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AlbertJayNock

The Fountainhead

I just finished reading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. It was an enjoyable book and presented a lot of the same ideas as Atlas Shrugged.
It is a shorter book. At 729 pages, it is practically a novella compared to Atlas Shrugged. It has fewer characters, which allowed Rand to develop a very identifiable hero (architect Howard Roark) and villain (socially responsible architecture critic Ellsworth Toohey, who probably has the most Dickensian name of any character in 20th century fiction).

I liked Howard Roark's character. He has a clear vision of what architecture should be and does not care at all whether other people agree with it. Work comes to him slowly because of this, but it does come because of the integrity of his vision and craft. Early in the book, a client says to him

"And, incidentally, thank you for all the thought you seem to have taken about my comfort. There are so many things I notice that had never occurred to me before, but you've planned them as if you knew all my needs. For instance, my study is the room I'll need most and you've given it the dominant spot--and, incidentally, I see where you've made it the dominant mass from the outside, too. And then the way it connects with the library, and the living room well out of my way, and the guest rooms where I won't hear too much of them--and all that. You were very considerate of me."

And Roark responds "You know, I haven't thought of you at all. I thought of the house." He added: "Perhaps that's why I knew how to be considerate of you."

This is a consistent theme throughout the book.It reminds me of these lines from a poem by Richard Lovelace:

"I could not love thee, dear, so much
Loved I not honour more."

Or as Howard Roark puts it "Before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences. The work, not the people."


There is a passage in the book when Roark's nemesis, Ellsworth Toohey offers Roark a chance to say exactly what he thinks of him. Roark's response is "But I don't think of you."

His lack of concern for what others think of him frees him from a desire to control other people. In a soliloquy near the end of the book, he decries the false choice between being a tyrant or a slave. "The choice" he says "is not self-sacrifice or domination. The choice is independence or dependence." He is "the one man who wished neither to serve nor to rule."

That's not a bad way to be. It's a shame most people don't even see it as a possibility.
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