Heroism in The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead is a story about heroism. The novel is a triumphant cry of protest against all those who insist that life is about mediocrity. That man is destined to suffer. The greatness of The Fountainhead lies in its ability to inspire hope and confidence in its readers, to show how much is possible. For more than fifty years now, people all over the world have been looking towards this great book for support and sanction, for encouragement and hope, for ideas and answers. The Fountainhead applauds strength and greatness in human spirit, giving its readers a hero they can admire, respect, idolize and love. Howard Roark -- the hero, the ideal man, the human being.
When Roark said in the courtroom, "Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value, what a man is and makes of himself, not what he has or hasn't for others", he summarized the whole philosophy in these handful of words. To Roark, independence meant everything. From this one value of his arose all his other values and qualities. To him, there was no substitute and no alternative to independence. He held no authority above the judgement of his mind, he held no one higher than himself. Roark felt a fundamental indifference towards others -- he cared two hoots about what the world thought of him.
The people Roark chose as friends and comrades all shared this basic quality - independence. His teacher, Henry Cameron, was a fiercely independent man. So were Steven Mallory, Austen Heller, Mike Donnigan and Gail Wynand. Roark's only hallmark of a man was his independence, or the lack of it. His 'enemies', the men who hated Roark, yet recognised his greatness, were all dependents and parasites. Peter Keating thirsted for greatness in other's eyes. Ellsworth Toohey made power over others his primary goal. Those were the men whose goals, ambitions and purpose were driven by others.
From his independence rises Roark's individualism, his selfishness, and his superiority. He finds it incomprehensible that people demand that he sacrifice his interests for those of others, that he give up what he knows to be true and right for other's definitions of truth and rightness. His relationships are based on the principle of trade and on the principle of sacrifice.
An incident in The Fountainhead illustrates Roark's independence and his total disregard for conventions. Keating is surprised when Roark refuses to join the A.G.A., just as he had refused to join the fraternity at Stanton. Roark tells him -- I won't join anything at anytime. I don't like being helped in being an architect.
It was this integrity of his which led him to dynamite the Cortlandt Homes. He had designed it because he wanted it built the way he had designed it. When this did not happen, it was only fair that he destroy the evil which he had unknowingly helped create. It was only fair that he claim his right.
Everything Howard Roark is rises from this...