A wonderful book. Having read a lot of negative reviews, I was apprehensive about what this book might be like. But it has a very simple message to give - Set yourself free.At the beginning, I found Roark and Dominique incomprehensible, somewhat unrealistic and improbable as characters. Someone we do not usually meet even once in the course of our entire lives. Towards the end of the novel, I realised, THAT IS THE POINT.To be free, one must pay the steep price our culture, our world demands of us. And many are yearning to be free, but either do not realize it, or or not willing to pay the price.Howard's final speech sums it all up. People could not stand him because he reminded them of their inability to free themselves. Because he mocked them with his very presence. Because only his degradation into extreme poverty and obscurity could free the rest from the unacknowledged guilt within they were unprepared to face. People cannot stand an independent mind.An unfettered mind is a dangerous entity. It not only treads unconcerned on its chosen path, it threatens to upset the facade of respectability and civilization that the world has conjured up so painstakingly, at the cost of their own SELF.Catherine/Katie still feels a bit unreal, and Guy Francon's sudden agreement with his daughter towards the end is left unexplained.Howard and Dominique make greater sense towards the end, and do not seem incomprehensible in retrospect. Keatings, alas, pop up everywhere around us, Tooheys thrive everywhere we can see. Wynand, surprisingly, was very well-drawn as a character. The beautiful writing skills of Rand lent him an air of reality, and did not make it seem an inexplicable jolt in the storyline simply because the writer was stuck somewhere and needed to make a change.Roark and Dominique can be governed, but not ruled. And that is how all humans should be. It is perhaps too much to ask of anyone to aspire to become complete Roarks or Dominiques, the price is unbelievably steep, but one can at least try.Roark's final speech should be taught in all schools and, and this novel must be a part of the syllabus for every kid who goes to college.Louis Althusser states the same things in his unparalleled essay, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus", only that there is no story in it, and the language is technical, rather than emotional. But for those interested in Rand, the essay is just as important, as a life-changer for some.A word of caution though. It is a very alluring principle - Objectivism. But Roark exemplifies the maximum limit of it, the unreachable goal. One must aspire to be free, but it is to be realised that one cannot be absolutely free. To survive, one has to compromise. Like in every other thing we firmly believe in. A blind conformation to Objectivism can be just as dangerous as blind conformation to tradition.Lisa
Ayn Rand has written some of the most undistinguished prose in the English language. Moreover, her politics are appalling.Ironically, the most common pick-up line I've been given over the course of my life involves random drunk dude #243 ascertaining my intelligence, believing that he's more apt to get me to give up my number (or my virtue) if I believe him to be intelligent, too -- so he busts out something about "The Fountainhead" or "Atlas Shrugged", or suggests that I am unusually stimulating and intellectual for a woman -- like Ayn Rand.Another interesting fun fact: there is an Ayn Rand foundation that GIVES her books to high schools, which I like to think is the reason they are still in print.David
This was the novel of ideas that shot Ayn Rand to literary prominence. Unlike the later ATLAS SHRUGGED which explores Rand's philosophy of individualism in the politico-economic realm, this book explores it in the aesthetic realm. This alone leads to some interesting and amusing anomalies, that Rand highlights herself. As when one left-wing group wants to support Roark as a symbol of the put-upon proletarian, while some successful businessman despise him. Of course in this book, Rand is not putting the case for capitalism, but rather for the ethics of freedom that underlies both the economics of the free market and the aesthetics of an independent mind.Unfortunately, what goes around comes around. When one hears Britain's Prince Charles taking advantage of his status of birth to share his personal views on architecture with a wider public who would otherwise ignore his antiquarian tastes, one realizes that the spirit of Elsworth Toohey is still alive.Jojo Bananas
If you like your characters rendered in stunning Black and White, without all that pesky grey in between, this is the book for you. With characters as self-centered and unbelievable as they are unlikeable, is it any wonder that architecture students who are encouraged to read this end up so full of themselves? I wouldn't use it to prop up the short leg of the couch. I throw my poop at it.Max
I recall that most people read Ayn Rand in high school, which is the ideal time to embrace protagonists who refuse to compromise their originality and are assaulted on all sides for their greatness. Having skipped several grades in public school I missed some of these formative books so I'm reading them as an adult. More than 50 years have passed in architecture, capitalism, and the glorification of the mediocre, since Rand wrote The Fountainhead, which is why its philosophies are more suited for the high school mind than the adult reader. Her characters aren't human, they are symbols to illustrate her early philosophy. Howard Roarke, her hero and übermensch, is a man who cannot exist in real life. He is perfect, and his enemies try and destroy him because he is perfect. What we know of 50 years of capitalism and architecture is that style means nothing, whether modern, classic, brutalist, original, or stolen. Buildings are erected by faceless corporations, or by eccentric wealthy. There is enough room and real estate for both the Keatings and the Roarkes, and the Ellsworth Twoheys of the world don't mean a thing. Sad, really, because Twohey is a villain truly worth hating - the blowhard intellectual ass who seeks to destroy originality by elevating the mediocre and placing the good of others above the good of self so he may rule the plebes. Rand's notion that altruism is basically evil communism (embodied in Twohey) is amusing, because her model of success relies on everyone being rich (or having rich benefactors). My goodness - if only everyone were rich we'd all be happy! It's no wonder than Alan Greenspan was all crushed out on the woman. I'll admit at times I wished that Twohey would meet a horrible end - to have his hands cut off, his tongue cut out, so he would be forced to witness Roarke's triumphs and be powerless to do anything but watch without comment. But Rand's novel isn't plotted that way - nothing really happens other than ideas battling one another. There are no consequences to anyone's actions. And it is for that reason that The Fountainhead reads more like a television show; characters that do not change, who occupy the same sets, encircling one another and talking about themselves. That's what makes it a mediocre novel - Rand's place in history is now better suited to television - and I'm talking Oxygen, Lifetime, or Hallmark channel.Dan
Ever read a book that changed your life as a kid, I mean totally reconfigured your perceptions of life and how it should be lived? Yeah, me too. This was one of those books for me. It blew me away as a kid. My hero was Roark and his rugged individualism and integrity. Upon rereading this 50th anniversary hardback edition as an adult, I was appalled at this amoral tale. Roark is a sociopathic monster whose integrity is blind and callous. The Objectivism that Rand uses to undergird this story seems to find ethics of communities, or how we should act towards each other, repugnant. Every character is a simple caricature of one facet of a human, there is no moral ambiguity or ambivalence in anybody. Everybody here is an absolute, and because of that, an absolute failure. She attempts to soften these granite facades with a love story, but Rand turns out to be inept at that too. Sure Roark has impeccable aesthetic taste, but if it isn't in service to bettering your life or your fellow man's (preferably both), then it's just an exercise in solipsistic torture. And the whole manifesto masquerading as a serious novel gave me eyeball sprain from all of the rolling it did. This book is probably dangerous for naive minds and too naive for adult minds.Ryan
This book is the equivalent of a drunk, eloquent asshole talking to you all night at a bar. You know you should just leave and you could never explain later why you didn't, but you just sit there listening to the guy ramble on. It's all bullshit, and his arguments defending, say, his low-key but all-consuming misogyny aren't that good and don't even really make sense, but just for a second you find yourself thinking, "Huh, the man might have a point..." before you catch yourself and realize that no, he is just an asshole. You feel dirty and bad afterwards, realizing how close you came to the abyss, but there was that one second where, for some reason, his selfish, arrogant stances, which have hardened into granite truth for him, bluntly force you into a momentary empathy with his ideas--ironically, the one thing he will never, no matter how many shots of Jameson you buy him, give you. The only real difference between the drunk at the bar and The Fountainhead is that the drunk probably wouldn't go so far as claiming, when relating an account of rape, that the woman wanted it, even craved it. Ayn Rand goes there while remaining perfectly true to her Objectivism bullshit. At least the drunk might buy you a drink. Ayn Rand would probably object to it on philosophical grounds.Dave
Overall, this is not only great fiction, but Rand also has some great ideas which are presented with an uncanny amount of clarity.The architectural profession serves as the backdrop for the story. The story itself is quite interesting; either Rand did a great deal of research or she did a good job faking it. I maintained a complete disinterest in architecture before reading the book, but still found myself actively engaged while Rand discussed the matter. I wonder how many young readers are steered towards the profession after reading this book for the first time.With the exceptions of a few monologues that went on a bit too long, the story kept me engaged for the entire 700 pages. The characters are well developed; I found myself attached to some while despising others. There is adequate conflict to keep the plot moving.While I understood the motivations of the actions carried out by Dominique and Roark, the actions themselves bordered on the edge of the extreme. At various times in the book, both engage in acts of violence and destruction which don't seem completely rational. These issues aside, it's a very well written book.As to the philosophy.....Rand's message is fairly clear. She doesn't abstract the message at all. In fact, she grinds it in as thoroughly and as clearly as she can.The book provides us with Howard Roark as Rand's idea of an ideal man. He never falters in his convictions. He remains completely independent and relies on nobody. His only interest is to his work; to the manifestation of his creative genius. He doesn't care what others think - he only cares about his own productive achievements. He is an egotist - a term which carries a positive connotation in her book. She argues that it's the egotistical desire of man that build great civilizations.“All that which proceeds from man’s independent ego is good. All that which proceeds from man’s dependence upon men is evil.”The book is full of weaker people like Peter Keating. Keating lives through the thoughts and feelings of others. He is completely dependent upon others to justify his existence. Through Roark and Keating, Rand asserts that dependence upon other men is evil in nature. Keating lives not for himself, but for others. Rand has a title for such people - second handers. He can't do what he desires, as he is constantly worried about how others think of him.In a world where self-interest is ideal, acts of altruism are counterproductive and should be despised. At first I was lost on this point, as it didn't seem to me that altruism was necessarily all bad. I see no problem with people giving of themselves to people they love. I also don't see a problem with my donating money to various charitable endeavors. After reading The Fountainhead, I now see that such acts are not altruism.Altruism is the unselfish concern for the welfare of others - a state of complete selflessness. When I give to those I love or to causes I believe in, my actions are selfish. I provide for my family because I hold them to be the most important thing in my life. That check to the local SPCA goes towards providing a better life for animals, a cause I place some value in. Charity and kindness are not altruism; they're actually quite selfish acts.However, to an extent society seems to feel that I should give to those who are less fortunate with no care for myself simply because the intended recipient is deemed to need such assistance by those who insist that I give it. Most social welfare programs are like this. I am forced to pay taxes on my earnings, which are then distributed to others via a variety of social programs despite the fact that I have no interest giving in such a fashion. This is nothing more than forced altruism.Taylor K.
Note, Feb. 2011: The feedback I've gotten on this review is kind of funny. I'd like to make one thing clear, and that is that I'm far from a Rand worshipper. I can't get onboard with her whole way of life, from the personal to the political level. I will say, though, that I think her attitudes, when applied to the creative arts, are important. When you create something, I think it's fine to disregard trends and making other people happy. When you create, the person you should keep foremost in mind is you. As for the other stuff, I still agree with everything I wrote originally, which is that there are aspects of the rest of her teachings that are compelling and that are worth sampling from. But adapting someone else's principles whole hog kind of go against the very basic idea this is built upon, which is examine yourself, and what you want, and I have a hard time believing that so many people want exactly the same things she wanted. Originally, when I wrote this review, Goodreads had a much shorter word limit, and I remember running out of space. I can't remember what else I was going to say, but this will have to suffice. (Also, no, I'm not okay with the rape, kthanx.)Original review:This book is remarkable.Basic plot: Howard Roark (individual) & Peter Keating (copycat). Roark constantly fights with society but manages to survive, Keating gets lifted up by society and then destroyed by it (can you say celebrities?). This is the plot at its most rudimentary - naturally there's more to it.I understand the comments about Objectivists being assholes and I respond to that in two ways - firstly, does this not prove her point about how people respond to/treat individuals who live for themselves? Secondly, there's an exaggeration in here. Simply look at the relationships in the book - the fact that they exist. In its purest form, the most egotistical, self-centered person wouldn't bother entering into a relationship or get married, because it would imply having to consider another person (or making someone a doormat, which would go against the philosophy, because part of it is that one will exist for themselves without enslaving others - Roark refuses to let Dominique submit to something she wouldn't be happy with). Ayn Rand got married, Objectivists in The Fountainhead get married - it's not that they're portrayed as not caring about anyone (exaggeration!). The best example of the Objectivists' relationships is the quote from a scene where Roark and Wynand (publisher of the most powerful newspaper chain) are on the yacht, and Roark says something along the lines of "I'd die for you, but I won't live for you," which makes a lot of sense.People get their panties in a bunch over something that should be made distinct - there's people (individuals) and there's society (the collective of people, supposedly driven by a majority of thought). Ayn Rand's theories apply as much to society as they do the individual. This is more a story of two individuals' fights with society than fights with each other. Yes, the focus is on people giving the most significance to their own thoughts and desires, but they DON'T ignore others. They have friends, relationships, lovers. Clearly, they care about other people (Roark's treatment of Wynand after the trial at the end is a particularly good example of this). There's just not a blind caring, blind trust, blind affection, a blind desire to help, and there's the firm thought that one should affirm themselves through their own standards, not those of others. This isn't a bad thing!Like any philosophy/school of thought, you have to pick and choose from this, and there's no reason why you can't take all of the personal motivation and apply it without feeling like you're screwing over everyone you know. Again, it's a matter of exaggeration, and I don't think you have to embrace this to its most extreme measures to appreciate, understand and want to employ it. Putting yourself first doesn't mean putting everyone you know last. It's not a black or white situation.There are so many things in this that ran parallel to my thinking, the way that I've lived my life, the way that I see my life and the people in it - there were times when the similarities made me feel fantastic from knowing that they were reflected somewhere, and other times they were so close they scared me, especially in Dominique (mostly at the very beginning).I feel like I can't continue living my life as I was before. I feel like a fraud for going back to my job. I continually had to set it aside for a few minutes after a chapter because I wanted, needed to think about what I had just read. The last 100 pages were particularly hard to get through because of that. My brain turned to mush - in a good way. It's a lot to take on, but I feel better about myself for having done so.At just over 700 pages long, it's a bit of a beast, but it's worth every word, and it really only took me 2-3 weeks to get through, which is pretty quick considering I read only on my subway rides.P.S. The movie isn't very good...Manzoid
This book is a big epiphany-getter in American high school and college students. It presents a theme of pure, fierce dedication to honing yourself into a hard blade of competence and accomplishment, brooking no compromise, ignoring and dismissing the weak, untalented rabble and naysayers as you charge forth to seize your destiny. You are an "Army of One". There is undeniable sophomoric allure to this pitch. It kind of reminds me of all those teenagers into ninja stuff and wu shu and other Oriental mystical crap (supported by a cottage industry of silly how-to magazines and catalogs for throwing stars and whatnot). "I will forge myself upon the white-hot anvil of hard experience into a mighty warrior..." or some such. I read "The Fountainhead" in college, and so did a bunch of classmates. I found that the people who were *really* taken with it tended to be borderline-pompous cretins who had some moderate talent in something -- art or music, say -- and thought that Ayn Rand had just given them permission to uncork their amazing true spirits, that only an over-adherence to social convention was holding them back from greatness. Uh, no... that's not what's holding you back from greatness...It reminds me of how so many students "really relate" to Holden Caulfield, when the real Holden would think they were total phonies.To be fair, Rand's ideas about the supremacy of self-reliance, the false comfort of altruism, the exaltation of a gritty and decidedly male competence, the sublimeness of pure laissez-faire capitalism... they are interesting to consider. Not making excuses, getting off your ass and working to become really good at something that's in line with your true nature, staying true to your personal ideals of what Quality is, not compromising those ideals for expediency, fear, or social pressure -- these are workable ideas in themselves. However, they are put on a ridiculously high and isolated pedestal in Rand's work.If children did not exist in this world and life was entirely about your career, maybe I could agree a little more. But only a little. Her worldview is just too cold and transactional and rigid and productivity-oriented. She's a libertarian wet dream, I guess, and I feel the same way about them both -- some thought-provoking ideas there, but I don't see it working at all as a broad basis for any kind of world I'd want to live in.Oh yeah, and to circle back for a bit to the actual novel -- the prose is wooden, and characters are flat, and it is twice as long as necessary. Maybe three times as long. It's basically a giant propaganda tract. But it has a surprisingly strong grip on a certain stratum of the American consciousness, so I think it's still an interesting read in that respect. In order to invest the time in it though, I think you have to be the literary equivalent of the film buff who eagerly takes in B-movies as well in order to savor their peculiar inverse contributions to the art form.BirdBrian
SCENE OPENS IN A PSYCHIATRIST'S OFFICE. TWO MEN FACE EACH OTHER IN COMFORTABLE-LOOKING ARMCHAIRS.Dr Williams (DrW): Howard, I want you to understand that even though you were acquitted for destroying the Courtlandt housing project, the court has ordered you to these sessions because they are concerned you may be a danger to the public. Some of your colleagues think you may be insane.Howard Roark (HR): Insane? Pffft- they wish! They just can't handle my genius. If they possessed my knowledge of architecture, their faces would melt off like droopy-armed children.DrW: But why did you blow up those apartment buildings?HR: I only agreed to design those apartments if Keating promised to build them exactly the way I specified. He changed my design, so (flourish with his hand) ....boom.DrW: Generally, when somebody is in breach of a contract, one seeks resolution in court, not with high-grade explosives.HR: Look, I gave him a brilliant design. What did he do? He let Toohey mess with it, making compromises here and there, cheapening it with bad taste, until it was a grotesque eyesore. I couldn't be associated with such a thing ...So I blew it up.DrW: Ah, I see... You did it to protect your professional reputation.HR: No, no, no... I don't care what others think. (dismissive flip of the hand) I only care about being true to myself. All the other architects in this town hate me, and I say let 'em! I know I'm great, and that's all that matters. I'm on a drug; it's called "Howard Roark"!DrW: But if it's good enough to know you're great, why do you care that Toohey ruined your work? You know your original design was wonderful. If others made a mess of it, isn't that their problem?(silence, as Howard mulls this)DrW: Look, Howard, I'm not taking sides here. You feel strongly about your art, and I respect that. It's like Michelangelo. He suffered for his art too, but you didn't see him blowing up the Sistine Chapel when things didn't go his way. HR: Well, maybe he should have! If you can't make art that is superlative, it's better not to make any at all. Don't you see? All I want to do is create buildings which inspire people with their form and function. What's wrong with that?DrW: Nothing. I admire that, Howard, but you‘ve made it really difficult for yourself. How many people will want to hire you, given your imprudent history with munitions? HR: Professor Wright seems to like my work.(door opens, and a distinguished-looking academic type pokes his head in)Professor Wright (FLW): Did I just hear my name mentioned? (to Dr W): Is he fixed yet? Can I take him back to the Academy?DrW: (pleading) Frank, give the boy some time! He's got a lot of issues he's working through. You can't just push him.FLW: (angry) FINE! Have it your way! (pointing an accusing finger at DrW): But there's only six other people in the world who can even begin to comprehend how mind-blowingly brilliant his Stoddard Temple was. Do you hear me?!?? SIX PEOPLE!!!!(slams door loudly)DrW: I'm sorry you had to see that. We have a tense and complicated relationship. We used to be college roommates, and then he got, like, the Nobel Prize or something.HR: Um, okay.DrW: Howard, this is kind of unconventional, but I think I know what part of the problem is. With your permission, I'd like to invite your girlfriend into our discussion...(goes to the door, and calls Dominique Francon [DF] from the waiting area)(Dominique enters)DF: (seductively, to Howard) Hey, Lover... Doctor Man here isn't messin' with your head, is he?DrW: Well, Ms. Francon, we were just exploring the question of why an accomplished architect would suddenly demolish a structure he'd been working on for six months.DF: Why!? ...Because they don't deserve to live in one of his magnificent apartments, that's why!DrW: "They" who?DF: You know, the "little people"... (with disgust) the insignificant and inconsequential little nobodies who make up the bulk of society! They don't deserve to shine Howie's shoes here, let alone live in his beautiful building.HR: They couldn't take it. "Winning."DrW: Howard here just told me the building sucked. Maybe it would have been perfect for "little nobodies", as you call them. DF: Well...I...um...DrW: And how do you know what sort of people would have lived there? Maybe great people you look up to would have moved in.DF: NO! Not after Toohey ruined it! It became an abomination- it was a monument to mediocrity, an appeal to the lowest common denominator...the hive mentality, with their collectivist ideals. That's not Howard. (walking behind Howard, she begins to run her fingers sensually through Howard's hair. Howard looks somewhat uncomfortable) My Howie is a GREAT man! (playfully, to Howard): Aren't ya?(serious, to DrW):That's why people are paying top dollar for his work now. Do you know how much they're paying him to do the Wynand Building?(smiling to herself, she messes up his hair and then says, more to herself than anybody else):My little frickin' rock star from Mars!DrW: Er- yeah. Well, so you find it very significant that Wynand is paying Howard well for his newest building?DF: Hell, yeah! The free market doesn't lie! Money talks, bullshit walks!DrW: Then why dynamite the Courtlandt buildings? Wouldn't it have been more of a vindication to allow them to be constructed, and then watch them go bankrupt? That seems more consistent with your philosophy. Blowing things up just seems desperate.DF: Hey! You're twisting my words! You're just trying to split Howie and me up! It's not gonna work! We're the Bonnie and Clyde of architecture! (turns to Howard)Come on, Howie! Let's get outta here.HR: (slowly shaking his head "no") Bonnie and Clyde? That's not a very good comparison. I don't want to be a gangster; I just want to build buildings.DF: Screw you, Howard! I'm leaving!(slams door)DrW: Sorry, I didn't think she'd break up with you.HR: It's okay. I actually think she's been cheating on me with John Galt.DrW: Who is John Galt?HR: Some guy... it doesn't matter. (looking dejected)I guess I acted kind of irrationally. It's just, (voice cracking) this is a very competitive field...(sniff)There's a lot of pressure, you know?(sniff)DrW: (softly) Hey, Howard, it's okay... it's not your fault.HR: I know. (sniff)(pause)DrW: No, Howard.It's not your fault.HR: (pause) Yeah, I get it. (sniff) I know. (wipes eye)DrW: (solemn) It's not your fault.HR: (tearing up) Don't mess with me, Man! Not you!DrW: (more gentle) It's not your fault.HR: (starts crying)DrW: (embraces Howard)(long, cathartic sobbing gradually comes under control)HR: How embarrassing. (sniff) I must seem pretty crazy. (sniff)DrW: No, Howard, you aren't crazy.HR: (wipes away a tear) So I'm not bipolar?DrW: (smiles and puts his hand on Howard's shoulder) Howard, you're bi-WINNING.Brendan
As literature, I found the book dry, predictable, and overwrought. As philosophy, I found it circular, wholly unfounded, and completely contradicting reality.This book is like a net set for unsuspecting minds. It breaches their defenses with a twisted logic, attempting to preclude any conclusions but the ones it sets forth.Of course, it follows a natural flow from the author's assumptions: power, will, and self-determinism are the foundations of all life. Nothing matters, except that you do what you want. Only if you violate your own integrity are you doing wrong; and yet, this violation is quite easy: it involves believing anything contradictory to those first three assumptions.If you believe this tripe, then you've probably already found a more intelligent and articulate champion for these values. In that case, I'd encourage you to read those authors instead, but ultimately come to the (correct) conclusion that the three aforementioned assumptions are a load of bullshit. If you don't believe this stuff, don't waste your time on this book.Maria
Egads, I hate this book. I first read it 6 years ago when I was 16, and I thought to myself, this book is an enormous pile of compressed dog feces. However, because I'm aware of the fact that our judgement at the age of 16 is not necessarily quite so excellent as most of us liked to think it was, I decided recently to reread it, and see if I understood what other people saw in this book. I still have absolutely no clue. After slogging through it for a second time, I still think that it's 700+ pages of Ayn Rand's litany of "for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are mine, fapfapfap." Its plot is nonexistent, its characters are two-dimensional, and its philosophy has more holes than Swiss cheese.mark monday
I once broke up with someone because she was an ardent follower of Ayn Rand. it just started bothering me more and more, and I started seeing the taint of Objectivism in so many of her comments. mind you, this was in college when i was much more obnoxiously political. after we broke up, she turned around and started dating my roommate... sweet revenge, and a fitting response from an Objectivist.Max Ostrovsky
I did not like The Fountainhead as much as Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged was more of a page turner. There were very specific character goals that drove that story. The Fountainhead had a gradual buildup to a very climactic courtroom scene. The Fountainhead took the reader on a very linear journey, but never going beyond the basic story of a man who wants to succeed. Of course there are more nuances than that, but that is the basic essence. Atlas Shrugged takes a more epic approach and raises more issues and more awareness of the world around you. As Ayn Rand has said, The Fountainhead was the story of man, while Atlas Shrugged was a story of society. And, of course, society is going to have more things going on in it. Both stories revolve around a central character, the perfect man. In The Fountainhead, this man is Howard Roark, Architect. While being "perfect" in the Ayn Rand sense, he seems more human than the counterpart in Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, Destroyer, who is more of a god in that story. Even the speeches made at the end by both men are as different. Roark's speech is approachable, readable, understandable and relates directly to the reader. The reader is instantly drawn in. John Galt's Speech, however, is a massive didactic and at times condescending speech that as a reader is a major undertaking in a book as involved as Atlas Shrugged. But the audiences were different for the men. Roark spoke to men who he chose to listen to him. Men who were logical thinkers; cold and objective. Galt spoke to the radio masses; basically sheep. He had to find 42 different ways of saying the same thing, just so the people could understand him. Beyond the speeches these men are different in their presentation in the book. Roark begins and ends the story. Galt is a mystery for the majority of Atlas Shrugged. He is mythic and godlike. Referenced, but never known and understood with the constant elusive and almost meaningless quote "Who is John Galt?" That book really focuses on Dagny Taggert, a rare very strong female character. Atlas Shrugged is really her story, her failing quest to save a world that doesn't understand its own danger from a destroyer. Both she and Galt are a matched pair, similar in philosophies, drive and dedication, but different in their approach. Dagny was relentless in trying to hold the world together, even though the world tried to stop and undermine her at every turn. Galt did not actively seek out destruction. He merely illustrated that without the exploitation of people like Dagny, it will not and can not survive. He simply withdrew himself from being exploited. One thing that Ayn Rand really impresses me with is that while she gets a kick out of creating and describing and telling the story of the perfect man, she incorporates some of the strongest women I have ever read in literature. As Dagny is in Atlas Shrugged, Dominique was in The Fountainhead. While not as strong or dominate as Dagny, Dominique finds her own niche in the story as the perfect female and satirizes what society usually paints as the "perfect female." Besides being physically attractive she is smart beyond normal comprehension. When trapping herself in a meaningless marriage and playing the part of the "perfect wife," she performed her womanly duties; everything when the husband wanted. Did he love this "perfect wife?" He was miserable because who would want to date a robot who did everything he wanted. She exhibited no personality or thought of her own and was perfectly compliant with everything everyone wanted from her....specifically to show how miserable they can be by simply using her. Fountainhead is a brilliant novel. Ayn Rand has found a way to share her philosophies in a way that is entertaining and enlightening and only a rare trace of didacticism. The Fountainhead shows a very true if not menacing picture of how evil altruism can be.