Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review: The Fountainhead


I recently completed the book The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Following is the review of the book:
Fountainhead is the story of an architect, named Howard Roark, who is extremely passionate about the field of architecture but his ideas about it are not in tune with the times in which he lives in. In his time the teachers in his college to the professional architects practicing business were all of the view that the field of building design and architecture has already reached its pinnacle of evolution and needs no further change from what the masters of the past have already established as the best approach to building design possible – namely the gothic architecture. Howard Roark was a modernist and did not endorse to the idea of gothic architecture and wanted to do the building design in a more modern way in tune with the demands of the present times. As a result, he is faced with several challenges while practicing architecture his own way. He wont get any contracts, he does not work if people don’t accept his design exactly as he designed it without any change, and there were people who worked against him to ensure he succumbs to the pain they inflict on him. Ayn Rand has very elegantly tried to convey the message that in this world most of us are mere second-handers who adopt the genius of one man and keeping towing to that line without wanting or accepting any change. When there comes a man who tries to bring in something new something different than the norm then the whole world goes against such a man – since that man represents the one that most of us mere humans are not – such a man is more able than any of the average men around him and so the world does not want to let him be since that man makes others realize that they are inferior than him. Such average mere mortals have low self-respect, no integrity and they endorse but one thing – that good of the community is more important than the good of the individual. An individual may be sacrificed for the good of the community if need be. Such people cannot stand alone and require support of the other like minded men. They only know to feed on the genius of the first handers – men like Howard Roark. Ayn Rand goes on to expound on the virtues of being selfish – to love oneself is not sin – but a primary duty of an individual toward himself. She goes on to mention that where there is some sacrifice being done by someone there is someone getting what is being sacrificed. In the name of religion and politics, in the name of brotherhood we come across several such people who vehemently try to emphasize to others the virtues of being unselfish and to practice sacrifice/renunciation.
Howard Roark says – I shall not live for any other man nor will I expect any man to live for me.
The philosophy behind this story is gripping and forces one to think about whether one has integrity or are we going to end up as one of the mere second handers.

The important characters are:
Howard Roark – the hero or the protagonist.
Dominique Francone – the heroine who loves Roark
Peter Keating – Roark’s college mate who starts with being a go-getter and then realizes that in his passion to succeed he has lost his integrity.
Gayle Wynand – the industrialist who is the alter ego of Howard Roark
Ellsworth Toohey – the villain – he feeds on the souls of the unsure the second hander population which needed some moral support from him and his guidance since they lacked their own decision their own integrity
Henry Cameron – an architect who Roark works for in his first job
Highly recommended. Even if one does not like the philosophy one should still read this book for the literary value it has – the prose of Howard Roark’s statement in the court, Ellsworth Toohey’s lecture to Peter Keating and in general the dialogues exchanged between the characters are very well composed and a pleasure to read.

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