Rand-om Access Memory: MRDA’s Thoughts on The Fountainhead

It amazes me how much a re-read of certain text brings up – it certainly exposes the inadequacy of my comprehension first time around!

Re-reading The Fountainhead gave me so much more in the way of detail that I missed first time around, particularly in regard to certain charas; I even found myself feeling more sympathy for characters such as Keating and Catherine this time around, despite their ill-thought out premises. It’s clear that both of them displayed spurts of self-will throughout the book, albeit not enough to override their slavish mentalities. In regard to Keating’s face-offs with Toohey and Dominique, I had to feel for the poor bastard when he displayed some nerve only to have it snapped before his eyes in some manner. And poor Catherine? She never had a chance!

The sense of tragedy gets amped up in the case of Wynand, who, unlike Keating, retains a certain sovereignty despite crushing many a principled individualist in the story underfoot. The outcome for him in the end strikes me as the most lamentable thing that could befall such a character – and his reflection after selling out his paper firm rams this point home all the further!

Stylistically, whilst I love her dialogue writing and her character descriptions, Rand’s depictions of action and motion come off as clunky; they seem to lack a certain kinetic flow, and I found myself re-reading certain parts. The love scenes come across as particularly diminished by this awkwardness, though the rape scene works well with this element of jagged abrasiveness.

Rand makes a much stronger case for her outlook on life in The Fountainhead than in her philosophical non-fiction works. A thousand Objectivist essays couldn’t really stand shoulder to shoulder with her accomplishment in writing that story – through Roark, she gets across the spirit of her philosophy across much better! Roark doesn’t waste his fucking time pontificating over the nature of Man or moralizing with the best fire ‘n’ brimstone preacher, instead utilizing his fire purely in the pursuit of his vision – he creates and fulfils his ideals, making no demands or concessions to the world around him. No new set of law tablets or sacred commandments laid down – just a very potent use of perspectivism and psychological exposure on Rand’s part.

Something tells me I’ll like Atlas Shrugged a lot less when I finally get round to reading that…

All in all, I enjoyed and appreciated this work a lot better and saw the nuances of the central theme – individualism vs conformity – a lot clearer. In relation to that central theme, I see the book as the conflict between ethical selfishness (Roark) and the societal strawman concept of it (Keating, Wynand). It asks the reader the question “Who truly sands as selfish – and who just plays a poor imitation of such?”


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3 Responses to Rand-om Access Memory: MRDA’s Thoughts on The Fountainhead

  1. psuedoid says:

    Keating is by far my favorite rand character. I read shrugged prior to fountain, and the further i got into shrugged the less i liked it. By the end I absolutely despised it. Fountain, I thought was decent until the end when rand’s stupid principles asserted themselves and roark became a talking head instead of a real character.
    Its my strong opinion that rand had no idea of love. As far as her “who is really selfish” distinctions go, well its however you define it. Technically i spose it makes more sense to have a strong self be considered more ‘selfish’ since that makes the best literal sense. The tendency of rand’s characters to be unwavering in their ideals is one of their greatest weaknesses since it means they’re easily controlled and manipulated by those who are apparently far less able. Rand gets WAY too principled about architecture, everyone knows buildings need to be designed with utility in mind for christ’s sake! Its not a fucking revelation. What is roark working his ass off for in the end? His silly fixed ideas. Thats all. His head be haunted. Well, its been a hard night, hopefully this is tolerable.

    • MRDA says:

      I like substantive responses! ^_^
      I’m curious to know what makes Keating your favourite Rand character. Certainly, his scenes prove always interesting due to his psychological twists and turns, but I’d like to know what value you extract from him.
      As for your point about Roark at the end, I think my mind played a cruel trick on me and made me forget about that when writing my post. What I love about Roark – the fact that nothing stands higher to him than himself – seems to be submerged in that final speech where he launches into that speech and lets Rand talk through him. Where the fuck did that patriotic lament come from? Roark certainly said nothing to that effect earlier! Granted, he makes speeches and proclamations throughout the book , but I can always believe those as part of his character which just happen to agree with Rand’s view; Rand just overwrites him – Agent Smith style – in that final speech.
      Rand didn’t always grasp that her charas worked best as illustrations, rather than mouthpieces, for her worldview.
      The tendency of rand’s characters to be unwavering in their ideals is one of their greatest weaknesses since it means they’re easily controlled and manipulated by those who are apparently far less able.
      I thought that Keating came off as Toohey’s puppet-boy due to his lack of self-definition – a case of “if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything”.
      Rand gets WAY too principled about architecture, everyone knows buildings need to be designed with utility in mind for christ’s sake!
      Well, I seemed to get that Roark seemed to have an (if you will) intuitive eye for what would best suit the clients he took on; besides, I reckon a striking aesthetic counts for almost as much as the interior comfort it gives to the inhabitant. You should check out some of the new residences close to where I live – fucking beautiful works!
      What is roark working his ass off for in the end? His silly fixed ideas. Thats all. His head be haunted.
      Not quite sure I buy this – I reckon Roark possesses strongly einzig qualities. He knows what he wants and goes after it, whatever stands in his way. In the end he realizes his personal vision, retains his sense of self, and gets the girl. Not a bad turnout, eh?
      i suppose though, the description of him as “a religious man…in his own way”, plus his building of that temple of Man supports your view . I think there exists evidence to support both our views.

      • psuedoid says:

        Re: I like substantive responses! ^_^
        I find that a discourse like this can be quickly revealing of the most basic tenets of egoist-style philosophies. I never found Keating to be a particularly able character, or one that I would want to be. However, nobody goes through their entire life without struggle or questioning themselves at some point or another and for once I felt that maybe the staunch author let her guard back some and produced a more realistic and ambiguous character, one who was “almost one of them”. I think it’s revealing that it is emphasized that Keating is very popular(in opposition to Roark’s more distanced persona), alienated egoists are pretty common, and the reasons for this are probably not nearly as flowery as many “egoists” might claim(Rand being a prime example of this). One of Rand’s embarrassing mistakes here is connecting very high innate ability with social malaise, this is a very obvious logical error. They may often intersect, but they are not absolutely synonymous. Theres nothing wrong with being popular in my eyes. Did Keating ‘sacrifice’ himself for that or was it just his greatest pleasure? Can we fault him for indulging in the latter? I sure won’t.
        Roark came off to me as an exceedingly likeable character from the start. His work habits confuse me though, as do his mega-principled self-tortures, such as his forced separation from Dominique. I feel that this is where the schism between Ayn Rand and Max Stirner becomes most obvious. Roark is so able, why should he suffer for years and years for the sake of doing things his own way? Ultimately the answer seems to be that Roark would not want to live any other way, and perhaps could not. When I take a reality check though, whats happening here is that Roark is valuing good architecture over his own immediate well-being and pleasure, which is not egoistic, not that I don’t respect it, but it is extremely “religious” in the Stirner view. I’m on the fence here; I admire Roark’s ambitions and see the irresistible appeal of doing things one’s own way, but he also seems to have allowed his ambitions to master him, reminding me of Stirner’s example of the man ruled by greed. Maybe the worst thing in the egoistic accounts is locating the true “locus of self”. For now I feel that Roark’s actions were a gamble that payed off. Ultimately I would side with Stirner, but the payoff of Roark’s gamble is enormous. It also makes me wonder if a progressive outlook on Stirner in which one consciously fosters what might be called..”suspended spooks” that are designed by the person with the intent to bring desirable outcomes about….is in order. This is complicated and would involve at least one level of “meta-consciousness”. I find this sort of suggestion necessary because Stirner’s account is very good but can not in of itself actually guide a person, it is more like a guide on how to guide(meta-guide)….eck!
        Suspended spooks are necessary because there is no true yellow brick road in life. I would glibly describe them as contrived dialogues in the play of life, with room for improvisation. As a result that the best chain of choices in life is not known exactly, some semi-arbitrary goals need be set here and there. The setting and reaching of these carefully selected but still partially arbitrary goals allows for optimal outcomes that would not otherwise be possible. For Tiger Woods it was golf, for Bill Gates Microsoft, etc. The consciousness that these choices are arbitrary(which can undermine them), must be kept on a leash and reined-in when necessary. I find the consequences of following Stirner’s pure account shocking, right now this is the most pragmatic compromise I can imagine.
        OK…I will slowly back away from the podium….slowly….

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