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Individualism In The Fountainhead Essay

1336 words - 5 pages

Individualism in The Fountainhead  

 
   Individualism, the doctrine of free thought and action of the individual, forms the basis of Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead. The major theme of her fiction is the primacy of the individual, the unique and precious individual life. That which sustains and enriches life is good, that which negates and impoverishes the individual's pursuit of happiness is evil.

The Fountainhead is Rand's fullest explication of the primacy of the individual. As she worked out her interpretation of the inalienable rights: the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and what these entailed, she saw three areas of conflict where these rights were held in balance.
The Three Antipodes:

Individualism versus Collectivism
Egoism versus Altruism
Reason versus Mysticism

All of these areas are interconnected.  Collectivism, altruism and mysticism all work against individual freedom, a healthy ego, and rationality.

The Fountainhead is the story of a highly individualistic architect, Howard Roark, and his fight for integrity and individualism against the altruistic parasites and also against the non-heroes who do not believe the fight can be won - the fight of the individual against the non-entity called collectivism.

Non-entity because, any 'collective' or group is only a number of individuals. But here, being an individual is to be selfless, voiceless, righteous, slave of any heed, claim or demand asserted by others. Under collectivism, it is imperative to repress one's critical faculty and hold it as one's guilt. Doubt, not confidence, is man's moral-state; self-distrust, not self-reliance, is a virtue; fear, not self-confidence is the mark of perfection; guilt, not pride is the goal.

Howard Roark is an egoist and loves his work with a kind of religious fervour.  He tries to explain to people that "...An honest building, like an honest man had to be one piece and one faith; what constituted the life-source...... and why if one small part committed treason to that idea, the thing or the creature was dead .... and why the high and the noble on earth was only that which kept it's integrity."

Henry Cameron, Roark's mentor both in work and principles had been very successful, but had gradually faded away into oblivion.  He did not give in to others' demands on him and worshipped and believed in the 'heroic' in man....... he wished to build as he wished, and for that reason only." For him Gail Wynand represented "everything that's wrong with the world."

Peter Keating, a successful young architect, Roark's senior, possesses a modicum of talent but guides his life by pursuing what other people want of him.  Though openly successful he is actually a bundle of anxieties. This he tries to obscure by amassing wealth and following proper public opinions. In all his major works, it was Roark who provided him with ideas.

When he achieves everything he 'should' want, he doesn't...

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