeration of each of these characters’ core set of beliefs, Rand exemplifies her set of values. Rand shows exactly what she believes to be mankind’s downfall through the characters Toohey and Keating. These two characters show the selfishness and greed of human nature and are a complete contrast to Roark. Roark embodies Rand’s ideals, and fully symbolizes individualism and reason.
Role of Individuality in the Construction of the Self in The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead is a philosophical fiction novel published in 1943 by the Russian American writer Ayn Rand. The book was the author’s first overly successful novel, and is now thought of as a great introduction to her objective philosophy and other works of literature.
The novel was initially rejected by twelve publishers because “it was ‘too intellectual’, ‘too controversial’ and would not sell because no audience existed for it” (Rand, 1971, p. 6). However, no more than two years after its original release, The Fountainhead had become a bestseller. Today, 75 years after its publication, the controversial objectivist novel is considered a modern classic and continues to be a widely popular book, having sold over 7.9 million copies around the world (Ayn Rand Institute).
The ideas found in The Fountainhead have been the subject of a lot of controversy since its release. Some consider Rand’s philosophy in the book to be too extreme and unrealistic, while others believe them to have created a masterpiece of literature and philosophy (Matthew, 2007). Others, however, have simply not understood or overlooked the underlying story that is told through Howard Roark’s life in The Fountainhead.
The novel tells the story of Howard Roark, a young innovative architect that “struggles for the integrity of his creative work against every form of social opposition.” (Ayn Rand Institute). The Fountainhead narrates a tale that revolves around architecture, “the scientific art of making structure express ideas.” (Wright, 1955, p. 44). The theme of the novel, however, in the words of the author herself is “individualism versus collectivism … in man’s soul; the psychological motivations and the basic premises that produce the character of an individualist or a collectivist.” (Ayn Rand Institute).
Some of the concepts described in Ayn Rand’s novel can still be applied to today’s society, which is the reason why I am drawn to attempt to understand and explain the philosophy that is the foundation of the novel. The purpose of this essay is to carry out an analysis of Howard Roark and Peter Keating, two of the main characters that appear in Rand’s story, in order to answer the question: “What role does individuality play in the construction of the self according to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead?”
The aforementioned question is based on the entire theme of the book and has been of value to people since the novel’s release. The Fountainhead was a novel that described and analysed many of the flaws of the time’s society, such as the fear to explore new territory and their craving for people’s admiration. In the present, many of those flaws are still found in people around the world. In the past, it was important to understand The Fountainhead’s message to be able to analyse people’s behaviours. Today it is just as important. Through understanding Rand’s novel’s philosophy of the role of individuality in the construction of the self, it is possible to identify those characteristics in today’s society and understand why some elements of them are still the same almost a century later.
Howard Roark is the main character of The Fountainhead and Ayn Rand’s first representation of her objectivist philosophy’s ideal man. He is a true independent and individualist architect that firmly stands for his morals and beliefs, even when faced with obstacles from critics, colleagues and the society around him. Throughout the entirety of Rand’s novel, Roark finds himself in various different situations; sometimes he is successful, at other instances he’s at incredibly low points, being critiqued by multiple paper, unable to get a job, and at times even at court. However, there isn’t even one moment in which Roark stops being the individualist that Rand envisioned when she created him; he never once doubts or changes his beliefs, methods, or passion in the slightest.
Roark’s story in The Fountainhead begins when he’s expelled from the Architectural School of the Stanton Institute of Technology for not submitting to the institute’s traditions towards architectural design. Once this occurs, the school’s dean proposes to Roark to take a year off to grow out of his modernist style of “sheer insanity” (Rand, 1971, p. 21) and then resume his studies at the Institute of Technology. The young architect, however, refuses the offer saying “I won’t be back. I have nothing further to learn here.” (Rand, 1971, p. 22). He explains that all he needed to learn from the institute was in the structural sciences to later be able to create buildings in his own way, and that the institute’s traditions in architectural design would give him nothing, so it would be best for him to abandon his education at the Architectural School.
This expulsion is the first instance in which Roark is faced with the decision of ignoring his morals and being successful, or standing for his beliefs and facing consequences. If Roark had decided to conform to the school’s artistic traditions, he could have graduated and become a renowned architect. Nevertheless, he chose to stand for his own architectural style at the expense of a degree for his education.
After leaving the Architectural School of the Stanton Institute of Technology, Howard Roark decides to move to New York to look for a job with Henry Cameron, another innovative architect who had been famous in the 1880s for being the first to create buildings in a never before seen style, which happened to be very similar to Roark’s. For years Cameron had been the best in his profession, but when Roark went looking for a job with him, he was “nobody anymore!” (Rand, 1971, p. 36). And yet, Roark went straight to his office and didn’t hesitate to work for fifteen dollars a week, because Cameron understood Roark’s style, story, and passion for architecture better than anyone else, and with him, Roark would be doing what he always intended to do, create new unique buildings that served their intended purpose.
Howard Roark described his rules for architecture in the following way. 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. A man doesn’t borrow pieces of his body. A building doesn’t borrow hunks of its soul. Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window and stairway to express it. (Rand, 1971, p. 24)Henry Cameron shared this idea, and for that reason, Roark didn’t even consider working with anyone other than him, even if it could have meant more recognition and money for him. This is another moment in Roark’s story where it is evident that the young architect cares more about his beliefs than about fame or success. Before heading to New York, Peter Keating, a fellow architect from the Stanton Institute of Technology, offered Howard to try to get him a job at Francon & Heyer, a very prestigious architectural firm. Roark, however refused, proving once again that he wouldn’t disregard his ideals to be wealthy and well-known.
After years of working with Henry Cameron, the previously famous architect retired, and Roark found himself having to work in other architectural firms, including Francon & Heyer, until he later was able to open his own office. Some years later, however, after a long time of not receiving any commissions, Roark was forced to close it due to his financial instability after having refused a project that would pay him a large commission. The young individualist’s submitted design for the project had been chosen, but the board had changed the architect’s building, modifying it to include Greek styles of architecture, a decision that lead Roark to decline the offer, even if doing so would mean he had to give up his office.
Once Howard had closed his office, he went to work at a granite quarry in Connecticut because, after seeing his modified design, he felt like he couldn’t be an architect for a while; he said he didn’t want to touch, see, or help architects do what they were doing (Rand, 1971, p. 198). Roark, when faced with financial instability, decided to work a plain workman’s job instead of compromising his morals and asking for jobs at prominent architectural firms or working on popular projects.
Throughout The Fountainhead, there are multiple other similar situations in which Howard Roark’s ideals lead him to reject offers and walk away from big opportunities; Roark’s life is full of these scenarios. However, there are only some instances in which Roark has been able to maintain his ideals and his designs have been unconditionally approved for projects, only to see them be changed later. Such was the case of Cortlandt Homes.Cortlandt Homes was a government housing project to be built in Astoria, on the shore of the East River. It was planned as a gigantic experiment in low-rent housing, to serve as model for the whole country; for the whole world. (Rand, 1971, p. 565)It was a project desperately wanted by Peter Keating, but his chances at getting it by himself were very slim. Thus, the renowned architect paid a visit to his previous fellow Stanton student, Howard Roark, and asked for his help. Roark agreed to design Cortlandt Homes for Peter with the one condition, for it to be built exactly as Howard designed it. The individualist agreed to get no recognition or pay for it, so long as the housing project was erected how Roark decided it should. This decision is described by Howard as “A private, personal, selfish, egotistical motivation.” (Rand, 1971, p. 580). Keating agreed, and both architects signed a contract that specified that, as long as Cortlandt was built following Roark’s design, the fact that the project had not been created by Peter Keating would never be known.
Once the Cortlandt Homes deal had been settled between Howard Roark and Peter Keating, and the former had given the credited architect all the sketches for the project, Roark went sailing with a colleague of his for a few months. When he came back, the individualist found out that two designer had been hired to work along Keating in the Cortlandt Homes housing project, and that Roark and Keating’s contract had been breached; his design had been altered.
In this instance, as opposed to the other situations mentioned, Roark doesn’t have to decide if he should pay attention to his morals when constructing a building. For this project, Roark had maintained his ethics and created a design; however, his ideals had been ignored and his vision had been changed, and the individualist had no say in the matter. Thus, Roark decides to dynamite the building.I destroyed [Cortlandt] because I did not choose to let it exist. […] I agreed to design Cortlandt for the purpose of seeing it erected as I designed it and for no other reason. That was the price I set for my work. I was not paid. […] But the owners of Cortlandt got what they needed from me. They wanted a scheme devised to build a structure as cheaply as possible. They found no one else who could do it to their satisfaction. I could and did. They took the benefit of my work and made me contribute it as a gift. But I am not an altruist. I do not contribute gifts of this nature. (Rand, 1971, p. 683-684)Here Roark demonstrates that he will in no way allow his ideals to be ignored; he will go to extreme measure only to make sure that his morals aren’t compromised. This is the exact reason why the individualist Howard Roark is Ayn Rand’s perfect embodiment of objectivism’s ideal man.
Objectivism is, in the words of the Russian-American creator of the system herself, a philosophy for living on Earth, a system of thought that describes the abstract principles by which a man must think and act in order to live a proper life (Ayn Rand Institute, 1971). She also said “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” (Rand, 1957). This is also a perfect description of Roark’s character, who also matches completely with objectivism’s definition of an individualist. Individualism regards man […] as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights — and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members. (Rand, 1964, p. 122)This is an excellent description of The Fountainhead’s protagonist. Roark is the only person in control of his life and his decisions, the only human that has the right to his life. In Rand’s novel, Howard Roark is a selfish person, an egoist. He is an individualist, he is the single owner of his life and his choices; he does only what is best for him and what gives him joy, which is what makes him an egoist, a person whose “individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action” (Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, 2018).
Because of Roark’s individuality, he was able to create his egoist personality, which, according to objectivism, is good. This is also what lead the architect to always stand firmly for his ideals and not let them be twisted by anyone in any way.
It is clear that Roark is the hero of The Fountainhead, and every hero has a villain. Howard Roark’s antagonist is society as a whole, but in Rand’s novel, this is portrayed through another main character of the story, Peter Keating. He is a conformist, and objectivism’s ideal representation of the selfless man; he will do anything to ensure himself a spot at the top of the social ladder. In The Fountainhead, Roark and Keating often found themselves in similar stages at their lives. Each architect’s situations, however, could not have been more opposite.
Peter Keating, like Roark, studied at the Architectural School of the Stanton Institute of Technology. Nonetheless, Keating’s situation was much different from Roark’s. While the latter mentioned was expelled before concluding his studies, Peter Keating graduated was “star student of Stanton, president of the student body, captain of the track team, member of the most important fraternity, voted the most popular man on the campus.” (Rand, 1971, p. 29) and had graduated with honors.
On his graduation day, Keating recalled having wanted to be an artist as a young boy; It was his mother who had chosen a better field in which to exercise his talent for drawing. “Architecture,” she had said, “is such a respectable profession. Besides, you meet the best people in it.” She had pushed him into his career, he had never known when or how. (Rand, 1971, p. 31)This is a good representation of how Keating only does what will please others and get him approval. He didn’t really want to study architecture; he didn’t want to graduate at the top of his class. He only did those things to get social recognition and because it was what others expected of him.
Peter’s graduation was on the same day as Howard’s expulsion, which meant that both architects set off to start their careers at the same time. On this day, when Roark had to decide whether or not to take the Dean’s offer to resume his studies in a year, Keating was faced with the choice of accepting a four-year scholarship at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris or a job offer at Francon & Heyer. After asking Roark’s -who also happened to be his roommate- and his mom’s opinion, he decided to go into Francon & Heyer because it was the option that would give people the most to say about Peter and would help him climb the social ladder faster.
In this instance, as opposed to Roark, who took a job because it aligned with his goals and ideals, Keating started working for a firm for no other reason than it paid well and would make him become a famous architect. Also contrary to Roark, all Peter Keating wanted to do was become a more popular architect, and to do this he would go to any extent. He began by taking a colleague’s job, when he started helping the firm’s favorite draftsman, Tim Davis, and making it known “with an air of naive confidence which implied that he was only a tool, no more than Tim’s pencil or T-square” (Rand, 1971, p. 66). Keating then complained to Guy Francon, Francon & Heyer’s co-owner, about Davis’ tardiness and unprofessionalism. This ultimately lead to Francion & Heyer getting rid of Tim Davis and giving his job and salary to Peter Keating.
Another example of Peter’s ways to get what he wants can be seen when he attempts to make Lucius Heyer, Francon & Heyer’s other coworker, retire so he could become the new firm’s partner. To obtain this, Peter goes to the old man’s house and threatens to have his licence taken away from him if he doesn’t retire. This causes Heyer to have a stroke and ultimately die, but Keating, despite having cause the man’s death, “felt nothing” (Rand, 1971, p. 186).
Both of these situations show Keating’s lack of morals and his drive to do whatever is needed to get higher in life. Peter will use and climb over any person he needs to without thinking twice about it, as long as it gets him to where he desires to be. Further evidence for this can be seen, when at times, like Roark, Peter finds himself in financially unstable situation. However, as opposed to the young individualist, what Keating does in this situations is ask other people for ideas for projects and claim them as his own. The Cortlandt Homes housing project is only one example of this one of Peter’s characteristics
After Guy Francon’s retirement, and once the great depression had hit Keating’s firm, the architect found himself being desperate for any project that would restore his name, and the Cortlandt Homes housing project was perfect for the task. The selfless architect, however, lacked the ability himself to come up with an idea for the project, and, as he did since his university days, relied on Roark for help.
The famous architect did not care about the project, its design, or its purpose; all he wanted was something that would get his name back on the papers and in people’s mouths, so he went to see Roark and accepted his request to fully design the building. Keating, however, had agreed to, in exchange of getting the project’s credit, ensure that the building would be erected exactly as Roark wanted it to. But Peter, when forced to work with two other designers, failed to keep his promise.
These character’s actions show Keating’s utter lack of ideals; he doesn’t believe in anything that he does. He has no feelings and no passion whatsoever for his work. All he cares about is being wealthy and famous. He can’t say no to someone; he only agrees and expects to be accepted for it. He is Rand’s representation of collectivism and an absolutely selfless person.
Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead: Novel Analysis
The Purpose of the Stoddard Temple
The Fountainhead is a novel full of scheming, plotting, and power struggles. Howard Roark, after avoiding the public eye for some time, leaves the sanctuary of the granite quarry and heads back to New York after being discovered by Roger Enright, a businessman, to design a new apartment building. Soon after the Enright House is completed, Roark receives many promising commissions from people such as Anthony Cord and Kent Lansing. All this time, Ellsworth Toohey observes the success of the young architect. Toohey, feeling his architectural authority threatened, decides that Howard Roark’s career must be destroyed to allow him to keep his power.
Ellsworth Toohey had built up a reputation in architectural critique by publishing a book and writing a column in The Banner, a New York newspaper. With this publicity, Toohey gains a public following and attracts an assortment of lost people. Being persuasively demeaning, Toohey indirectly convinces one of his followers to help him destroy Howard Roark. Hopton Stoddard, being afraid of not being remembered in the afterlife, is convinced by Toohey to build a temple with his name on it and to have it built by Roark. Stoddard, not understanding Toohey’s reasoning, ends up being spoon-fed what to say to get Roark to accept the contract. Toohey knows that Roark will build an original structure that can very easily be deemed inappropriate with a few simple words. By doing this, Roark would be destroyed with the help of Toohey pushing the public along. Through the Stoddard Temple, Toohey would accomplish his goal of destroying Roark.
With Howard Roark being an atheist, he does not believe in any sort of religion. Stoddard’s ‘temple of the human spirit’ is therefore seen differently through Roark’s eyes just as Toohey had planned. Roark ends up constructing a temple that captivates the vast achievements of mankind and elevates their success. Toohey ends up convincing the public in his articles, though, that religion is a way for mankind to remember they didn’t create themselves and how unimportant they are as individuals. Religious buildings, therefore, are supposed to be built in an intimidating style. Toohey uses religion, a common corner stone of society, to ruin Roark by uniting the public under the common banner of religious persecution. Toohey knows that religion is a passion that many people get defensive over. When the public heard the call, they were willing to fight without checking their facts. By branding Roark an enemy of religion, Toohey easily banded the public against him.
Ellsworth Toohey does have a deeper purpose in attempting to destroy Howard Roark’s career than just his designs. As a child, Toohey was frail compared to other kids. Instead of trying to better himself, Toohey became a bully. He used a calm, collected manner to lower people, including his parents, and raise himself up. Unfortunately, this bred a hunger for power in Toohey long before he started conquering social circles. From there, Toohey grew into a dependant that required the constant groveling of others, a sort of social leech. Doing his research, Toohey entered a nonexistent field of architectural critique and created himself a social status that was the start of a much bigger scheme. Toohey thought he had the world on a string, but Howard Roark came along. Roark is the opposite of Toohey: independent, creative, and courageous. Roark, being a shining star of Ayn Rand’s objectivism, is a man independent from public thought. Roark works for himself to conquer nature and better the world. Toohey, being dependent upon peoples’ emotions, hates all men like Roark because they clash with his attempt at controlling the public. In destroying Roark, Toohey destroys not only a man of integrity but a philosophy he had been against since birth.
The Stoddard Temple, while not the first attempt to destroy Howard Roark, is Ellsworth Toohey’s first plan to actually succeed. The plan was a winner from the beginning: the publicity during the construction kept the public interested in the project; Toohey’s articles spread a biased opinion throughout New York like wildfire; and the trial created a vision of a smug, conceited architect working for self-gain. Howard Roark, perceived to be distinguished by Ellsworth Toohey, was not done with his architectural career though. The battle between Ellsworth Toohey and Howard Roark, dependent versus independent, had just begun to simmer.
Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Characterization and Symbolism
How does Ayn Rand implement characterization and symbolism in The Fountainhead in order to explain objectivism?
The purpose of this essay is to discuss how Ayn Rand implements characterization and symbolism in her novel The Fountainhead in order to explain objectivism. The guiding research question was chosen, because it is clear throughout the novel that Rand uses these literary elements with the obvious purpose of conveying her personal philosophy. Rand’s views are so central to the novel, that any analysis of the work that fails to include an analysis thereof would be lacking in holistic context of the novel’s purpose. In regard to the guiding question, characterization can be loosely defined as the process by which the author reveals the personality of a character. Likewise, symbolism occurs when certain concepts represent an idea or philosophy separate from how they are concretely presented. Ayn Rand characterizes Howard Roark as an ideal model of objectivism, and she characterizes Ellsworth Toohey to demonstrate that objectivism is superior to any other philosophy by allowing him to understand the tenets of objectivism but simultaneously preventing him from acting in accordance with the philosophy; he rather acts against it. She further demonstrates the morality of objectivism through her incorporation of symbolic elements such as architecture and the concept of “the monster.” The elements of her objectivist philosophy that she achieves in explaining through these literary constructs are rational self-interest and reason. Rand’s philosophy dictates that reason is simply choosing to think when one is given the option either to think or not to. Reason should be viewed as absolute truth, as opposed to accepting reliance on emotions or faith as a source of knowledge. Objectivism also explains that rational self-interest is a necessary ethical consideration for people, because one must act in accordance to their own desires “in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, …which is his own life (“Introduction to Objectivism”).” Objectivism dictates that one cannot achieve happiness without their personal interest being the driving force of all of their actions; acting any other way would be immoral, because it would indicate choosing to not maintain the what should hold the greatest value—a person’s life. Two other tenets of objectivism include capitalism and reality, however the scope of this paper will focus mainly on self-interest and reason.
The objectivist principle of rational self-interest is a dominant component of the philosophy that exists within The Fountainhead. One method Rand uses to communicate the nature of self-interest is through the characterization of Howard Roark, the protagonist of the novel. Roark is an architect who gives little notice to others and is a self-proclaimed egoist. Shortly after Roark is introduced in the novel, it is revealed that he was recently expelled from the Architectural School of Stanton Institute of Technology. Roark meets with the dean of the school to discuss his expulsion, which occurred because Roark had never given architectural design “the attention that it deserves (Rand, The Fountainhead 21)”. After a while of speaking, the dean explains to Roark that he will likely be able to return to Stanton the following year, thanks to the dean’s persuasion of the school’s president and his colleagues. However, to the dean’s surprise, Roark rejects the offer. Roark ultimately explains that the reason he would not like to return to Stanton, and the reason he was expelled for that matter, “was insubordination (21).” During his enrollment, he purposefully gives modern sketches in response to problems that require him to use a specific architectural style such as Tudor or Greek. Roark’s insubordination to his professor of architectural design shows that Roark is not willing to be submissive to old architectural principles that are archaic and obsolete. He is too committed to his personal architectural standards to abandon them to instead “respectfully try to repeat (23)” other older structures or styles. Roark’s magnified sense of individualism portrays him as somebody who properly follows the objectivist philosophy regarding the self. Additionally, his opinions regarding architecture allow his vision of the ideal building to parallel Rand’s idea of the ideal objectivist.
Rand further conveys individualism through building through Roark, who sees men and buildings in a very similar light. Being a man committed to rational self-interest, he despises people who have no sense of self and no integrity; Roark explains to the dean at Stanton that “…he looked for a central theme in buildings and he looked for a central impulse in men (27).” Roark understands that people all have a driving force that plays a major role in everything they do, and he recognizes that buildings should have a similar central theme. This mindset allows for buildings and architecture to be introduced as a symbolic element in the novel; architecture ultimately becomes symbolic of humanity, and it is developed as such through Howard Roark’s convictions regarding the art.
Roark’s opinion of how buildings should be designed is also representative of how the ideal objectivist would act. A “rule” of Roark’s regarding buildings is that “The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail (24).” He believes that one cannot simply pick a style and build around that; he demands that the context of a building determine its design. For example, when Mrs. Wayne Wilmot offers Roark a contract to design her house, he refuses to build it for her, because she requires that the house be of the English-Tudor style. Roark knows that the design will not fit the house’s purpose, so he refuses to build it (162). This is significant because Roark is struggling financially, and any contract he could get would greatly improve his situation, but he would still not build the house. This shows how dedicated he is to the conviction that houses need to be created for a reason and based around one central idea. The fact that Roark will not go against this conviction even in times of trouble is a testament to his own devotion to one ideal, which further characterizes Roark as a human embodiment of Rand’s philosophy.
When Roark is in the process of constructing one of the first houses he ever creates, the owner of the house asks Roark why it is that he likes the house Roark built for him so much. Roark explains that “A house can have integrity, just like a person…and just as seldom (136)”. Roark goes on to explain the fundamental difference between houses with and without integrity; “The determining motive of your house is in the house. The determining motive of the others is in the audience (136).” Herein lies the same difference between people who practice rational self-interest and those who live for others. Roark names the former “second-handers”; he explains that, “They have no self. They live within others. They live second-hand (605).” The similarity between these people and buildings is that their sole purpose is to gain respect from others. Conversely, the goal of a man possessing a self-sufficient ego is to achieve happiness through self-motivated actions, and the goal of any of Roark’s buildings is to simply exist as a building that accomplishes the purpose for which it was built, not to gain prestige.
Roark indirectly identifies Mrs. Wilmot as a “second-hander” when he thinks, “There was no such person as Mrs. Wayne Wilmot; there was only a shell containing the opinions of her friends… (162).” This acts as yet another example of how Rand communicates her thoughts on rational self-interest to the audience. Mrs. Wilmot is described as a “shell,” indicating that she is empty inside and lacks happiness. Rand uses this example of an empty woman who is more concerned with others than with herself to demonstrate that one cannot achieve happiness by trying to impress other people, and that one can only achieve it by acting in accordance with their personal desires. However, Rand does not indicate that Mrs. Wilmot actually wants anything, because there was “no such person” as Mrs. Wilmot, thus the woman could have no real desires. This creates an even stronger argument for self-interest, because it indicates that if one relies too heavily on “the second hander’s delusion (607)”, which is synonymous to “gaining prestige from others,” he will eventually lose himself entirely.
Prestige is often discussed in the novel, and it is made out to be a very negative concept. Ellsworth Toohey equates prestige to a fiend when he describes the world as a place in which “man will not work for so innocent an incentive as money, but for that headless monster—prestige (638).” Toohey is an intellect and altruist with the hidden motive of seizing control of mankind, that being said, it’s significant to note that he is fully aware of how dangerous prestige is. Toohey is personally glad that he lives in the world as he described it, since he is bent on controlling it, which is something that is much easier for him to do when people are more concerned with that “headless monster” than anything else. Toohey describes the monster as headless to indicate that people in this society rarely think. He believes that instead of generating original thoughts, people are more concerned with what their neighbor is thinking, who is in turn thinking about what their neighbor is thinking, and so on. Rand uses the concept of prestige to communicate the importance of self-interest and reason in her philosophy by developing prestige so it’s perceived as mindless and in opposition to individuality. The morality of these ideals is further clarified by explaining the opposite of them to be evil by comparing it to a monster.
Rand also uses juxtaposition to emphasize the horrors that come along with prestige; she uses integrity to contrast prestige. Another important sense the characters in the novel experience is dignity, which is more closely aligned with prestige than integrity, contrary to what one might think. Integrity demands that a person have strong moral principles and be undivided in their total devotion to one belief. Alternately, dignity requires that a person be worthy of honor or respect from others. An example of this type of dignity from the novel exists when Guy Francon, the successful owner of an architectural firm is speaking with his most recent hire, Peter Keating. Francon mentions, “We must give our clients dignity above all (42).” Francon’s statement indicates that clients have to be “given” dignity, which is determined by one’s standing in front of an audience. According to Francon, an architect’s job “above all” is then to give his client a house that other people will enjoy. This is in contrast from Howard Roark’s mindset on architecture, for he believes that any house motivated by the audience’s opinion is a house that lacks integrity (136). This approach to the specific meanings of these words in the novel is very closely related to Roark’s thoughts regarding “second-handers,” who receive the houses and seek after prestige and dignity, and “creators,” like himself, who design the houses and seek after integrity.
Roark believes that similar to buildings with integrity, creators are people who are motivated by their own truth, not fellow man (678). It is impossible to live for or through others, and is angered when people are told to act as altruists and to be selfless, another word which the author uses in an untraditional sense to convey the importance of individualism. She uses “selfless” in a negative connotation so it means a person is actually without a self, because they are so concerned with pleasing others that they are unable to live for themselves. She also uses “selfish” with an unorthodox meaning in mind; it does not have a negative connotation, indicating that somebody who is selfish is evil or unkind, rather it simply means that this person is considerate of their own desires and needs. Roark maintains that “to think, act, and judge are functions of the self, of the ego (678).” In this appositional phrase, Rand also redefines the word “ego,” causing the word to shift from meaning one’s perception of self-importance or self-esteem simply to one’s perception of “self.” Rand uses these beliefs of Roark to demonstrate the connection between reason and self awareness. He thinks without the ego one cannot think or act independently. He firmly believes that “The first right of man is the right of the ego. His moral obligation is to do what he wants (682).” Because the ego is a requisite to independent thoughts and actions, this statement indicates that Roark is of the opinion that above all, mankind should maintain the right to individualism and rational thought. For this reason he does not believe altruism to be moral, for one cannot have a self if they are living solely for others.
Rand clarifies her opinion on this concept of altruism when Roark explains that “the world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrifice (684).” The use of the word orgy indicates that the world was destroying itself because it was indulgently partaking in indecent behaviour, which can be attributed to people’s desire to help others more than themselves. In addition to clarifying Roark’s disgust for altruism, this sentiment also indicates how unintelligent he believes the world to be because of its desire to be selfless. He indicates that the world is indulging in self-sacrifice and thereby dismantling itself, in other words the world is enjoying its own process of self-destruction. As a man who heavily relies upon reason to guide his actions, Roark cannot see the sense in this, especially because he believes the only way a man can truly enjoy any aspect of life is by providing for himself the things that he needs and wants.
It is because of Roark’s interest in seeking after his own happiness that architect Peter Keating approaches Roark and asks him if he would design the housing project Cortlandt Homes for him. In this case, Roark would do all the work, and Keating would receive the money, fame, and credit for being so altruistic as to help those in need of the homes that he had supposedly designed. The reason Peter asks Roark such an odd-seeming favor is that Peter knows Roark will actually get more out of designing Cortlandt Homes than Peter would. This is because Peter is only getting the prestige that society will give him for “his” design, whereas Roark is getting what man can earn for himself (581). Roark uses this opportunity to do what he loves by designing a building, whereas Peter ultimately gains nothing from the exchange except for the heightened sense of the fact that he is what Roark would call a second-hander, and what he himself would call a parasite (575). Roark tells Peter that he will fulfill the request as long as Peter would be able to have the “courage of [Roark’s] convictions (580),” meaning that Peter will be allowed to oversee the construction of Roark’s design, but he must promise that Roark’s exact building design would be erected. Roark knows this will be difficult, because most people do not appreciate the design of his buildings, and such people would want very badly to change Roark’s structure. The dean conveys similar dissent to Roark’s style of architecture in the beginning of the novel, saying that Roark is not great enough of an architect to develop his own style and improve upon traditional styles that were already “proven” to be beautiful (23). Most are unwilling to accept new forms of architecture, because they are overly reliant upon the merit of reputable architectural styles.
However, the fact that something’s reputation precedes its credibility presents a problem. Roark would assign the title of “second-hander” to anybody who refuses to accept a building simply because they are concerned with what its reputation will be. Roark is strongly against people’s’ tendencies to simply do what is expected of them for the reason of gaining respect from others or trying to fit in as a member of a collective. Roark agrees to design the housing project for Peter Keating simply because of his passion for architecture, but he knows it would be a challenge for Peter to erect Roark’s design in its exact form. Ultimately, Peter Keating finds himself unable to combat others who are involved in the construction process, and he cannot prevent them from altering the design. To make matters worse, Cortlandt Homes was initially intended to be an apartment complex that was designed to be inexpensive and well-suited to a middle-class individual or to somebody who simply wanted a home that wasn’t very costly. However, the draftsmen and builders entirely altered Roark’s intention for Cortlandt by not only making vast changes to the design, but also by remarketing the homes to make them seem as though they were built for the altruistic purpose of aiding the poor who otherwise could not afford housing. Upon seeing what Peter’s coworkers had done to Cortlandt Homes, Roark is horrified; his horror is later developed when he makes his decision to destroy Cortlandt Homes.
Roark ultimately decides to dynamite the buildings because they are a “double monster. In form and in implication (683).” Roark knows the building’s physical existence to be unacceptable due to the changes Peter’s coworkers made, assuming “the right to improve upon that which they had not made and could not equal (683).” Even more dreadful, the changes were made under the altruistic premise of doing so to help the poor. The former “monster” relates to the Dean at Stanton in the beginning of the novel, who asked Roark, “Who are we to improve upon [the great architectural masters]? We can only attempt, respectfully to repeat (23).” These two situations are significant because it analogizes Roark to a great architect by comparing him to somebody whose work cannot be improved upon. However, this is a false assumption, because the supposed “great masters” of architecture have designed far from perfect buildings, whereas Roark has only designed buildings that are flawlessly fitted to their purposes. Thus, there exists another discrepancy when the Dean uses the pronoun “we,” by which he incorrectly groups Roark into a collective classification for the commonplace architect, which is a group that by no means includes Roark.
In fact, Roark wars against the collective throughout the entire course of the novel. Roark explains that he had wanted to be an architect since he was 10 years old. He had decided this because he loved the Earth, but didn’t like the shape of things on it, so he wanted to change them to suit his own liking (49). However, he obviously encounters many setbacks in fulfilling his desires to change things and to build; an example of this can be seen whenever he deals with a second-hander who impedes his efforts of creating buildings. Roark explains that this struggle between second-hander and the creator has another name, “the individual against the collective (682).” The reasoning behind this sentiment is that every motivating force for second-handers lies within others, so they can be equated with the collective, whereas a creator is never “prompted by a desire to serve his brothers…His truth [is] his only motive (678),” so he can be defined as an individual.
That being said, Rand thoroughly conveys the importance of individualism through Roark’s convictions, which she aligns to the looming concept of the monster, which acts as Roark’s adversary and as a symbolic antagonist in the novel. Roark explains, “collectivism, the rule of the second-hander and second-rater, the ancient monster, has broken loose and is running amuck. It has brought men to a level of intellectual indecency never equaled on earth (683).” To reiterate, Roark believes the second-handers have achieved the power to subvert and destroy the world’s convictions, and that this is the source of collectivism. Collectivism comes with many detrimental impacts, Ellsworth Toohey explains that through collectivism, “we’ve taught men to unite. This makes one neck suitable for one leash (639).” Rand characterizes both Ellsworth Toohey and Howard Roark as individuals who understand the truth behind collectivism, being that it serves the purpose of a “monster,” ruining people’s’ understanding of the importance of rational self-interest. An important difference between Toohey and Roark however, is that while Roark is an advocate of individualism, Toohey works to increase the rule of collectivism in order to gain power over man. This foil makes this tenet of Rand’s objectivist philosophy clear, because Rand uses Roark’s characterization to show that individualism is beneficial to society, and she shows that collectivism is an extreme detriment to society through Toohey’s support of the collective and his ability to rule over anybody who promotes it.
It is for this reason that Ellsworth Toohey is the victim of a failed attempt at his life by Steven Mallory, a sculptor who eventually becomes Roark’s prodigy. Long after Mallory attempts to shoot Toohey, he confides in Roark, explaining “I shot at him because I think he knows everything about that beast (344).” The beast that Mallory is referring to is his greatest fear—to be trapped unarmed in a cage with a beast incapable of reason. He would do nothing but tell the absolute truth and give the beast plausible reasons as to why it should not eat him, but it cannot understand the reasoning (331–332). Roark replies with “The principle behind the dean (332).” Rand uses this “principle” in conjunction with the symbolic importance of the monster to demonstrate reason, an integral part of objectivism.
When Roark is expelled by the dean in the beginning of the novel, Roark attempts to use logic and persuasion to explain to the dean why students shouldn’t be expected to use archaic and historical designs for modern buildings. However the dean does not understand this reasoning, causing him to ignore what Roark says and insist that old styles of architecture are still presently correct and necessary styles of design. The dean explains to Roark, “Your only purpose is to serve him [the client] (26).” The dean believes it’s more important to consider what the client thinks than what is reasonably plausible and what one personally believes, thus demonstrating his lack of both logic and selfishness, which characterizes him as a person who is in total opposition to the tenets of objectivism discussed in this investigation. This circumstance also provides an example of how architecture is used as a symbol that aids in the explanation of objectivism.
Overall, Ayn Rand effectively implements literary devices to clarify the meanings of reason and rational self-interest. A large example of this exists in the characterization of Howard Roark, who is developed as a man who perfectly displays the qualities of objectivism, and whose convictions are perfectly aligned to Rand’s objectivist philosophy. Additionally, Rand characterizes Ellsworth Toohey and the dean at Stanton as foils to Roark, resulting in the audience’s better understanding of rational self-interest and reason, because they receive information from the opposing perspectives of collectivists and an individualist. To further convey the meanings of these two tenets of objectivism, Rand effectively uses juxtaposition and diction to reevaluate words such as selfish and selfless, prestige and integrity, and ego to challenge the beliefs of the collective, and to make her audience consider that their previous thoughts regarding concepts like altruism and prestige might not be correct. This is an effective method of persuasion, because she not only uses reasoning to discuss the superiority of her philosophy, but she also shows the audience that their fundamental understanding of key phrases regarding the philosophy are likely incorrect, thus making them more likely to be receptive of Rand’s explanation of the philosophy, knowing they have a flawed understanding of the concept. Finally, Rand incorporates symbolic elements such as architecture and the monster to respectively create a clear analogy for humanity and to display the detriments of the collective on society as a whole. Buildings become representative of people, in that both possess either integrity or prestige, which is the concept that the monster demonstrates as inherently negative to an individual’s ability to thrive. Holistically, Ayn Rand expertly integrates the discussed literary elements and devices into The Fountainhead in order to leave her audience with a clear understanding of two integral parts of her objectivist philosophy, rational self-interest and reason.
A Theme Of Freedom in Fountainhead Novel
At the end of Part II, Ellsworth Toohey confronts Howard Roark and says, “Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me?” To which Roark replies, “But I don’t think of you.” This so called “brief exchange” may seem insignificant, but in reality, this moment summarizes the main theme of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. It surrounds Roark’s striving for independence in the dependent world he lives in. He chooses to think, decide and act for himself in his life choices and his career; he sees his ideas and his ways the only way to proceed on projects and he does not enjoy to take on other’s opinions. Roark is an example of free will. This theme of independence and freedom for choice is present throughout the entire novel, with how Roark speaks of himself and his actions with other characters, and by him trying to influence others to think for themselves.
In the fourth part of The Fountainhead in chapter four, Roark states “My work done my way. A private, personal, selfish, egotistical motivation. That’s the only way I function. That’s all I am.” Roark, throughout his life and his career, shows no evidence of being influenced by his wealth, history, family, religious background, or his social status. He defies the common notion that people are shaped by society by revolving his life around the choices he makes, but because of his act of independence other characters see him as being defiant towards social normality. Roark represents many great philosophers and scientists who have made many great discoveries but who were also treated like outsiders and seen defiant of the social norm. Galileo Galilei for example was persecuted by the church in the 1600’s for his scientific beliefs which kept science and truth from advancing for many years thereafter. More evidence of Roark expressing his self-determination is in part four in chapter eleven, when Roark says to Wynand “I could die for you, but I wouldn’t and couldn’t live for you.” This adds to the main theme of the novel by enforcing Roark’s independent personality. He refuses to let other people shape how he chooses to speak, act, and especially how he creates and designs architecture. Even though Roark and Wynand have a unique relationship in the novel, Roark still refuses to let even Wynand have some influence over him, further expressing his self-sufficient personality.
Roark uses his independent personality to try to influence others to become less involved and worried about other people and their opinions. In part one, chapter one, Roark says to Peter Keating “If you want my advice, Peter,” he said at last, “you’ve made a mistake already. By asking me. By asking anyone. Never ask people. Not about your work. Don’t you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know?” Roark is telling Keating that if he had to ask about his own work, then he doesn’t know what he wants. Many people believe that asking others for advice and opinions about their own individual work is helpful when in reality it becomes less of the artist’s work and more of the other person’s work because they conformed their work based on others opinions instead of listening to their own intuition. Although the artist is glad to have the other person enjoy their work, the artist will not be truly happy with their work, because they see it as not theirs, and it will constantly remind them that their own ideas aren’t good enough to have other people enjoy their work, that they must depend on other people’s opinions. This is what Roark is trying to avoid and what he is trying to prevent for others, like for Keating. Another example of when Roark tries to influence others to adopt his self-reliant beliefs is in part four, chapter eight, in the trial against Roark for the explosion of the Cortlandt building, he gives a long speech to the people in the courtroom. One excerpt from his speech is when he says “Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn’t done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity.” His speech talks about the value of one’s own abilities and talents and how man cannot be dependent on others to succeed. Roark’s life is an example of this philosophy. His actions are not influenced in any way by other people, even the ones who he thinks are close to him. He uses this speech to try to influence others to take on his lifestyle, to accept that being different from the social norm is okay, and that independence is not the bad thing that many think it is. His speech eventually saves him, and he is later asked to design a monumental building, sealing his independence for himself and for everyone else.
Familiar Ideas in The Fountainhead And 1984 Novels
Big Brother in the Big Apple
“Do you know the proper antonym for Ego? Bromide, Peter. The rule of the bromide.”
Ellsworth Toohey, The Fountainhead
Earning purpose in life entails pursuing ideals that can be considered ends in themselves. Socratic thinkers view the quest for virtue to be the rationale for existence and, for them, living out the meaning of such virtues endorses their lives with purpose. However, it is possible to choose wrongly. Twist some concept into an ideal, forcibly enshrine and pursue it, place fulfillment of it above all else—then you have false purpose. In The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Ellsworth Toohey is the archetypal embodiment of evil, one who pursues the ideal of power above all else and manipulates the Banner to that end.
At its time of publication in 1943, The Fountainhead, was considered a controversial and idealistic book. But, in the years since, the book also has proven to provide a disturbingly accurate portrayal of a worldview that is frighteningly prevalent today, showing the threat to society when men like Ellsworth Toohey conceal their thirst for power with proclamations of their altruism. Indeed, Rand’s vision may have inspired Orwell, an author of a different political bent who shared her contempt for collectivist government. In his book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell creates a chilling picture of one possible outcome of Toohey’s socialist vision. O’Brien, a party member who deceives the main character, Winston Smith, speaks words that describe the fundamental motive of the party and evoke the ethos of Toohey: “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power…We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end.” (Orwell 153). The organization’s pursuit of power comes at the price of all other absolutes, destroying personal freedom among other self-contained, ideals. Power is predatory, unsustainable, the opposite of self-sufficient, and therefore not an absolute; the party, then at the height of its authority, needs subjects to deceive and subjugate just as a lion needs the flesh of its prey to live.
Ellsworth Toohey, on the other hand, is a figure at an earlier stage of power-acquisition. While O’Brien’s party primarily wears the mask of bromide, indoctrinating its subjects with maxims such as “War is peace,” “freedom is slavery,” and “ignorance is strength,” Toohey wears the mask of altruism and the mask of the Banner, knowing both to be perfect vehicles of his mission. Manipulative and subtle, Ellsworth crusades, hell-bent, to seize control of the Banner because he is ravenous for power and knows the newspaper, thanks to its widespread readership and well-established consumer base, is the tool he must harness to amplify the reach of his ultimate objective: to impose his ideologies of altruism and collectivism upon the masses, to control them like one colossal, swaying, preternatural puppet, and stamp out the selfish and individualistic nature of people like Howard Roark, because he believes there is no alternative to his way the world must operate.
To Toohey, the Banner is a conduit through which the people of New York receive the propaganda of his socialist vision. He seeks to make men feel weak, humbled, commanded by the newspaper and the seemingly omniscient men behind it, those immortalized by the guise of their printed voice. He woos them with lofty language, proselytizing to those dimmer minds of the common man, albeit allegorically: he writes under cover of the subject of architecture, appealing to the collective subconscious by connecting the nature of buildings with the nature of man. In one speech he gives before a congregation of strike sympathizers, Toohey mesmerizes listeners, including Peter Keating: “Keating stood, his mouth open. He did not hear what [Toohey’s] voice was saying. He heard the beauty of the sounds without meaning. He felt no need to know the meaning; he could accept anything, he would be led blindly anywhere” (Rand 90). Here, Toohey’s speech is one of hypnotizing execution, but little actual substance; the man emanates authority and through his stately and authoritative manner, he attracts blind followers such as Keating.
In his job as a columnist, Toohey writes about the creations of others; rather than inventing anything himself, he elevates himself by praising and, in certain cases, vehemently condemning the handiwork of his betters. The man’s livelihood, his very purpose and identity is dependent on those who create, therefore he is, as Rand puts it in For the New Intellectual, nothing but a dastardly “second-hander.” In an early column, Ellsworth reviews the Melton Building, speaking of the stringcourses and ornamentation as if they are direct insults to man’s ego: “There is no freak exhibitionism here, no perverted striving for novelty, no orgy of unbridled egotism” (Rand, The Fountainhead 51). Toohey grants approval of the Melton edifice by acknowledging that which, in his tainted opinion, spoils a given building—“freak exhibitionism” and “unbridled egotism.” To him, people like Howard Roark indulge in such “orgies.” They erect structures that are insolent in their individualism. He sees these buildings to evince a terrible and masturbatory motive of making unique statements to the world; however, to assert individualism, he contends, is to insult the opinions of those who outnumber you. A structure, Toohey purports, belongs to the public; even a lonely street urchin meandering through the city should be able to turn his head to the sky and see a grand building, full in the glory of its stringcourses and superfluous ornamentation, and be comforted in his inadequacy because in admiring the building, the world stands with him, artfully made manifest in the brick and mortar at his side.
Just as a building constructed in the style of the collective preference of its time can humble a man, shape his idea of what a good building should look like, so can the words of a newspaper impregnate minds with preconceived notions, ideas specially crafted to control. Guy Francon likens Toohey’s tongue to an “icepick;” that is, his words have the power to lobotomize men, destroy their ability to think for themselves (Rand, The Fountainhead 51). During a transorbital lobotomy, the icepick enters the brain above the eye with a few simple taps of a rubber mallet; similarly, Toohey’s words insidiously penetrate the weak minds of the multitudes ensnared at shops and newspaper stands, where they purchase Wynand’s papers. The Banner is this man’s megaphone, his soapbox.
If Howard Roark is a paragon of the rationally independent, creative man, then Ellsworth Toohey is his antithesis. Power is Toohey’s God, and reason—the golden calf. Toohey may not have much against reason itself, but in his scheme of deceit and control, it has no place. He says: “Men have a very powerful weapon against you. Reason. So you must be very careful to take it away from them…can you rule a thinking man? We don’t want thinking men” (Rand, The Fountainhead 637).
Toohey has witnessed how no one can rule Howard Roark, learning that the man’s sense of reason informs all his value judgments. A truly rational man does not allow himself to be ruled, therefore Toohey destroys his subjects’ sense of self-worth before they realize any potential to become a thinking man. In a monologue to Peter Keating he says: “Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspiration and his integrity. That’s difficult. The worst among you gropes for an ideal in his own twisted way. Kill integrity by internal corruption. Use it against itself. Direct it toward a goal destructive of all integrity. Preach selflessness.” (Rand, For the New Intellectual 71).
Selflessness and altruism both strengthen a man’s sense of unworthiness, and a man who is already weak yearns for some sort of external force to give him strength. What people do not realize is that fortitude comes from within; the only way to bolster self worth is to rely on the self, not on some external entity. Christians would insist on becoming closer to God through arbitrary prayer, supplication to a mystical force supposedly up in the sky to provide guidance. Followers of Jesus put “faith” in “their Lord and Savior,” place certainty outside themselves, saying things like: “The Lord is my rock.” Confidence in the self is invaluable because it removes the ridiculous notions of meaningless faith, indiscriminate love, and emotional decision-making, replacing them with reason, Toohey’s ultimate adversary, the only way through which man can properly come to terms with his world and acquire knowledge.
The Fountainhead is the unintentional crusade of an individual against the forces of collectivism. Roark’s actions are not contingent upon anything outside himself; the only thing that compels him to action is himself, therefore his provocation of Toohey and other collectivists is unintentional, and the crusade he wages is merely a product of him being himself. While The Fountainhead is a story of triumph, the heroism of the intransigence of Howard Roark, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a story of loss and futility, the dark prospect of Ellsworth Toohey’s future fully realized.
My Impressions From Ellsworth Toohey Character in Fountainhead
There is no other character in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead I despise more than the renowned Ellsworth Toohey. His character combines all qualities of a person that make me want to throw The Fountainhead at the wall. At first Toohey seemed to be a nice old grandpa, but then his motives were slowly revealed through his thoughts and actions. The more I read of Toohey, the more I quickly grew to despise him. His manipulative nature and denouncement of individuality became infuriating and contradicted everything Rand integrated through her protagonist Howard Roark. Toohey wanted nothing more than to control men, and he devised a plan to take over The Banner. Ultimately, taking over The Banner would allow Toohey to have power over men’s souls.
From the very beginning Toohey sought to destroy and manipulate others. At the age of fifteen, Toohey was already grasping the value of a man’s soul. In Bible-class, Toohey addressed the question, “In order to be truly wealthy, a man should collect souls?” (Rand, 298). Already, he is discovering the best way to control man. To do this, Toohey would make people feel small, guilty, and inferior. Toohey was able to shake their faith in themselves and gain control of their lives. By preaching selflessness and ignorance of the ego, Toohey destabilized the soul. We see this happen with his very own niece Catherine. Katie, desperately seeking the approval of her Uncle, began committing herself to the lives of others. Katie thought that by following the path her Uncle set she would gain true happiness. However, Katie soon discovered how this corrupt way of thinking would lead her nowhere. Instead of being joyous in helping others, Katie began to hate everyone. She snapped at people and looked down on them with contempt; she even hated herself, feeling guilty that she despised the poor, eventually discussing these problems with her Uncle. Katie had given up everything; she had given up herself. Of course, this is what Toohey wanted all along, to gain control of a soul so he could fill it with his motives only, the motives that provoked Katie to stop wanting anything at all, motives that would make her completely forget her sense of individuality.
Toohey’s dominance over one’s soul reached back to when he was an advisor at a New York academy. Instead of encouraging students to follow their passions, he renounced any need to make one’s self happy. Why would one pick a career in which he would be “hysterically devotional?” Devotion like this would, supposedly, not make for happiness and success (Rand, 301). He quickly jumped at the chance to fill the students’ empty souls with his malevolent advice and so –called guidance. The best way to serve mankind, he said, is not by doing what one wants, but the exact opposite.
Toohey’s success rate ran very high, and his most thriving case of success is the one and only Peter Keating. All his life, Peter sought the approval of others. He wanted to bask in the riches of fame and glory all while getting away with being a second-hander. When Peter met Toohey, he felt a sense of comfort and peace. Toohey would tell Peter what he wanted to hear; it seemed as if they almost had a silent agreement. Toohey knew that Keating did not design the Cosmo-Slotnick building but did not disapprove; he seemed almost forgiving. Peter felt assured of his life and continued on with his ways without knowing that Toohey was slowly dominating his life. In Toohey’s words, Peter was bringing the whip and asking to be whipped. Toohey only once revealed his motives to Peter, and Peter was helpless against him because he no longer trusted himself. For all his years, he had been feeding off the encouragement of Toohey and society.
The Banner, being the symbol of the worst elements of society, allowed Toohey the means to reassure control. Toohey believed in the power of the collective, not the individual. He could have power over this collective by inserting his beliefs and opinions through various articles and columns. By building up people such as Lois Cook in the paper, Toohey destroyed literature. Hail Ike ruined theater. Lancelot Clokey smashed the press. Once that was finished, Toohey was in command of telling people what was acceptable or what was not acceptable. The people would, of course follow, blindly; after all, they had nothing else to believe, having had their purpose for life taken away from them for the “good of mankind.” Toohey, the Beast of the world, snaked his way into the system by hand-picking followers into key positions, and Gail Wynand did not catch his scheme in time. Ultimately, this is what allows Toohey to regain his position. With Toohey as head of The Banner, he would easily infiltrate the minds of the people, telling them what they want and never really why they want it. The people would be helpless sponges, absorbing everything Toohey put forth.
Ellsworth Toohey played quite a role in The Fountainhead by embodying the evil of mankind. His power lay in his ability to manipulate others and gain control of one’s soul. Although with no great talent of his own, Toohey used his words to bring people up all while bringing their sense of self down. One can see his success with his niece Katie, his college students, and Peter Keating. To get a hold of collective society, Toohey needed to control The Banner. Since The Banner reached out all over the world, Toohey could destroy every single person’s soul and be left in charge to rule the world. In the end, Toohey is not successful in his plans to control The Banner since Wyand shuts it down. Toohey was not able to form the latest and greatest dictatorship, and men were still left with their souls.
How Ayn Rand Pushes Philosophy Over Altruism In Her Novel, ‘The Fountainhead’
A Balancing Act: How Ayn Rand Pushes Her Philosophy Objectivism over Altruism
In Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, the author uses her protagonist, Howard Roark, to represent the ideal man. Roark is characterized as static, passionate about architecture, and indifferent towards others. If he displays benevolence, it is because it benefits him and does not detract from his identity. Rand’s philosophy depicts selfishness as the way, but while promoting it, she discredits altruism. However, both are important. A balance can be found through recognizing altruism’s place in society.
Selfishness is seen as immoral. Time spent on one’s self can be spent helping others. However, there are different forms of selfishness that Ayn Rand does not expand on. There is one-sided selfishness, neutral selfishness, and two-sided selfishness. Acts such as robbery or murder can be considered one-sided selfishness. These are iniquitous because they are beneficial to no one while also harming others. The criminal gets what they want but the repercussions, such as jail or guilt, outweigh the positive. Neutral selfishness is something that has no negative effects. Spending extra time in the mirror because one wants to be attractive does not hurt anyone. Two-sided selfishness is when both parties benefit. Swapping lunches can suffice as an example. In The Fountainhead, Roark displays neutral selfishness when he says, “My work done my way. A private, personal, selfish, egotistical motivation. That’s the only way I function. That’s all I am” (Rand, 580). This is what Rand lauds. Selfishness is a part of Objectivism. Each person should be treated as an individual, not a whole, and reason trumps religion. People need to think for themselves and put themselves before others. There is no “for the greater good” in Objectivism. Roark shows this through his career. He says, “I don’t intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build” (Rand, 26). He continually squanders opportunities because he lives by this belief system. Eventually, it pays off, but only as modernism rises and people learn to accept his work and the conditions that come with hiring him. In Roark’s testimony, he shows that selfishness is what caused progress and everyone else are just parasites, living off of the creators while simultaneously persecuting them. He says, “He had left them a gift they had not conceived and he had opened the roads of the world…The great creators — the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors — stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won” (Rand, 737). This shows that egotists are to be thanked for all inventions because they came to be through one person’s ideas; they “served nothing and no one.” Roark attributes creation to selfishness because “only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.” Why is it bad to be selfish? Because people said so. They have come to believe that the whole is greater than the individual without realizing that the whole is built off of individuals and it is each person’s unique abilities that allow society to function successfully. Objectivism can definitely be favorable, but as the saying goes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The creators had amazing ideas, but they created for themselves. The “parasites” are what allowed society to advance because they shared the ideas of the creators. Selfishness alone is not ideal.
The antagonist of this story is Ellsworth Toohey. Toohey represents society- he works for the whole, not the individual. His belief system is run by altruism, the practice of selflessness. Rand shows this as a negative idea through a conversation Toohey has with Peter Keating. He says, “Tell men altruism is the ideal. Not a single one of them has ever achieved it and not a single one ever will. His every living instinct screams against it” (Rand, 635). Toohey is explaining to Keating how he controls people. To be selfless is not a part of their nature, but man likes to think he is invincible. To break the soul is to break the man, and the soul is broken by giving him something impossible to achieve. People are born selfish. It is “a law of survival.” Throughout time, though, selflessness became praised as men were “taught that their first concern is to relieve the suffering of others. […] To make that the highest test of virtue is to make suffering the most important part of life” (Rand, 680). Soldiers say no man left behind. Religions preach that people give to the poor. Sports display cooperation and teamwork, but what constitutes one thing as being profane versus another being righteous? Typically, gain. Someone helps someone else because that person may return the favor in the future. People feel as if they are upright when they volunteer. They are helping others, yet there is personal gain involved because mentally it sits right with them. Katie, for instance, becomes a social worker because she enjoys helping others and she believes it is right due to the ideology Toohey preaches. So can these acts really be considered selfless? To be selfless is to be concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own. The best example of a selfless person is a mother. Their job is to nurture and to care. There are so many stories of mothers who give up their lives for their children. Selflessness is a charitable idea. The main negative factor is that it is hard to achieve, but society could definitely use more selfless people. Katie was not jocund because she tried to be something that she was not. She lost a part of herself in following her uncle. Becoming a social worker was not truly a selfless act due to the reasoning behind her becoming one. Altruism is admirable because it helps others. Rand assumes that one would loses themselves when putting others first, but this not always the case. The whole is equally important to the individual.
Some may argue that it is one or the other. However, Rand fails because she tries too hard to make Roark the champion when the ideal person knows how to be an individual and conform when it is needed. Selfishness is not the epochal, but neither is selflessness. The world is all about balance. It needs both. Not good, not bad. While it would be optimal to not have nefarious people, action is only taken and flaws are only noticed after something has happened. Change is a reaction. Wrongdoings are needed to serve as an example. They are needed to be the defining line between right and wrong because “we cannot know what will be right or wrong in a selfless society, nor what we’ll feel, nor in what manner. We must destroy the ego first. That is why the mind is so unreliable. We must not think. We must believe.” Nonetheless, too many selfless people are not desriable. After all, no betterment would come if all mothers died for their children. There would be far too many orphans. On the other hand, if everyone was selfish, then society would not have been allowed to come as far as it has. People tend to work well together. Even the best inventions became better once someone improved upon them. Cell phones are a great example of that. One idea became better as it was shared with the world and more people put their own spin on it. The Fountainhead pushes Objectivism over altruism. It is not one or the other, though. They both serve a purpose.
Selflessness and selfishness are both important parts of our world. Rand was a failure not because she argued for selfishness but because she argued against selflessness. Life is short. People should be allowed to live their lives without judgement. It is up to the individual to decide what philosophy, if any, they wish to live by.
Doing What You Believe In, a Source Individual Satisfaction
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.
The Best Decision Concerning Your Life Recides Within You
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.
Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. 50th Anniversary ed. New York: New York, 1993.