The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: Summary And Review

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Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead(1943) is a romantic and philosophical novel that she wrote over a period of seven years. The book was originally titled ‘Second-Hand Lives‘. This novel was her first success followed by many others. It centres on Howard Roark; a young, uncompromising, ambitious and adamant architect. The main feature of this character is that he is true to himself. He is not like one of those who copy others to get the easy path of success. He is fiery and a brainy one whose work is everything for him. He is not ready to change himself just because the world doesn’t accept him the way he is. There are very few who appreciate his work, this doesn’t change his convictions.

Roark Goes to Cameron

Roark is expelled from his architectural school because he refuses to follow the outdated traditions set by the school. He goes to work in New York for Henry Cameron, whose work he admires. Henry Cameron is a brilliant architect, but his work is not liked by the society, as it is modern and so incomprehensible for others.

Keating Goes to Francon

Another friend of Roark, Peter Keating also goes to New York and works for the famous architectural company Francon & Heyer. While Roark works on his own conditions, Keating’s ability to flatter and please soon earns him instant success. He becomes a partner at the company after he causes Francon’s previous partner to die from a stroke. Henry Cameron is broken physically and financially and eventually dies. Roark opens his own small office, but his uniqueness and uncompromising nature forces him to close it.

Roark Meets Dominique Francon

Roark takes up a job at a granite quarry in Connecticut. Roark feels it better doing manual labour rather than wasting his originality at creating orthodox designs. While in Connecticut, Roark is passionately attracted towards Dominique Francon, the stubborn and beautiful daughter of Guy Francon. Soon Roark leaves to design a building for a prominent New York businessman. In New York, Dominique comes to know the true identity of Howard Roark as an architect, whose work she heartily admires. Their clandestine meetings begin, but in public – Dominique always tries to destroy him. She doesn’t want this cruel world to kill the originality inside him. She declares that the world doesn’t deserve the gift Roark has given it.

Dominique Marries Keating and Gail Wynand Buys Her

Dominique marries Peter Keating to punish herself for desiring and abandoning Roark. Gail Wynand, the owner of ‘the Banner and a wealthy influencing businessman, meets Dominique and falls for her. He buys her from Keating by offering him a prestigious contract. Dominique thinks that he is worse than Keating but feels shocked to know that he is a man of principles. Wynand and Roark become fast friends.

Keating Asks for Roark’s Help

Meanwhile Keating asks help from Roark to design Cortlandt homes, a public housing project. Roark agrees to help him and let him take the whole credit, but on the condition that there will not be a single change in his designs. When Roark returns from a trip with Wynand, he feels cheated to see the alterations made to the project. He dynamites the building and surrenders himself to the police.

Roark’s Trial

His trial begins. Wynand follows his principles and orders his newspaper to defend him. The circulation of the Banner drops and he is forced to give in. At the end, jury finds Roark not guilty. Dominique marries Roark. Wynand feels shattered as he couldn’t follow his convictions. He asks Roark to design a last building for him, the highest skyscraper to symbolize the supremacy of man.

Meaning of the Titleof The Fountainhead

The title of the novel is a reference to Rand’s statement that “man’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress.” In the novel, Roark is a fountainhead from which a stream emerges. He is a fountain of creativity, originality, determination, will power and positivity. He is a man who doesn’t give up, who stands as tightened up, though the world is against him. He is a man, who is destroyed but not defeated. He is a man who is able to prove himself above all odds and difficulties.

Publication Details of The Fountainhead

Author: Ayn Rand

Title: The Fountain Head

Country: United States

Language: English

Publisher: Bobbs Merrill

Publication Date: 15 April, 1943

There is also a movie adaption (1949) of the book ‘The Fountainhead’ with Gary Cooper in the lead role of Howard Roark.

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