The Fountainhead: Essay Q&A
1. Literary critics describe The Fountainhead is an anthem for the indestructible spirit of humankind. Agree or disagree.
In the shadowy New York world, Howard Roark embodies the pure spirit of humanity, and his buildings demonstrate that perfection is indeed possible in this corrupted world. From an early age, the world attempts to corrupt him but he persists in remaining true to his vision. After being expelled from Stanton, the Dean calls him to his office where he tells him the school will reinstate him if he will only recapitulate and copy traditional drawings. But Roark would rather face the scorn of others and the label of drop-out than give in to what Rand classifies as plagiarism. Later on, when his "friend?Peter Keating goes to work for the most prestigious but hardly original architectural firm in town, Roark goes to work for Henry Cameron, a brilliant once-great architect but now a has-been. Like Roark, Cameron continues to toil diligently with great love for his art and never falters in being true to his integrity and vision.
As the years go by, Roark would rather give credit for his magnificent buildings to Keating just to see them erected. He cares nothing for what people think, especially his nemesis, the architectural correspondent Ellsworth Toohey who glorifies selflessness and mediocrity. So important is Roark's creative vision that he would rather work as a laborer cutting limestone in a quarry than give in and change his work to resemble the mediocrity of others. And, when other inferior architects like Gus Webb take it upon themselves to disfigure his Cortlandt Homes masterpiece, he dynamites the work rather than allow shame and ugliness to gain a foothold in his art. In two court trials, he never puts on a show defending himself. He merely lets his work speak for itself and it isn't until Dominique finds it within herself to love him without reservation despite what people think, that he makes her his wife. All this considered, Roark exemplifies the indestructible spirit of mankind.
2. Rand presents Howard Roark and Ellsworth Toohey in opposition throughout the novel. Describe the meaning of each.
In his youth, Howard Roark, whose name alludes to the roar or a lion, comes to believe that he has the ability to design architecture that will inspire people to reach for the stars. He carries this desire into adulthood, believing wholeheartedly in his ability to carry out this mission without the help or input of anyone else, with the exception of the client who must provide the money. He is single-minded-a creator. He has few friends, but they are faithful to a fault. His first duty, he realizes, is to himself and his work. Helping mankind is secondary, a result of his work but certainly not its prime motivation. He must be free and independent to carry out his quest, and in this effort he puts emotional ties on the back burner. For instance, he loves Dominique, but he does not need her. And while her marriages to Keating and Wynand hurt him, he realizes that worrying about this state of affairs and living with jealousy achieves nothing. He waits patiently. On the other hand, Ellsworth Toohey, whose name alludes to copying or plagiarism in the sense of "me too,?spends his life tearing down the exceptional and building up the mediocre, is the antithesis of Roark. He has always been dependent on others. He manipulates them emotionally to achieve his own ends-which are simply to control them. Even when he was a child, he had the ability to look at social situations and turn them to his advantage by acting humble and pious but then attacking more talented children behind their backs. At Harvard, he used his phony pious personality to extract funds for the poor out of the wealthy students, all in an effort to shine the light on himself. As a vocational counselor he took control of the young by herding them into careers for which they weren't suited. In all his efforts, he instills self-doubt when it comes to individualistic thought and only praises efforts that help others.
Rand sums up the ideology of The Fountainhead by giving Roark and Toohey philosophical monologues. Roark presents his monologue as the closing argument in the Cortlandt court case. The epitome of absolute selfish individualism, he speaks calmly and precisely in an open court of law where his inspirational words inspire the jury to set him free. He looks to the creators of the past who took giant steps for mankind by following their own vision, like the person who brought fire to mankind, and the inventor of the wheel. In contrast, Toohey's monologue is a hysterical rant given in the dead of night in the failed Keating's run-down apartment. Predictably, his words fall on deaf ears, have no effect and inspire nothing.
3. Dominique and Katie are female figures set in opposition. How does Rand define each-and to what end?
Rand creates the self-effacing Katie Halsey as a foil for the highly individualistic Dominique Francon. From the beginning, Dominique Francon, whose name alludes to domination, is a seemingly female form of Roark, cold and unfeeling. She contrasts strongly with the whiny doormat, Katie Halsey, Ellsworth Toohey's selfless niece. Elegantly clad to a fault, Dominique is described in terms of Roark's architecture, her simple elegance, her clean angular lines and such. However, while Dominique writes about art, she does not create it, but she has the desire, like Roark, not to settle for mediocrity. She must find a partner of high integrity who is a true creator. She is attracted to Wynand for his power, sincerity and corresponding artistic taste, and would probably have remained happily married to him had he not faltered near the end of the novel by failing to fully defend Roark in the matter of the Cortlandt Homes project. In the end, Howard Roark is the only man for Dominique and she willingly scandalizes herself to meet him on an equal footing.
Katie Halsey, on the other hand, is the female character Rand utilizes to illustrate the personal danger for women involved in altruistic thinking. From the beginning she accepts Keating without comment. When he promises to see her the following day and shows up three months later she doesn't say a word. Their strange relationship continues for years until Keating asks whether they are engaged-but there is no ring, no bent knee, nothing. She acquiesces as if it was the most natural betrothal in the world. And, even when he marries another woman on the day they are to be married, she continues on her selfless social pursuits, helping others. At one point, she could have been saved, had she listened to the inner voice warning her to fear her uncle who had for years been mind-washing her into believing she didn't exist as an individual and suggesting she give every moment selflessly to others. Keating soothes her, promises to marry her the following day and then allows his mother to change his mind for him. Katie is so selfless she apologizes for her behavior. It is not difficult to understand then how in time she comes to be alone and totally enslaved into carrying out her uncle's altruistic orders.
4. In The Fountainhead, Rand portrays two different kinds of success in her characters Peter Keating and Howard Roark. How does each character portray an image of success and which one would Rand be more likely to embrace?
Society usually views successful individuals as possessing power and wealth. The more people a person employs, the greater his power, while the amount of yearly income similarly dictates a person's level of social prestige. However, some would measure an individual's personal integrity and self-respect as a greater indicator of success. Peter Keating and Howard Roark represent these viewpoints, and Rand would definitely favor her character Roark's manner of achieving success.
If we were to take into account merely material standards of success, Keating would definitely be considered vastly more successful. He was the valedictorian at Stanton while Roark was expelled. He leaps up the corporate ladder in a single bound by causing the death of the firm's partner who happened to leave him his fortune, while Roark struggles, at times working as a manual laborer when he fails to get commissions. Keating makes a brilliant marriage to the beautiful and stylish Dominique Francon, despite the fact that he knows she does not love him. In the process, he breaks the heart of an innocent young girl. In contrast, Roark waits patiently for ten years for the woman he loves. Keating became the top architect in New York almost overnight, this despite the fact that he plagiarizes Roark's designs. He will build anything for anyone, even the ugliest house in the City for money, while Roark will only build what he wants. And, when Keating is given the chance to save his soul he offers to sell it out of pride to Roark for the Cortlandt design.
So, when it comes to indicators of power and wealth, Keating takes the prize for most successful, but Roark wins this race because he never wavers in his integrity and self respect.
5. In Part Three, Wynand and Roark's relationship takes center stage. Why? Of what significance is Wynand in the novel?
Gail Wynand represents what Howard Roark could have become had he been willing to sell his integrity and self respect. Wynand lives through a very difficult childhood being constantly pushed around by others and at one time comes close to dying when a man whom he considered to have integrity fails him. He spends the rest of his life attempting to gain power over others and looking for a man of integrity. Because he has come so firmly to believe that no such person exists, he goes to great lengths to make sure anyone whom he considers to be a candidate fails. For instance, he will invite talented journalists, who write brilliant articles about the ills of society, to interview for jobs at the Banner. Most of them consider Wynand's newspaper to be beneath them, and so at first refuse, but ultimately Wynand offers them so much money that they capitulate and begin to write the trash that please the masses. Wynand takes pleasure in this to appease his own guilt over giving in himself when he was capable of so much more. Near the end of the novel, he cries out that he was born to be better. He also attempts to buy off Roark, but Roark knows he is bluffing. Wynand then is overwhelmed when he meets Roark and is once more given the opportunity to save his soul, so to speak, but fails yet once more because he doesn't want to lose the power he has accumulated as owner of the Banner. Finally, he gives up the newspaper, but by then it is too late to save the friendship and to save his marriage with Dominique.
We never hear of Roark's beginnings because Rand doesn't think it should influence a true person of integrity. In other words, no excuses allowed. We know that like Wynand, Roark had a poor start but he never developed the energy-wasting negative emotions towards others and the quest for power that Wynand did. Roark, thus, had a choice and chose to devote his time and energy to his vision.
The Fountainhead Study GuideChoose to Continue
- The Fountainhead
- Part I Chapters 1-5
- Part I Chapters 1-5
- Part I Chapters 6-10
- Part I Chapters 11-15
- Part II Chapters 1-5
- Part II Chapters 6-10
- Part II Chapters 11-15
- Part III Chapters 1-5
- Part III Chapters 6-9
- Part IV Chapters 1-5
- Part IV Chapters 6-10
- Part IV Chapters 11-15
- Part IV Chapters 16-20
- Character Profiles
- Metaphor Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- Ayn Rand
- Essay Q&A