A Comparison and Contrast of Characters in the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Topics: Ayn Rand

Francon, Steven Mallory, and Gail Wynand. How do each’s view of life and its possibilities differ from Howard Roark’s? How does this issue relate to the theme of the novel?

The Fountainhead has a plethora of characters who originate from a spectrum of situations. These characters mesh into an imperfect world that has head-on battles against egoists and altruists, such as Howard Roark and Ellsworth Toohey, every day. Howard Roark, being the protagonist of the novel and the perfect model for Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, has a rough ride through the stormy waves of the misinformed public.

He is not alone, though, in his venture to keep his virtues intact. Dominique Francon, Steven Mallory, and Gail Wynand all share characteristics, ideals, and morals with not only Roark but also with each other. But, as easily as one can compare the similarities between these acquaintances, one can just as simply contrast their varying opinions on life and other topics. These similarities and differences can only be fully examined if one also scrutinizes the characters’ backgrounds and the crisscrossing paths that they decide to take.

In his early career, Howard Roark built a few buildings that turned heads. Austen Heller, liking Roark’s work, helped Roark open his own fir Roark could build his dream house. That first contract opened doors to other projects such as a spherical gas station, a new store fstorefronte Fargo Store, and an exquisite house for the Sanborn family. Some clients were extremely pleased with Roark’s work while some, fed with negative comments from scared architectural competitors, hated his modernistic designs.

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With these criticisms, Roark’s contracts went down. His last big chance was designing the new bank building for the Manhattan Bank Company. After much procrastinating, the board agreed on Roark’s building with the addition of adding some classical elements. Roark, not budging from his design ideals, denied the contract.

Low on cash, Roark closed his firm and left New York City for a job at a granite quarry. That summer, Dominique Francon moved out to her father’s summer home to get away from the world for a time. Her father’s granite quarry is where Roark and Dominique met for the first time. A passionate love affair ensued bringing happiness and despair into both of their lives.

The intimate relationship between Howard Roark and Dominique Francon is so strong because of their understanding of each other. They share the belief that man is capable of greatness, but they differ on the possibility of man reaching that high stature. Roark, with his selfish desires, believes that if he is independent of society and keeps to his beliefs, he will succeed. Dominique, on the other hand, is a pessimist who thinks that the evil men of the world will always overpower and conquer the great men. Dominique has many times seen the corrupt and altruistic rise to power: her father, Guy Francon, with his undeserved position at his firm; Ellsworth Toohey with his cunning rise to the top of the architectural world; and Peter Keating with his success built upon others’ brilliant ideas. Because of these experiences, Dominique resists trying to understand Roark’s want to put his works into a world that will only destroy what they don’t understand. The Stoddard Temple, for example, was a sanctuary designed to glorify the greatness of man. Ellsworth Toohey, crafting his deceitful plan, manipulated the public to loathe the “unorthodox” building. Dominique, in total despair, that her lover was being destroyed because of his strong independent nature, concluded that Roark, a man that would never compromise what he believed was right, would never succeed in a world where the public did not think for themselves. She started a mission, thereafter, to kill Roark’s career. She did it not because she hated him but because she did not want him to be torn to pieces by evil men and their blind followers. She did it out of mercy.

The Stoddard Temple was a major event in Howard Roark’s career. Hopton Stoddard, due to his fear of not being remembered, asked his trusted advisor Ellsworth Toohey to help him erect a monument in memory of himself. Toohey, in an attempt to destroy Roark because of his hate for the selfish individual, convinced Stoddard to build a temple to the human spirit. Toohey then sent Stoddard to Roark with a preplanned speech to entice Roark to take the contract. Roark accepted the contract and built a phenomenal structure that, unlike a traditional cathedral, lifted mankind to the skies and captured the heroic, human spirit. To completely capture the passion, Roark found the perfect artist to mold the centerpiece sculpture: Steven Mallory.

Steven Mallory, while very similar to Howard Roark, has a personality that resembles that of Roark’s idol: Henry Cameron. Roark, Cameron, and Mallory are all men of integrity; they design with their creativity and only allow their employers to build their visions exactly as they were planned. However, Cameron and Mallory, unlike Roark, are deeply affected by the public’s opinion. Roark can stand up for his designs while keeping his esteem up and his life in check no matter what the outcome. Cameron and Mallory may stand on their design principles, but they crumble when they are rejected. Drinking and lonely nights ensue and lead to disastrous endings: Cameron’s death and Mallory’s depression. In both separate relationships, Roark creates a family bond with Cameron and Mallory: Cameron as a father figure and Mallory as a brother figure. Cameron died before Roark could convince him of anything positive in the world, but Mallory listened to Roark and took his advice to ignore the public’s harassment. Mallory ended up accepting the job to mold a sculpture for the Stoddard Temple.

Using Dominique Francon as a muse, Mallory embodies the passion Roark wanted. Ellsworth Toohey completely morphed the Stoddard Temple’s deeper meaning into a mutated beast that quickly stoked the public’s hatred toward Howard Roark. To build such anger with the “attack on religion,” Toohey used his leeched position as an architectural critic at The Banner. The Banner is a tabloid newspaper filled to the brim with gossip and explosive affairs. It, along with many other newspapers, is owned by the highly influential Gail Wynand, the man who gets what he wants. Growing up in the slums called Hell’s Kitchen, Wynand decided at an early age that he was going to surpass his family’s poverty. Working several jobs due to his inability to accept worthless orders, Wynand learned that what he knew worked, but it was not appreciated due to his lack of power. Through the years, Wynand climbed the corporate ladder and became one of the most powerful people in New York City. On his way up, Wynand learned that by giving the readers what they wanted, he could easily gain power. The Stoddard Temple is a great example of Wynand’s belief. The public, through Toohey’s articles, believed Roark was a nasty individual so Wynand used his power to convince more people he was; he allowed his columnists to blast Roark because that sold newspapers. Dominique Francon, working as a columnist with The Banner at the time, had written an article to defend Roark, but Wynand fired her to keep it from being published Gail Wynand is one character who has several angles to his ideology that tend to overlap.

Wynand, like Howard Roark, Dominique Francon, and Steven Mallory, reveres man’s greatest achievements and adores the heroic, independent man. When compared directly to Dominique, Wynand holds a similar pessimistic belief that it is extremely difficult for competent men in the world to succeed. His one exception to the rule, though, is that power can make anyone succeed. That is why Wynand, in his career, followed the public’s lead to gain power. When compared directly to Roark, Wynand shares the work ethic and the want to succeed in life, but Roark works hard to design and construct buildings the way he designs them, and he never backs down from that position. Wynand, at least in his career, publishes articles that get publications sold. As Wynand later finds out during the Cortlandt fiasco, he never controlled public opinion, but he instead had sold his soul to it.

Dominique Francon, Steven Mallory, and Gail Wynand are all characters in The Fountainhead that exhibit traits of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism: belief, in reality, facts, reason, rationality, and independence. All three stand firm in their beliefs against the oblivious, brainwashed public and their muddled thinking. However, they are all tinted in some respects and fall short of the image of the heroic man. Howard Roark, though, embodies the greatness of man and stands by his morals every time; therefore, he is the ideal man when compared to all the key points of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. Each character that meets Roark in The Fountainhead, from the lowest people to the highest leaders to the most corrupt individuals, takes something away from his individualistic attitude: men who are in the right can overcome the pompous, power-hungry men in the world just by standing up for what they believe is right. Through his many trials and successes, Howard Roark helps many characters, including Dominique Francon, Steven Mallory, and Gail Wynand, to better understand the capability of the heroic man.

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A Comparison and Contrast of Characters in the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. (2022, Aug 12). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-comparison-and-contrast-of-characters-in-the-fountainhead-by-ayn-rand/

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