Ayn Rand said that the theme of The Fountainhead is “individualism versus collectivism, not in politics, but in man’s soul.” I want to comment on three specific aspects of this theme, as it is embodied in Roark’s character and his interactions with the other figures in the novel. Roark is a man of independence, he is an egoist, and he is a creator, a paragon of productive achievement. These three concepts—independence, egoism, and achievement—are the key to understanding the moral sense of The Fountainhead and the ways in which it differs from the conventional ethos.
Rand makes it clear from the outset that independence does not consist in nonconformity. Henry Cameron says to Roark, “I wouldn’t care, if you were an exhibitionist who’s being different as a stunt, as a lark, just to attract attention to himself. It’s a smart racket, to oppose the crowd and amuse it and collect admission to the sideshow.” Later on, we meet a number of artists, protégés of Toohey, who are engaged in precisely that kind of racket; the writer who did not use capital letters, the painter who “used no canvas, but did something with bird cages and metronomes,” and the like. When Toohey’s friends ask him how he can support such rabid individualists, he smiles blandly. He knows that these “iconoclasts” are merely playing off conventions, for the sake of shock value; they are just as dependent on others as the most abject conformist. And most of them, like the writer Lois Cook, have a smirking kind of awareness that they are getting away with something, foisting trash on a credulous public. (I sometimes think that Andy Warhol got his ideas from these passages of The Founta…
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…Greeks, for their part, considered wisdom a virtue, but their conception of wisdom always contained a conventional, conservative element. …”Wisdom” is not the term one would use to describe a scientific genius, a brilliant artist, an innovator in any field. But these, for Rand, are the highest exemplars of rationality.
By linking independence to reason, Rand severed its association with subjectivism, with the arbitrary impulses of the iconoclast, with the dark realm of Dionysian passion. Conversely, by linking reason with independence, she gave it a romantic quality as a tool of creative freedom, not a constraint.
Works Cited and Consulted
Peikoff, Leonard. The Philosophy of Objectivism, A Brief Summary. Stein and Day, 1982.
Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. New York: Plume, 1994.
Walker, Jeff. The Ayn Rand Cult. Carus Publishing Company, 1999
A Psychological Reading of The Fountainhead
A Psychological Reading of The Fountainhead
Real independence is a trait of mind. It is a commitment to one’s own perception of reality as an absolute standard of thought and action. Why was this so hard for Peter Keating to distinguish between “Self” (what I am) and “Ideal Self” (what I wish I were)? It is evident that Peter Keating’s incongruent self-concept is the result of Keatings’ beliefs that conditional love from others could only be obtained by distorting his experiences in order to portray the “Ideal Self”. This form of personality development starts from childhood experiences and can be directly connected to the amount of congruence or incongruence of one’s experience in life. Keating is a prime example of incongruency or someone that registers every little move within the environment. Keating has a constant fear of what is perceived within the consciousness of others, which he spends his entire life trying to appease and control. (Rogers, 1961) Keating is basically a hypocrite, by saying one thing and acting in an opposite manner. Keating is not the only hypocrite. Keating is relieved when he notices that Guy Francon is putting on a front for his benefit. It means that Francon too is a man like Keating, with the same attitude toward the consciousness of others. This way of thinking was accurately described as Ayn Rand uses Roark’s words in his last courtroom speech, “The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves. The relationship produces nothing but mutual corruption. It is impossible in concept. The nearest approach to reality – the man who lives to serve others – is the slave.” ( Fountainhead, p. 680) When Keating first proposes to Dominique, he speaks rapidly, easily, and so sure of himself it was not difficult. A lie is described as an effort to manipulate the consciousness of others, a way that comes too natural to Keating. Though he is an intelligent man, not without some heart, he is fundamentally incapable of being honest. The concept of truth, the grasp of reality in Keating’s mind is different and frightening. Rand uses the terminology “second-hander” to describe the Peter Keatings’ of the world. “The choice is not self-sacrifice or domination. The choice is independence or dependence. The code of the creator or the second-hander.