The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

November 11, 2010

Plot summary (from the publisher): (Note: This book was way too long for me to be able to sum up adequately, so I’ll just put the publisher’s blurb here.) “The Fountainhead studies the conflict between artistic genius and social convention, a theme Ayn Rand later developed into the idealistic philosophy knows as Objectivism.

Rand’s hero is Howard Roark, a brilliant young architect who won’t compromise his integrity, especially in the unconventional buildings he designs. Roark is engaged in ideological warfare with a society that despises him, an architectural community that doesn’t understand him, and a woman who loves him but wants to destroy him. His struggle raises questions about society’s attitude toward revolutionaries. Since this book’s publication in 1943, Rand’s controversial ideas have made her one of the best-selling authors of all time.”


  • I liked many of Ayn Rand’s messages in this book. For instance, I too despise journalism and think that it’s just as full of corruption today as when she was writing. I also agree with the sentiment she expressed in Howard Roark’s final statement in the courtroom: He doesn’t owe a single second of his life to anyone else and shouldn’t be forced to be charitable or deemed an outcast if he chooses to live for himself.
  • The story was actually very straightforward and easy to understand on a surface level. I read that Rand wrote this way deliberately so that readers can focus on her philosophy rather than waste their time trying to decipher obscure meanings.
  • Howard Roark and Dominique Francon were interesting characters. At times they annoyed me because nobody would really be as uncompromising as they were (Dominique loved Howard so much that she forced herself to marry Keating instead as “punishment” for how the world treats men like Howard? I mean, come on!), but I liked the fact that they ended up together. I didn’t necessarily expect her to demand that Howard run out and buy her one of those engraved White Gold Promise Rings that many women like to wear, but still… the way they treated each other stretched the bounds of credibility at times.
  • Wynand was also a good character. He managed to elicit sympathy at times, even though he turned out not to be like Howard and Dominique after all. It was fitting that Dominique had to sleep with Howard in order to “save” Wynand. How could it be any other way?


  • There were inevitably some slow spots along the way. In particular, I didn’t like the extensive looks into Wynand and Touhey’s childhoods. Sure, that background info served to flesh out those two characters, but they were never as interesting as Dominique and Howard.
  • Actually, the book became a bit boring whenever the focus shifted away from Howard. Fortunately those detours didn’t last long enough to require me to put the book aside for any length of time.


The Fountainhead is on the Modern Library’s Readers’ Picks of the Top 100 Novels, coming in at No. 2 — behind Rand’s other famous work, Atlas Shrugged. I’m not sure that I would rate this book quite that high, but it was an undoubtedly good read with a worldview that I mostly agreed with. That’s why I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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