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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