The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand provides her own introduction, which is always a fantastic contribution as the author can detail insight that an essayist can only speculate. However, to quote Rand in said introduction, “This is the motive and purpose of my writing; the projection of an ideal man.“
Without being a bona fide intellectual and without obtaining multiple degrees on philosophy or psychology, I will say with nearly flawless certainty that Rand horribly missed her mark.
I am late to the game. I apparently read this book on the 75th anniversary of its publishing. Plenty of other readers over the past seventy-five years have likely echoed my opinions, I’m sure, hence its deemed “controversial” tag.
Atlas Shrugged, the follow up (though, not the sequel) to The Fountainhead is a title that has floated around and followed me for as long as I can remember, but I never knew what it was or why it was so popular.
One day, Mark Cuban’s “7 Great Books for Entrepreneurs” was brought to my attention. It was here that The Fountainhead reared its ugly… head. Never before had I heard of this book, but since it shared an author with Atlas Shrugged, and I just had to get them both and dig in, and since The Fountainhead was written and published first, it received primary honors.
Rand’s atheism is obvious. There is no hope in her characters. As much as she would have us believe otherwise, there is no integrity in any of her creatures.
Keating? The evident misfit. No one on Earth would enjoy his inauthentic demeanor. No one would be unaware of his schemes. In no way did he come across as believable. Thankfully, Keating was not Rand’s “ideal” man, and he in no way depicts the essence of such, an opinion that would be shared with any man or woman I have ever known or met.
Toohey? A snake. And you know it from the onset, even though it isn’t until later that his fellow characters are enlightened of the fact. A mask, perhaps, of Rand’s to throw the reader off a bit, to have us believe this is the one, to put our trust in his philanthropic lifestyle. Perhaps not. She knew we wouldn’t fall for his trickery. Not the proposed ideal man.
Wynand? A power-hungry, apathetic success story. Honestly, my favorite of the whole bunch, if there can even be such a thing. He is only less detestable than the rest by a small margin. Once again, not by any means the intended ideal man.
Which brings us to Howard Roark, an aspiring, best-there’s-ever-been architect. And this is Rand’s guy. This is the one, her shining star, the commander of all praise and mimicry, her pleasant creation of perfection, her projection of the ideal man!
Spare me. Howard Roark is a barbarian and a nut job.
First and foremost, had he performed his infamous, heinous crime in a real life situation, any real life situation, he would never be heralded as a hero. No act, no matter how numerous or generous after the fact, would make up for this crime. It is unbelievable to the nth degree.
Ohhh… But it’s so romantic!
It is not! It is evil.
For a second, though, pretend that he never made such an advance on his “lover.” Imagine that he is simply Howard Roark with his own ideologies and beliefs.
Fine. He is annoying, and, again, unbelievable. There is no harm or shame in being adamant about beliefs and opinions. There is, however, detriment in stubbornness.
For instance, Roark catches his big break. Mr. Weidler has convinced his entire board to allow Roark to design the Manhatten Bank Company building. Roark is thrilled, knowing this is certain to be what propels him to the top.
But suddenly, “Then he heard the chairman saying: ‘… and so it’s yours, on one minor condition.'”
A slight altercation. Roarks building but with a “simplified Doric portico in front, a cornice on top, and his ornament was replaced by a stylized Greek ornament.”
After some back and forth disagreement, “Yes or no, Mr. Roark?”
I believe Rand was attempting to define “selfishness” in a new way. It is not terribly inaccurate. Her philosophy explained that philanthropy is no less selfish than Roark’s so-called “integrity” (integrity in this case being his unwillingness to budge from his designs, not exactly what most of us would define as such).
Egotism vs Altruism. Which one is really more selfless?
Of course, anyone who understands the purpose of life can see clearly that there is no comparison, and Roark’s attempt to master integrity is a mere vexation.
I regret to be uncertain of whether or not I will ever actually read Atlas Shrugged, but I am leaning toward the negative. I am afraid that I cannot in good conscience recommend this read to anyone, but I must give the woman some praise: She is an absolutely fantastic writer, probably the best I have ever read. Also, she did include the below quote in her introduction, and I thoroughly enjoyed at least that much.
It is not the nature of man – nor of any living entity – to start out by giving up…Ayn Rand