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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

[Book Watch] Fountainhead

******SPOILER ALERT*******

Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, as a novel has had mixed luck with me. First time i picked it up, few pages was all it took, to decide i wont read it :-)

But my buddies persisted and i decided to give it a try and man, was i a lost soul for the better part of two weeks. While i read the book, it was one of the most addictive books i've ever read - but it pushed me further into depression. The small print and the size of the book made a fast-reader like me, crawl like a road-roller racing against time, prolonging the depression.

The story is about 'the ideal man', Howard Roark - an architect, with modernistic ideas - a man, who does not know how to emote, who does not feel anger, happiness, but just lives on. He wants all his work to be purely his. Not a pencil stroke of dilution from his original construction plans. He does not care about the money, nor the reputation involved - it is either his way or highway.

Peter Keating, is the embodiment of successful men by corporate standards. He manipulates everyone in his way to get to the top. He gives up some many things he loves - his love-interest, his passion for painting and, his morals - to reach the top. Only to be controlled by Ellsworth Toohey.

Ellsworth Toohey, a critic, reviewer, is manipulator par-excellence. He manages to control a vast majority of the population with his socio-religious-communist view, preaching self-sacrifice, altruism and use that card to get his needs satisfied. He cultivates collectivism - cult by volume. He attempts to steer the world in the direction he wants via the masses a.k.a his followers.

Dominique Francon, is a beautiful woman (apparently - 'heriones better be beautiful', is a theme that has been adopted since time immemorial :P) - who is potrayed as the female equivalent of Roark. She displays very little emotion. She and Roark speak without speaking. She rarely permits herself to indulge in the emotion that a normal woman is expected to.

Gail Wynand, a media mogul - controls everything via the ever-powerful media. He holds a vast empire of magazines, real estate and commands enough control within the powers-that-be to let life-of-the-country run, the way he wants. He is the ruthless, merciless, amoral, rich business magnate.

Story in a nut-shell - Roark stays at Keating's place, from where both go to the same architecture school. Roark is expelled, for refusing to do things the conventional-way. He insists on modernism in his work - while the school would have none of it.

Apparently, not just the school - but the world. His work fails miserably, building after building, contract after contract. Keating, the topper, takes the help of Roark, every single time, and is supremely successful in his career. He is backed by the likes of Toohey and Dominique - both writing for Wynand publications. Along the way, Keating meets Dominique, who also happens to be the daughter of the owner of the company he works for - decides that marrying her would mean control of the entire company.

Dominique meets Roark, and they fall in 'love' - if it can be called that !. Toohey decides to prevent Roark's success at any cost - since he believes in collectivism. Dominique agrees to the strategy because, Roark's work is too good to be let appreciated by the masses (!!). Dominique marries Keating to get him the success, that is supposed to bring Roark down (so that masses dont get to appreciate Roark's work !). Subsequently, Toohey decides, he will throw spanner in the life of Keating by, introducing Dominique to Wynand.

Wynand asks for Dominique's hand in marriage and succeeds. He falls madly in love with her. He discovers Roark, and immediately adores him as his hero. Slowly but surely, Roark starts getting more attention, albeit, not publicly endorsed by Wynand. Toohey does not like the developments. He arranges for Keating to be de-throned and installs some of his yes-men at the helm. Toohey also builds up worker's union against Wynand publications.

Keating now almost a pauper, needs a project desperately to redeem his lost status. He approaches Roark for help - and Roark agrees to help on one-condition - 'Keating would have to make sure, his design is accepted and implemented as is'. Keating accepts the condition and takes Roark's help. Toohey arranges for dilution of the design via more architects and the modified building is up and running before Roark comes to know of it.

Roark, not happy with the development (flaw in his character potrayal ?) - blasts the building and surrenders himself to the cops. Wynand, for the first time, comes out in support of Roark - all his people revolt against him. Public stop reading his magazine, he loses support, money - everything in trying to support Roark. Dominique publicises sleeping with Roark, Wynand unwillingly divorces her, his publications character assasinate Dominique - and he builds back his empire.

Roark delivers a climactic lecture, as is the wont of heroes, and gets acquitted the moment he stops his lecture. Toohey is fired, Roark marries Dominique, and everyone lives happily ever after.

phew - the nut-shell is not very small apparently ;) - the one reason, i chose to explain the story is, if it takes so long to write, it needs much more time to read :-D

I liked the development of characters and situation -not the narrative so much. The story ends highly unlike what has been preached through the book. The philosophy is cool - 'The need of the individual comes before the need of society' :-)

Verdict - needs patience, needs stamina, needs perseverance - to complete this book -Not recommended for light reading.

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SamY said...

WOW ... I'v been waiting for this for quite some time now ... maybe not a book to entertain but to provoke some though? I'm sure it was

depressive? ... well life is hard u know

but I found something to learn from every character in there ... fortunately my circumstance led me to associate with the characters ppl around ...

n I presume I was pretty good @ that for I was pretty successful in foretelling what next of certain characters in real life ;)? fun it was :))

the best part of the book was that Roark and Wyand by character ain't all that different but for one minor fact :) ... which happens to be most people's foible ... n often overlooked

many ppl consider it a book of psycho character ... its the way u see it

n there r somethings that people deny of themselves in the name of it not being ethical ... defying the very human nature ... thats what this book brings out :) ... obviously cannot be digested by all ... understandable ;)

I guess what ppl choose to believe dictates their interpretation ... it was a morality tale ... if u choose to see that

Balaji said...

my wife gave me this book for my bday a few weeks back and i promptly exchanged it for 'kite runner'. read the synopsis and wasn't sure if i was ready for it. and your final verdict kinda validates my decision :) but definitely a book i plan to read before i die :)

Rags said...

I was looking for a Non-Detail version of fountainhead...Thanks for the blog dude...You saved me lot of time

Arvind said...


Hope the wait was worth it ;).

"but I found something to learn from every character in there"

- very true can't agree more.

"the best part of the book was that Roark and Wyand by character ain't all that different but for one minor fact :)" - actually, Roark, Wynand, Dominique and Toohey are all the same ! :-)

There are many things in the book, that sets one on the path of 'think think think' :-D

Be sure to validate my review, once u read it ;)

My review vindicating your decision - unga wife' kitta idha pathi solladeenga ;) - i'd blamed for you exchanging her gift :-D

Arvind said...


Anytime :-) - I heard you were recommending the book to the southerner-born-in-delhi :-?

SamY said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SamY said...

in that perspective yes!!!... the dame n our protogonist r same ... toohey n wyand with enuf foibles to em ...

@ the outlook they r similar ... but very differently principled

shud read it again sometime ... luk'n from a different perspective :)

nandini said...

Whoa... no need to pan the book like that!... it is as someone said ... a moral choice... made by very similar people... that makes them entirely different from each other. As for the "Character falw"... isn't that the climax of the book practically? That he valued his work so highly that he could not bear to see another person's touch on it... I htink that sort of attitide is fairly typical of artists...ummm this got a bit longer than I intended... sorry... but you're right ...its not a book for everyone.. and its not a philosophy for everyone either...

Arvind said...


They are same in that, they dont display emotion - they are not affected by the outcomes - but they all single minded about their mission - and dont let the sorroundings affect their perspective.

Even at the end, except for the hero, no one acts out of their character.

Am not panning the book - it is NOT for everyone is all am pointing out.

"That he valued his work so highly that he could not bear to see another person's touch on it..."

You are right, but i dont fully agree, still, with the idea of him getting so emotional, especially after not feeling any for 600 odd pages :-D

"I htink that sort of attitide is fairly typical of artists..."

Can't agree more with you !

"its not a book for everyone.."

Yes Yes

" and its not a philosophy for everyone either... "

First, philosophy itself is not for everyone.

Second, this philosophy, is surely, not for everyone.

Thanks for your time ! :-)

Ganesh said...

arvind reveiwve ippadi detailed irruke book eppadi irukkumo?

Munimma said...

read this a long time back. I don't remember too much about the story, but the essence of it is not something we can forget. For a time, I was reading all her books, until I got to her non-fictional works, which completely threw me off. She did end up in an asylum ;-P

Sometimes, with books that are this tedious, it is easier to listen to taped versions at the library.

Anyway, I think I am past the "moldable" age to read this kinda stuff again ;-)

Atlas Shrugged is imho a better book, at least I keep thinking about its philosophy everytime I look at the news :-D

Arvind said...


If you are planning to buy the book, coz u read it here..then... ;)


I am still debating whether am up for reading one more book of hers... :-D

Atlas shrugged... mmmm :-?

SamY said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SamY said...

yes ... Atlas Shrugges IS AN AMAZING buk ... I dun think u'd be this depressed

its one lovely buk ... Atlantis ... I'd say this word is defined here :)

its more tuned to what happens in real life ... FH is more character centric ...

AS is no less ... objectivism @ its best ... on top of my recommendation ... u can do it dhadha!!!

n just a request ... dun make a spoiler post if u do so for that buk ... a humble request :)

Rags said...

Yeah yeah...I was trying that as a option to get a abridged from him...but you got there first..

ekantha said...

Phew! Who would have thought that there would be someone in the world willing to volunteer to explain such a complex plot. Why'd you do it? Do you enjoy storytelling? And what about some of your own stories?

Anonymous said...

Hey Arvind The Fountainhead is a wonderful book...I m a big fan of Ayn Rand.and its her masterpiece.


Arvind said...


Thanks for the encouragement - will keep it in mind :-)


:-D poor s.i.b.i.d ;)

Arvind said...

volunteer ? - the blogosphere itself is a voluntary disclosure arena :-)


cool - enjoy :-)

Kasthuri Srinivasan said...

mmm...seems like needs dedicated time...let's see whether I can get hold of it. Its good to see such reviews. Makes one decide abt things.

sen said...

u r bring flashbacks to me buddy.Read it so long time ago.I even tried my hands on what the book preaches, but failed :).It is one of those few books that really made a change in me, very powerful book but i guess the impact depends on your mind set at the time you are reading it.

And BTW dont write a big review with the whole story like this.You are spoiling it for everyone who is going to read the book in future.

Arvind said...


ATB with the book :-)


Who did you live like ? Keating or Toohey ;)

Anonymous said...

You saved me lot of time. I like the alert - spoiler alert that you put up front. thnks for the warning

amazing as usual- you are a good reviewer . waiting for more.

Eshwar said...

in the Verdict...you could also add - "or need someone to tell you the story". Works faster that way. :-)).

Sriram C S said...

Wonderful review!!

Arvind said...


Welcome and Thanks :-)


Why would i say need someone to tell you the story, i might as well say, read this post ;) :P


Thanks :-)

sen said...

forget it, why wake the old skeletons..

Mike said...

hello to all, Please help me verify. I used the line on a friend the other day, "you figure is like gods exercise in perfect mathematics" Please tell me I'm correct in reading this line in the fountain sometime ago. I don't have a copy of it to look myself..........am I correct?


sandee said...

I have a different opinion..

Vignesh said...

Definitely one of the best books I have ever read....Enjoyed every bit of it....The character building has been impeccable until in the end, when Roark decides to blow up Corlandt...He was not supposed to have done what he ends up doing....Interesting philosophy...Objectivism....The most interesting factor about the book is that, at any point during my read, I could relate myself to the characters...at times, I thought I was a Peter Keating, at times a Roark, at times a Wyanard or a Toohey....but in the end...you will know that you are not one of them, but a compilation of the whole lot.....Simply put, the book is brilliant....

Anonymous said...

Dear Arvind,
You never understood the book rightly. Why write review on it?

Adi said...

Thank you for sharing.
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Anonymous said...

I am on the last section of Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead'. I picked it up purely because it was $1.00 at a used book store and I had heard of it and knew it was used in some college philosophy classes. Anyway, I have enjoyed the book immensely, and will probably read it again. It's given me a lot of thought, and of all the books I have read it has definitely evoked the most from me. I love this novel, and would reccommend it to anyone that enjoys literature. It's amazing. Anyone who doesn't like it because of the views it poses, are in my opinion, just like the men in The Fountainhead. The one's who hate Roark because of the man he is. They are blind and conform to what society see's as correct.

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