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The Fountainhead

Akhila Reddy

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The Fountainhead

***

Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, is one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in high school, challenging and forcing me to defend many of my own beliefs and thoughts about the world.

The book’s main protagonist is Howard Roark, an anti-social, aloof, difficult to comprehend architect that Rand still manages to make readers deeply sympathetic towards. He is the stereotypical rebel, refusing to conform to society’s expectations, instead setting his own standards of perfection. In doing so, he is left destitute and penniless because no one wants his modern buildings, instead preferring the typical, ornate gaudy architecture of the timers. While he is a cold man devoid of empathy, the integrity he has in standing by his own beliefs is what draw’s readers to his sides, and indeed the chief argument that Rand perpetuates.

The story of the novel is watching him succeed, despite, and perhaps because of him refusing to conform to society’s standards. He slowly gains more commissions, eventually building a skyscraper, without ever sacrificing his integrity and building something that does not reach his impossibly high standards.

While this is the official story, the themes that run throughout the novel are more profound then this brief summary would suggest. Rand essentially argues for a selfish way of life in which people are more concerned about their own goals and reaching their own standards of perfection. She detests a life of altruism spent helping others, because she believes by catering to others first, and individual looses their identify, becoming part of a collective ‘We’.

These ideas are presented to extreme extents in the novel, but the kernel of those beliefs was enough for me to personally reexamine my own beliefs. I do agree with the concept of being individual and achieving your own standards of perfection, but I don’t that that lifestyle is impossible to reconcile with altruism. Regardless of if you agree or disagree with Rand, her ideas are fascinating and at the root of many modern political debates. Understanding the views she presents will allow you to refine and reevaluate your own beliefs and political, which is something few books can claim to do.

There are problems in the book; Sometimes the pacing gets slow, the author’s prose can sometimes feel a little bit pretentious, and the characters are rather shallow, more symbolic than actual people. However, the novel serves perfectly as the conduit for Rand’s own beliefs, allowing us to clearly see why she believes what she dos, and through that, it can lead to many thought-provoking internal debates.

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The Fountainhead