Study Guide

The Fountainhead

by Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

The Fountainhead suffers from many of the weaknesses of pulp fiction. Rand’s characters are for the most part one-dimensional. On one side are the strong and independent-minded and thus by definition the virtuous; on the other side are the villainous and, equally bad or even worse, the weak. Rand leaves no question about where any character falls. She has Peter Keating, for example, frankly admit, “I am a parasite.” The physical features of the characters typically indicate their personalities. Roark is accordingly described as gray-eyed, with striking orange hair, a contemptuous mouth, and a sure and self-sufficient air. Even names are often a similar indicator. Ellsworth Toohey sounds like “all’s worth hooey,” while Keating rhymes with “cheating” and “bleating.” Furthermore, making Roark an architect has its own special symbolic significance: Rand identifies skyscrapers with the human conquest of nature.

Roark is widely believed to have been modeled upon Frank Lloyd Wright. Rand was a Wright admirer; she even had him draw up preliminary plans of a house for her. Yet The Fountainhead was consciously written as a novel of ideas—a defense of what Rand termed the principle of “supreme egoism” as the source of all progress. All of her major fictional works follow the same plot line: a protagonist of extraordinary ability and determination resisting the forces of collectivism. That clash is equated with the struggle...

(The entire section is 504 words.)