An Analysis of the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Essay in response to questions number Two and Six

Ayn Rand wrote The Fountainhead to impart her impassioned philosophy of Objectivism, a belief that advocates political freedom and the rights of the individual. To present her philosophy, Ayn Randcreatese Howard Roark, a distinctive Ayn Rand hero, and his foil Peter Keating. Howard Roark is an innovative architect whose brilliant and revolutionary designs are rejected by people who are dogmatic and fearful of change. Yet, he does not surrender his beliefs but encounters all hardships with a commitment to his judgment and his integrity.

On the other hand, Peter Keating is a conformist who abandons his integrity and allows other people to dominate his life. Through this acute contrast between Roark and Keating, and Roark’s triumphant victory at the end, Ayn Rand presents her philosophy of Objectivism.

From the beginning of the novel, Ayn Rand insinuates the antithesis of the characteristics of Roark and Keating through an ironic event; Roark is expelled on the same day that Peter graduates from Stanton with high honor.

That same day, when the Dean of the Stanton Institute of Technology tries to persuade Roark to give up his radical ideas and go along with the traditional designs, the essence of Roark’s character is revealed as he states, “…… But the best is a matter of standards – and I set my standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one (Pg 24 – 25).” Moreover, his incontrovertible individuality reaches more than just architecture.

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Howard Roark is self-centered, self-generated, self-sufficient, and self-motivated about all issues of life. For example, when he was asked if he had any relatives, he said indifferently: “| don’t think I have any relatives. I may have. I don’t know (Pg25).” Howard Roark is so independent that he does not even care if he had any relatives or friends. Accordingly, because he does not care what people think about him, his actions are solely based on his judgment.” Howard Roark saw no one. For him, the streets were empty. He could have walked there naked without concern(Pg17).”

As Roark’s essence of the character was perpetual, so did Peter Keating’s, only in an opposite way. He abandons his dream of being a painter to become an architect because his mother told him to. He deserts his true love Catherine to marry Dominique because Dominique’s social status impresses other people. As for architecture, he copies the traditional designs or asks Roark to design for him. Unlike Roark, Keating heavily relies on the opinion of others for everything he does. As a result, though he has succeeded both in wealth and status, he can not find happiness. This is evident as he realizes that he can not stand on his judgment even for his true love:

” He went away, relieved and desolate, cursing himself for the dull, persistent feeling that told him he had missed a chance which would never return; that something was closing in on them both and they had surrendered. He cursed because he could not say what it was that they should have fought (Pg157).”

Keating’s only mission in life is to have others’ respect, especially Howard Roark’s. Although he would not state it in public, Keating respects and at the same time, hates Roark more than anyone. For example, when he could not choose between a scholarship to the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and a job offer from Francon and Heyer, he comes to Roark for guidance. And Roark says: ” If you want my advice, Peter,….you’ve made a mistake already. By asking me. By asking anyone. Never ask people. Not about your work. Don’t you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know (Pg33)?” Peter can not stand Howard, because unlike him, Roark is always sure of himself. ” But you see, I’m not sure, Howard. I’m never sure of myself. I don’t know whether I’m as good as they all tell me I am. I wouldn’t admit that to anyone but you. I think it’s because you’re always so pure that …..(Pg33).” Keating is extremely jealous of Roark’s confidence because he knows that he would never match up to Roark. Hence he uses any means necessary to rise to the position of partner in the country’s most prestigious firm, Francon, and Heyer, while Roark struggles to get any commission. However, nothing he did could bring out the slightest envy from Roark, and Keating’s hatred toward Roark kept growing.

“God damn you!” he screamed. “God damn you! Who do you think you are? Who told you that you could do this to people? So you’re too good for that building? Do you want to make me ashamed of it? You rotten, lousy, conceited bastard! Who are you? You don’t even have the wits to know that you’re a flop, an incompetent, a beggar, a failure, a failure, a failure (Pg193)!…….”

Keating wanted to hear from Roark that he has succeeded and that he is better than Roark. And when he realized that Roark can never be broken, he rationalizes himself that he is superior to Roark, as long as the public believes that he is. However, Roark’s brilliance is soon recognized by a few people and people started to appreciate his work. And to the final blow to Keating, Roark wins the Cortlandt trial. Keating has now lost everything he had worked for. And he has nothing left in him because he lost himself. On the other hand, Roark, as he always believed, was proven to be the best architect.

The theme of The Fountainhead is that a man must live by his judgment and form his values. Throughout the novel, Ayn Rand constantly proves the foil of the two characters, Roark and Keating. And through Roark’s triumphant victory at the end of the novel, after his long arduous battle to protect his integrity, Ayn Rand clearly shows her philosophy of Objectivism. This is a lesson that Ayn Rand wants us to remember: Life is full of choices. The heroes of society will know which ones to take and remain true to their judgment. Those who fail to stand up for themselves will end up in the melting pot of society, their flame of freedom extinguished.

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An Analysis of the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. (2022, Aug 12). Retrieved from

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