The Fountainhead

I have finally finished reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. It was one of the greatest literary undertakings of my life thus far, consisting of seven hundred pages of weighty and philosophical content in small print. Because of school, it took me about three months.

I got some slack from my friends for readying Rand, apparently they were worried about my ideological beliefs to shift right. For the majority of the book, I assured them them that was not the case, rather to me it seemed The Fountainheadwas instead a magnificent story. It stood out to me among the other other books I have read because of the beautiful descriptive language, the depth and candid reality of exchanges between characters, and the very careful and exquisite character development. I have always been taught to show not tell, and Rand is a master of that.

What my copy looks like

As I neared the end, and Rand’s ideology of Objectivism became very apparent, I saw clearly where conservatives may find joy in Rand’s writing. The main character, Howard Roark, an individualistic architect committed only to his art / trade, speaks out against so-called second-handers and altruism. A quick reiteration of his thesis is that in the world there are two types of men, creators and second-handers. Creators lead innovation and are the reason behind the continuous progress of humanity. Second-handers feed off of them and take power in the world with out bringing anything of their own soul.

With a passion for rugged individuality, this stood out to me, yet the crusade against altruism is morally difficult. Roark / Rand asserts that there is no value to either the individual or to society to engage in altruistic acts and eventually in collectivism. That is not what I have been raised to believe, nor does it seem just. I think Rand presents the extreme point of view, and it is better to make a slight compromise, even though Roark directly attacks compromises in his argument. One man’s compromise is another man’s sellout.

At the same time, I cannot morally find a way to justify extreme individualism and independence when I know so much of my life has been based on the unabashed support that I have received from others. Additionally, what does Roark’s argument say about human relationships, etiquette, development and common courtesy? Do they get thrown out the door if they stand in the way or your independence?

While extreme in his presentation, Roark brings up an important point that independence and individual creativity is vastly important. However I believe that in our age when no one is truly self-made, we must give back in some form or another. The problem with idealism is that it is often far too extreme for all but the thinker.

I came to The Fountainhead in a quest to read more often and books of a higher caliber. It was also a stepping stone on the way to Atlas Shrugged , but I need a break before that. Next is Kafka’s  Metamorphosis. It was recommended to me by a close professor, so I am very excited.

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