The Fountainhead, Compare/Cont Essay, Research Paper
In Ayn Rand s The Fountainhead, there are 2 kind of attitudes and characters which pull from each other and make up the conflict of the story. There is Howard Roark the independently thinking artist, and protagonist of the story, and Henry Cameron, the man who had values like Roark, but sold out on his beliefs. There is Peter Keating, the second-hander, who takes credit for Roark s work, and is more worried about what other people think then of what his own beliefs are. He is similar to Ellsworth Toohey, a parasite to Roark, but worst then Keating because he is not after success in some career, but rather after power and the destruction of others. Gail Wynand and Dominique Francon are the most unusual and difficult pair in the book. Gail Wynand is the industrialist of the story, and with his industrial strength, he finds the way to beat people down with it. Dominique Francon has an inner conflict with herself, with her beliefs in strength and power or honesty and power colliding with each other.
Howard Roark s morality and determination are what makes him the story s protagonist. The novel centers around the opposition to him from many people. However, Roark never backs down from the opposition and at the end eventually conquers it. His approach to life is one of individualism. Even though Cameron held the same morals and beliefs as Roark, he backed down from the opposition and would even make an effort to bring Roark down with him. While Roark represents a person who has confidence in what he believes and in honesty, Cameron is a person who s beliefs weren t strong enough therefore he surrendered into having the same ideals as everyone else. Cameron is similar to many Americans during Pre-Civil War times, when many realized slavery was a bad thing, but most forged their beliefs in order to appeal to popular opinion. “Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light. He was considered an evildoer…”
Peter Keating was the complete opposite of Roark. He would rather appeal to the public then use his own judgement when making a decision. He also is the type that deceives and manipulates people. A fine example of this can be found on page 60 where
Peter says to Katie, “You see, Katie, you don’t know me. I’m the kind that uses people. I don’t want to use you. He designs by copying masters of the past, and whenever he needs help, he asks Roark, then takes all the credit for himself. His work was mediocre, and very practical, yet he was successful because he appealed to what the public had been brainwashed into thinking was good. Keating also rises because of the support he receives from Toohey. Toohey is like Keating in that he uses people. In fact Keating is a tool for Toohey, in his quest to destroy Roark. Toohey is pure evil. Unlike Keating, his motive is not success, but instead power and the destruction of Roark. He has a vested interest in the dependency of followers. That is how he controlled Keating. This makes him the villain of the story.
Gail Wynand went from rags to riches through hard work, determination, and brilliance. Wynand is the industrialist in the story. Hated and feared, fighting the system with his political strength rather than with his strength of will and his honesty, Gail is the opposite of people like Henry Cameron. While Cameron was a man of artistic strength beaten for his lack of inner strength, Wynand is the man of industrial strength who is
beating people with it. Dominique is another force Roark must deal with. Dominique cooperates to bring down Roark; but strangely she does this out of love for him. In an attempt to beat Roark down, she marries Peter Keating. After discovering that he is but a tool of others, she leaves him for Wynand, and discovers that here is a man she can love – or is he? Dominique changes her motivation to take Roark down upon the realization that she loves him. The dynamiting of the Cortland Homes housing project and the courtroom decision to acquit Roark for it is what brings both Gail and Dominique to realize that one cannot achieve noble ends by corrupt means, and that evil is impotent and cannot fundamentally hurt the good.
Howard Roark was the only individual in The Fountainhead. This was a reason for his unpopularity with the rest of the characters in the book. No one was willing to accept change. Cameron was a victim of a weak determination, and he wasn t ready to be disliked in the same method Roark was. Wynand, although he had good intentions, carried them out in the improper way. This holds true for Dominique as well. Keatling s free loading second-handedness finally is revealed at the end, and he gets displayed as the fraud that he is. Toohey s evil attempts to ruin Roark are also defeated at the end, when the court acquits Roark of the dynamiting. Toohey could not shackle a creater such as Roark, who was willing to fight proudly in what he believed in.