Dave's Reviews > The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
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's review
Sep 18, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, philosophy
Read in October, 2004

Overall, this is not only great fiction, but Rand also has some great ideas which are presented with an uncanny amount of clarity.

The architectural profession serves as the backdrop for the story. The story itself is quite interesting; either Rand did a great deal of research or she did a good job faking it. I maintained a complete disinterest in architecture before reading the book, but still found myself actively engaged while Rand discussed the matter. I wonder how many young readers are steered towards the profession after reading this book for the first time.

With the exceptions of a few monologues that went on a bit too long, the story kept me engaged for the entire 700 pages. The characters are well developed; I found myself attached to some while despising others. There is adequate conflict to keep the plot moving.

While I understood the motivations of the actions carried out by Dominique and Roark, the actions themselves bordered on the edge of the extreme. At various times in the book, both engage in acts of violence and destruction which don't seem completely rational. These issues aside, it's a very well written book.

As to the philosophy.....

Rand's message is fairly clear. She doesn't abstract the message at all. In fact, she grinds it in as thoroughly and as clearly as she can.

The book provides us with Howard Roark as Rand's idea of an ideal man. He never falters in his convictions. He remains completely independent and relies on nobody. His only interest is to his work; to the manifestation of his creative genius. He doesn't care what others think - he only cares about his own productive achievements. He is an egotist - a term which carries a positive connotation in her book. She argues that it's the egotistical desire of man that build great civilizations.

“All that which proceeds from man’s independent ego is good. All that which proceeds from man’s dependence upon men is evil.”

The book is full of weaker people like Peter Keating. Keating lives through the thoughts and feelings of others. He is completely dependent upon others to justify his existence. Through Roark and Keating, Rand asserts that dependence upon other men is evil in nature. Keating lives not for himself, but for others. Rand has a title for such people - second handers. He can't do what he desires, as he is constantly worried about how others think of him.

In a world where self-interest is ideal, acts of altruism are counterproductive and should be despised. At first I was lost on this point, as it didn't seem to me that altruism was necessarily all bad. I see no problem with people giving of themselves to people they love. I also don't see a problem with my donating money to various charitable endeavors. After reading The Fountainhead, I now see that such acts are not altruism.

Altruism is the unselfish concern for the welfare of others - a state of complete selflessness. When I give to those I love or to causes I believe in, my actions are selfish. I provide for my family because I hold them to be the most important thing in my life. That check to the local SPCA goes towards providing a better life for animals, a cause I place some value in. Charity and kindness are not altruism; they're actually quite selfish acts.

However, to an extent society seems to feel that I should give to those who are less fortunate with no care for myself simply because the intended recipient is deemed to need such assistance by those who insist that I give it. Most social welfare programs are like this. I am forced to pay taxes on my earnings, which are then distributed to others via a variety of social programs despite the fact that I have no interest giving in such a fashion. This is nothing more than forced altruism.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Liesl Thanks, Dave. Finally, someone who gets Rand and her take on altruism. For those who say her philosophy is "horrifying," I believe they simply don't understand what she's talking about. It was nice to read a review from someone who does understand.

Ilyn Ross Hello Dave and Liesl,

How are you? I revere Ayn Rand.

When you have the time, please visit the "To the Glory of Man" group, the "Happy & Brainy" group, and the author giveaways (my novel, Reason Reigns, is listed). Could I add you as my friends?

Warmest regards,


Marcus Killerby I think you misunderstood the book. Rourke does not live completely independently and rely on no one. Indeed, he asks his friends to get him the job in the quarry as a favor. He also, to an extent, relies on commissions. He is a selfish man however, in what Rand (and indeed I) think of as being a very good thing. Keating, also, does not live entirely through other people. He is racked by guilt for not having Rourke's convictions. He is a tortured character who often succumbs to living entirely through others but does not want to... At least for the first 2/3rds. A good review but I think it is too fine a distillation of the book's themes and ideas

Mary Vernon Thank you for this review! This is the perfect summation of what I have taken away from this novel.

María  Espaillat My thoughts exactly.

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