The Fountainhead

by Ayn Rand | Plume © 2005 · 752 pages

Ah, The Fountainhead. It's always fun to distill a 752-page magnum opus into a 6-page PDF and 20-minute MP3. Ayn Rand is intense and this book is packed with Big Ideas. We'll explore a few of my favorites, including our responsibility to own our greatness, not live as a second-hander (someone who is over-concerned about other people’s opinion of them), love what we do and know what we want.

But whoever would become light and a bird must love himself: thus I teach... One must learn to love oneself with a wholesome and healthy love, so that one can bear to be with oneself and need not roam.
Friedrich Nietzsche

“It does not matter that only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of man’s proper stature—and the rest will betray it. It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning—and it is those few that I have always sought to address. The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me or ‘The Fountainhead’ that they will betray: it is their own souls.”

~ Ayn Rand from the Introduction to The Fountainhead

Ayn Rand. She’s kinda like a female version of Nietzsche. He was known to deliver his philosophy “with a hammer.” Same with Rand.

You never need to wonder what she was thinking as she writes in a remarkably direct, brilliantly passionate voice. Deeply influenced by the devastation of her family during the Bolshevic revolution in Russia, Rand came to the United States as a 21-year old and brought with her a disdain for all things imposed from the outside world and developed her remarkably intense philosophy of personal choice and freedom.

In this Note, we’re not going to get into Objectivism or have a discussion about the pros and cons of Rand’s philosophy. Rather, as we always do, we’re gonna take a quick peek at some of the many Big Ideas from her seminal book, The Fountainhead, and, most importantly, explore how we can apply these Ideas to our lives. NOW.

Before we jump in, I will offer this: for those who have not read Rand yet, The Fountainhead focuses on the story of Howard Roark—the hero who embodies her ideals and plays with a cast of characters in a world that does anything but honor his genius. It’s a portrait of the struggle inherent to the process of embodying one’s greatness while Atlas Shrugged (a 1,000+ page magnum opus), on the other hand, focuses more on the question, “What would happen if the leaders of the industrialists went on strike?”

They’re both awesome. I highly recommend you hole yourself up for a weekend or two and get through at least one of her books if you’re feelin’ it.

For now, let’s jump in.

[Quick character overview: Roark is the hero. Dominique (named my dog after her :) is the heroine. Keating and Toohey are the anti-heroes.]

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Ayn Rand

Novelist, Philosopher, Icon