Ayn Rand propagated her philosophy of Objectivism through her book The Fountainhead, and Howard Roark, the hero of the novel, is seen as a personification of her ideals. The idea of selfishness being a vice is refuted, and altruism is seen as a device to reduce humanity into collective mediocrity.
The essential difference between the heroes and the villains in the novel is that, as opposed to the villains, the heroes possess self-esteem; because of this, they retain their individuality, and do not degenerate into inconspicuousness in the sea of humanity. They place themselves above everyone and everything else, and achieving their own personal happiness with rationality as their guide is the sole purpose of their lives. The villains, on the other hand, live by the ideas of altruism and collectivism. They undermine the importance of the individual as opposed to the majority. They possess no sense of self-worth, and are reduced to a condition in which, in the words of Roark, "they have no self." Ayn Rand thus rejects the claim that it is honourable to live for others or for society.
Howard Roark, the hero of the novel, is the embodiment of objective principles. He lives in his 'pinnacle of loneliness' with his own happiness as his only motivation. Neither does he sacrifice himself for others, nor does he sacrifice others to himself, but works for his rational self-interest. Roark reveres his ego, and refuses to be broken down by those who want him to compromise on his integrity. He believes that the motivation to think comes from the ego, as the mind is an attribute to the individual -- there can be no 'collective thought'. Therefore, every creator or achiever is a person who lives for himself. His relations with other men are secondary. Roark is a very talented architect who truly loves his work, but he does not desire popularity or commercialism, as that would make him dependent on what others thought of hitn. He is a very individualistic person, an egoist in the absolute sense; he stands above the need of using others in any manner. He believes that personal independence and initiative determine his talent as a worker and his worth as a man. He refuses to conform to a society, which has been conditioned to mock talent and achievement, and adheres to his principles throughout. Roark proves that unrelenting conviction in oneself does ultimately lead to self-satisfaction. This is especially significant to Henry Cameron and Steven Mallory, who are extremely talented individuals who have been broken in spirit by the callousness of the world. The compliment that Peter Keating pays him sums up his personality: "You are the most egotistical and the kindest man 1 know."
Dominique Francon evolves into a heroine with the help of Roark, the man she loves passionately. She fervently admires his talent and everything he stands for, but she feels that it is heinous to waste it on a world that is not worthy of such greatness. She is truly...