to pave a path

The theme of ​The Fountainhead​, said Ayn Rand, is “individualism versus
collectivism, not in politics, but in man’s soul.” How do the motives and actions
of Roark, Keating and Toohey dramatize this theme? In your essay, consider what
Ayn Rand has to say in ​these excerpts from her writings​.
The Fountainhead is a novel by Ayn Rank where the issue is the dilemma that
individuals face in choosing to make decisions for themselves or allowing others to
make decisions on their behalf. The protagonist is Howard Roark, a creative and
ambitious young man who has been hurled into the dangerous world of architecture
dominated by the norm that has a negative attitude towards change. His modern
designs and creativity are neither understood or appreciated by society. So, he
struggles for their acceptance and does so with integrity. He is willing to go to any
extent to renown his individuality. Ellsworth Toohey is an art critic who has studied
human nature long enough to know what it’s weak spots are and uses collectivism to
influence and manipulate others, enforcing the feeling of guilt in their hearts. Peter
Keating, another ambitious architect and a former classmate of Roark’s desires prestige
above all and is willing to take many risks to attain it- including methods involving
betrayal, blackmail, and deceit. He lets society control him displays a lack of self
because all of his actions are done to please everyone else and he gives up the control
of his own values and morals. All three characters with different motives struggle for
their own personal gain but at the same time battle with the values of collectivism and
Howard Roark the protagonist of the novel is an extremely bright and innovative
individual who has dreamt of becoming a prospective architect. He strives for his own
happiness because he gets excitement from the intellectual challenge of designing
buildings. He ensured his designs had one common highlighting trait--originality. This
played such a significance to him that he was expelled from The Stanton Institute of
Technology for insubordination and the members of the Institute were unimpressed at
the lack of classical and traditional designs. He lived by his own originality and refused
the idea that any of his designs conform to the classical and traditional methods. He
thinks little about the opinion of others and is completely independent. When Peter asks
him about what to do he simply replies with “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?" (19) Roark is a free-willed individual
whose main purpose in life is to attain his own happiness. Ayn Rand states “Man’s first
duty is to himself. His moral law is never to place his prime goal within the persons of
others. His moral obligation is to do what he wishes, provided his wish does not depend
primarily upon other men.” ( “THE SOUL OF AN INDIVIDUALIST”) Howard Roark
displays this philosophy perfectly because he does whatever he desires and there is
little others can do to change his decisions. He knows what he expects from himself so
he disregards the expectations of others. He is a man of values and integrity-both play a
vital role in shaping his character and allow him to stay true to himself. Dominique tries
to convince him to give up architecture and live with her in a small town and he ends up
laughing at her and states “If I were very cruel, I'd accept it. Just to see how soon you'd
beg me to go back to building."(349)Even though everyone else is an obstacle in his
path and Dominique is quite sure he will not last in getting society to accept change, he
is still willing to do what he is most passionate about and continues to pave his own
way. Roark’s success was not measured by people’s opinions or criticism. Rather, it
was about his own vision. He is confident and independent and he knows what he is
capable of accomplishing. The integrity of his designs are more precious to him than
any commission and ensures that he stays loyal to himself. This extent of loyalty makes
him selfish because he judges and thinks independently to create his own values and
protects them at any cost.
Ellsworth Toohey is the antagonist of the novel and he is an art critic who writes
columns. He is a socialist and dreams of a world of conformity where people don’t think
for themselves. He states "The world of the future. That's what I want. A world of
obedience of and unity. A world where the thought of each man will not be his own, but
an attempt to guess the thought of the brain of his neighbor who'll have no thought of
his own (482). It is evident that rather that he prefers mediocrity and wants to live in a
world where collectivism rules. He is assured there are lost individuals who need each
other’s influence and reassurance and is destructive, manipulative and strategic. He
explicitly states that his motive is power and control over others in his speech to
Keating. He states “Power, Petey. I want to rule.” He takes on the role of a
humanitarian to the public who preaches about selflessness and influences his followers
by pressurizing them to surrender their most significant attribute--- their values. He
knows a person’s values are their strongest attribute and through persuasion, he
manipulates them to
lose their integrity. He makes them feel small and guilty. He states “Man realizes that
he’s incapable of what he’s accepted as the noblest virtue — and it gives him a sense of
guilt, of sin, of his own basic unworthiness"(481). It is easier to influence and control
guilty people because they are unsure and extremely vulnerable. Toohey has the
fundamental belief that everyone has the moral obligation to not exist for themselves
and declares that those who wish to attain happiness must serve others. He convinces
them that having personal desires is evil and is aware they are lost and empty and
incapable of making decisions. He strikes at the perfect moment when they are most
vulnerable and successfully manipulates them into becoming blind followers with no
opinions. People who do not conform and are independent are seen as threats, such as
Roark. In the dialogue between Keating and Toohey, Keating asks Toohey why he
wants to kill Roark. He replies that he does not want him killed but he wants him in a jail,
where he will be forced to follow orders and have no options. He states “He'll take
orders. He'll take orders!"(480). He explains his techniques: He wants to kill integrity by
making people feel small and guilty, he kills a man’s sense of values by implementing
mediocrity and he kills reverence by laughter. He states "If you learn how to rule one
single man's soul, you can get the rest of mankind. It's the soul Peter, not whips or
swords or fire or guns. it must be broken"(635). He understands that the soul
represents an individual’s judgment and integrity and he wants to destroy it so they lack
these qualities and allow his influence to take over.
Peter Keating is an individual who has surrendered his soul already. He is a
conformist who has willingly given others the authority to make his decisions. “Keating
let himself be carried by the torrent. He needed the people and the clamor around him.”
(136) . In fact, the decision to even become an architect was made by his mother He
initially wanted to become a painter. "But the creator is the egoist in the absolute sense,
and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge or act. These are
functions of the self." (“THE SOUL OF AN INDIVIDUALIST”) Peter is ambitious and the
position he wants to acquire is what everyone admires--fame and wealth. The real
Keating does not really exist and is merely an image portrayed by the people’s desires.
“You're not here, Dominique. You're not alive. Where's your I?" "Where's yours, Peter?"
she asked quietly.” (313). He gave the authority for others to rule him long ago and got
his desires because he bowed down to society's standards. He seems to lack morals
and integrity because he will do whatever it takes to be at the top at extreme costs with
no regards to morals. He is deceiving, backstabbing, and makes decisions solely for his
own personal gain. He even admits it by stating “Roark, I'm a parasite. I've been a
parasite all my life… I have fed on you and all the men like you who lived before we
were born…. I have taken that which was not mine and given nothing in return.” (435)
He helps to kill Lucius Heyer by threatening and raging at him. He testifies against
Roark, twice. All of these decisions he made were to cut corners so he could strive to
his way to the top and stand at a position everyone wished to stand at and it was not his
own personal will.
In order to attain happiness, one must be aware of the fundamental beliefs of
self-reliance and morals. This is what distinguishes individuals allows them to become
successful. “The moral purpose of a man’s life is the achievement of his own
happiness.” (THE ETHICS OF EMERGENCIES) One must live and stay true to
themselves and cherish their values. If they are not protected they will be unable to stay
happy. Roark maintained his values and was successful by the end of the novel.
Keating lost all his values and sense of judgment and ended without anything that
distinguished him from the rest. Toohey also failed miserably because in order to
execute his plan he required people to conform to his ideas without instinct which he
was unsuccessful in accomplishing. All of the characters had to deal with individualism
and collectivism influences where one ending up dominating their character in order to
advance to their goals.
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