Ayn Rand Long Fiction Analysis
In her two major works of fiction, Ayn Rand explicated her philosophy of objectivism in dramatic form. Thus, in The Fountainhead and especially in Atlas Shrugged, Rand argues that reality exists independent of human thought (objectively), that reason is the only viable method for understanding reality, that individuals should seek personal happiness and exist for their own sake and that of no other, and that individuals should not sacrifice themselves or be sacrificed by others. Furthermore, unrestricted laissez-faire capitalism is the political economic system in which these principles can best flourish. Underlying this essence is the philosophy of unadulterated individualism, personal responsibility, the power of unsullied reason, and the importance of Rand’s special kind of morality.
In her long fiction, the philosopher-novelist spells out her concept of the exceptional individual as a heroic being and an “ideal man,” with “his” happiness as the highest moral purpose in life, with productive achievement the noblest activity, and reason the only absolute. Rand advocates minimal government intrusion and no initiation of physical force in human interactions. She represents such a system as enshrining the highest degree of morality and justice.
Because Rand also focuses on the denial of self-sacrifice and altruism, a staple of conventional morality and welfarism, she opposes both Christianity and communism. She finds it irrational to place the good of others ahead of one’s own rational self-interest. Likewise, she denies mysticism and promotes the Aristotelian view that the world that individuals perceive is reality, and there is no other. Both her major novels can be considered elitist and antidemocratic in that they extol the virtues of a few innovative, far-thinking individuals over the mediocre majority, which is either ignorant and uncaring or, even worse, actively striving to destroy the brilliant individuals of great ability. Besides disparaging mediocrity, Rand also decried the power of connections, conformity with what has been done before, a trend she found far too evident in the American welfare state, and the intellectual bankruptcy she deemed it to have fostered.
Rand considered herself a practitioner of Romanticism, who was concerned with representing individuals “in whom certain human attributes are focused more sharply and consistently than in average human beings.” Accordingly, in both these novels the characters of the heroes, sharply drawn, are idealized creations—not depictions of real individuals—who are in control of their own destinies despite major odds.
The Fountainhead is the story of Howard Roark, Rand’s ideal man, an architect who has a vision of how buildings should really be designed. He is innovative and efficient; he also has a strong aesthetic sense and has integrity—in short, he is a man of principle and artistic individuality. Roark is contrasted with Peter Keating, a former classmate and fellow architect but a “secondhander,” constantly replicating conventional styles because he has no originality of his own. He achieves a seeming success by manipulating others. Unlike Roark, whom he envies, Keating does not know who he really is.
Another of Roark’s adversaries is Ellsworth Toohey. He writes a column for the Banner, arguing that architecture should reflect the art of the people. Gail Wynand is the Banner’s owner and newspaper magnate; he appreciates Roark’s creativity but buckles under societal pressures, disregards his vision, and thereby engineers his own downfall as a worthy human being.
The love interest is embodied in Dominique Francon, the daughter of Guy Francon, the principal owner of the architectural firm that...
(The entire section is 1568 words.)