The Fountainhead

by Ayn Rand

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Objectivist Philosophy in The Fountain Head

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Ayn Rand presents Howard Roark, the main character in her influential novel, The Fountainhead, in an innovative way. Readers expect a main character to be fully rounded yet to develop in some way during the course of the story. Heroes, when faced with a conflict, usually reveal new aspects of their character that were previously unknown to them and to the readers. Often the thrust of the narrative involves the process of the main characters gaining valuable insight into their inner selves.

In The Fountainhead Rand rejects this traditional form of character development by presenting a hero who at the beginning of the novel is fully realized. Howard Roark knows exactly who he is when he is expelled from the Stanton Institute of Technology for "insubordination," and Rand quickly outlines his character for her readers. Roark does not change during the course of the story or reveal new aspects of his personality. The conflicts he faces only reinforce the portrait of him that Rand has already presented. She has chosen Roark as her protagonist for a different purpose; his static character becomes a touchstone through which Rand expresses her philosophy of objectivism, especially as it concerns the definition of the self. Through her characterization of Roark and his interactions with the other characters in the novel, Rand presents her vision of the ideal man as well as the second-hander.

Rand's ideal man is assertive and aggressive in his drive for success and through his integrity becomes the fountainhead of human progress. His integrity stems from what Rand sees as the three cardinal values of objectivism: reason, purpose, and self-esteem, and their corresponding virtues: rationality, productiveness, and pride. In Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, Rand explained that "production is the application of reason to the problem of survival." Yet the ideal man must also acquire "the values of character that makes [his life] worth sustaining." The most important value, that of self-esteem, translates into an ethic of rational selfishness. Rand insists in "The Objectivist Ethics" that the ideal man lives "for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man's highest moral purpose."

Howard Roark becomes the embodiment of Rand's objectivist ideals. From the beginning of the novel, he displays a rational selfishness in his assurance of his own talents. This clear concept of self will not allow him to compromise his vision of creating the finest buildings in the city. At the end of the novel he justifies his bombing of the Cortlandt project when he insists to the jury, "the first right on earth is the right of the ego. Man's first duty is to himself. His moral law is never to place his prime goal within the persons of others." He argues that he had to destroy the project because others had taken it over and thus thwarted his prime goal—to realize his own architectural vision.

Rand places Roark into conflict with others in order not only to reveal the qualities of the ideal hero, but also to flesh out her concept of what she calls second-handers. She applies this term, which was her original working title for the novel, to those who lack clear convictions and a concept of self. As a result, they become destructive to themselves as well as the others who come into contact with them. Three characters in the novel, Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey, and Gail Wynand, all exhibit variations of Rand's definition of second-handers.

Throughout his career Peter Keating tries to...

(This entire section contains 1202 words.)

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pass off Roark's creative vision as his own since he can only accomplish a constant, mediocre replication of the designs of the past. Keating's lack of original thought and action independent of public opinion define him as a second-hander. His sense of inferiority creates a lack of integrity that allows him to let others control his life. He chooses his clothes, his wife, and his actions according to accepted guidelines rather than from a clear sense of individual need and desire. As a result, he helps to destroy the life of the woman he loves when he decides that she will not help him achieve his vision of success. Keating is ultimately ruined by his inability to establish his own identity when the public discovers that he has claimed Roark's design of the Cortlandt project as his own.

Ellsworth Toohey is a parasitic second-hander who contributes nothing to the society off of which he feeds. He displays a brute selfishness as he sacrifices others in his quest for power. Claiming to work toward creating brotherhood among men, he instructs his followers to "feel contempt for your own priceless little ego," for "only then can you achieve the true, broad peace of selflessness, the merging of your spirit with the vast collective spirit of mankind."

His true motive, however, emerges in his recognition that "every system of ethics that preached sacrifice grew into a world power and ruled millions of men" and concludes that "the man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master." By appropriating a collectivist philosophy, Toohey hopes to wield absolute control over the lives of his followers as his promotion of selflessness obliterates their independent thoughts and actions. He attempts to destroy Roark because his success will contradict the collectivist philosophy he promotes, and therefore will strip him of the power he seeks.

In Gail Wynand, Rand traces the development of the novel's only truly tragic figure that has the potential to evolve into an ideal man, but whose inability to sustain a clear sense of self causes him ultimately to become a second-hander. Wynand had the ambition and resolve to pull himself out of the slums of Hell's Kitchen and become a successful newspaper magnate. Yet in his goal to "give people what they want," he has pandered to society's lowest tastes and as a result, his newspaper has become a vulgar tabloid. When he meets Roark, he recognizes the man's nobility and firmness of purpose and so determines that he will support him.

Wynand, ultimately however, has become a second-hander who has allowed the public to dictate the direction of his success. He assumes that he has power over public opinion when he throws his support to Roark during his trial, but his readers, made cynical over the years by his sensationalistic press, have lost their ability to appreciate true virtue. In an effort to save himself he gives into public opinion, recognizing the power he has granted them over his vision of success. The editorial he writes condemning Roark's action salvages his career but breaks his spirit.

In her outline of the principles of objectivism, Rand writes, "Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments," suggesting, as Leonard Peikoff notes, that its purpose is "to concretize the artist's fundamental view of existence." In the The Fountainhead, Rand has selectively recreated her vision of reality, structuring the characterizations in the novel to illustrate her unique concept of the self.

Source: Wendy Perkins, Critical Essay on The Fountainhead, in Novels for Students, The Gale Group, 2003.

Collective Rights versus Freedom of Expression

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Ayn Rand believed in the value of individual worth above all else. She felt the ideal man had a selfish desire to express his own truths no matter what the cost. Rand's novel, The Fountainhead, demonstrates the importance of man's struggle for independence and freedom from the tyranny of a collective society. The protagonist, or hero, of The Fountainhead is Howard Roark. Roark is a man of integrity who is driven to create by his values and his values alone. Other people's thoughts and criticisms do not sway Roark from his architectural dreams and he selfishly clings to these values. Throughout the book, his work is ridiculed and publicly condemned. His buildings are thought to be poorly designed and monstrous. Roark says the pain of criticism only reaches a part of him; it does not engulf him. The ability of Roark to withstand his detractors shows the strength of his ego. He has an absolute belief in the validity of his own ideas. As Mimi Reisel Gladstein states in The Ayn Rand Companion, "What Rand puts forth in The Fountainhead is a rationale for 'selfishness' or egoism as a moral good."

The Fountainhead opens with Roark contemplating his expulsion from the Architectural School of the Stanton Institute of Technology. Instead of being devastated by this, Roark laughs to himself as he remembers the actual meeting. Later as he enters the porch of his boarding house, his landlady extends her apologies, but the words do not register with Roark. He is not distraught by the expulsion. Roark's own belief in his talent arms him for the next phase of his career—a career as an architect. Although Roark is confident of his destiny, his dean and his landlady are convinced his judgment and values are flawed. In their view, Roark is doomed to fail.

Juxtaposed to the character of Roark is Peter Keating. He is the son of Roark's Stanton landlady. Just as Roark's character is used to represent the power of individualism, Rand uses Keating's character to represent the failure of collectivism. Keating is described as handsome and "president of the student body, captain of the track team, member of the most important fraternity and voted the most popular man on campus." Keating is a joiner or, as Rand describes him later in the book, a second-hander. Keating is someone who defines himself by what others believe. He has no true sense of self because he is too impressionable.

Keating graduates first in his class from the same school that expelled Roark. He is offered a job at the most prestigious architectural firm in New York City. Instead of being overjoyed, Keating is full of self-doubt. Should he accept the job offer? Or should he accept a scholarship to study architecture in France? He turns to Roark for advice, which Roark refuses to give. As Keating readies himself for life in New York City, he is still full of doubt, although his mother and dean are convinced his judgment is sound. "But if that boy isn't the greatest architect of this U.S.A., his mother will want to know why!" says Mrs. Keating.

Roark and Keating begin their lives in New York. Keating tries to be all things to all people. He manipulates his co-workers to his advantage, flatters the ego of his boss, Guy Francon, and feigns an interest in rare porcelain to impress his boss's partner. His antics ingratiate him to his superiors. Keating quickly moves up the ranks in the firm. He is considered the golden boy of the architectural world—talented, successful, the man to emulate.

However, Keating still turns to Roark for advice on building design and hates himself for doing so. He is envious of Roark. Roark is not considered successful, but Roark also has no fears, no self doubts. As someone who depends on others for his self worth, Keating lives in fear: fear that his work will not be thought good enough, fear that he cannot measure up to what other expect of him, fear that someday his success will vanish. "Others gave Keating a sense of his own value. Roark gave him nothing. He thought he should seize his drawings and run. The danger was not Roark. The danger was that he, Keating remained."

Roark struggles in his early career. He seeks employment with the only architect whose work he admires, Henry Cameron. After an initial flush of success, Cameron's career spirals downward. When Roark finds him, Cameron is a tired, bitter man who is rejected by his peers. He initially refuses to hire Roark until he discovers the beauty and talent of Roark's drawings. Cameron's firm is a poor one financially, and he cannot afford to pay Roark a decent wage. This does not matter to Roark. He is content and learns a great deal from Cameron. Unlike Keating, the outward trappings of success do not matter to Roark. He is not sustained by the thoughts of others but by his own selfish need to create, to unleash the buildings that live inside his soul.

As Rand moves through the story of Keating and Roark, other characters are introduced who illustrate the continued theme of individualism versus collectivism. For example, Rand's selfish characters are those who do not depend on others for their self worth. They are driven to produce their life's work with no thought as to how it will be received by others. These characters are the creators in her story. Austen Heller, respected newspaper columnist, gives Roark his first commission and $500 to start an office. The house Roark designs and builds for Heller is ridiculed, but Heller does not care. He believes in Roark and remains a staunch defender throughout the story. Steven Mallory is a gifted sculptor who is rejected by the mainstream art world of New York. After Keating rejects Mallory's sculpture for his building, Mallory attempts to shoot a famous critic. In explaining his actions to Roark, Mallory delineates an important distinction in the struggle for the individual against the collective. He speaks of "poor fools" who cannot recognize greatness, but to Mallory the greater sin is "to see it and not want it." Mallory is speaking of the critic who recognizes great art but tries to destroy it so that the collective can be maintained.

Roark calls Rand's conformist characters "second-handers." These characters have no sense of self except what others give to them. Gordon Prescott is an architect who leads his public to believe he is a man of new vision and ideals. In reality, Prescott just puts old design techniques to new uses. Prescott fits Roark's definition of a second-hander because he "borrowed from others to in order to make an impression on others." Prescott's talent and thoughts are second rate and second hand.

Catherine Halsey is another second-hander. She is a timid wisp of a girl who is in love with Keating. However, Keating's mother and Catherine's uncle influence her against marrying him. Keating professes his love for Catherine but he ends up jilting her in favor of another woman with more status. Catherine then devotes herself to a life of social work, not because she wants this as a career, but because her uncle decides her path for her. Years later, Keating runs into Catherine and asks her to lunch. His attempts to apologize are brushed away. To Keating, his love for the timid Catherine was real. To Catherine, the bitter social worker, that love never existed.

Throughout the story, Roark is placed at odds with the second-handers. For instance, Cameron becomes ill and must close his office. Roark looks for work elsewhere. Keating hires him but Roark is soon fired because he refuses to compromise his ideals. This refusal creates setbacks for Roark. He is forced to work in a granite quarry. It is hard, manual labor. This shocks and saddens Roark's friends but not Roark. He continues to believe in himself, as he tells his friend Mike, "I'll save enough money and come back. Or maybe someone will send for me before then." Roark is not embittered by his outward situation. He is still an individual with value. His buildings are still there inside of him and he knows he will create them someday.

It is while working at the granite quarry, that Roark meets Dominique Francon. She is the daughter of Keating's boss and an ideal beauty. An explosive love affair soon follows. It is a difficult relationship. Mimi Reisel Gladstein in her book, The Ayn Rand Companion, characterizes Dominique as someone who is convinced that good does not stand a chance in this world and as a result does not let herself care about anything. Then she meets Howard Roark. Dominique vows to destroy Roark, even while admitting that she loves him, because she feels Roark and his work are too good for this world. Dominique is not a second-hander, but she does fear happiness. Roark amazingly takes Dominique's confession in stride. He sees the inner beauty and potential in Dominique. He is confident in his love for her, and he is confident that Dominique can come to love him openly on her own terms. Even when Dominique marries Keating, Roark tells her,

You must learn not to be afraid of this 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.

While Rand consistently pits second-handers like Keating against Roark, there is one character, which is a true villain in this story—Ellsworth Toohey. Rand describes Toohey as fragile looking, like a "chicken just emerging from the egg." Toohey is anything but fragile inside. He thrives on power and its accumulation. He purports to be a truly selfless hero: someone who cares for the masses and the struggles of the mediocre man. In reality he uses the weaknesses of others to control them. In his childhood, his aunt saw through him and said, "You're a maggot Elsie, you feed on sores." "Then I'll never starve," was his reply. He uses his positions of newspaper columnist, lecturer, and author to advance what he deems appropriate in art, architecture, novels, etc. It is through Toohey's control of collective opinion that he achieves power. As Roark's work begins to receive acclaim, Toohey looks for ways to destroy him. Toohey realizes the threat of a selfish, independent man. Men like Roark do not stand for mediocrity. Toohey cannot influence Roark. Even worse, if Roark achieves fame, then he will influence men, not Toohey.

The Fountainhead culminates with a trial. Roark is accused of blowing up a government housing project. He designed the project with the provision that it is built to his specifications. When the building is changed; he blows it up. Roark defends himself at the trial. It is Roark who chooses his jury. It is a panel made up of: "two executives of industrial concerns, two engineers, a mathematician, a truck driver, a bricklayer, an electrician, a gardener, and three factory workers." The jury is described as tough but Roark chose wisely. Most of these men have the capacity to create and be independent in their chosen work. These men know what it is like to experience the exhilaration of creation. Others on the jury, the factory workers, surely know how it feels to be yoked to the collective of mediocrity.

It is during Roark's final arguments that he emerges as a truly selfish hero. Roark speaks of those men who throughout the ages have been creators. "The great creators—the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors—stood alone against the men of their time." Roark talks of how all inventions were initially opposed or considered foolish. He speaks of the need for independence. "The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime motive."

Roark believes that to be a hero he must be selfish. According to Mimi Reisel Gladstone in The Ayn Rand Companion, Roark believes that only by living for one's self can one accomplish the extraordinary. Roark also believes that man cannot share his intellect or his creative truths with others. He says there is no such thing as a "collective brain." Roark's buildings are his creations. They belong to him even though others can enjoy them. Rand then uses Roark to prove the primacy of the individual versus the collective. Rand is speaking directly through Roark when he speaks of what he deems a crowning achievement of his values, his country America. Roark believes America is the noblest country on earth. As a Russian immigrant, Rand believed this too. Roark states that American values are not based on the idea of selfless service, but rather on the idea that each man has a right to the pursuit of happiness. "His own happiness. Not anyone else's. A private, personal, selfish motive. Look at the results." Against all odds, the jury finds Roark, the selfish hero, innocent. His actions are vindicated.

At the end of the book, Dominique visits Roark, now her husband, as he is working on his greatest project, a skyscraper commissioned by Mr. Gail Wynand. It was to be a testament to Wynand's life but instead Wynand asks that the building be a monument to Roark's spirit—the spirit of a selfish hero who shows that the value of the individual is what truly matters.

Source: Tamara Sakuda, Critical Essay on The Fountainhead, in Novels for Students, The Gale Group, 2003.

"Ayn Rand's Neurotic Personalities of Our Times"

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The philosophy of Ayn Rand Objectivism, has been subject to intensive analysis and discussion. Interest in her theories has led critics to overlook largely her work as novelist. While it may fairly be said that her plots, except for We the Living, are amorphous and loose, that there is endless repetition in Atlas Shrugged, and that characters are generally two-dimensional vehicles for ideas, in The Fountainhead she has been almost totally successful in creating thoroughly realized characters whose motivations are psychologically valid. It is always dangerous to talk of "influences" on writers; it may be wiser to talk about "parallels." Howbeit, there are close resemblances between personality types described by Karen Horney in The Neurotic Personality of Our Time (1937) and by Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead (1943). Whether or not one can point to a definite knowledge of Horney and a deliberate use of her conclusions, it is clear that both psychologist and novelist-philosopher have been impressed by the same personality characteristics in American society.

Horney feels that when judgment is passed on individual "neurotics," in a real sense it is being passed on society at the same time. As The Fountainhead makes abundantly clear, a person may deviate from social norms without being neurotic— Howard Roark is a case on point; others, such as Peter Keating, Catherine Halsey, Gail Wynand, and Ellsworth Toohey, who have severe neuroses, may be accepted as fulfilling social values exactly. A neurotic is usually characterized by rigidity of behavior, by lack of flexibility: he has a limited number of options available in adjusting to a given situation. But rigidity may also not be "neurotic" unless it departs from the "normal" cultural pattern (i.e., rigid suspicion of everything new is a quality of small, isolated, peasant cultures; to be suspicious in these circumstances is "normal").

Karen Horney recognizes two major trends in neurosis in our time; both of them figure prominently in The Fountainhead. First is the excessive dependence on the approval or affection of others. Wishing to be liked is neurotic only when it is indiscriminate and out of proportion. Peter Keating, for instance, needs constant reassuring that his work is good, that he is valuable—from everyone. Feelings of inferiority seem to be among the chief evils of our day: Keating's neurosis is based on inferiority.

Though openly successful, Keating is actually a bundle of anxieties. These he attempts to obscure by amassing money, dressing in the prescribed way, following the proper opinions (those of Ellsworth Toohey). He has difficulties making decisions for himself and he hesitates to express selfish wishes. In important areas, such as marriage to Catherine Halsey, he lets himself drift. Without a clear conception of what he wants to do in his work, he ends by doing nothing. Envying everyone more secure and self-confident than himself, Keating becomes a parasite incapable of self direction. Dominique Francon marries him (he does not decide), Howard Roark gives him ideas for his work, Ellsworth Toohey directs his values.

Keating's need for approbation faces an additional cultural hurdle. Our society is based upon competition. This competition implies that each individual has to fight with others, and in any fight, inevitably someone loses. The result is a generally widespread hostility and tension, generated by fear of the potential hostility of others; fear of retaliation for one's own hostility; fear of failure, with resulting economic insecurity, loss of prestige; and fear of success, which, out of envy, may produce the hostility of others. Peter realizes that if he pursues his own desires and achieves success, others may retaliate and he will lose their approval. He sees that he must be modest, inconspicuous, and conventional; he must negate his potentialities; he must be "normal" in a society that paradoxically extols both competitive success and Christian self-sacrifice.

The quest for affection is one reassurance against fear mentioned by Karen Horney. The search for power, prestige, and possession (both of things and of people) is another. The wish to dominate, acquire, and be admired is as normal as the desire for approval. The feeling of power in a normal person may be a recognition of his superior strength (physical or mental). The striving for power may be connected with some cause: religion, patriotism, or work. The neurotic craving for power is born of anxiety, hatred, and feelings of inferiority. Thus "the normal striving for power is born of strength, the neurotic of weakness."

Comparative texts are sometimes revealing. From The Fountainhead:

Ellsworth Monkton Toohey was seven years old when he turned the hose upon Johnny Stokes. . . . Johnny Stokes was a bright kid with dimples and golden curls: people always turned to look at Johnny Stokes. Nobody had ever turned to look at Ellsworth Toohey.

From The Neurotic Personality of Our Time:

The quest for power is. . . a protection against helplessness and against insignificance. . . . The neurotic that falls in this group develops a stringent need to impress others, to be admired and respected. . . . Usually they have gone through a series of humiliating experiences in childhood. . . . Sometimes the ambition is not centered on a definite goal, but spreads over all a person's activities. He has to be the best in every field he comes in touch with.

From The Fountainhead descriptions of Gail Wynand:

One day he walked up to the pressroom boss and stated that they should start a new service—deliver the paper to the reader's door. . . he explained how and why it would increase circulation. "Yeah?" said the boss. "I know it will work," said Wynand. "Well, you don't run things around here," said the boss. "You're a fool," said Wynand. He lost the job. One day he explained to the grocer what a good idea it would be to put milk up in bottles. . . "You shut your trap and go wait on Mrs. Sullivan there," said the grocer, "don't you tell me nothing I don't know about my business. You don't run things around here."

The name of Gail Wynand's boat is I Do. The Neurotic Personality of Our Time describes Wynand's character:

Neurotic striving for power serves as a protection against the danger of feeling or being insignificant. The neurotic develops a rigid and irrational ideal of strength which makes him believe he should be able to master any situation. [I Do]. . . . He classifies people as either "strong" or "weak," admiring the former and despising the latter. . . . He has more or less contempt for all persons who agree with him or give in to his wishes.

In her chapter "The Meaning of Neurotic Suffering," Horney draws a solid portrait of Dominique Francon, the most interesting and unbearable character in The Fountainhead. Dominique's deliberate incurring of suffering accompanies "the realization of a growing discrepancy between potentialities and factual achievements"; her suffering is "prompted by anxiety" and has "direct defense value against imminent dangers." Even stronger is Horney's suggestion that "having to realize a definite weakness or shortcoming of his own is unbearable for one who has such high-flown notions of his own uniqueness. . . abandoning oneself to excessive suffering may serve as an opiate against pain."

Dominique is in love with Howard Roark; she applauds his ideas. Yet she consistently tries to ruin him and thwart his projects. Through marriages to Peter Keating and Gail Wynand, she puts herself out of Roark's reach. Early in the novel she buys a beautiful statue, which she finds especially satisfying, but she flings it down an elevator shaft to smash it. These are all neurotic signs, but the reasons for them are more interesting than masochistic motives: they are explained by Horney. Dominique is afraid to believe that Howard Roark is as self-contained and dedicated as he seems, because such a person makes terrible demands on others; if she can find a flaw in him, she need not make an effort to be a complete individual. She also wants to take Roark out of a position where he can be hurt: i.e., if he is broken, if his ideals are gone and his work no longer his most important—and vulnerable—aspect, then the world cannot hurt him. By various experiences with men, she strives to humiliate herself in order to experience some of the pain she believes Roark is feeling. Sex for her is a degrading experience, a subduing one because carried on with inferior men.

Horney continues: "The obtaining of satisfaction by submersion in misery is an expression of the general principle of finding satisfaction by losing the self in something greater, by dissolving the individuality, by getting rid of the self with its doubts, conflicts, pains, limitations, and isolation." Roark will not have Dominique until she learns not to submerge herself, until she learns not to submit herself to something greater. He does not wish her to be Mrs. Howard Roark as much as he wants her to be Dominique first. The Fountainhead is a long account of the education of Dominique Francon.

As a foil for Dominique is Catherine Halsey, a tragic, beautifully drawn figure. She is what our society regards as the perfect social worker: a figure of utter altruism, of complete submersion in the lives of others. When she is first encountered in the novel, she is a delightful, open girl. After Peter Keating throws her over for Dominique, Catherine dedicates her life to serving others; in so doing, she impoverishes her whole personality, and becomes a bitter, prematurely old woman who worries about the bowels of her friends. Society, however, would applaud her dedication, failing to see that until she has a self of her own, she cannot possibly be of any value to others.

Howard Roark does not strictly speaking belong in a discussion of Ayn Rand's neurotic personalities, because he is not neurotic; he is, however, the touchstone for all the other characters in the novel and as such points up their particular neuroses. Roark needs no approval, acclaim, or admiration: whether he is liked is immaterial to him. He knows his work is good; no one needs to confirm the fact for him. He feels all the emotions except inferiority. While in social terms he is openly a failure, his inner calm and confidence belie the idea. Roark creates his own taste and follows none. In terms of fundamental values and ideals, his important decisions have already been made; he knows exactly what he wants to do, and for 754 pages of novel, expresses only his own selfish point of view. The potential hostility, retaliation of others do not affect him, nor does the prospect of success. And unlike a more typical romantic hero, he does not give up all for the woman he loves: his work and his integrity are more important.

The Fountainhead, chiefly through its characters, points up a number of paradoxes in our time and culture. There is first the paradox of the drive for competition and success on the one hand vs. the constant demand for brotherly love and humility on the other. On one side, the individual is spurred on to greater and greater heights of success, which means he must be assertive and aggressive, while on the other he is deeply imbued by the principle and ideal of unselfishness. A second paradox is that one's desires and needs are constantly kept stimulated, while the possibilities of fulfillment are slim or impossible. Through advertising, television, and films, the demand for conspicuous consumption keeps the desires pitched high. But for most the ability to realize this level is not commensurate with the wish, and there is a constant discrepancy between desire and achievement. The third paradox is that a gap exists between the alleged freedom of the individual and his actual limitations. One cannot choose his parents or his early environment, which limits his potential for meeting certain kinds of people. For the majority of people the possibilities are limited but not insurmountable. For the neurotic the conflicts are intensified, and as mentioned in regard to Keating, Toohey, and Wynand, a satisfactory solution is impossible.

The whole force of these paradoxes is to show that society as a whole is neurotic, in that its constitution encourages the neuroses found in The Fountainhead. If all society is faced with these paradoxes, and all the conflicts implied in them are essentially impossible to solve, then the Howard Roarks, the really well balanced and secure individuals, will be the ones considered neurotic by the society around them. Thus we end with a fourth paradox.

Source: Paul Deane, "Ayn Rand's Neurotic Personalities of Our Times," in Revue des langues vivantes, Vol. XXXVI, No. 2, 1970, pp. 125-29.


Critical Overview