The book was initially rejected by 12 publishers, only because it was too intellectual to understand and the people won’t love it. At last, a publisher got ready to publish it by risking his job. This eventually paid off as Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead became an international best seller and has sold 6.5 million copies till now.
It got published in 1943. Rand stated that the reason behind writing this book was to portray the characteristics of an ‘ideal man’. The protagonist, Howard Roark is conceived to represent ideal man. The antagonist Ellsworth Toohey is described to be the apparent ideal man. The leading lady of the story Dominique Francon, the love of Howard Roark and she happens to be the daughter of famous architecture Guy Francon. Peter Keating, who is Howard’s close friend and rival. Gail Wynand, who has all the characteristics of an ideal man, but loses out on only one point: possession of power.
The story starts with Howard Roark standing in the Dean’s office, who is questioning why Howard Roark refuses to study the ancient architectural designs. Howard is adamant on his stance of not studying that subject, which, according to him has no importance. He says, one has to concentrate on future and build monuments which are not a replica of the past. The dean then asks him that who will allow him to build such things for which, Howards ripostes terrifically: “The question is not who will allow me, it’s who is gonna stop me?”
Peter Keating is the best student but only he knows he’s not the best when compared to Howard Roark. Many a times, Peter used to get his designs made by Howard. He believed that one should give what people want and not what he wants to give to them. Howard, on the other hand, shuns dancing on people’s tune. He always wants to make new and creative designs.
Peter chooses to do job with the best man in the field: Guy Francon. Whereas, Howard chooses to work for a person who is believed to be very creative in his designs, but is out of business as very few accept his designs.
Peter slowly climbs the ladder of success by getting married to Guy Francon’s daughter Dominique Francon.However, earlier, Dominique falls in love with Howard when she visits stone quarry where Howard works.
The antagonist, Ellsworth Toohey, is a critic and writes for famous paper the ‘Banner’ owned by rich businessman Gail Wynand. Toohey knows that Howard is truly talented but always lambasts him and doesn’t want him to grow. In fact, he and Dominique, decide to end up Howard’s career. The only difference being the latter didn’t want to see Howard being crushed by the traditionalism in the society.
Howard has very few clients. He loses a big commission when he disagrees to change the plans of the building according to his client’s wish. A lot is at stake. Howard knows it, but still he refuses to build it in any other except his way. This habit of his gets him into a mess and faces a court trail.
In the courtroom, Howard gives a fantastic speech in his defence. His speech is the second best part of the book; the first best part being the intellectual discussion between Howard and Gail on second hander; a term beautifully coined and enunciated by Ayn Rand through her characters.
When should you read it?
If you think this book is just like any other book falling in the likes of Sidney Sheldon, John Grishm, Agatha Christie or Dan Brown, then be ready to face disappointment. If your intention to read this book is to have fun and experience adrenaline rush, please, I beseech you not to read it.
Why should you read?
Trust me, once you get the core meaning of Ayn Rand’s beautifully woven thoughts with finesse, you will change; your approach will change; you will begin to meticulously fathom the nuances while judging things which happen to you in your life.
The antagonist is presented beautifully; he is not the one who always resorts to lethal and fiendish ways to getting things done. He plays mental games. You cannot arrest him because he causes you mental disturbance, not by frightening you but by taking away your self confidence and making you weak from inside; Making you dependable on his advices. Once you’re done with this, he then gains upper hand and this whole process is termed as ‘Altruism’.
I read it because a stranger in his late 50s, whom I met on railway station and who has IIM-A tag to his profile said that this book is the best book because it makes you question yourself whether you are doing what you love or what others love? Which is the right way of doing things: your way or others way? I am deeply thankful to him. I would like to end with a small line from the book which says,” Your ego is your strictest judge’. True, isn’t it? (Only if you realize it)
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