Before I actually review this book, let me warn you. I LOVE THIS BOOK! This is one of those books that I fell in love with as I was reading it. Therefore, if you have read it and disagree with me, you may not want to read any further. (And it won’t even hurt my feelings. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that). I am also going to try not to give away any spoilers because I think you should read this book. It’s worth it.
If I were going to use one word to describe this book, I would choose EPIC. It’s the best word that I can think of that illustrates the scope of The Fountainhead. When you think of the word ‘epic’ being applied to literature, it is often associated with historical fiction tomes of massive volume or sci-fi / fantasy novels. On the surface, The Fountainhead is about an architect trying to share his vision with a society that isn’t ready for him, but this book is really an epic battle of good versus evil.
The villain in this book is a truly manipulative egotistical jerk. He is determined to destroy the hero, and what makes him especially diabolical is that he doesn’t really benefit from destroying the hero. He just wants to prevent a unique idea from taking hold in our world.
I feel like I should also add that I don’t have any knowledge of Rand’s personal philosophy so I wasn’t reading the book to learn about it.
Towards the end of the novel, the villain explains what he is trying to prevent.
A simplified version of the ideology at work in this novel:
From the villain’s viewpoint: Our world is better off if no one is truly great and people don’t think for themselves. He manipulates the newspapers and other media to promote hack playwrights, artists, novelists, and other people. He does this because he wants the masses to believe that crap is as good as it gets. He believes that by everything being subpar, this will prevent any one man from being irreplaceable. Though why that is a bad thing, he doesn’t explain very well.
From the hero’s viewpoint: Devote yourself to what is true. The hero in this novel refuses to compromise when it comes to designing his buildings. If he can’t build it his way, he won’t build it. He doesn’t think that just because things have traditionally been done a certain way, they should continue that way. His refusal to compromise is what makes him heroic. He can’t be bribed or twisted or manipulated into being a ‘sell out.’
The struggle between these two men and the other characters in the book is gripping. When I sat down to read this book, I had no idea that a book about architects could be so riveting.
In the end, I am not sure what philosophical ideas Rand was trying to communicate, but one question lingered when I was done reading: is it possible to be completely selfless? Or completely devoted to self like the hero is?