Saturday, February 13, 2010
"The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand
My grade: A-
This is one large project of a book, just to read, nevermind to write. If you don't love literature, don't even attempt to read this novel; you will not succeed. It is incredibly dense and complex, and probably some of the best writing I have ever seen - or, at least, comparable to the best. My only criticism of the writing itself is in the rather predictable and sappy ending, when plot definitely kept me on my toes.
Ayn Rand presents here her unique philosophy, objectivism. She introduces her concept of the ideal man. She has not convinced me of either. Firstly, I would argue that the ideal man is feasible to Rand only because he doesn't actually exist and in her world, there is only one such man. If the world were infested with Howard Roarks, Rand's main man, they would no longer seem all that ideal. In fact, I think most would agree that such a world is not possible. Rand's argument would have been more convincing if she placed Roark in a society full of others just like him and shown how well, if at all, such a society would function, and if a set of each-man-for-himselfs could even be labeled as a society.
Secondly, I believe Rand's argument flies out the window if one is to consider parenthood seriously. I think the majority of people who have children have felt at one point or another what it is like to put him/herself second. It comes as no surprise to me that Rand herself didn't have any children. To proclaim that the proper life philosophy is to pursue one's own happiness at any cost and to serve one's own ego goes against the basic animal instinct to reproduce, an instinct Rand seems to have been missing (ignoring?).
Having said that, I have to admit that I agree with Rand on a number of things. I, too, believe that each man should have the capacity to think for himself and not be led by the opinion of other people, but what to do with people who are lacking in this capacity? Likewise, I agree with her concept of personal integrity, and being able to face yourself in the mirror, although she is far from the first or last writer to focus on this subject.
In general, I believe Rand was a genius of a kind. Were she not, she would have been unable to write this novel, speaking from a literary perspective. I'm not sure how good she is at philosophizing though, mostly because I don't think her theory could hold in the real world.