An Analysis of the Theme of Success in Ayn Rand's Novel The Fountainhead

Success is an achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted and in some cases, this does not come easy. But is it easier to become successful while having morals at the same time? At the beginning of the novel, “The Fountainhead,” Ayn Rand shows through her characters that one can not achieve practical success and be moral at the same time. However, by the end of the novel, Rand has contradicted this belief and shows through her character’s achievements that practical success without morality is only temporary.

Her characters in the novel such as Peter Keating and Howard Roark portray Rand’s view that practical success can not be achieved without morality.

Peter Keating is a prime example of a character who achieves only temporary success because Keating does not have morals. He starts his career off as a prominent but dishonest architect who is successful by following what society accepts instead of pursuing his ideas. Keating is not original and does not have enough skill and pride to sketch his designs, so when he is told to enter the Cosmo-Slotnick competition by his employer he secretly begs a former knowledgeable colleague, Howard Roark, to come up with a design that Keating could put his name on to make himself look superior.

He takes credit for Roark’s designs and because of this Keating becomes successful. By doing this, Rand shows just how immoral this character is. He is incapable of being an individual or standing out and is a weak man who follows what others want, whether it is his mother choosing his profession and his wife or society choosing his designs.

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After taking over the business previously owned by his employer, Keating fails to sustain his position as a leading architect. He trades his wife for a commission, is forced to beg for contracts, and dwells on his failure while becoming obese. By the end of the book his success had deteriorated and he was miserable because of his immoral standards.

Howard Roark on the other hand is true to his beliefs and designs for himself not for society. Roark only accepts jobs on his terms and not on the terms of his employers. If they do not agree to his terms then he will not take the job even if it means closing down his headquarters. Roark would never put his name on a building that was not original even if it was accepted by society. At one point in the novel, Roark is asked to build a Greek facade for a bank and is asked to keep its image as a sound financial institution. Everything Roark believes in is against building the bank the way the employers wanted it designed; therefore he turns down the offer that is proposed by his only potential customers and is forced to shut down his office. Roark is later hired to build structures in Manadock Valley, a vacation spot that is trying to cheat its investors by making this resort fail. They hire Roark because his designs are thought of as radical and disastrous, but this setup failed. When Roark erects his buildings in Manadock Valley they are a huge accomplishment and a milestone for Roark’s success. After Manadock Valley is built, Keating goes to Roark with another building he secretly needs assistance with. Roark is asked to come up with a design for Cortland homes that needs to meet specific criteria. Keating did not follow through with his part of the bargain when Roark accepts to do the drawings for the homes. The bargain was that Roark would do the drawings as long as the drawings stay original and the way Roark designs them. When Roark sees the homes being built differently from his designs he takes action by blowing up the buildings. It takes Roark a lot of time and suffering to finally reach his goal of being an accepted architect with unique designs and morals and in the end, Roark is successful. Roark’s character proves that by sticking to your morals you can be successful in what you do.

The actions of the main characters in this novel prove that Ayn Rand’s philosophy does not comply with the conventional view, that an individual can achieve practical success or they can be moral but not both. Her novel instead implies that to achieve the success you must be moral. Peter Keating’s low measure of morality leads him to failure while Howard Roark sticks to his morals and through a strenuous process achieves success while sustaining morality.

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An Analysis of the Theme of Success in Ayn Rand's Novel The Fountainhead. (2022, Aug 12). Retrieved from

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