The Intellectual Activist
An Objectivist Review
Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead
Categories: Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead was undoubtedly the novel that propelled Russian-American author, Ayn Rand, to her literary success. Since its release in 1943, over 6.5 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide and has been translated into 20 different languages. The Fountainhead has been credited by philosophers, politicians, authors, and many young students just starting their careers as the primary inspiration for their life and career choices.

The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead opens in the spring of 1922 when a young architecture student, Howard Roark, has been expelled for failure to conform to the historical building design preferences of his technical institution. Roark makes the move to New York City and lands a job with the down-on-his-luck architect, Henry Cameron. Peter Keating, a schoolmate of Roark’s has also moved to New York City after graduating with honors and lands a job with a prestigious firm. While Cameron and Roark create beautiful work, but struggle financially, Keating begins systematically eliminating his competition until he is finally made a partner within the firm.

Cameron eventually retires, leaving Roark in need of a job. He turns to Keating in hopes of making a career at the firm but is quickly let go by Francon, one of the name partners, for insubordination. Roark bounces in and out of jobs and even tries his hand at running his own office when he finally lands a job at a rock quarry owned by Francon. Roark meets Francon’s daughter, Dominique, who is a writer for the “New York Banner” and they engage in a rather rough sexual encounter.

Roark lands a job with a new client and begins designing a new building much to the irritation of Ellsworth M. Toohey, who writes an architecture column and disagrees with Roark’s design practices. In an effort to smear Roark and ruin his budding career, Toohey persuades one of Roark’s clients to file a lawsuit against him. A number of architects, including Keating, testify in court as to Roark’s incompetencies as an architect due to his rejection of the traditional ways. Dominique testifies on Roark’s behalf but when he lost the case anyway, she decided to stop fighting against society and chooses to marry Keating and participate in his games of deceit and fraud.

Rand’s intricate characters and winding plot twist and turn readers through secrets and lies, ending with Roark successfully arguing for his own survival and creating his own success. The story ends with the hero saving his career and getting the girl, all the while keeping to his ideals of independence and integrity.

The Fountainhead was influential to more readers than just those with architectural design aspirations. Rand’s novel was a gateway for many of her philosophical followers as they explored the theories of Objectivism and the virtues surrounding self-interest and the pursuit of one’s own happiness. Despite the criticism and controversy that still surround the novel today, there is no doubt that The Fountainhead and Ayn Rand have changed the course of literary conversations forever.

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