The Fountainhead – Review

Book: The Fountainhead
Author: Ayn Rand
Published: 1943

It is a very highly rated book by almost all top intellectuals and academicians. I got to be careful. The book demands a thesis and not a review. A review would be justifying this pathbeaking book only when it is analysed at a very basic level and them zoomed out little by little to showcase the theory it propounds!

The theory propounded by Ms. Rand in this literary work was called Objectivism. As defined by Ms. Rand herself it is “…the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

From what I extract from that statement is that the theory is nothing but selfishness glorified. But, of course, she says that its “rational self interest”. 

The sole reason (my take everyone, don’t get angry) why the book is so famous is because it is in total agreement with capitalism in all its glory. Now, selfishness as defined by the dictionary is different as compared to how Ms. Rand defines it. She makes it sound like selfishness is not only NOT evil but selflessness is a major sin against humanity. She proves it by creating flat characters that waver with the velocity and direction of the wind and pretend that they’re still loyal to their ideals. Hence, they’re what humanity wants and what makes the world go round. The book is divided into part, each pertaining to a single character as the main theme of the story. Truly speaking, to write an honest review of this book would be a difficult and mind boggling task because of the wide area it’ll need to cover. The Fountainhead is like a bible for the “rational self interest” individuals and for the legions of capitalistic streaked enthusiasts.

So, to cover everything what I got from the book would be mind numbing activity indeed. I’ll be as precise as possible and as clear as I can be.

First, I saw no love between Dominique Francon and Howard Roark whereas I did see that between her and Gail Wynand. Dominique and Wynand had something going. And by very clever penmanship and ridiculous arguments and equally insipid counter arguments Ms. Rand annihilates the bit of logic that we, mere humans, extracted from the characters of two. Clever, because she has put verbs and nouns to extremely good use and employs almost every possible form of metaphorical innuendos to prove her point. Even when it makes no sense with the previous point she raised. Ridiculous arguments, because she uses her characters to say things which ordinarily one wouldn’t expect him or her to say based on the conclusion one draws because of how it was represented initially. Insipid counter arguments, because she very smartly raises a point in the first paragraph of a 3 page long speech and then conveniently tramples upon it in the same speech, albeit 3 pages later.

I can almost hear the Tooheys breaking their jaws and tripping over their immaculately tied shoelaces trying to give me the choicest of profanities.

But, seriously, I am unable to grasp as a human of mediocre intelligence as to why go through the whole drama of marrying Keating and then leaving him for Gail. By the way, Keating is a prick when he wants his wife to sleep with Gail. But then who am I to judge? Keating did what he wanted to. After all he was thinking about his own self. So, probably that is what the world needs!

To continue, she leaves Gail in the most pathetic and devastating manner for Roark! I agree, she fell in love with Roark for whatever reason and for unfathomable excuses galore she goes ahead to ruin his career! What? This is where the brilliance of Ms. Rands’ way with words helps her. The confusion generated by long winded explanations and never-ending self doubts and cross questions gives the reader the impression that he just HAS to hold on to one of the explanations and memorise it lest he forgets why the character did what he/she did!

Second, Ellsworth Toohey is the most despicable, most evil form of charity doing the rounds of todays generation. He single handedly can be called the kingpin and be handed the gauntlet of the reason, in all its entirety, that individuals and corporations alike have made charity a charade. Now, there is no good in the world anymore. And thy reason is the Tooheys who have corrupted the very nature of it. The New World Order has been very cleverly personified into the charismatic Ellsworth Toohey. The last speech that Toohey gives poor Keating is one of the most brilliant ones I have come across in my short life. Brilliant, not for the point it raises, but for the audacious nature of what he proclaims.

The quote, “Don’t set out to raze all shrines—you’ll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity, and the shrines are razed” is a scary reminder to what the world has come to. By no stretch of imagination can Toohey be called a noble character. He is evil. No doubts about that, but the only positive that he achieves, as a collateral no doubt, that he makes it far too easy to point out the pathetic way the world is run. Identification is made easy. Of course, there are no remedies to correct such apathetic humans who only care of clinically executing and annihilating the very last of the threads that give the world a feeling of true humanism!

Third, this book has one and only one reason of existence and that is the promotion of Capitalism and for persuading the “intellectuals” that selfishness is the right way to go.

Fourth, Howard Roark I liked. For the foremost reason that it’s a work of good fiction. People like Roark don’t exist in the real world. No ifs and no buts! They cannot exist. Period. I liked him for what he stood for. But this is in regards to ONLY his designing and architectural ideals. One CANNOT use the same yardstick to measure a rat hole and the grand canyon and expect to correctly gauge the depth!

Fifth, Gail Wynand was the one true character I saw in the entire book. Yes, of course he was an inhospitable freak who had wanted people to think what he wanted to think. He wanted to be the authority that dictated public opinion. Yes, he was culpable of evil things done in the name of “self” and “individual desire”. And as Rand herself mentions that wanting power to control others is being a second hander just as much as Keating! True

But when it came down to it he was someone who’d give all of it up for someone he loved. As weird as it might sound he did it for another man and not for a woman whom he loved a lot. The way he is shown when he defends Roark towards the end only to be cheated by him is sad indeed. Funnily enough I did not grasp the reason why Dominique chucks him towards the end. That’s not saying much because I didn’t even understand why she doesn’t marry Roark in the first place.

To end it I’d say that the book is undoubtedly an example of good writing. Only by writing so well can a theory that goes against the very nature of a humanistic approach to life can be what this has become. Just because I disagree with the theory doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. Read it. Enjoy it. Trust it not, though!

Siddiqui F.

6 thoughts on “The Fountainhead – Review

Add yours

  1. I am not at all convinced that this is a review. It is more of a rant against objectivism. The book is not ‘about’ that philosophy, it is about a few people who are above the petty human nature that we see everyday. In that respect, you have not analysed it well enough.

    The book is not about a story or reality. Rather, it is a peek into the world of those who are truly above this world and all that it has to offer.

    Ayn Rand beautifully constructs such characters that have more substance in them than anything I have read before. That is why this book is so liked and so hated at the same time. The characters reach out to you and make you believe in them, so that you either love them or hate them. That is what makes this book so amazing. The way you loathe Toohey is exactly what Rand wanted to elicit from you and she has succeeded, showing that her style of writing does work.

  2. I agree it is difficult to review this book. Thumbs up for taking it up!

    I completely agree about finding more emotional connect between Gail Wynand and Dominique Francon..
    And as a reader, I feel one can relate more with what Gail Wynand is going through.. while you intellectually empathize with the other heroes in the book

    1. Thanks for the uppers:-D

      Yes, it’s true. One feels bad about the completely unwarranted way Dominique leaves Gail. Of course according to Ms. Rand it was probably some symbolic move. But the way I see it, it was just blatant abuse of trust and, not to forget, power.

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