Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Fountainhead - A symbol of solitude

The book driven mainly by a single character, Howard Roarke, an architect who is the symbol of ideals, values, morals and principles leaves us in doubt. Who gets the credit? Howard Roarke or Ayn Rand, the author? Ayn has created Roarke to perfection and his ability to stick to his strong ideals in the face of adversity leaves the readers with a sense of deference towards Roarke. The main theme of the book is whether an individual has to live for himself or should he survive by appeasing the whims and fancies of all around. The latter is referred to as the Second Hander. According to the author, the creativity of the owner is modified by the second hander to get adoration and admiration that would prove to be futile in the long run.

The Fountainhead is a simple story of the life of two different kind of architects - Peter Keating(second hander) and Howard Roarke(creative idealist). Roarke is suspended from Stanton institute in his final year of his architectural study as he refuses to believe in the confined system of education that provides nothing to enhance his ability. On the contrary, Keating sticks to his education which lands him in a top architect firm in New York city. The initial struggle of Roarke reduces him to penury and the roaring success of Keating(thanks to Roarke's help in various architectural drawings) makes him the top architect of the country. There is a stage in Roarke's life, where he has not paid his office rent for two months, telephone bills, electricity bills for the same duration and the remainder of his life cringes on a bank contract that he eagerly awaits. In spite of his hard-stricken financial position, Roarke has the guts to refuse the contract since the committe members suggest modifications in his drawing. This tells us the kind of stance taken by Roarke in the worst of circumstances. He undertakes all kinds of work to keep his life moving, even going to the extent of working in a quarry. At a later stage, he meets the woman of his life - Dominique Francon. They share a passionate relationship and Dominique's mind-duels with Roarke forms a very interesting and fascinating sequence. Howard Roarke's association with Gail Wynand, the owner of the prestigious newspaper The Banner, who also happens to be Dominique's husband, steps up Roward in the success ladder. Whether Roarke is successful to stick to his ideals and live out his life in peace forms the essence of this brilliantly crafted book.

Peter Keating might have been successful in the initial stages of his career, but the latter half of his career reduces him to an insignificant character. He wins the initial battles, but ultimately loses the war unlike Roarke. There are different kinds of people in the world - People who practice what they preach and people who preach what they don't do. There is another category which is totally non-existent - People who do not preach what they practice. Roarke finds his name in this elite category. He sticks to his ideals without any sense of reasoning as far as the society is concerned. He might have earned a very contumacious reputation for this attitude, but this also gives us the opportunity to peek into his reclusive ideals.

The whole book treads on the path of altruism but ends with a high note on egoism. There are two trials that Roarke has to face in his life - One for the Stoddard Case and one for the building explosion case. These are the two cases which present a totally different outlook. In the first case, Roarke presents a photographic evidence, while in the other he presents an outstanding argument to win his case.

This is a book that really gives the reader to ponder whether he is on the right path of fulfilling his dreams. Fountainhead springs forth the virtues of solitude - the ability to think alone. The highly philosophical drama embedded with strong messages is a must read for people who look forward for a book without any tinge of commercial elements - thriller, mystery or romance.


  1. Hi Praveen,

    I am surprised you haven't mentioned Ellsworth Toohey.. How he manipulates many situations kind of drives the story.
    I just got my father to bring a copy of this book from India. I want to give it another reading this summer...

  2. Yeah, I should have, but I just focused on the main characters. Yeah, you should read this again. It is such a fantastic book.

    Thanks for stopping by!