The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead  
1st edition cover
Author(s) Ayn Rand
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Philosophical novel
Publisher Bobbs Merrill
Publication date 15 April 1943
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 752
ISBN 9780451191151

The Fountainhead is a 1943 novel by Ayn Rand. It was Rand's first major literary success and brought her fame and financial security. More than 6.5 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide.

The Fountainhead's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. The book follows his battle to practice what the public sees as modern architecture, which he believes to be superior, despite an establishment centered on tradition-worship. How others in the novel relate to Roark demonstrates Rand's various archetypes of human character, all of which are variants between Roark, the author's ideal man of independent-mindedness and integrity, and what she described as the "second-handers." The complex relationships between Roark and the various kinds of individuals who assist or hinder his progress, or both, allow the novel to be at once a romantic drama and a philosophical work. Roark is Rand's embodiment of the human spirit, and his struggle represents the triumph of individualism over collectivism.

The manuscript was rejected by twelve publishers before a young editor, Archibald Ogden, at the Bobbs-Merrill Company risked his job to get it published. Despite mixed reviews from the contemporary media, the book gained a following by word of mouth and became a bestseller. The novel was made into a Hollywood film in 1949. Rand wrote the screenplay, and Gary Cooper played Roark.



In 1928 Rand was charged by Cecil B. DeMille with writing a script for what would become the film Skyscraper. The original story, by Dudley Murphy, was about two construction workers involved in building a New York skyscraper who are rivals for a woman's love. Rand rewrote the story, transforming the rivals into architects. One of them, Howard Kane, was an idealist dedicated to his mission and erecting the skyscraper despite enormous obstacles. The film would have ended with Kane throwing back his head in victory, standing atop the completed skyscraper. In the end DeMille rejected Rand's script, and the actual film followed Murphy's original idea, but Rand's version contained elements that she would later use in The Fountainhead.[1]

Rand began The Fountainhead (originally titled Second-Hand Lives) following the completion of her first novel, We the Living. While that earlier novel had been based partly on people and events from Rand's experiences, the new novel was to focus on the less-familiar world of architecture. Therefore, she did extensive research to develop plot and character ideas. This included reading numerous biographies and books about architecture,[2] and working as an unpaid typist in the office of architect Ely Jacques Kahn.[3]

Rand's intention was to write a novel that was less overtly political than We the Living, to avoid being "considered a 'one-theme' author".[4] As she developed the story, she began to see more political meaning in the novel's ideas about individualism.[5] Rand also initially planned to introduce each chapter with a quote from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, whose ideas had influenced her own intellectual development. However, she eventually decided that Nietzsche's ideas were too different from her own. The quotes were not placed in the published novel, and she edited the final manuscript to remove other allusions to him.[6]

Rand's work on The Fountainhead was repeatedly interrupted. In 1937 she took a break from it to write a novella called Anthem. She also completed a stage adaptation of We the Living that ran briefly in early 1940.[7] That same year she also became actively involved in politics, first working as a volunteer in the presidential campaign of Wendell Willkie, then attempting to form a group for conservative intellectuals.[8] As her royalties from earlier projects ran out, she began doing freelance work as a script reader for movie studios. When Rand finally found a publisher, the novel was only one-third complete.[9]

Publication history

Although she was a previously published novelist and had a successful Broadway play, Rand had difficulty finding a publisher for The Fountainhead. Macmillan Publishing, which had published We the Living, rejected the book after Rand insisted that they must provide more publicity for her new novel than they did for the first one.[10] Rand's agent began submitting the book to other publishers. In 1938, Knopf signed a contract to publish the book, but when Rand was only a quarter done with manuscript by October 1940, Knopf canceled her contract.[11] Several other publishers rejected the book, and Rand's agent began to criticize the novel. Rand fired her agent and decided to handle submissions herself.[12]

While Rand was working as a script reader for Paramount Pictures, her boss there, Richard Mealand, offered to introduce her to his publishing contacts. He put her in touch with the Bobbs-Merrill Company. A recently hired editor, Archibald Ogden, liked the book, but two internal reviewers gave conflicting opinions about it. One said it was a great book that would never sell; the other said it was trash but would sell well. Ogden's boss, Bobbs-Merrill president D.L. Chambers, decided to reject the book. Ogden responded by wiring to the head office, "If this is not the book for you, then I am not the editor for you." His strong stand got a contract for Rand in December 1941. Twelve other publishers had rejected the book.[13]

The Fountainhead was published in May 1943. Initial sales were slow, but as Mimi Reisel Gladstein described it, sales "grew by word-of-mouth, developing a popularity that asserted itself slowly on the best-seller lists."[14] It reached number six on The New York Times bestseller list in August 1945, over two years after its initial publication.[15]

A 25th anniversary edition was issued by New American Library in 1971, including a new introduction by Rand. In 1993, a 50th anniversary edition from Bobbs-Merrill added an afterword by Rand's heir, Leonard Peikoff. By 2008 the novel had sold over 6.5 million copies in English, and it had been translated into several languages.[16]

Plot summary

In the spring of 1922, architecture student Howard Roark is expelled from the fictional Stanton Institute of Technology for refusing to abide by its outdated traditions. Despite an effort by some professors to defend Roark and a subsequent offer to continue at Stanton from the dean, Roark chooses to leave the school. He goes to New York City to work for Henry Cameron, a disgraced architect whom Roark admires. Cameron, who once was architecture's modernist hero, has fallen from fame due to the fickle demands of society and his own caustic personality. His work serves as an inspiration for Roark. Peter Keating, a popular but vacuous fellow student, has graduated with high honors; he too moves to New York, where he takes a job at the prestigious architectural firm of Francon & Heyer and quickly ingratiates himself with senior partner Guy Francon. Roark and Cameron create inspired work, but their projects rarely receive recognition, whereas Keating's ability to flatter and please brings him quick success (despite his lack of originality) and earns him a partnership in the firm.

After Cameron retires from practice, Keating hires Roark to work at his firm, but he is quickly fired for insubordination by Guy Francon. Roark looks for work at other firms before finding one that will let him design as he pleases, but the firm will just take the best aspects of his design and merge his ideas with the ideas and plans of the other draftsmen in the office. After one of Roark's original plans impresses a client, he briefly opens his own office. However, he has trouble finding clients and eventually closes it down rather than compromise his ideals to win business from clients who want more conventional buildings. He takes a job at a Connecticut granite quarry owned by Francon. Meanwhile, Keating has developed an interest in Francon's beautiful, temperamental and idealistic daughter Dominique, who works as a columnist for The New York Banner, a yellow press-style newspaper. While Roark is working in the quarry, he encounters Dominique, who has retreated to her family's estate in the same town as the quarry. There is an immediate attraction between them. Rather than indulge in traditional flirtation, the two engage in a battle of wills that culminates in a rough sexual encounter that Dominique later describes as a rape. Shortly after their encounter, Roark is notified that a client is ready for him to start on a new building, and he returns to New York before Dominique can learn his name.

Ellsworth M. Toohey, author of a popular architecture column in the Banner, is an outspoken socialist who is covertly rising to power by shaping public opinion through his column and his circle of influential associates. Toohey sets out to destroy Roark through a smear campaign he spearheads. As the first step, Toohey convinces a weak-minded businessman named Hopton Stoddard to hire Roark as the designer for a temple dedicated to the human spirit. Given full freedom to design it as he sees fit, Roark incorporates into it a statue of Dominique, nude, which creates a public outcry. Toohey manipulates Stoddard into suing Roark for general incompetence and fraud. At the trial, prominent architects (including Keating) testify that Roark's style is unorthodox and illegitimate. Dominique defends Roark, but Stoddard wins the case and Roark loses his business again.

Dominique decides that since she cannot have the world she wants (in which men like Roark are recognized for their greatness), she will live completely and entirely in the world she has, which shuns Roark and praises Keating. She offers Keating her hand in marriage. Keating accepts, breaking his previously long-held engagement with Toohey's niece Catherine, and they are married that evening. Dominique turns her entire spirit over to Keating, hosting the dinners he wants, agreeing with him, and saying whatever he wants her to say. She fights Roark and persuades his potential clients to hire Keating instead. Despite this, Roark continues to attract a small but steady stream of clients who see the value in his work.

To win Keating a prestigious architecture commission offered by Gail Wynand, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Banner, Dominique agrees to sleep with Wynand. Wynand then buys Keating's silence and his divorce from Dominique, after which Wynand and Dominique are married. Wynand subsequently discovers that every building he likes was designed by Roark, so he enlists Roark to build a home for himself and Dominique. The home is built, and Roark and Wynand become close friends, although Wynand does not know about Roark's past relationship with Dominique.

Now washed up and out of the public eye, Keating realizes he is a failure. Rather than accept retirement, he pleads with Toohey for his influence to get the commission for the much-sought-after Cortlandt housing project. Keating knows that his most successful projects were aided by Roark, so he asks for Roark's help in designing Cortlandt. Roark agrees to design it in exchange for complete anonymity and Keating's promise that it will be built exactly as designed.

When Roark returns from a long yacht trip with Wynand, he finds that the Cortlandt design has been changed despite his agreement with Keating. Roark asks Dominique to distract the night watchman and dynamites the building to prevent the subversion of his vision. The entire country condemns Roark, but Wynand finally finds the courage to follow his convictions and orders his newspapers to defend him. The Banner's circulation drops and the workers go on strike, but Wynand keeps printing with Dominique's help. Wynand is eventually faced with the choice of closing the paper or reversing his stance and agreeing to the union demands. He gives in; the newspaper publishes a denunciation of Roark over Wynand's signature.

At the trial, Roark seems doomed, but he rouses the courtroom with a speech about the value of ego and the need to remain true to oneself. The jury finds him not guilty and Roark wins Dominique. Wynand, who has finally grasped the nature of the "power" he thought he held, shuts down the Banner and asks Roark to design one last building for him, a skyscraper that will testify to the supremacy of man: "Build it as a monument to that spirit which is yours...and could have been mine." Eighteen months later, in the spring of 1940, the Wynand Building is well on its way to completion and Dominique, now Roark's wife, enters the site to meet him atop its steel framework.

Main characters

Howard Roark

As the protagonist and hero in the book, Roark is an aspiring architect who firmly believes that a person must be a "prime mover" to achieve pure art, not mitigated by others, as opposed to councils or committees of individuals which lead to compromise and mediocrity and a "watering down" of a prime mover's completed vision. He represents the triumph of individualism over the slow stagnation of collectivism. Bowing to no one, Roark rises from an unknown architect who was kicked out of school for "drawing outside of the lines". It is widely believed[by whom?] that Rand modeled the character of Howard Roark after Frank Lloyd Wright.[17] The descriptions of the character also have much in common with her earlier writings influenced by the murderer William Edward Hickman.[18] Roark goes on to design many landmark buildings, and rails against convention. He is eventually arrested and brought to trial for dynamiting a building he designed, but whose design was compromised by other architects brought in to negate his vision of the project. During his trial, Roark delivers a speech condemning "second-handers" and declaring the superiority of prime movers; he prevails and is vindicated by the jury.

Peter Keating

Peter Keating is also an aspiring architect, but is everything that Roark is not. His original inclination was to become an artist, but his opportunistic mother pushes him toward architecture where he might have greater material success. Even by Roark's own admission, Keating does possess some creative and intellectual abilities, but is stifled by his sycophantic pursuit of wealth over morals. His willingness to build what others wish leads him to temporary success. He attends architecture school with Roark, who helps him with some of his less inspired projects. He is subservient to the wills of others: Dominique Francon's father, the architectural establishment, his mother, even Roark himself. Keating is "a man who never could be, but doesn't know it". The one sincere thing in Keating's life is his love for Catherine Halsey, Ellsworth Toohey's niece. Though she offers to introduce Keating to Toohey, he initially refuses despite the fact that such an introduction would help his career. It is the only exception to his otherwise relentless and ruthless ambition, which includes bullying and threatening to blackmail a sick old man and unintentionally causing his death. Although Keating does have a conscience, and oftentimes does genuinely feel bad after doing certain things he knows are immoral, he only feels this way in hindsight, and doesn't allow his morals to influence current decision making. Keating's offer to elope with Catherine is his one chance to act on what he believes is his own desire. But, Dominique arrives at that precise moment and offers to marry him for her own reasons, and his acceptance of the offer and betrayal of Catherine ends the potential of romance between them. His acceptance of Dominique's offer of marriage, which would help his career far more than a marriage with Catherine, is a quintessential example of his failure to stand up for his own convictions.

Dominique Francon

Dominique Francon is the heroine of The Fountainhead, described by Rand as "the woman for a man like Howard Roark." Dominique is the daughter of Guy Francon, a highly successful but creatively inhibited architect. She is a thorn in the flesh of her father and causes him much distress for her works criticizing the architectural profession's mediocrity. Peter Keating is employed by her father, and her intelligence, insight and observations are above his. It is only through Roark that her love of adversity and autonomy meets a worthy equal. These strengths are also what she initially lets stifle her growth and make her life miserable. She begins thinking that the world did not deserve her sincerity and intellect, because the people around her did not measure up to her standards. She starts out punishing the world and herself for all the things about man which she despises, through self-defeating behavior. She initially believes that greatness, such as Roark's, is doomed to fail and will be destroyed by the 'collectivist' masses around them. She eventually joins Roark romantically, but before she can do this, she must learn to join him in his perspective and purpose.

However, Dominique Francon eventually learns not to let a flawed society and misled zeitgeist inhibit her creative and emotional expression and drive, nor poison her hope in her own ideals. By the end of the novel, Dominique no longer cares what anyone thinks or does. She lives her life for herself and no one else. She learns to love and create freely and passionately, and no longer cares whether the world is worthy of her expression. She has a new world now that is hers alone. Finally, it is the act of creating, loving, and living in which she finds happiness, rather than the results of these successes, no matter how good or bad the recognition may be. It no longer matters what might happen or what others think, because the happiness she finds cannot be taken away from her. Her new world, that in which she sets the standards by which all will live in regards to any association with Dominique, is worthy of her beautiful mind and heart because it belongs to her and no one else, and is shared on her terms alone. That is, Dominique's terms as well as those with the same individualistic, objectivist and uncompromising ideals.

Gail Wynand

Gail Wynand is a wealthy newspaper mogul who rose from a destitute childhood in the ghettoes of New York City to control much of the city's print media. While Wynand shares many of the character qualities of Roark, his success is dependent upon his ability to pander to public opinion, a flaw which eventually leads to his downfall. In her journals Rand described Wynand as "the man who could have been", contrasting him to Roark, "the man who can be and is".[19] Some elements of Wynand's character were inspired by real-life newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst,[20] including Hearst's mixed success in attempts to gain political influence.[21] Wynand is a tragic figure who ultimately fails in his attempts to wield power, losing his newspaper, his wife, and his friendship with Roark.[22] The character has been interpreted as a representation of Nietzsche's "master morality",[23] and his tragic nature illustrates Rand's rejection of Nietzsche's philosophy.[24] In Rand's view, a person like Wynand, who seeks power over others, is just as much a "second-hander" as a conformist like Keating.[25]

Ellsworth Toohey

Black and white portrait photo of a white male with dark hair, glasses and a mustache
British socialist Harold Laski was one of Rand's primary inspirations for the character of Ellsworth Toohey.

Ellsworth Monkton Toohey, who writes a popular art criticism column, is Roark's antagonist. Toohey is an unabashed collectivist and Rand's personification of evil (when speaking freely, he explicitly compares himself to Goethe's Mephisto, who tempted Faust to destruction). Toohey represents the stifling, decadent forces of Communism and Socialism. His biggest threat is the strength of the individual spirit enshrined in Howard Roark. He falsely styles himself as representative of the will of the masses.

Aiming at a society that shall be "an average drawn upon zeroes," he knows exactly why he corrupts Peter Keating, and explains his methods to the ruined young man in a passage that is a pyrotechnical display of the fascist mind at its best and its worst; the use of the ideal of altruism to destroy personal integrity, the use of humor and tolerance to destroy all standards, the use of sacrifice to enslave.[26]

Having no true genius, Toohey's mission is to destroy excellence and promote altruism as the ultimate social ideal. This is put forward in one of his most memorable quotes: "Don't set out to raze all shrines—you'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity, and the shrines are razed."

Rand used her memory of the British democratic socialist Harold Laski to help her imagine what he would do in a given situation. Lewis Mumford was also an initial inspiration.[27]

In the biography of Toohey, it is mentioned that in his younger age he aspired to become a clergyman, but abandoned religion after discovering Socialism and considering that it better served his purposes. In that, Toohey's early career parallels that of Joseph Stalin, who had also trained for the priesthood in his young age - though Toohey's methods are much more subtle than those of the Soviet dictator, and he builds up a formidable power structure without resorting to an outright seizure of power or establishing a secret police apparatus.

Indeed, even when frankly describing the nightmare world which is his ultimate aim ("A world where the thought of each man will not be his own, but an attempt to guess the thought of his neighbor (...) Men will not work for money, but for prestige, the approval of their fellows - not judgment, but public polls") Toohey makes no mention of any overt dictatorship or coercive apparatus. Rather, Toohey's methods throughout the book suggest that such a regime might be able to retain the forms of democracy, multi-party elections and a free press, with actual power held by Toohey-like "informal advisers".

As described in his biography, Toohey had already in early childhood developed a talent for subtly manipulating his parents and elementary school class-mates in order to gain power over them. The adult Toohey - who "never sees men, only forces" (Book II, Ch. 6) - is a master schemer and manipulator who, like a chess master, can devise a gambit and predict many moves in advance. For example, Toohey sets Hopton Stoddard to hire Roark for the construction of his temple - and without having ever spoken to Roark, just by having seen Roark's buildings, Toohey is able to give his proxy Stoddard the arguments which would induce Roark to undertake the job: "It doesn't matter if you don't believe in God, Mr. Roark; you are a profoundly religious man, in your own way. I can see it in your buildings". Having seen Roark's buildings, Toohey has a good idea what kind of temple Roark would construct - and even before Roark ever heard of Stoddard and his temple, Toohey already planned how he would attack the temple once built, get it destroyed and Roark discredited, and transform it into an "institute for subnormal children".

Minor Characters

  • Henry Cameron: Roark's architect mentor and employer
  • Catherine Halsey: Keating's fiancee and Toohey's niece
  • Guy Francon: Dominique's father and Keating's employer and business partner
  • Stephen Mallory: A disillusioned sculptor who tries to kill Toohey but later regains his confidence with the help of Roark
  • Alvah Scarret: Wynand's editor-in-chief
  • Mrs. Keating: Keating's overbearing and manipulative mother
  • The Dean: The dean of the Stanton Institute of Technology architecture school
  • John Erik Snyte: An employer of Roark's that uses a group of five designers to create a final sketch
  • Mike Donnigan: An electrician who admires competence and and is an independent thinker
  • Austen Heller: An individualistic thinker who hires Roark and becomes one of his biggest allies.

Main themes


Rand indicated that the primary theme of The Fountainhead was "individualism versus collectivism, not in politics but within a man's soul."[28] Apart from scenes such as Roark's courtroom defense of the American concept of individual rights, she avoided direct discussion of political issues. As historian James Baker described it, "The Fountainhead hardly mentions politics or economics, despite the fact that it was born in the 1930s. Nor does it deal with world affairs, although it was written during World War II. It is about one man against the system, and it does not permit other matters to intrude."[29]


A modernist-style house sits nestled in the woods, with a multilevel terrace hanging over a waterfall
Rand's descriptions of Roark's buildings were inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, such as Fallingwater, a residence he designed in the 1930s.

Rand dedicated The Fountainhead to her husband, Frank O'Connor, and to architecture. She chose architecture for the analogy it offered to her ideas, especially in the context of the ascent of modern architecture. It provided an appropriate vehicle to concretize her beliefs that the individual is of supreme value, the "fountainhead" of creativity, and that selfishness, properly understood as ethical egoism, is a virtue.

Peter Keating and Howard Roark are character foils. Keating practices in the historical eclectic and neo-classic mold, even when the building's typology is a skyscraper. He follows and pays respect to old traditions. He accommodates the changes suggested by others, mirroring the eclectic directions, and willingness to adapt, current at the turn of the twentieth century. Roark searches for truth and honesty and expresses them in his work. He is uncompromising when changes are suggested, mirroring Modern architecture's trajectory from dissatisfaction with earlier design trends to emphasizing individual creativity. Roark's individuality eulogizes modern architects as uncompromising and heroic. A common speculation is that Roark was inspired by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, a claim both Rand and Wright denied.[30] However, in the book Goff on Goff, architect Bruce Goff, a friend of Wright's, claimed that Roark's character was based on Wright, despite the many differences between them. The most that may be suggested is that some of the descriptions of Roark's buildings, in part, resemble those of Wright: a notable example being the "Heller House" - the first of Roark's designs to be built - cantilevered over the edge of a cliff in a descriptive image reminiscent of Wright's famous Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.

Rand was a great admirer of Wright's architecture, and she asked that Wright design the sets for the movie based on the novel. However, the price he asked for doing so exceeded the studio's budget. She also commissioned Wright to create a summer home for her. Wright's design featured, appropriately, a large fountain, but it was never built. Wright himself wrote to Rand highly praising the novel, and, later, Rand and her husband also visited Taliesin at Wright's invitation.[31]

The Fountainhead has been cited by numerous architects as an inspiration for their work. Architect Fred Stitt, founder of the San Francisco Institute of Architecture, dedicated a book to his "first architectural mentor, Howard Roark".[32] Nader Vossoughian has written that "The Fountainhead... has shaped the public's perception of the architectural profession more than perhaps any other text over this last half-century."[33] According to renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman, it was Rand's work that "brought architecture into the public's focus for the first time," and he believes that The Fountainhead was not only influential among 20th century architects, it "was one, first, front and center in the life of every architect who was a modern architect."[34]

Reception and legacy

Contemporary reception

The Fountainhead received extremely mixed reviews when it was released.[35] The New York Times' review of the novel named Rand "a writer of great power" who writes "brilliantly, beautifully and bitterly," and it stated that she had "written a hymn in praise of the individual... you will not be able to read this masterful book without thinking through some of the basic concepts of our time."[26] Benjamin DeCasseres, a columnist for the New York Journal-American, wrote of Roark as "an uncompromising individualist" and "one of the most inspiring characters in modern American literature." Rand sent DeCasseres a letter thanking him for explaining the book's individualistic themes when many other reviewers did not.[36] There were other positive reviews, but Rand dismissed many of them as either not understanding her message or as being from unimportant publications.[35] A number of negative reviews focused on the length of the novel,[37] such as one that called it "a whale of a book" and another that said "anyone who is taken in by it deserves a stern lecture on paper-rationing." Other negative reviews called the characters unsympathetic and Rand's style "offensively pedestrian."[35]

The year 1943 also saw the publication of The God of the Machine by Isabel Paterson and The Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane. Rand, Lane and Paterson have been referred to as the founding mothers of the American libertarian movement with the publication of these works.[38] Journalist John Chamberlain, for example, credits these works with his final "conversion" from socialism to what he called "an older American philosophy" of libertarian and conservative ideas.[39]

Responses to the rape scene

One of the most controversial elements of the book is the rape scene between Roark and Dominique.[40] Feminist critics have attacked the scene as representative of an anti-feminist viewpoint in Rand's works that makes women subservient to men.[41] Susan Brownmiller, in her 1975 work Against Our Will, denounced what she called "Rand's philosophy of rape", for portraying women as wanting "humiliation at the hands of a superior man". She called Rand "a traitor to her own sex".[42] Susan Love Brown said the scene presents Rand's view of sex as "as an act of sadomasochism and of feminine subordination and passivity".[43] Barbara Grizzuti Harrison suggested women who enjoy such "masochistic fantasies" are "damaged" and have low self-esteem.[44] While Rand scholar Mimi Reisel Gladstein found elements to admire in Rand's female protagonists, she said that readers who have "a raised consciousness about the nature of rape" would disapprove of Rand's "romanticized rapes".[45]

Rand denied that what happened in the scene was actually rape, referring to it as "rape by engraved invitation"[40] because Dominique wanted and "invited" the act. A true rape, Rand said, would be "a dreadful crime".[46] Defenders of the novel have agreed with this interpretation. In an essay specifically explaining this scene, Andrew Bernstein wrote that although there is much "confusion" about it, the descriptions in the novel provide "conclusive" evidence that "Dominique feels an overwhelming attraction to Roark" and "desires desperately to sleep with" him.[47] Individualist feminist Wendy McElroy said that while Dominique is "thoroughly taken," there is nonetheless "clear indication that Dominique not only consented," but also enjoyed the experience.[48] Both Bernstein and McElroy saw the interpretations of feminists such as Brownmiller as being based in a false understanding of sexuality.[49]

Rand's posthumously published working notes for the novel, which were not known at the time of her debate with feminists, indicate that when she started working on the book in 1936 she conceived of Roark as feeling that Dominique "belonged to him", that "he did not greatly care" about her consent and that "he would be justified" in raping her. "[50]

Cultural influence

A wooden sign displays the words 'FountainHead Cafe: Eat Objectively, Live Rich'
The name and motto of the Fountainhead Café, a New York City coffeehouse, were influenced by the novel.[51]

The Fountainhead has continued to have strong sales throughout the last century into the current one, and has been referenced in a variety of popular entertainment, including movies, television series and other novels.[52] Despite its popularity, it has received relatively little ongoing critical attention.[53][54] Assessing the novel's legacy, philosopher Douglas Den Uyl described The Fountainhead as relatively neglected compared to her later novel, Atlas Shrugged, and said, "our problem is to find those topics that arise clearly with The Fountainhead and yet do not force us to read it simply through the eyes of Atlas Shrugged."[53]

Among critics who have addressed it, some consider The Fountainhead to be Rand's best novel,[55][56][57] such as philosopher Mark Kingwell, who described The Fountainhead as "Rand's best work—which is not to say it is good."[58] A Village Voice columnist has called it "blatantly tendentious" and described it as containing "heavy-breathing hero worship."[59]

The book has a particular appeal to young people, an appeal that led historian James Baker to describe it as "more important than its detractors think, although not as important as Rand fans imagine."[56] Allan Bloom has referred to the novel as being "hardly literature," one having a "sub-Nietzschean assertiveness [that] excites somewhat eccentric youngsters to a new way of life." However, he also writes that when he asks his students which books matter to them, there is always someone influenced by The Fountainhead.[60] Journalist Nora Ephron has written that she had loved the novel when she was 18 but admits that she "missed the point," which she suggested is largely subliminal sexual metaphor. Ephron writes that she decided upon re-reading that "it is better read when one is young enough to miss the point. Otherwise, one cannot help thinking it is a very silly book."[61] Architect David Rockwell, said that the film adaptation influenced his interest in architecture and design, and that many architecture students at his university named their dogs Roark as a tribute to the protagonist of the novel and film.[62]


Illustrated version

In 1945, Rand was approached by King Features Syndicate about having a condensed, illustrated version of the novel published for syndication in newspapers. Rand agreed, provided that she could oversee the editing and approve the proposed illustrations of her characters, which were provided by Frank Godwin. The 30-part series began on December 24, 1945, and ran in over 35 newspapers.[63]

Film version

In 1949, Warner Brothers released a film based on the book, starring Gary Cooper as Howard Roark, Patricia Neal as Dominique Francon, Raymond Massey as Gail Wynand, and Kent Smith as Peter Keating. The film was directed by King Vidor. Although Rand wrote the screenplay, which was used with minimal alterations, she "disliked the movie from beginning to end," complaining about its editing, acting and other elements.[64]

See also

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  1. ^ Heller 2009, pp. 65, 441; Eyman, Scott (2010). Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-7432-8955-9. OCLC 464593099. 
  2. ^ Burns 2009, p. 41
  3. ^ Gladstein 1999, p. 11
  4. ^ Burns 2009, p. 43
  5. ^ Burns 2009, p. 69
  6. ^ Burns 2009, p. 87; Milgram, Shoshana. "The Fountainhead from Notebook to Novel". in Mayhew 2006, pp. 13–17
  7. ^ Britting 2004, pp. 54–56
  8. ^ Burns 2009, pp. 54–66
  9. ^ Branden 1986, p. 171
  10. ^ Branden 1986, p. 155
  11. ^ Burns 2009, p. 52
  12. ^ Burns 2009, p. 68
  13. ^ Burns 2009, p. 80; Branden 1986, pp. 170–171; Heller 2009, p. 186. Heller notes that the rejections included Macmillan and Knopf, who had expressed some interest in publishing the book but eventually rejected it over contractual issues.
  14. ^ Gladstein 1999, p. 12
  15. ^ "Timeline of Ayn Rand's Life and Career". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved April 23, 2011. 
  16. ^ Gladstein 2009, p. 122
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