I originally began reading “The Fountainhead” because a friend of mine said it was her very favorite book in the world, but it had been years since she had read it. So the two of us planned to read it together and compare thoughts and opinions. I had also heard all sorts of rants and raves from people of all sorts of different political opinions so I was curious. If I really wanted to delve into Ayn Rand’s political world I, perhaps, should have chosen “Atlas Shrugged,” but then again, that wasn’t my friend’s favorite book. I’ll try to do this without too many spoilers and then give warning once I’m getting into the spoilers part.
The story revolves around architect Howard Roark, who is dedicated to his own style of architecture (he detests the use of the word “modern” for his style.) He will not compromise on his buildings — they must be done exactly as he designs them. He is a true individualist who lives only for himself. He does not desire fame, glory, fortune any more than he fears, poverty, pain or criticism. I suppose I shouldn’t say he doesn’t want them, but he doesn’t live for those things and doesn’t see the point in thinking about them. We also see his character foils in his classmate Peter Keating, who lives for the approval of others, and Ellsworth Toohey, who lives for the collective good of others. We also read about another architect who tried to live for himself and failed, Henry Cameron, who was destroyed by his attempts to live in such a way. Gail Wynand is a man that “could have been” according to some of Rand’s notes. He lives for power, but sees the value in Roark. Also involved is Dominique Francon, who loves and is loved by Roark, but also seeks to destroy him.
In all if I hadn’t started the book with sooooooo much context and opinion surrounding it, I probably wouldn’t have even thought that much about it. I love theme and I would have noticed, of course. (She does, after all, dedicate nearly a whole chapter to allowing the protagonist to go on a long speech basically laying out her philosophies.) But that isn’t the sort of thing that upsets me in books. Literately, I think the book was solid. The characterization was one of the best I have read in a long time and I appreciate that because so many characters in so many books are the same exact people that you read about over and over and over and you see on TV every day, and they are flat. But these characters were fleshed out. I was surprised because initially I was annoyed that we had very little to no information about the characters’ back stories (except for the antagonist, who we do learn about his childhood.) But most characters when we meet them is where we start, we learn almost nothing about their families or how they came to be how they are. It does bug me a little, especially about Howard Roark — how does one becomes such an avid Individualist? Besides learning that he grew up poor and that his dad was a longshoreman, we know nothing about him and how he learned to be how he is when we meet him in architecture school.
Spoilers be here below: (more…)