Monday, June 26, 2017

The Man of Principle

The Fountainhead 


The Fountainhead


“I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need…. It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing....”  — Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead;


Ayn Rand began writing her best seller on June 26, 1938. It was published in 1943 and by the summer of 1945 it was on the bestseller lists and has remained in print ever since. I have always enjoyed reading books about heroes and this was one of my favorite discoveries. When I was in high school I read this story of Howard Roark and in it found a representative of individualism with whom I could identify.

In lucid direct prose Ayn Rand narrates a story of an architect with principles who will defer to no one in the pursuit of his life goals. The basic conflict is between Roark as an exemplar of egoism who uses his reason to judge for himself contrasted with the character of Peter Keating who is a"second-hander", that is one who bases his life on the opinions of others. She creates characters who represent principles of good and evil including one of the most evil characters in literature in the person of Ellsworth Toohey, a man who manipulates others into giving up that which they hold most dear.  While Roark suffers, especially due to the machinations of Toohey, he is ultimately vindicated and stands as a hero to all who choose to think and create and produce.

The novel is written in a clear and lucid style that belies the Romanticism inherent in the story-line.  If you have enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo or the works of Victor Hugo you will like The Fountainhead.


6 comments:

Stephen said...

What did you make of Dominique? She was such a strange character, in part because she was confused or conflicted over what she wanted to do.

James said...

Stephen,
I see Dominique as an idealist with a pessimistic streak that explains at least part of her internal conflictions. Her idealism leads her to adore Roark and, fortunately, she is enough of an independent thinker to overcome her pessimistic side with regard to her ultimate relations with him.

Brian Joseph said...

It has been a long time since I haVE read this. Ayn Rand certainly expressed a strong view of the world here.

If you have not read it, you might like Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. That book proposes a more community oriented brand of Libertarianism. It makes an interesting contrast to Rand's novels.

James said...

Brian,
Thanks for your comment. Rand's style is clearly Romantic in the sense that her heroes embody ideas that often portray themselves as good and evil.

I have read and admire The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for its libertarian outlook among other things. One of my favorite lines from the book is
“From somewhere, back in my youth, heard Prof say, 'Manuel, when faced with a problem you do not understand, do any part of it you do understand, then look at it again.' He had been teaching me something he himself did not understand very well—something in math—but had taught me something far more important, a basic principle.” ― Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

R.T. said...

Wow! I never would have thought of Rand and Hugo in the same category. You nearly convince me to find a copy of The Fountainhead and read it again; it's been a long time since I first encountered this and others by Rand. I must say, though, Victor Hugo never entered my mind then. I guess I have to give it a try.

James said...

R.T.,
My comparison is in light of the Romanticism that these novels share. Like Dumas and Hugo, Rand has written a novel where the characters embody ideas while good and evil are in stark contrast. I would recommend Rand's The Romantic Manifesto for details.