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Ayn Rand is an extreme idealist. Her philosophies, beliefs, and way of life are completely radical. Her work emphasizes those beliefs; her writing is an outlet to speak to her readers about those ideals she holds so dear. Some of her work is controversial. Actually, the better part of her work is. But I think it’s epitomized in the words of Howard Roark: “They hate you for loving your work.”
The Fountainhead is about architecture, and then it’s not. Rand is using architecture, and Howard Roark, the main character, as an outlet for her ideals. She’s an Objectivist, meaning that she derives meaning from life in what’s going on now. That what we do in our lives is what counts, and that we hold the keys to our own happiness. I won’t go into the finer details, because I don’t even agree with all of it myself, and because I don’t have time.
Roark is a struggling architect. When I say struggling, I don’t mean that he can’t find work. The man is plenty talented; commissions would come pouring in if he would accept them. But Roark has stiff standards. His sketches can’t be altered; you have to accept them for what they are. But he’s living in the twenties, and his stark, modern style isn’t popular yet. Needless to say, it creates a lot of problems for the man.
Roark meets Dominique, the daughter of a New York architect. The pair are probably the only two souls of their kind in the city, and they’re not even sure what that entails. They have a chance meeting while Roark is working at a quarry owned by Dominique’s father, after Howard is sickened by the architectural prospects in the city and decides to get out. It’s one of the most hectic, chaotic love stories I’ve ever heard of, and with both of them being stiff-minded idealists, you can imagine why.
Rand has a way with words. Throughout the entire novel, she’s always throwing in bits of imagery that are so clear and concise you’re forced to see what she’s imagining. Her descriptions of the skyline, of the city at night, and of her characters are so clear and visual it’s amazing. I’m a sucker for good imagery, but hers is superb by any standard.
The Fountainhead is best taken in doses. It’s a long book filled with many details and events. It’s also really pretentious because the author is. Rand almost forces her ideas down your throat. It’s hard to take in at once. Give it a chance, because The Fountainhead has a lot to teach you.