Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Fountainhead: A modern classic by Ayn Rand

So for today’s blog entry I have decided to write about my favorite book. It’s a book that I have read at least 6 times since I first read in eleventh. Every time I read it, something new comes forward, about me, about the people around me, about the society that we live in.

A friend had suggested this book to me, and I am really, really glad that she did. If there has been book that makes you think, really think, then this is it.

Well, firstly I want to post the book cover summary. What better to give you an idea about the book than the original summary which was published for this purpose only, right?

This instant classic is the story of an intransigent young architect, his violent love affair with a beautiful woman who struggles to defeat him.

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand’s controversial novel, tell the story of the desperate battle wages by architect Howard Roark, whose integrity was as unyielding as granite … of 

Dominique Francon, the exquisitely beautiful woman who loved Roark passionately, but married his worst enemy … of the fantastic denunciation unleashed by an enraged society against a great creator.

Its theme is one of the most challenging ideas ever presented in a work of fiction – that man’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress.
It contains Ayn Rand’s daringly original literary vision with the seeds of her groundbreaking philosophy, objectivism.
This book is divided into four parts: Peter Keating, Ellsworth M. Toohey, Gail Wynand and lastly Howard Roark.

Even though the main character may seem as Howard Roark, the other characters are as much important, because without them there is no way that this book can be interpreted properly.

Peter Keating: He is also an aspiring architect. His original inclination was to become an artist, but his mother pushed him toward architecture where he might have greater material success. Keating does possess some creative and intellectual abilities, but is stifled by his sycophantic pursuit of wealth over morals. His willingness to build what others wish, leads him to temporary success. He attends architecture school with Roark, who helps him with some of his projects. The one sincere thing in Keating's life is his love for Catherine Halsey, Ellsworth Toohey's niece. Although Keating does have a conscience, and oftentimes, he genuinely feels bad after doing certain things which he knows to be immoral, he only feels this way in hindsight, and doesn't allow his morals to influence his decision making.

Ellsworth M. Toohey: He writes a popular art criticism column and is Roark's antagonist in a way. Toohey is an unabashed collectivist and Rand's personification of evil. His biggest threat is the strength of the individual spirit. Having no true genius (supposedly), Toohey's mission is to destroy excellence and promote altruism as the ultimate social ideal.

Gail Wynand: He is a wealthy newspaper mogul who rose from a destitute childhood in the ghettoes of New York City to control much of the city's print media. While Wynand shares many of the character qualities of Roark, his success is dependent upon his ability to cajole public opinion, a flaw which eventually leads to his downfall. Wynand is a tragic figure who ultimately fails in his attempts to wield power, losing his newspaper, his wife, and even his friendship with Roark.

Howard Roark: As the protagonist of the book, Roark is an aspiring architect who firmly believes that a person must be a "prime mover", a person that is chiefly responsible for the creation or execution of a plan or project, basically, to achieve pure art, not diminished by others, as opposed to councils or committees of individuals which lead to compromise and mediocrity of a prime mover's completed vision. He represents the triumph of individualism over the slow stagnation of collectivism. Bowing to no one, Roark rises from an unknown architect who was kicked out of school for "drawing outside of the lines". Roark goes on to design many landmark buildings, and rails against convention.

Also, here’s a little about Dominique Francon, to get a better idea about the story.

Dominique Francon: She is the daughter of Guy Francon, a highly successful but creatively inhibited architect. Initially, she thinks that the world did not deserve her sincerity and intellect, because the people around her did not measure up to her standards. She starts out punishing the world and herself for all the things about man which she despises, through self-defeating behavior. She initially believes that greatness, such as Roark's, is doomed to fail and will be destroyed by the 'collectivist' masses around them. She eventually joins Roark romantically, but before she can do this, she must learn to join him in his perspective and purpose. By the end of the novel, Dominique no longer cares what anyone thinks or does. Finally, it is the act of creating, loving, and living in which she finds happiness, rather than the results of these successes, no matter how good or bad the recognition may be.

I feel that Catherine Halsey, the love of Peter Keating, is a highly under rated character. Early in the story, Katie is a sincere, good-natured girl, genuinely in love with Peter Keating. But her sweetness, innocence, and good nature are inadequate to protect her from Toohey's evil. She was a conventional person, dutifully following her family and her uncle, not too ambitious, not committed to living by her own judgment or pursuing her own dreams. Her lack of independence — her unwillingness to bear the responsibility of sustained, self-initiated thought — costs her the loss of her soul.

The characterization here, is unmatched with any other book that I have read till date in either the depth or complexity, as displayed by Ayn Rand. It will show Life in different perspectives and well beyond one’s beliefs at times. The characters are created in such a way that they will always stand in my thoughts.

The first time I read it, all throughout the book, I got this feeling about Toohey, that something isn’t right, but you just can’t put your finger on it. You get a little idea about his character when you read about his biography but it’s not until the book is almost about to end that, when he explains his methods to Peter Keating and why and how Toohey corrupted Keating, the real purpose and motive or agenda is brought forward to you.

Now, if you haven’t read this book then, my friend, you are missing out on something so good that, believe me, you are going to regret it.

This book is not for everyone though, anyone who reads it, will see it in a whole different manner. Understanding the book and the characters is something that might take some time. However, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that either you’ll love the book or hate it. There’s no mid way here. And if you are stuck in the middle, then I suggest you read it again, because I don’t think you understood it properly.

As a last word, all I want to say is that the philosophy that one gets from this book is amazing. I think, one should read this book at every stage of one’s life, because i feel that the philosophy that one gets from this book, each time, is different.

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