Intermediate Semester Schedule
The Philosophic Message of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead
Suggested campus talk
Andrew Bernstein: "Rational Egoism in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead"
Andrew Bernstein: 6-part Video Course on The Fountainhead available at aynrandnovels.com
Andrew Bernstein: "Rational Egoism in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead"
Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life
Andrew Bernstein: "Literary and Philosophic Integration in The Fountainhead" (4 lectures)
Shoshana Milgram: "The Road to Roark" (In Lending Library)
Suggested reading list
Andrew Bernstein: The Fountainhead Teachers' Guide
Andrew Bernstein: The Fountainhead Lesson plans
Ayn Rand: "The Goal of My Writing," The Romantic Manifesto
Ayn Rand: "The Moral Basis of Individualism," Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 243-310
Robert Mayhew: Essays on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead
1. When Roark comes uninvited to Dominique’s bedroom in his rough, soiled workman’s clothes, is the act that he commits rape? Why or why not?
2. Why does Gail Wynand, a self-made media and real-estate millionaire, seek to turn men into hypocrites? Why does he make a socialist defend management and a conservative defend labor?
3. Why does the struggling sculptor Steven Mallory attempt to gun down a famous newspaper columnist who champions the voiceless and the undefended?
4. Why does Peter Keating, a celebrity architect, plead with his unsuccessful and widely condemned friend, Hoard Roark, secretly to design a crucial housing project for him? Roark is an architect of unmatched integrity who scorns Keating—so why does he agree to do it?
5. Howard Roark refuses a major contract when he most needs it, arguing that his action was “the most selfish thing you’ve ever seen a man do.” Why does he call this action selfish?
6. Why does Roark dynamite Cortlandt Homes? How does he defend his action? Is he a moral man, a practical man, both, or neither?
7. Both Howard Roark and Lois Cook are artists with a unique vision who are not accepted by the mainstream of society. What does Ayn Rand mean by “individualism”? Are they both individualists? Why or why not?
8. What does Ayn Rand mean by the terms first-hander” and “second-hander”? Cite examples of each type from real life.
9. Explain in detail the reasons for Howard Roark’s expulsion from the Stanton Institute of Technology. The Dean states that Roark has “a determined little group of defenders” among the faculty, while other professors “felt it their duty” to vote for his expulsion. Why do the faculty members on each side evaluate Roark and his work so differently?
10. At the end of chapter 1, Roark comprehends that there is a fundamental difference between his approach to life and the Dean’s. Roark understands his own, but not that of the Dean and those like him. He recognizes that there is a principle that explains the difference, which he calls the “principle behind the Dean.” Based on subsequent events of the story, explain the “principle behind the Dean.”
11. Peter Keating graduates as valedictorian from the Stanton Institute of Technology. Does this mean that he is an outstanding architecture student? By what methods did he get such high grades? What does this say regarding his moral character?
12. Keating goes to work for Guy Francon, the most successful and prestigious architect in the country. What are the methods by which Francon has achieved commercial success? Does he have anything in common with Keating? In what ways do they both differ from Roark?
13. Roark gains employment with Henry Cameron. Cameron, though a genius, is a commercial failure. Why has society rejected his work? Why does Roark nevertheless revere him? What qualities do Roark and Cameron share in common? What is the fundamental difference between them and Francon and Keating?
14. Citing specifics from the story, describe the means by which Keating seeks to rise to the top of Francon’s firm? Explain the meaning of Keating’s methods. Why do they work at Francon’s? Would Keating’s methods work similarly well at Cameron’s? Why?
15. Though Keating often leaves Catherine Halsey waiting weeks for him to call, the author makes it clear that Catherine is special to him. How does the author show Keating’s love for Catherine? In contrast to Keating’s motive for pursuing his other values (in work, e.g.), what personal significance does his relationship with Catherine have? What fate will befall Peter if he betrays his love for her?
16. The design of the Cosmo-Slotnick Building establishes Keating’s fame. What is the nature of Keating’s relationship with Roark at this point in the story? Why does Keating both approach him for advice and help and take pleasure in making him perform menial tasks while an employee at Francon’s? Why does Keating feel a need to degrade the man who is his meal ticket?
17. Cameron and Roark, though brilliant designers, get few commissions. At one point Cameron urges Roark to surrender his principles and design conventionally. Given that Cameron himself neither did nor would do such a thing, what is the meaning of that scene? What does Ayn Rand stress about the price paid by great creative thinkers in a society that does not recognize the merit of their new ideas?
18. Austen Heller hires Roark to build a private home, giving him his first commission. What qualities does Heller possess that enable him to recognize the merit of Roark’s work when virtually the entire society does not? Despite the professional differences between Heller’s and Roark’s other supporters, e.g., Mike, Mallory, Enright, what fundamental attribute do they share in common? What point does the author make regarding the ability to recognize genius?
19. The character of Dominique Francon is introduced in this section. Dominique criticizes the work of her own father in her newspaper column and recognizes the fraudulent nature of Keating’s work and character, though many admire him. What does Ayn Rand thereby show the reader about Dominique? Why is this important for the reader’s ability to understand her coming relationship with Roark?
20. Despite extreme poverty Roark refuses the lucrative commission for the Manhattan Bank Building rather than permit the adulteration of his design. When the Board asserts that he is “fanatical and selfless,” Roark responds that his action was “the most selfish thing you’ve ever seen a man do.” Given that Roark has just turned down a major commission in order to protect the integrity of his design, what is “selfish” about this? What is Ayn Rand’s view of “selfishness” and “selflessness”? Contrast her view to that of Christianity and of socialism.
21. Compare Howard Roark and Lois Cook. Are they both individualists? Why or why not?
22. At the granite quarry Dominique is deeply attracted to the red-headed worker who stares at her insolently. She pursues him aggressively, but resists him in the moment of her triumph. Given that Dominique is eager to make love to Roark, why does she physically resist? Ayn Rand once stated regarding this scene that if it is rape, “then it is rape by engraved invitation.” What does she mean? Is this actually rape, i.e., is Dominique an unwilling victim?
23. Though strongly attracted to Roark, Dominique both pursues and fights him. Is this inner conflict regarding her love representative of some deeper aspect of her character? How does this ambivalence relate to her destruction of the Greek statuette that she loves? to joining forces with Ellsworth Toohey in an effort to wreck Roark’s career? to refusing to pursue a serious career in spite of her great intelligence? Are Dominique’s motives for thwarting Roark the same as Toohey’s?
24. At this point in Roark’s career he is hired by Roger Enright, Anthony Cord and Kent Lansing to construct major buildings. What kind of men are Enright, Cord and Lansing? Do they share some fundamental characteristic in common with each other and with Austen Heller? What does Lansing mean when he tells Roark that “the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line—it’s a middleman”?
25. At Kiki Holcombe’s party Keating gives advice to Roark. He says: “Always be what people want you to be.” What is the meaning of such a statement? Why does Keating believe this? What does such an approach to life reveal about the soul of Keating and of people like him?
26. At the same party Dominique thinks of Roark as having “the face of a god.” What is she responding to in Roark? In seeing such beauty in Roark’s face, an evaluation not shared by the rest of society, what does Dominique reveal about her own soul?
27. Dominique begins to write about Roark’s buildings in her column. She words them in such a way as to give the appearance of criticism while actually offering extravagant praise. Why does she hope that Roark’s buildings will be destroyed in a future air raid? What is her view of human society, and of the possibility of great men succeeding in it?
28. Toohey convinces Hopton Stoddard to hire Roark to build the Stoddard Temple. What is Toohey’s purpose? Why does he seek to brand Roark an enemy of religion? What is Toohey’s deeper reason for attempting to end Roark’s career?
29. Though Dominique testifies for the plaintiff at the Stoddard Temple trial, she praises the building and criticizes both Toohey and society. Why does she want the building torn down? How do her motives differ from Toohey’s? In what way is the trial Dominique’s worst nightmare come true?
30. Roark hires Mallory to do the sculpture for the Temple, but Mallory, despite his youth, is already bitter and disillusioned. What is the cause of Mallory’s nascent cynicism? What does Roark do that helps Mallory overcome his disillusionment? Are there similarities between Mallory’s early career and the life of Henry Cameron?
31. After the trial Dominique accepts Keating’s earlier proposal and marries him. Given her undying love for the integrity of Roark’s buildings and person, and her recognition that Keating is the antithesis of everything she reveres, it is appropriate to ask what Dominique seeks in such a marriage. For what purpose does she marry the man she considers society’s most despicable representative?
32. At the end of part 2, Roark’s career is again at low ebb and it appears that Toohey’s scheming has been successful. Toohey seeks him out to ask what Roark thinks of him. What does this question reveal about Toohey’s soul? Roark answers in simple honesty that he does not think of him. What does such an answer reveal about Roark’s soul? These two characters represent the fundamental antipodes in the universe of the novel. What is the primary difference between them?
33. Gail Wynand is a brilliant individual who rose out of the slums by means of his own talent and effort. But despite his reverence for man’s noblest achievements, his newspaper presents lurid, loathsome values. Why does Wynand pander in this manner? What is the meaning of such a self-betrayal?
34. Toohey presents Mallory’s sculpture of Dominique to Wynand in an effort to bring Dominique and Wynand together. What is the purpose of Toohey’s scheme? Why does he need something to distract Wynand’s attention away from his newspaper?
35. What is Toohey’s overall purpose on the New York Banner? What is his overall purpose in regard to society in general? Dominique warns Wynand against Toohey, but he is too contemptuous of Toohey to heed her. Is Dominique correct in her assessment of Toohey’s actual motives?
36. What is Dominique’s motive in marrying Wynand, for becoming “Mrs. Wynand Papers”? Does it bear any similarity to her reason for marrying Keating? Does she accomplish the goal she set out to reach? Tie this discussion to the quote from Nietzsche—that nobility of soul is not to be lost—that the author cites in the introduction to the 25th anniversary edition: “It is not the works, but the belief which is here decisive and determines the order of rank—to employ once more an old religious formula with a new and deeper meaning,—it is some fundamental certainty which a noble soul has about itself, something which is not to be sought, is not to be found, and perhaps, also, is not to be lost.—The noble soul has reverence for itself.—” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil)
37. Why does Wynand fall deeply in love with Dominique? Do they share noble qualities in common? Have they made a similar mistake? Because of Wynand’s undeniable virtues, do Dominique’s feelings for him change?
38. On her way to Reno to secure a divorce from Keating, Dominique stops in Clayton, Ohio, to visit Roark. Why is Dominique willing to marry Roark only if he renounces architecture? What is the meaning of Roark’s response that if he wanted to be cruel, he would accept her proposal? Aside from the obvious fact that she loves Roark, what does this visit show the reader about Dominique?
39. Roark’s resort at Monadnock Valley provides for a disillusioned young man, who had always wanted to write music, “the courage to face a lifetime.” Given that Roark had never met the boy before, and would never see him again, what point does the author make regarding the nature of creative achievement? Contrast this episode with the effect that Toohey’s counseling has on the young people who come to him for advice. Which has a benevolent impact on other men—Roark’s life of personal accomplishment or Toohey’s call for sacrifice to the collective?
40. Although Roark receives the commission for Monadnock Valley as part of a swindle by the owners, his work is so highly valued by the customers that the resort makes money despite its fraudulent origins. Further, Roark has been kept busy over the previous several years designing a variety of small structures. “It was as if an underground stream flowed through the country and broke out in sudden springs that shot to the surface at random, in unpredictable places.” What is the nature of this “stream” that now flows in recognition of Roark? There is an old saying that “the truth will win out.” What does Ayn Rand show regarding society’s ultimate response to the great work of a creative genius?
41. Gail Wynand hires Roark to build a fortress to protect Dominique from human society. Despite the irony, there is almost an inevitability to this event. Why does Wynand choose Roark from among all the architects of the country? Why is it fitting? What is the essence of their bond?
42. As Roark enters the building that houses Wynand’s paper, he remembers Henry Cameron’s words that Wynand and the mindless conventionality that his papers represent are the fundamental cause of the world’s ills. Despite this, Roark comes to love and respect Wynand beyond all others, even stating at one point, “You have been the one encounter of my life that can never be repeated.” Why does Roark love Wynand despite the deathbed warning against him from Cameron? Despite his flaws, what major virtues does Wynand possess?
43. By this time Peter Keating’s career is badly slipping, as Toohey pushes his new protege, Gus Webb. Why did Toohey support Keating in the first place? What is Toohey’s purpose in promoting the careers of such mediocrities as Keating, Gordon Prescott, Lois Cook, Ike the Genius, and Webb? In what way does his purpose integrate with his anti-Roark campaign?
44. Why is Roark’s brilliant design for Cortlandt Homes altered by Gus Webb and Gordon Prescott? What factors in society make it possible? Why is Keating, despite his best efforts, powerless to stop it?
45. In dynamiting Cortlandt Homes, Roark breaks the law. What is his moral and philosophical argument for the rectitude of his action?
46. Dominique assists Roark in the dynamiting, and tells him that she will wait for him even if he serves time in prison. She is no longer afraid of what society will do to him. What is the essence of Dominique’s change in thinking? What error had she previously made that she now corrects? What enables her to finally see the truth? How does her change of mind integrate with the novel’s theme?
47. When Wynand defends Roark in the New York Banner, it is the first time that, in the deepest sense, the paper belongs to him and not to the crowd. This is exactly why his crusade fails. Why does Wynand fill the paper with his own values only now? Why is it too late? Explain Wynand’s failure to save Roark—and himself—in terms of the mixed premises that form the essence of his character.
48. Wynand closes the New York Banner rather than turn control of it over to Ellsworth Toohey. What kind of defeat does this represent for Toohey? In terms of Toohey’s two principal goals—to prevent Roark’s success, and to control the New York Banner—he fails utterly. What point does the author make regarding the nature and power of evil men?
49. In his courtroom speech Roark discusses the outstanding innovators who have carried mankind forward, arguing that it was their independent thinking—not compliance with their brothers—that enabled them to reach their monumental achievements. In terms of some of history’s great independent minds—Galileo, Darwin, Pasteur, the Wright Brothers, et al.—explain and defend Roark’s thesis.
50. At the end of the novel, Roger Enright buys Cortlandt Homes and hires Roark to build it in accordance with his original design. Wynand hires Roark to erect the Wynand Building, the world’s tallest skyscraper. Roark marries Dominique Francon. He has succeeded completely, and on his own terms. What point does the author make regarding the nature of success? In contrast to the evil Toohey, what point does she make regarding the nature and power of the good?
Note: Complete reading assignments from the novel outside of meeting times.
Start the semester with the campus talk on The Fountainhead to draw a larger meeting group.
Watching the Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life video is more suitable as an end-of-semester activity. Or, end the semester with Ayn Rand's "Philosophy: Who Needs It" (audiotape and article) on the importance of philosophy, to bring students back next semester.