The Fountainhead (1943)

Among the many questions humankind has asked itself, one of the most impactful is simply the process of understanding human thought. More specifically, what motivates a human to think and to be creative. To strive for excellence in a field?

Ayn Rand addresses this question through the character of Howard Roark, the main character of this novel, an architect who dearly wants to make innovations in his work that go against the grain but is met with opposition at every corner.

The portrayal of Roark is also notably the first literary work in which Rand presents to the leader her vision of the ideal man, the goal of all humanity to achieve. In him she presented her vision of a hero and all a hero needs to be.

The core themes of this book are, as Rand put it, a positive view of egoism and the struggle of individualism versus collectivism. Her goal was to give a tangible example of a productive egoism and depict it as a virtue rather than a fault, while also clashing the ideas of individualism and collectivism in all aspects of a person’s life and being. Her example is the character of Howard Roark, who is an egoist in the sense that he respects no other authority than his reason and his creative vision. His individualistic viewpoint is contrasted in the novel with many of the other characters who stick to the status quo and a “tried and tested” way of life, and in many ways an easier one than Roarks.

Roark faces these struggles personified in those prominent members of society. Those who dictate taste and viewpoint, as well as those who defend them or work for them. But will one man’s strength of reason and vision be able to rise above the establishment?