The Fountainhead is the story of an architect named Howard Roark, who puts his work first in everything. His buildings are either greatly loved, or intensely hated and feared. Some consider him a genius and revere him - others avoid him and try to destroy him and his work.
It took reading the entire book before I fully understood the theme of this Ayn Rand classic. At first I thought it was the actual architecture - the buildings of the 1920's and 1930's. Then I thought the focus was on the relationships around Roark, including his love affair with Dominique Francon, an intelligent, stubborn woman. Finally, I came to understand what Rand was trying to say, and I was left completely awestruck. Read this statement Roark made of his acquaintance, Peter Keating:
"What was [Keating's] aim in life? Greatness, in other people's eyes. Fame, admiration, envy, all that which comes from others. Others dictated his convictions, which he did not hold, but he was satisfied that others believed he held them. Others were his prime concern. He did not want to be great, but to be thought great."
I read this over and over again - trying to let it sink in. Rand's message to all shows the need we have to stand up for what we believe, not what others believe. To be true to ourselves, to shine on our own, in our own unique way - not as a cookie-cutter of the "collective," but as an individual.
I'm ever amazed with Rand's talent. She is a master-writer. The words flow - free from the reader/writer relationship. The characters are well-developed, deep, and understandable (albeit hate-able at times). Nothing in this book was extra - every word was used to fully experience the story.
A few themes I recognized:
- Individualism compared to collectivism (not surprising. I mean, it is Ayn Rand. :-))
- Hard work
- Values: standards, morals, and sticking to them (I'm not talking about morality and chastity, since Roark didn't stick with those, but more the standards and morals in your work, actions, and conversation. Using what you have to express yourself, and staying to what you know is right for you, rather than pleasing the crowd and public.)