I just got through “The Fountainhead” and it took me a little more than a week- therefore, the delay in this post.
“The Fountainhead” is about a man I’ve characterised in my head to look like Robert Downey Jr., named Howard Roark. He’s a man who loves what he does and does not see any truth in the world society dictates. He’s a modern architect in a time when Victorian and other decorative art forms were appreciated and respected. But he doesn’t care. He will design the way he loves designing, with the reward only being the building itself and not what reviews society gives him.
He’s juxtaposed with a rather weak minded man, Peter Keating. Peter Keating is the topper in his class, knows all about architecture, lands a great job and becomes “successful”. The reason he’s weak is because he is dictated by society in every step of his life. In fact, it’s weird, but, even though the entire book scorns Keating, most of us would identify ourselves with him. We would work hard to get good grades, get to college, get some work experience and finally- be rich. And many times, we wouldn’t love doing what we do. In the end, he sits down to paint and do something he really loved doing, but just isn’t good at it anymore and doesn’t have the time to be good at it. He’s invested too much of his energy in something society thought he was good at.
Before I read it, I read a little about the philosophy that Ayn Rand developed, which has been celebrated by many academia. It’s called “Objectivism”. I wasn’t entirely convinced and neither did I understand the concept in the beginning, but I’d like to think that I have a cursory understanding (at least) of it now.
Rand repetitively says, through the words of Roark, that the only social system that is moral is one that celebrates individualism and “selfishness”. Although, she says, most societies preach selflessness, being selfish is only another way of saying being persistent in the pursuit of happiness. And that is the only way one can be happy.
Although this sounds deep, and it is- it appealed to me in a different way. I felt like the entire book was written based on truth. After reading the book, I grudgingly thanked Ayn Rand for harshly making me realise- Society is a scam.
The story is interesting, following Roark’s determined journey to defy this immoral society, made “hotter” by the character of Dominique Francon (who is played in my head by Saffron Burrows) who’s Roark’s controversial lover. Both Francon and Roark are strong characters, but are also idealistic. They want a world that is unrealistic and implausible, just like Rand.
Anyhow, the book is a great read and is really fast paced except towards the end. The characters are not complex enough, I felt, as they all had either a “objectivist” outlook or not. But then, Rand had written the book to convey the philosophy, and the characters served their purpose.
Overall- Please read to feel inspired about life and pathetic about the pattern of life that society has left for you to follow.
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