Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Fountainhead

Details of the Book
No. of Pages               : 720 pages
ISBN                           : 0965032191, 978-0965032193
Language                    : English
Year of Publication   : 1943

From the book blurb
The Fountainhead revolves around the dynamic protagonist Howard Roark, who defies collectivism with his own brand of philosophy and architecture. He takes a firm stand against worshipping tradition and embraces his own modern art forms. Roark gets expelled from architecture school owing to his non-adherence to conventional guidelines. Roark starkly defies history in favor of a more utilitarian outlook. He highlights materials, location and purpose as the three pillars of architecture.

Roark ultimately works for disgraced architectural legend Henry Cameron in New York. At the same time, The Fountainhead also tells the story of Peter Keating, a perfect foil to Roark. Keating holds a job at the renowned Francon & Heyer firm, where he eventually lands a partnership on account of his flattery. Roark starts his own office, but finally lands up at a granite quarry owned by Guy Francon. The novel is also the story of Dominique Francon with whom Roark has a physical and emotional battle throughout the novel.

The Fountainhead is an intriguing look at hypocrisy through Roark’s anonymous designs that spur Keating’s success. Eventually Gail Wynand becomes Roark’s friend and patron. Roark even goes to trial for dynamiting a building, the designs of which were changed.

The manuscript of The Fountainhead was shunned by twelve publishing houses and when finally published, went on to sell in excess of six and a half million copies globally. It was also the subject of a 1949 film, the screenplay of which was written by Rand.

Ayn Rand was an American screenwriter, playwright, philosopher, political activist and bestselling novelist. She received worldwide acclaim for Objectivism, her own philosophical system and her firebrand ideologies. Ayn Rand also wrote Anthem, We the Living, For The New Intellectual and Atlas Shrugged.

Born into a Russian business family, Rand majored in history at the Petrograd State University. She got her first screenwriting assignment for the American film The King of Kings. She also tasted success with her successful Broadway play Night of January 16th. She lectured extensively at Harvard, MIT, Yale, Columbia, Princeton and other universities and also at the Ford Hall Forum. The Nathaniel Branden Institute was set up in 1958 to promote her unique brand of philosophy.

She married Frank O’Connor in 1929. Rand believed that knowledge could only be attained with reason and not religion. Egoism was necessary both ethically and rationally and altruism was entirely unnecessary according to her. Rand condemned collectivism, anarchism, statism and traditional philosophical traditions. She backed laissez-faire capitalism for protection of individual human rights.

Howard Roark struggles, yet he stands up to his ideas of individualism. He stresses that creativity can be at its best only when one man is involved. After all, too many people would spoil the broth! He believes that one cannot make others happy if he is not happy. And such happiness can be done only if he does what he wants to do and not by doing what others think he should do. In a conversation with Dominique, Howard says, "To say "I love you" one must know first how to say the "I"”. And in a conversation with Gail Waynad, he says, "I could die for you. But I couldn't, and wouldn't, live for you”.

Peter Keating is a victim of society and its expectations. He is taught not to do what he loves, but what others would appreciate. He gives up his passion, love and even ego as well as self-respect so that others would think he is great.

Gail Waynad thinks he owns the power; that he is the master. But he realizes that he was just a slave. 

Ellsworth Toohey plays with people's mind, their beliefs and thoughts; he makes them feel inferior and worthless - a dangerous man.

Dominique Francon is like many of us who is confused between what is good and what is not. She fights and gets hurt; but she never gives up until she finds the answers.

What I think
I googled and found that Fountainhead means “an original source of something”. And I realized how apt the title is. The story is all about one man - Howard Roark, an architect – who struggles to make the world understand that self-sacrifice is not a virtue; but being selfish enough to achieve one’s dream is!

First published in 1943, the book by Ayn Rand has stood the test of time for 72 years! I started to read the book in spite of its bulky 700 odd pages because I was curious to know what is so special about this book. What is so unique about this story? Initially, I found Howard Roark as the epitome of egotism. I thought Peter Keating is selfish. Gail Waynad is a dictator. Ellsworth Toohey is a saint and Dominique Francon, a self-obsessed woman.  But as I read through, I realized how easily we judge people by looking at their actions. And how wrong we are proved when we understand their thoughts and intentions.

Towards the end, Roark delivers a speech. And he rightly speaks about how original ideas were shunned and such great mind were tortured to death. He says, "Thousands of years ago the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burnt at the stake he'd taught his brothers to light, but he left them a gift they had not conceived and he lifted darkness from the face of the Earth."

I can go on and on about this book. This made me think and I lived with it for a little more than a month. The characters have become a part of me. Their smartness, shrewdness and helplessness have influenced me.

This book made me look at myself… Forced me to ask if I am happy… Required me to respect myself… Asked me not think what others would think, probably because those “others” are merely thinking what others might think –  a vicious cycle that never ends.

In short, take time to read it. Initially, it could be boring and tiresome... Too long and redundant. However, towards the end, your idea of altruism and egotism would be changed. And, you will only be glad.

This book is surely going to influence you.
Allow it do that!


Some words that stole my heart
©       "I love you so much that nothing can matter to me - not even you...Only my love- not your answer. Not even your indifference"
©       "Self-sacrifice? But it is precisely the self that cannot and must not be sacrificed."
©       "I don't wish to be the symbol of anything. I'm only myself."


  1. I think it's worth checking out.
    Thanks for the honest review.

  2. I have picked up this book twice. But somehow I haven't been able to go beyond a few pages. But I do want to read this book. Maybe I will try and pick this one up again.

    1. As i hv mentioned in the review... Several could pages could seem to be dragging... But worth the effort!