Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead, written by Ayn Rand was published in 1943 and it made its author a celebrity and creator of a new philosophy called Objectivism. A celebration of  rationalism and individualism over collectivism and altrusim, the novel portrays the indestructible spirit of self as the source or fountainhead of all progress.

Ayn Rand highlights the strong individualistic characters in the novel by juxtaposing them against the weak or ‘second-hand livers’. For Rand, lack of integrity is a serious offense. Both Howard Roark and Dominique Francon are strong characters, who retain their integrity and independence despite the pressure of society on them. The affair between Dominique Francon and Howard Roark testify to the fierce degree of independence that both of them have, even when in love. Their relationship is cold and ferocious and unemotional, marked by strong physical revulsion and violence.


Howard Roark, a young architectural student expelled from college is the protagonist of the novel and the embodiment of the perfect man, uncorrupted and pure, with his own views and individual opinions regarding perfection in his work. He designs buildings using a holistic approach, after taking into consideration details like the nature of the terrain, the material and the most natural way in which the building should express itself through the material. This is in contrast with the corporate architects who design buildings using historical features and designs that are imposed upon the terrain. Roark is the projection of an ideal man, devoid of altruistic intentions, propelled by an inner fire rather than by social recognition or money and with an integrity that is unrelenting to the pressure of society around him.

Dominique stands as the only strong woman in the novel, unlike Mrs. Keating or Catherine, who represent a totally different picture of womanhood, one manipulative and the other manipulated. Though she has Roark-like qualities, she has no natural talent or drive with an element of masochism. Column-writer with The Banner, Dominique loves beauty, perfection and independence. Their first encounter occurs when Roark is working in a stone quarry while Dominique is living alone in her father’s estate. She is drawn to Roark and visits the quarry often to see him. Later he visits her and rapes her, “a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession” of a slave (Rand, 217). This act comes out of scorn rather than love but Dominique enjoys it. Even then Roark’s sudden disappearance makes her happy because she can retain her freedom by remaining unattached to anything or anybody.

The love affair between Dominique and Roark involves passion, struggle and violence. She recommends Peter Keating to people who consult her about which architect to chose and writes articles against Roark’s buildings. But she tests Roark in many ways, by jilting him and robbing him of his commissions. At the Stoddard trail, she says that the world does not deserve such a temple and that it should be destroyed. She marries Keating because she is punishing herself for being in a world that is unfair to Roark. Later when Keating sells her to Wynand, she marries Wynand, though she still loves Roark.

Dominique loves Roark but destroys him because society does not recognise his genius. She finds that Roark produces works of beauty, perfection and independence, which remains unappreciated by the majority who knows only how to criticize and destroy whatever is pure, sacred and beautiful. The vileness around her makes her destructive and she remains cold and detached by surrounding herself with people she dislikes. She can remain indifferent to others, but not to Roark whose integrity and purity of soul surprise her. Before the world can destroy him, she destroys Roark by marrying men she despises and later through articles in The Banner.

At Roark’s trial, Dominique is seemingly critical of Roark, but her intentions are different from that of others in that she recognizes Roark’s greatness. She writes about the Enright Building that nobody should be allowed to live in it. Dominique would rather break a perfect vase than see it used by the unworthy. With such an instinct towards the pure nature of Roark, she sets out to destroy him. She says at the trail:

When you see a man casting pearls without getting even a pork chop in return--it is not against the swine that you feel indignation. It is against the man who valued his pearls so little that he was willing to fling them into the muck and to let them become the occasion for a whole concert of grunting, transcribed by the court stenographer (Rand, 1943, p. 356).

For both Roark and Dominique, the separation that they chose deliberately is a way of retaining their independence. For Roark, it is his work that absorbs him completely while for Dominique, it is her detachment. Finally Roark destroys the Cortlandt with Dominique as an accomplice in bombing the building. Till that time, their affair is a secret one; but this incident brings her back to him.

She knew that every moment of seven years when she had wanted this and stopped the pain and thought she had won, was not past, had never been stopped, had lived on, stored, adding hunger to hunger, and now she had to feel it all, the touch of his body, the answer and the waiting together.(Rand, 1943, p.667).

When Dominique and Roark are reunited, it is only a natural ending to a battle of wills. With a passion that is strong, primordial, violent and instinctive, both Howard Roark and Dominique Francon are strong individuals uninfluenced by collectivism and struggling to keep their purity intact.

The strange course of events makes them realise the naturalness of their desire and union. Both Roark and Dominique are withdrawn from society and speak their mind openly without any regard to social regulations and rules. Dominique destroys Roark because she cannot stand other people destroying him by belittling his genius. Her bond with Roark is strange because it springs from revulsion, hatred, physical violence and fury and ends up as an intense love. When they re-unite, it is only natural, like some unwritten law of nature.


2 comments:

കൊച്ചു മുതലാളി said...

Nice post which gives me a new information about "the fountainhead".. Keep Posting...

കൊച്ചു മുതലാളി said...

The standard of writing is still there.. But I feel there is some problem with your writing.. It might be because of the unusual ending of the paragraph.. It seems that you are lacking words to end the note...