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.
- The Red Pen of Doom murders THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand (redpenofdoom.com)
- The Fountainhead (justplunge.wordpress.com)