Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Title: The FountainheadBook Review - The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Author: Ayn Rand

Publisher: Bobbs Merrill

Genre: Philosophical fiction

First Publication: 1943

Language: English

Major Characters: Howard Roark, Dominique Francon, Ellsworth M Toohey, Peter Keating, Steven Mallory, Gail Wynand, Gus Webb

Setting Place: The East Coast, primarily New York, in the 1920s and 1930s

Theme: Objectivism and Individualism, Integrity vs. Conformity, Religion and Morality, Rationality vs. Emotion

Narration: Third-person omniscient

 

Book Summary: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Howard Roark, the protagonist of the story is an architect and a firm opposer of collectivism. It is his firm belief than only an individual’s vision can be effective in producing genuine art. Mediocrity in art may get rampant if interference by committees and councils is allowed. The Fountainhead is his journey against tradition and his fight against the system.

Peter Keating, Howard’s arch rival has beliefs that are the opposite of Howard.’s There are also others that stand in Howard’s way. Dominique Francon, the heroine of the story is shown to emerge as a strong, independent woman as the story develops.

Through much of the book the author has expressed her strong personal views against collectivism through the protagonist. It is a journey of a single person against an entire tradition and system to break free. Will Howard survive the war or will be forced to accept the system?

 

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Howard Roark, Architect is an Objectivist. Objectivism is a philosophical ideal that was created by Rand herself. An objectivist is a person who achieves true happiness from his works, attitudes and behaviours. Ayn Rand opposed the theory of religion and faith and believed that her moral guidelines were based on reason and humanity as opposed to faith and emotions. Howard Roark was a very close visualization of Ayn Rand’s philosophy but in human form.

Roark will not work with any client unless they agree to build on his terms, and his terms are that the building must be built as he designed it with absolutely no change. His designs were more of a practical and less aesthetic nature, modernistic as they called it. He wouldn’t build for his clients, he would build so that he could bring the buildings to life. People saw Howard Roark but Howard Roark saw no one. To him the streets were empty, the offices were empty. If he looked at you, you’d feel like he is looking right through you. His objectivism was largely confused to be selfishness (he did care but up to a certain point). His behavior was largely misunderstood as insolence.

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.”

The core of the story is Howard’s career struggle to stand by his own morals and standards and to work by only them. Amidst all this, Howard had a twisted love affair with a beautiful woman who threatened to destroy him every step of the way.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand serves as a fantastic introduction to Author’s inane philosophy – Objectivism (more about this in bit). Extremely gripping and never trite, The Fountainhead is a heady mixture of Ayn Rand’s simplistic psychological and philosophical insights.

The characters are, without exception, fascinating: Howard Roark – the unconventional architect who lives for and in his work, Dominique Francon – the yet more unconventional and passionate lover, Peter Keating – the seeker after all that is conventional, and hence (in Ayn Rand’s mind) worthless, and Ellsworth Toohey – the Evil, brilliant, and power-hungry schemer. These (and other) well-etched characters, paradigms of what they stand for, become Ayn Rand’s vehicles for expressing her take on the nature of the ideal man, the purpose and summum bonum of life, and other such important things that Ayn Rand seems singularly unqualified to expound on. Her story-telling skills and style of writing are undoubtedly distinguished. In any case, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand was an interesting, thought-provoking read, even if one perusal of it was adequate for me to become all-round mocker of Objectivism.

“Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea.”

I can never deny that Rand is a good writer. Her beautiful descriptive style makes you want to go back and re-read the lines she wrote. Her ideas are quite thought provoking and she definitely makes you look at life a lot more differently than before.

There is a unique blend of characters in the story. There are creators, copy cats (second-handers) and power hungry animals. Characters like Dominque, were not plausible though. I don’t get her reasoning and I don’t entirely agree with her definition of love. Her motives to destroy Howard just didn’t seem real. I’m still not sure if I liked this book. By sure I’m glad I finally read it seen that it’s such a controversial book and I wanted to find out by myself why there are people who love it and people who hate it. What I liked is that it’s despite everything a real page-turner. I was involved, I wanted to know what would happen, I wanted to see how all the characters would behave.


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