I received The Fountainhead as a Christmas gift several years ago from a close friend who thought I would enjoy the philosophical analyses of life illustrated by Ayn Rand. The book is written in 1943 and is 752 pages. As a disclaimer, I had some serious initial negative biases towards the book. I typically do not like books that are not set in the present or future. I attempted to read the book when I first received it two years ago and quickly gave up after one chapter of dense descriptions and a slow-paced plot. With that said, The Fountainhead became one of my favorite novels after I finished.
The story revolves around Howard Roark, a rebellious, but visionary architect who is ahead of his time in architectural ingenuity. He doesn’t care about school or prestige. He doesn’t care about money or status. All that he cares about is building his designs. Even when he is living in near poverty, Howard refuses to build a house that even slightly deviated from his original blueprints. Howard may have been spit out and dismissed by society, but he probably was the happiest character in the novel. Nothing could tear him down because he lived for himself, for his work. The story motivates readers to obliterate our material desires. We want to frame our approach to life like Howard and extinguish our infinite cravings for social acceptance.
The Fountainhead ignited a number of my emotions as I followed Howard through his accomplishments and conflicts. I was outraged every time Howard’s antagonist, a fame-seeking former classmate named Peter Keating, claimed Howard’s designs as his own. However, my anger subsided when I realized that Howard couldn’t have cared less whether someone stole his designs or not, as long as the buildings were constructed with his intended elegance. Howard might be initially characterized as stubborn, but his true nature is one of self-confidence. He knows exactly what he wants and doesn’t ever question it or let others manipulate his creativity.
The romantic sub-plot embedded in the novel is one of the most animated and at the same time, most excruciatingly annoying story lines. Dominique, an independent and spontaneous woman, is Howard’s love interest. I’m so used to today’s audience-pleasing plots that author Ayn Rand’s continuous denial for Dominique and Howard to have a “happy ending” led me in aggravated anticipation all the way to the very last page.
I wanted to study architecture after reading the novel. I was obsessed with designs of anything from clothing to buildings that amplified the beauty of efficient simplicity. I felt that the book was teaching us that life is more beautiful when we simplify it down to two things: doing what we love and being with the person we love. For Howard, that was designing buildings and being with Dominique. Nothing else like fame or money smeared the picture of his life.
When you read this novel, take your time. Indulge in Rand’s abundant details. Figure out which character you are most like and decide which character you’d rather be.