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Contemplating the End in Shaving and There Will Come Soft Rains

Contemplating the End in Shaving and There Will Come Soft Rains

What happens at the end? “Shaving” and “There Will Come Soft Rains” both address that issue, the first referring to the end of a man’s life, the second to the end of humanity. Both ends come about through illness, whether that of a dying man or of a society that drives itself to suicide. The microcosm, the macrocosm- both show in their own way that man is mortal, that this too shall pass. The authors seem to have irreconcilable messages about humanity, which are in fact merely two faces of the same coin.

“There Will Come Soft Rains” says that, yes, we can build magnificent machines: beautiful houses to cater to our every need, a thousand servants at our beck and call- yet what benefit will they be at the end? When we fry ourselves into radioactive smithereens because we can sooner built houses fit for gods then learn to live in peace with our fellow mortals, what good will our machines be to us then? The loyal family dog searched futilely for his masters, the house tried in vain to save itself from the fires, but their efforts to save their masters were ludicrous, for the master race had exterminated itself and left the servants all alone, impotent. Not one of man’s creations could stand at the day of reckoning and save him from extinction- nor would many mourn his passage. This is a humbling thought, that our planet would survive quite well without us were we to rid it of our presence- and that in just a short while, it would almost be as if we had never existed at all.

Times have changed since the writing of “There Will Come Soft Rains”, when the threat of nuclear extermination seemed more real than it is now. But should we read it only as a chill…

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…y chose to perform a small favor for his terminally ill father, to reach out to another human being and to work for a while for another’s gain at his expense- and by doing so he gained more than the hapless family had ever known.

“Really, of what benefit is it if a man gains the whole world, but loses his soul?” demands the Bible. The pursuit of all the latest and greatest things, be they beautiful clothes or flashy cars or gorgeous homes or staggering bank-balances or prestigious degrees or considerable political power, is not important. We can deceive ourselves into believing otherwise at the risk of creating the future as seen in “There Will Come Soft Rains”, or we pursue the more important things, as hinted at in “Shaving”, so that when the end does come- and both stories reflect that inevitability- we will know that we have not spent our lives in vain.

The Power of the Individual Revealed in The Fountainhead

The Power of the Individual Revealed in The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead provided and continues to provide a powerful inspiration to the individualist movement in America, and throughout the world. More than any other single work, The Fountainhead revived popular enthusiasm for a way of thinking, and a way of life, that in 1943 was regarded by virtually every sector of intellectual opinion as outmoded. Ayn Rand’s courageous challenge to accepted ideas was rendered still more courageous by her willingness to state her individualist premises in the clearest terms and to defend the most radical implications that could be drawn from them.

The romantic individualism of The Fountainhead is like DNA; it’s present in every cell, and it controls every cell. The major psychological conflict of the novel, the conflict between Howard Roark and Dominique Francon, is not permitted to remain what almost any other novelist would make it, a conflict simply between two strong people. It is not even permitted to remain a conflict between two strong individualists. It becomes instead a conflict between two strong individualists who have competing ways of showing their respect for individualism, and in particular for Howard Roark’s own individualism: Howard values it so much that he makes it the consistent basis of an ultimately successful career; Dominique values it so much that she tries to destroy that career before it can be destroyed by others. This is strange, but it is strange in a completely Randian way, a way that could never be mistaken for anyone else’s.

The same might be said of a hundred other features of The Fountainhead. These features can be read both as doctrine and as symbol, but they are m…

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…ay, as a mere foil to the characters she likes. She did not turn him into an idiot, which would be her way with many of the villains in her next novel, Atlas Shrugged. In The Fountainhead, Rand knows that the intensity of a long-protracted conflict needs a strong antagonistic force, a force whose influence can be felt on many levels. Roark is the active and effective embodiment of an individualist system of values; Toohey is the active and, in almost every case, the effective embodiment of a collectivist system of values that engages Roark’s values at every point.

Works Cited and Consulted

Branden, Barbara. The Passion of Ayn Rand: A biography. New York: Doubleday, 1986a

Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. New York: Plume, 1994.

The Ayn Rand Institute. “A Brief Biography of Ayn Rand” [Online] available, 1995

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