Many authors have tried to create an ideal character and to show a hero whose life should serve as an example for others. Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead gives us perhaps the most ideal hero ever created. Howard Roark is presented as an perfect person with a strong character and unshakeable convictions. He is admired by many people with the same principles. However, he does not find much support in the society. Roark is persecuted for his ideas and even the woman who loves him tries to destroy him and his career. This contradiction remains one of the most mysterious and controversial points of the novel.
The main themes of the novel are the importance of individuals for the society and the domination of reason over emotions. In the book, Ayn Rand supports the idea that a person should always be true to his convictions. She called such people selfish, but she had her own conception of selfishness. “The problem, as she saw it, was that most ambitious men of the times achieved success by pandering to the masses and in doing so negate the self, thus becoming, in her words, “selfless”¯ (Gladstein 11). The author presents Howard Roark as the incarnation of these ideas. He believes strongly in his principles. His conviction that a person should preserve his individuality and be faithful to his feelings cannot be destroyed. Throughout the novel Roark undergoes many severe trials. The society does its best to make him change his principles and to submit to the collective ideas. However, Howard Roark remains firm and at last manages to persuade the audience that the future of the society is in the individuals and their thoughts. “Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value.
What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn’t done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity”¯ (Rand 681).
Ayn Rand made Roark the incarnation of the best features of a person. Nevertheless, people do not support him and even if they do, they do not have enough tenacity to stay with him to the end. Perhaps the only person who is able to be always supportive for Roark is Dominique Francon. It seems rather questionable if to take into account Dominique’s attempts to destroy Roark. However, her enmity to Howard is nothing more than a try to save him from further ordeal and perhaps certain subconscious wish to check him for fortitude. Being disappointed with the rottenness of the society she does not believe that there can be a person who can oppose it. For her Roark is either a weak person that might easily give in, or a person who is really strong and therefore will face a lot of pain during his struggle. Dominique’s feelings hurtle one another. On the one hand, she loves Howard and does not want him to be tortured by people who cannot understand his mentality. On the other hand, if she admits that there is a person who can oppose the society, she should change her principles and believe that the world can be saved by such people as Howard. “You know that I hate you, Roark. I hate you for what you are, for wanting you, for having to want you”¯ (Rand 272).
Ayn Rand highlights the idea that society is a herd and tries to oppress any individuality because it neither sees the necessity for such people nor can it bear any remarkable people.
Rand’s “new intellectuals”¯ and her raising of the standard of “reason, individualism and capitalism”¯ against doctrines of “mysticism, altruism and collectivism”¯”¦ strike a chord in those who see individualism, self help, responsibility for the individual, and self esteem as producing a new and improved economic and social contract for the third millennium. (Kapferer 143)
To make a conclusion, The Fountainhead is a novel about strong people who remain individuals in spite of any circumstances. All other themes are connected with this idea. The theme of love between Dominique and Howard emphasizes the liability of characters to their principles. Despite the contradiction of feelings, both Dominique and Howard are guided by their reason. Moreover, Ayn Rand shows us that love deserves fighting for it as well as any other conviction.