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The Fountainhead Essay Ideas

The Fountainhead suffers from many of the weaknesses of pulp fiction. Rand’s characters are for the most part one-dimensional. On one side are the strong and independent-minded and thus by definition the virtuous; on the other side are the villainous and, equally bad or even worse, the weak. Rand leaves no question about where any character falls. She has Peter Keating, for example, frankly admit, “I am a parasite.” The physical features of the characters typically indicate their personalities. Roark is accordingly described as gray-eyed, with striking orange hair, a contemptuous mouth, and a sure and self-sufficient air. Even names are often a similar indicator. Ellsworth Toohey sounds like “all’s worth hooey,” while Keating rhymes with “cheating” and “bleating.” Furthermore, making Roark an architect has its own special symbolic significance: Rand identifies skyscrapers with the human conquest of nature.

Roark is widely believed to have been modeled upon Frank Lloyd Wright. Rand was a Wright admirer; she even had him draw up preliminary plans of a house for her. Yet The Fountainhead was consciously written as a novel of ideas—a defense of what Rand termed the principle of “supreme egoism” as the source of all progress. All of her major fictional works follow the same plot line: a protagonist of extraordinary ability and determination resisting the forces of collectivism. That clash is equated with the struggle...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

  • 1

    When Gail Wynand tries to destroy Howard Roark the way he destroyed Dwight Carson, what does he do? How is Roark able to defeat him, and why does this attempt succeed?

  • 2

    Dominique thinks that she and Gail Wynand have something in common, something she needs to figure out the name of. What do they have in common, and why is it so important that Dominique figure it out?

  • 3

    Rand provides thorough descriptions of physical appearances and of buildings throughout the novel. Pick one architect from the novel and explain what his physical description and the description of one of his buildings reveal about his character.

  • 4

    One of the most prominent themes in The Fountainhead is that collectivism is a dangerous and degenerate way of life, and that only a theory of individualism will lead to real human progress and a better society. Agree or disagree with Rand's argument, and use evidence from the book and historical events to justify your opinion.

  • 5

    In an introduction to The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand writes, "This is the motive and purpose of my writing; The projection of an ideal man." Is Howard Roark an ideal man? On what grounds would different kinds of readers agree or disagree, on the basis of the evidence in the text?

  • 6

    Dominique Francon has relationships with three different men in The Fountainhead. Describe how her behavior alters with each partner, and explain why Dominique's relationship with Roark demonstrates Rand's ideal relationship between a man and a woman. What does each relationship symbolize?

  • 7

    At the end of The Fountainhead, Guy Francon supports Howard Roark and joins the side of the first-hander in the novel. Is this sudden transformation justified by earlier events of the novel?

  • 8

    Describe Roark's theory of the second-hand man, and explain how Ellsworth Toohey created and sustained second-handedness though his newspaper columns and his relationships with individuals.

  • 9

    Describe Roark's argument at the Cortlandt Homes trial and explain why his argument was effective. Pay particular attention to why Roark's argument would have worked on that particular jury.

  • 10

    With the verdict of the Cortlandt Homes trial, Roark defeats the forces of collectivism and mediocrity that Toohey represents, yet Toohey is not defeated at the end of The Fountainhead. He is only set back, forced to start again. Why might Rand have chosen to keep Toohey in the fight? What does this suggest about the world of The Fountainhead?

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