Originally published in 1943, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is still as relevant today as ever. I discovered Ayn Rand just under 2 years ago. Rand is the pioneer of the philosophy Objectivism which has inspired many to lead more fulfilling lives. The story centres around the battling of architectural styles in New York city and the clashes of culture and politics that go along with it.
Ellsworth M Toohey
Is a great intellectual in the novel who is the most revered and trusted by the public. Toohey continually preaches about his marxist vision to the masses whether they know it to be or not . The problem with Intellectuals is that they think they know whats best for everyone. While they may be more intelligent than everyone that does not mean that they know whats best for the individual man. Of course, all intellectuals aren’t bad but Ellsworth’s master of the English language enables him to rile up emotion in the collective with his masterful rhetoric. This is an admirable trait but a dangerous one as history tells us, the piles of bodies cannot be ignored.
Architecture in Ayn Rand’s world
Due to the date it was published, Roark can be given a pass on his view on architecture. Now-a-days modern architecture has descended to degeneracy so that many now long for the grand buildings of old. In the forties I believe that this was less apparent and as such modern buildings were much more attractive. Roark’s desire for buildings to suit their specific purpose does make sense and certainly his character makes a truly compelling case for it. His passion can be channelled and transferred to any part of your life if you so desire.
Of course there is room for both in this world
Nothing should be dismissed merely because it is old and has lost it’s functionality. Tradition in any form, if healthy, is vital and architecture such as the Pantheon (top) should remind us of the beauty and skill of great men from the past. It reminds us of what feats we are capable of and It humbles us to know who has came and gone before us.
Howard Roark vs Peter Keating
These two characters are the absolute antithesis of each other in the novel and their stories intertwine throughout it.
Howard Roark is a free thinking, independent architect who throughout the novel places himself on the outskirts of recognition due to his personal beliefs. He is a man who refuses to bend the knee to anyone or any boardroom that seeks to impose their will on him by altering his buildings. Reoark is a man of honour which often leads to his livelihood suffering which he views as a small price to pay.
Peter Keating is your typical yes-man who everybody knows. Top of his architectural school, Keating will do anything to climb his way to the top and please his superiors. He has no core aspirations outside of recognition and success but fails to specify what kind and at what cost. Keating will sell his soul to the highest bidder as he is completely malleable with no strong code of ethics or virtue to live by. His mantra “Always be what people want you to be” is displayed through the book in his desire to please his peers.
Be a Roark and not a Keating, don’t lose your identity and will because of a fear not be judged or ridiculed, you will be judged anyway. Saving your self is infinitely more important than any temptations you will be offered. The Roark’s of this world may have smaller followings but their potential for true growth is superior.
I recommend reading ‘The Fountainhead’ By Ayn Rand, a timeless classic.