The Fountainhead

Go ahead. Fair is fair. I am a glutton for punishment. No sooner did I slog through finish, Atlas Shrugged, than I trudged onward with The Fountainhead. This is slightly less the tome, being only 700-ish pages long. And it was written well before AS, and contains a good deal less overt pontificating about the world as it should be from a Randian perspective.

It is more story.

And I was informed that it was a much better story than her more famous child featuring the infamous John Galt.

I’m not quite so sure that is so.

While on the surface, it indeed is more story, and there is some mild interest in “how things will turn out”, one is (or at least I was) puzzled by the characters she lays out.

I find them weird. Quite plainly weird. They are not realistic to my mind at least.

And make no mistake, the character is Rand’s only concern here.

Some twenty-five years after it’s publication, Rand spoke about what her writing is intended for and what she seeks to offer her audience. A good read? A compelling story that has you turning the pages, excited to discover what happens next? Educate you on some important subject?


Oddly, and I do find it odd, Ms. Rand’s sole purpose so she says is this:

“my purpose is not the philosophical enlightenment of my readers. . .My purpose, first cause and prime mover is the portrayal of Howard Roark as an end in himself.”

Roark is the main character in FH, an architect with ideas so new and bold that nobody likes them but a precious few. He will not compromise with his fellow architects who are busy announcing that all the best has already been created, and their job is but to put those features together in new configurations.

Yet, Rand illustrates what she must do to portray this character:

“Since my purpose is the presentation of an ideal man, I had to define and present the conditions which make him possible and which his existence requires. Since man’s character is the product of his premises, I had to define and present the kinds of premises and values that create the character of an ideal man and motivate his actions; which mean that I had to define and present a rational code of ethics. Since man acts among and deals with other men, I had to present the kind of social system that makes it possible for ideal men to exist and to function–a free, productive, rational system which demands and rewards the best in every man, and which is obviously, laissez-faire capitalism.”

So you see how she operates.

Do you see what is missing?

Rand makes no mention of women. Indeed, both Atlas and Fountainhead contain important women as main characters, but what is true of one is true of the other–they are just men with vaginas. They talk like men, act like men, and pride themselves as being, well, female men.

Furthermore, as you read FH, you discover that Roark has very little in the way of emotions–at least those that pertain to humans. What is worse, he rapes the his main love interest Dominique, and she seems to “awaken” to the real joy of sex by this act of violence.

So this is Rand’s ideal man?

They often stay that at least the first novel is fairly autobiographical. I suspect with Rand, they all were.

I came away from my experience with Rand thinking the woman was fairly a light-weight when it came to economics, ethics, history, and sociology. I was undecided about her as a writer. After reading the FH, I don’t think she’s much of a writer either.

Judge for yourself of course.


2 comments on “The Fountainhead

  1. I, too, just recently finished reading Atlas Shrugged. Yes, Atlas Shrugged has significantly more pontificating than The Fountainhead, but I found both stories to be fantastic!

    Yes, in The Fountainhead women, especially Dominique, don’t seem to be portrayed well. I found the scene you refer to between Dominique and Howard Roark to be something of an awakening for Dominique, albeit, an act that shouldn’t be condoned regardless of the what situations people may find themselves in.

    One important aspect of both novels I came away with is how important it is to work for one’s self interest. Howard Roark’s character proves that point to a ‘T’. True, most other architects in The Fountainhead were ok with going with the status quo, and not wanting to break out of an established paradigm, Rand made the point that it’s ok to do something to please yourself and not necessarily the critics.

    I don’t necessarily agree with all the points that Rand makes in both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There were definitely some points in Atlas Shrugged that I felt were quite dry and repetitive, such as John Galt’s speech, but I do think she had some significant talent.

    The Fountainhead most definitely read much quicker than Atlas Shrugged, I think The Fountainhead wasn’t as dry as Atlas Shrugged, which made Atlas Shrugged seem significantly longer. I believe I read somewhere, maybe it was in the last few pages of my copy of Atlas Shrugged that Rand felt The Fountainhead should’ve been read preferably before Atlas Shrugged. I don’t know if that’s true or not, as I read The Fountainhead first, but I can definitely ask my brother who read Atlas Shrugged with me.

    Great post, I really enjoyed reading it!

    • First, I’m glad you enjoyed them. As I said, I really didn’t feel like I wanted to go either way. I was interested enough to continue reading quite obviously. As to Dominique being awakened: I can only say, that I would think that most women neither desire nor need to be awakened by force. The speaks to Rand’s fantasies more than anything realistic in my opinion.

      I do agree with you that working out of love of one’s subject is preferred. IF everyone had the opportunity to discover their passion and the funds to pursue learning it, society would soar to great heights. The problem is, not everyone is fortunate enough for this. Four years of college don’t give anyone time to “discover” much. Most can’t afford to spend like 6 years, dabbling around for a couple of years in areas that intrigue you. I had no experience with anthropology or paleontology to name a couple and certainly no experience with philosophy.

      But I do agree, that if one can do so, its always important to follow your heart.

      I just find Rand’s basic premises so bizarre that frankly, it colors my outlook. I urge everyone to read her based upon their personal tastes. As a “tome reader” I am not sorry I did.

      I’ll run by your blog. As I have 4 blogs running pretty strongly, I have more and more trouble getting around as I should. I appreciate your comment.

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