About The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead (1943) introduced the world to architect Howard Roark, an intransigent individualist. A man whose arrogant pride in his work is fully earned, Roark is an innovator who battles against a tradition-worshipping society—refusing to compromise his standards in work and life. Expelled from a prestigious architectural school, refused work, reduced to laboring in a granite quarry, Roark is never stopped. He has to withstand not merely professional rejection, but also the enmity of Ellsworth Toohey, beloved humanitarian and leading architectural critic; of Gail Wynand, powerful publisher; and of Dominique Francon, the beautiful columnist who loves him fervently yet is bent on destroying his career.
With The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand achieved enduring commercial, artistic, and intellectual success. Initially rejected by a dozen publishers, The Fountainhead became a bestseller within two years purely through word of mouth; today, there are over six million copies in print. The novel was also an artistic landmark for Rand; in the character of Howard Roark, she presented for the first time the uniquely Ayn Rand hero, whose depiction was the chief goal of her writing: the ideal man, man as “he could be and ought to be.” The novel’s dramatization of its original theme—in Rand’s words “individualism versus collectivism, not in politics, but in man’s soul”—earned Rand a lasting reputation as one of history’s greatest champions of individualism.
Discussion Questions on The Fountainhead
- 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?
- Why does the struggling sculptor Steven Mallory attempt to gun down a famous newspaper columnist who champions the voiceless and the undefended?
- 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?
- 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?
- Why does Roark dynamite Cortlandt Homes? How does he defend his action? Is he a moral man, a practical man, both, or neither?
- 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?
- What does Ayn Rand mean by the terms "first-hander” and “second-hander”? Cite examples of each type from real life.
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