The Fountainhead


Philosophy demands literature that can abet the understanding of
social views. Without reflective literature, man cannot begin to comprehend
the essential messages behind philosophy. One such philosophy, objectivism,
is represented exceptionally by the timeless novel, The Fountainhead.
Through the use of compelling dialogue, Ayn Rand reveals her own feelings
towards objectivism, and her thoughts towards conformity and independence.
The interpretations and the implications of several of the quotes within
The Fountainhead accurately depict the essence of objectivism and
encourages the opposition of conventional standards through the embodiment
of the uncompromising innovator "standing against the world."

Society dictates that there will be those that follow and those that
will lead the followers. Peter Keating is one that adheres to conformity; a
man of little independent thought, a follower. Howard Roark, on the other
hand, is a man aspiring to achieve a level of complete and utter
independence from traditional principles. One telling passage occurs in a
scene where Keating and Roark are discussing architecture.

Keating: "How do you always manage to decide?"
Roark: "How can you let others decide for you?"

As two men on the extreme sides of conformity and independence, it is hard
for Keating to understand how someone could be so sure of himself, whereas
it is incomprehensible for Roark to believe that Keating could have so
little self-assurance and such a lack of resolve regarding the decisions he
chooses to make. In this regard, Howard Roark is greater than Peter
Keating. Often times in world affairs, smaller nations adhere to a state of
Finlandization; they buckle under the pressures of a larger nation because
they lack the strength to strive for independent thought. Howard Roark, is
a man who refuses to succumb to that greater entity and is able to think
and judge for himself.

Egotism is defined as an exaggerated sense of self importance. Often
times, independence and conformity play a very large part in egotism.
Whether a man is a conformist or non- conformist, he is affected to some
degree by his own egotism. Is ego, then, harmful or beneficial to our
growth and self- actualization? Katie, a somewhat ineffectual minor
character had a very revealing discussion with her uncle, Ellsworth Toohey,
regarding her unhappiness.

Toohey: "If your first concern is for what you are or
think or feel or have or haven\'t got---you\'re
still a common egotist."
Katie: "You mean, I must want to be unhappy?"
Toohey: "No. You must stop wanting anything."

Ellsworth Toohey, the humanitarian, is stating that when a person\'s first
thoughts are about themself, than they are an egotist. Yet, to some degree,
isn\'t everyone an egotist? If man does not care about himself, his
feelings, or his possessions, and has just given up on the world, than what
is that man? He is most likely be a Howard Roark. So, when Toohey advises
his niece Katie to stop wanting anything, he is saying that to live a life
of conceit is immoral, and that desire is a non-essential. What is
essential to fulfillment, however, is dedication to and desire for
commitment in our relationships and our life\'s work.

Dominique: "Roark, I can accept anything, except what seems to be
the easiest for most people: the half-way, the almost, the just-about, the
in- between."

In the American work force today, all too often there is a lack of
concern for the quality of work accomplished. In our educational system,
students often times only do enough to simply "get by." Dominique perceives
people as lazy, and to her that is just unacceptable. To some degree Peter
Keating is lazy because of his reluctance to broaden his architectural
horizons and create; he simply copies the same design repeatedly with
little variance. Dominique also makes a social statement by implying that
society needs to reevaluate its work ethic and lack of care. She insinautes
that while existing in a state of conformity, carelessness is often times
overlooked as a problem. Roark takes this need for dedication one step
further; he punctuates his life with not only devotion but also a maverick
style that was all important to his feelings of self worth.

Roark: "Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value.
What a man is and makes of himself-- not what he has or
hasn\'t done for others."

A man is defined by his actions. Peter Keating, for example, might be
described as a good friend and an outstanding architect, but in reality he
is a very shallow man. Never did he design any structures simply for the
sake of self-enrichment. Howard