Deb and Kat read "The Fountainhead" 2009 discussion

Sep. 1: Part 1, Chapters 1-5

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message 1: by Deb (new)

Deb | 22 comments Mod
I'm getting the metaphors about self vs. the collective (and We The Living is coming back to me from Senior year AP English class) but I'm not getting the relationships.

Peter and Katie: This one bothered me from my first attempt to read. Anyone have illumination on his apathy and her acceptance of it? What purpose does this relationship serve in the story?

Howard and Cameron: I get it that Howard is a younger version of Cameron, but what's the significance of Cameron's back handed invitation to employment at the end of chapter 3 (pg 50 in my copy): "Twenty years ago I'd have punched you in the face with the greatest of pleasure. You're coming to work here tomorrow at nine o'clock sharp."

message 2: by Deb (last edited Aug 31, 2009 07:39PM) (new)

Deb | 22 comments Mod
Questions to consider for week 1:

1.) Explain in detail the reasons for Howard Roark's expulsion from the Stanton Institute of Technology. The Dean states that Roark has "a determined little group of defenders" among the faculty, while other professors "felt it their duty" to vote for his expulsion. Why do the faculty members on each side evaluate Roark and his work so differently?

2.) At the end of Chapter One, Roark comprehends that there is a fundamental difference between his approach to life and the Dean's. Roark understands his own, but not that of the Dean and those like him. He recognizes that there is a principle that explains the difference, which he calls the "principle behind the Dean." Based on subsequent events of the story, explain the "principle behind the Dean."

3.) Peter Keating graduates as valedictorian from the Stanton Institute of Technology. Does this mean that he is an outstanding architectural student? By what methods did he get such high grades? What does this say regarding his moral character?

4.) Keating goes to work for Guy Francon, the most successful and prestigious architect in the country. What are the methods by which Francon has achieved commercial success? Does he have anything in common with Keating? In what ways do they both differ from Roark?

5.) Roark gains employment with Henry Cameron. Cameron, though a genius, is a commercial failure. Why has society rejected his work? Why does Roark nevertheless revere him? What qualities do Roark and Cameron share in common? What is the fundamental difference between them and Francon and Keating?

6.) Citing specifics from the story, describe the means by which Keating seeks to rise to the top of Francon's firm? Explain the meaning of Keating's methods. Why do they work at Francon's? Would Keating's methods work similarly well at Cameron's? Why?

7.) Though Keating often leaves Catherine Halsey waiting weeks for him to call, the author makes it clear that Catherine is special to him. How does the author show Keating's love for Catherine? In contrast to Keating's motive for pursuing his other values (in work, for e.g.), what personal significance does his relationship with Catherine have? What fate will befall Peter if he betrays his love for her?


message 3: by Deb (new)

Deb | 22 comments Mod
Kat and I had a good lunch discussion of Part 1 Chapters 1-5 today. We decided ground rules for a good discussion include: Food and Diet Dr. Pepper. :)

Some of the things we talked about--

Objectivism (Ayn Rand's philosophy) posits that you can reason your way to objective knowledge. We both disagreed with this philosophy, prompting the question: Am I too Buddhist to read this book?

We also commented that objectivism states that the role of art is to embody the individual's ideas. We talked about our discomfort with that idea, as everything that is in your brain is the product of what you have observed. So there are some philosophical challenges for us. What is your opinion on external influences on the individual's ideas? Is there such a thing as an objective idea?

We want to get more information about what was happening in the visual art world in 1943 when the book was published. How does that contribute to Rand's theory?

We found a lot of similarities between Howard and Peter--both are out for themselves, Peter just does so through socially acceptable, although morally questionable, methods. Which character is more ethical?

We discussed Katie and wondered if she is more like Howard in her sense of self--she does seems to be okay with Peter whether he comes or goes. Peter shares things with her that he doesn't share with anyone else and he refuses to "use" her to get to her uncle Toohey, so the relationship is obviously of some value to him. Does this relationship demonstrate Katie's self confidence, and maybe her own embodiment of Howard's philosophy? Or is it just dysfunctional?

We asked the question: How does Howard not get tired of himself? He exists in a vacuum where no one exists but himself. He never wastes time thinking of others (at the end of chapter 1 "The principal of the Dean" occupies his thoughts for one paragraph before he becomes obsessed with his own giant signature on a drawing), but does he care about Cameron--or just about Cameron's work?

Cameron obviously does not need his ego stroked, as every time Howard shows some admiration of his work, Cameron says he hates Howard. What is the connection between these two characters?

Rand has essentially created Howard in a void, as well as allowing him to live in one. He has no family and no past. Because his isolation, we felt more sympathy for Howard than for Peter. Which character do you connect with most?

True confession: We both decided we were okay falling somewhere on the spectrum between Peter and Howard: there are ways to play the game without compromising yourself, but still make it possible to rise to success. How about you?

For me, after the conversation I found Peter to be a more compelling and complex character than he was before. But I have also discovered a lack of buy-in to the morality of self first that Howard displays. What continues to trouble or surprise you?

Whew! Heavy stuff. Any thoughts to add?

message 4: by Kat (new)

Kat Bell | 1 comments Mod

This link will take you to a site dedicated to art history during the '40's. Very interesting to think about in the context of the author's motivation.

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