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Book Review: The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead — by Ayn Rand has been recommended to me by one of my best friends during the times when we were staying together and often having conversations related to all philosophical questions of life. I remember that he suggested that this is one of the books which should be read during the foundation years — generally college and initial corporate years when we step out of our house to explore this complex world.
I recently completed the book and it was a worthy read — the book lays the foundation of objectivism and individualism through its course by the life of Howard Roark — the protagonist of the novel.
Howard Roark is the main protagonist of the novel. He has been expelled from the college since his ideas of architecture are modern and don’t comply with the architectural designs of the past. He refuses to change himself for society and is ready to pay the price for the same. He chooses to work and learn Henry Cameron as he was one of the best architects of the time who started skyscrapers in New York — the Dana Building being his best work. Henry Cameron’s reputation has been destroyed by the Banner — the popular newspaper ran by Gail Wynand. He warns Howard of the struggles for his future in case he follows his path. Howard refuses to compromise on his ideals and is ready for all the struggle that society demands. He refuses many of the contracts when he is being asked to make certain changes in the design — the changes which have no meaning. He is being admired by the people who are the best in their fields who are always ready to work with him on any of his projects.
“To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul — would you understand why that’s much harder?”
To say “I love you” one must know first how to say the “I”.
Peter Keating — the classmate of Howard Roark, the character just opposite of Howard, is willing to do any compromise to achieve success and become famous. Keating never stands by his ideals and gives preferences to other’s opinions/suggestions for his major life decisions — ranging from joining Guy Francon after graduation to marrying Dominique Francon (rather than his girlfriend Catherine Halsey). He often takes the help of Howard Roark for his architectural designs and is praised for the designs with are originally made by Howard. He achieves great success in his life initially using various methods — pleasing others, using his contacts to get the commissions, getting rid of all the competent colleagues from his company to eventually become a partner of Guy Francon.
there was no Peter Keating, there was only a suction chamber, like the kind of tropical plant he’d heard about, a plant that drew an insect into its vacuum and sucked it dry and thus acquired its own substance
The character of Peter Keating represents an insecure personality, acknowledging his incompetence, compromising all ideals to achieve success. The last part of the book reveals that he was interested in art and took architecture as a profession under other’s influence mostly her mother Mrs. Keating.
Dominique Francon is one of the most complex characters of the book. She believes that the world is wicked and there is no place for genuine and honest people like Howard and the world is not ready for the work of Howard Roark. She shares a complex relationship with Howard — marries Peter Keating to punish herself and later Gail Wynand as further punishment. Howard loves her intensely but is willing to wait till the time Dominique learn to live in this world —
You must learn not to be afraid of the world. Not to be held by it as you are now. Never to be hurt by it as you were in that courtroom. I must let you learn it. I can’t help you. You must find your own way. When you have, you’ll come back to me
Ellsworth Toohey is the main antagonist of the novel, representing the social and collective cause before anything else. He sees egotists as a threat— Howard Roark being his major enemy. He makes all the efforts to fail Howard — creating a conspiracy to build Stoddard Temple by Howard only to defame him. He is a big believer in Altruism as it is his means of gaining power —
Don’t allow men to be happy. Happiness is self-contained and self-sufficient. Happy men have no time and no use for you. Happy men are free men. So kill their joy in living. Take away from them whatever is dear and important to them. Never let them have what they want. Make them feel that the mere fact of the personal desire is evil. Bring them to the state where saying ‘I want’ is no longer a natural right, but a shameful admission. Altruism is of great help in this. Unhappy men will come to you. They will come for consolation, for support, for escape. Nature allows no vacuum. Empty man’s soul — and the place is yours to fill.
Gail Wynand is yet another interesting character of the novel who is similar to Rowark in any sense, being a self-made man, rising from poverty, and becoming the owner of the most popular newspaper of New York. During his childhood, he is being ruled and mistreated by the riches — he decides that one day he would be ruling them.
Dominique looked at the gold letters — I Do — on the delicate white bow.
“What does that name mean?” she asked.
“It’s an answer,” said Wynand, “to people long since dead. Though perhaps they are the only immortal ones. You see, the sentence I heard most often in childhood was ‘You don’t run things around here.’”
This thirst for power makes him do anything that his readers want — the banner publishes the articles which the readers want to read. Gail is under the assumption that he has the power to control the readers by his newspaper. In the last part of the book, he tries hard, to be honest, and bring the truth to Howard Roark — taking his side but he is rejected by the readers and eventually, he has to give up. There are two parts of the Gail Wynand — one which admires talent, art, and creation. He owns a collection of all the best creative works ever done. On the other hand — in his professional life, through his publication, he does everything to destroy creative humans and ultimately killing their souls abiding by the choices of his readers — the society.
There is a great evolution of this character after his marriage with Dominique Francon and later becoming a friend with Howard Roark — the conversation between the three has been one of my favorite parts of the novel.
Most people build as they live — as a matter of routine and senseless accident. But a few understand that building is a great symbol. We live in our minds, and existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and form. For the man who understands this, a house he owns is a statement of his life. If he doesn’t build, when he has the means, it’s because his life has not been what he wanted.
The novel is more than 700 pages and it's not an easy read but I would recommend this to be read by everyone who loves to find out the rationale behind things rather than simply following any path.
Here is the link for similar books I found on the internet — https://yourstory.com/2017/05/50-must-read-books/amp