I have always appreciated The Fountainhead both for its literature and philosophy. As a Christian Bible teacher, there are obviously some differences between my philosophy and that of Ayn Rand, to put it mildly. I have always wondered why her philosophy had to be so strongly opposed to theism. Obviously it was opposed in many ways to Christian theism, but theism, or perhaps deism, can be nothing more than an assertion of ultimate order in the universe in different language.
I recently discussed some of the particulars of the character of Howard Roark that I like and dislike in my post Can one Like both George Bailey and Howard Roark? I think there is a mistake made both by supporters and opponents of Ayn Rand, and that is that to have absolute and true values one must be on one extreme or the other, that one is either totally selfish or totally unselfish, independent or dependent, has integrity or completely falls apart. Of course, that is part of Rand’s message. She doesn’t believe that “middles” are possible.
I believe in balance and integrity at the same time, meaning that one finds the correct point, which may or may not be one of the extremes, and then stands for that point. There are things which society may ask of me, and which I should choose to give, but society as such doesn’t own me. I have rights to my creations, but at the same time I may recognize that no matter what I construct I have learned some things from other people.
In The Fountainhead, Rand has Roark appear almost as if from nowhere. Family doesn’t exist. Early education and nurture doesn’t exist. Roark just appears. This picture is much better in the book than in the movie, in my view. It is something that attracted me to the book in the first place. There is an annoying tendency of families and friends to claim every accomplishment of their relations as their own, to point to every talent and ability as coming from somewhere on the family tree, and giving no individual credit to a child and his or her creativity. That combines with the expectation that the family owns part of that creative product, that the child who succeeds should help the large number of relatives who have failed. The Fountainhead goes to the opposite extreme. Roark comes from nowhere, stands alone, owns everything.
But are the extremes the only option? I would suggest that some of what I am has come from my parents. Some has come from teachers and friends who have guided me along the way. But some of what I am, and all of what I have made of that comes from me, me in relationship to God, and belongs to me and not to anyone else. Where I lean in Rand’s direction is that I need to be the one to make that choice. That is sometimes going to involve me handing off some of the glory of achievements, or even the ignominy of defeats to others when they are truly responsible. But at the same time it will involve me taking responsibility for both to the extent that is really true.
Contrary to Howard Roark, I see a positive value in teamwork. This is not the teamwork that wrecked Cortlandt before Roark blew it up. Rather it is teamwork where each makes a known contribution and is acknowledged for that. That is the type of balance that I would look for, and that is the reason that I can appreciate The Fountainhead, while disagreeing in substantial ways with its author.
After many, many years, and several readings of the book, I finally brought myself to see the movie yesterday. The movie is well done in that it keeps the theme of the book intact, as one might expect of a script written by the book author. Some of the events are changed in order to make it a reasonable length movie. Gary Cooper is wonderful in displaying Roark, and the remainder of the casting is good. I personally still prefer book form for presenting material of this nature. I like time to think about scenes and using my imagination on them. But if one is to present such a book in movie form, this is a good way to do it. If, like me, you’ve resisted getting the movie because you normally don’t like such things, go ahead and get this one and watch it. I found it immediately available via Netflix, and it was a pleasure to watch.
If you haven’t read the book, consider doing so before you watch the movie. The Fountainhead is a book that should provoke thought, and you should have time to think as you go through it.