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
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
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 Roark may be characterized as an
eccentric introvert, yet at the same time he was able to
surpass standards modernistic architecture never achieved,
simply for the sake of creating, and innovating. Roark is
most definately correct in saying that independence is the
only gauge of human virtue and value. A conformist has low
value because of his refusal to jump the bounds of
submission; the conformist would never experiment for the
sake of self- improvement. This would not be looked upon
well by other.
Conformity is governed by the laws of compromise, egotism,
productivity, and value. A conformist must be willing to
sacrifice his philosophies simply because it does not
correspond with the attitude of the clique. Independence,
on the other hand relies on only one thing: the performance
of the individual. A conformist must be satisfied with the
performance of the group. The independent individual has
himself to blame when events turn for the worse, and he
solely reeps the benifit of his own performance. 

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