Today, I discuss The Fountainhead and the best lessons the book taught me.
Table of Contents
- What Is The Fountainhead?
- Why Should You Read The Fountainhead?
- What I’ve Learned From The Fountainhead?
What Is The Fountainhead?
The Fountainhead is by Ayn Rand. The book follows Howard Roark, a skilled and capable architect who wants to build buildings his way. However, he lives in a sick world only interested in breaking his mind so he will serve the whims and visions of others.
Roark rebels, bucks the system, and overcomes adversaries like Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey, and Gail Wynand. By the book’s end, Roark becomes one of the best architects and creates buildings he wants to make.
Why Should You Read The Fountainhead?
“[Dean] ‘My dear fellow, who will let you?’ [Roark] ‘That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?'” – Ayn Rand
In a world of cynicism and weak heroes, The Fountainhead has always remained refreshing to me. Howard Roark is a hero. He has a clear set of principles and the desire to go out and fight for what he wants. He does not whine or moan about his lot in life. Nor is he a brute without honor or purpose. Howard Roark is virtuous, and his virtue is what enables him to overcome his opponents.
Besides this, Ayn Rand’s writing is engaging. She never wastes a word. Everything from the descriptions of stone to the movement of characters serves the broader themes she is exploring.
Lastly, The Fountainhead‘s conclusions and themes will inspire you to live your best life. Most fiction is mired in hopelessness. Works mired in hopelessness have nothing to teach you about life or virtue. However, The Fountainhead will inspire you to remain stable and focused as you live your most virtuous life.
What I’ve Learned From The Fountainhead
1) People will always resent your desire for and capacity to be free
Freedom is hard. It means dealing with the consequences of your decisions and inactions: good or bad. Although freedom is challenging, taking control of your life by helping the virtuous, overcoming your vices, and accomplishing your goals is the only meaningful way to live.
However, if you live freely, then the collectivists will hate you. Collectivists are slaves to their vices and addictions. They do not wish to deal with the pain of sobriety, responsibility, and purpose. Thus, when they see others living a free life, they grow envious because they are weak while you are strong.
Howard Roark was free. He pursued the goals he wanted and accepted responsibility for his actions and inactions. He did not live timidly or with care for spineless individuals. Thus, men such as Ellsworth Toohey, the novel’s villain, turned the mob on Howard Roark in an attempt to destroy the novel’s hero.
2) Altruism never works, and most altruism hides insidious motives
Within The Fountainhead, Ellsworth Toohey serves as the primary antagonist. He is a collectivist, and his philosophical bedrock is altruism. Toohey is evil. He manipulates multiple characters, demolishes personal empires, and nearly destroys Howard Roark.
Toohey is an altruist and presents himself as a caring man without selfish desires. However, altruism makes no philosophical sense because humans always want something. Thus, any state of self-negation is impossible. Even the desire to want nothing is still a want.
The bulk of altruists are fools who believe in moralizing and appearing nobler than their neighbors. However, elites like Toohey advocate for “selflessness” because he is a snake. He will use his control over the masses to take from others and destroy his opponents.
3) A life of compromise is an empty life
“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.” – Ayn Rand
Peter Keating is a primary character of the novel. He agrees with everyone and follows the path others set for him. For example, he wanted to be an artist, but his mother guilts him into pursuing architecture for clout and money.
Despite achieving success, Peter is miserable. From the women he loves to the career he has, Peter never chooses what he desires. He compromises. And by the novel’s end, Peter has relinquished his dreams and is an empty shell used by the mob and Toohey.
Such a life is beneath individuals. A life full of compromise, especially on fundamental principles, is not a life worth living. Don’t say “yes” to every request. Be willing to push back and be controversial. Life is more challenging when you relinquish your values and goals to the whims of others.
4) The mob cannot create or produce – it can only shun and overwhelm
Why does the mob hate strong individuals? They are envious. Strong individuals prove that oppression, history, elites, laws, and other “systemic realities” do not make people weak. Individuals choose weakness. And the mob is full of spineless individuals ashamed of their addiction to comfort and their lack of accomplishment.
Thus, they attack. The mob uses cancel culture, peaceful protests, and much more to hurt virtuous, productive, and innocent individuals. The mob cannot handle seeing strength and use their superior numbers to overwhelm and destroy. Better to demolish what you cannot have than work hard to earn it.
With this lesson, focus on cancel-proofing your life. Build your network of rational individuals, create more wealth, and expand your opportunities. As you seek self-improvement, you will inevitably earn the ire of the mob. Be prepared for when they attack.
“To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul – would you understand why that’s much harder?” – Ayn Rand
- I strongly suggest reading The Fountainhead to give you better insight into Objectivism, individualism, and what it means to be independent in a mob-ruled world.
- Are there moments when you feel weak? Why do you think that is? What do you do to gather strength?
- What is one way you can free yourself? What will it take to overcome your vices, secure better finances, expand your opportunities, and improve your health? Why haven’t you started?
- Make a list of what you think makes an individual strong. How can you strengthen yourself as compared to your list?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.