Fountainhead and AS Are Similar Stories, but the Characters' Jobs Are Opposite.

Posted by CircuitGuy 5 months, 3 weeks ago to Books
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I usually think of Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as being similar because the themes are similar and the characters have similar roles. It occurred to me today that they are opposite in one way. AS shrugged is about tangible things, while Fountainhead is about art. I liked Fountainhead slightly better, maybe because I read it first, but also because I like how Roark was down-and-out in the eyes of his industry but he stayed true to himself. The world was against him. He was aware of that, but had no reason to care about the world’s opinion, so he didn’t.

I like AS because I could understand Dagny’s and Hank Rearden’s jobs. Keeping the trains running and making basic materials are some of the most tangible things. They’re not industries with personal preference. You can clearly measure how long a train takes and how often it’s on time. There are clear engineering figures of merit for materials. Architecture is the opposite. Most customers were buying architectural design services based on the newspaper, which was printing things based on what made money for Wynand. Roark existed outside this tail-chasing circle. His was the real art, but that’s hard for me to relate to because I’m not artistic. So I couldn’t relate to him destroying a building because someone tinkered with his design.

This is sort-of similar to how I like The Virtue of Selfishness but struggled with The Romanitc Manifesto. I came away from The Romantic Manifesto thinking she was saying sense of life was the random irrational motivations that hold sway in the absence of a philosophy. Then I realized philosophy underpins a sense of life. I still don’t get that book.

This is making me thing there are two side to the four Rand books I’ve read: the tangible and the artistic. I wonder if it was intentional that Rand wrote one work of fiction about something artistic and another about industries with objective figures of merit.


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  • Posted by $ BobCat 5 months, 3 weeks ago
    Having read AS first, I think AR was organizing her ideals into some form as she was writing FH. The basis for AS, in my opinion, was developed in FH. Just as the basis for FH was being developed in Anthem.
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    • Posted by 5 months, 3 weeks ago
      I have not read Anthem.
      In many ways I liked Fountainhead better, but AS was much easier to identify with. Roark was obsessed with his art, while Dagny and the other producers were keeping the world's basic functions running. Even when she tries to go on an unauthorized vacation, she can't help but think about how the store in the small town by her vacation cabin could be more effective. But even such a dogged hard-working person will eventually give up if you keep pushing her around and insisting she join a centrally managed system.
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  • Posted by VetteGuy 5 months, 3 weeks ago
    Rand clearly had respect for artistic endeavors as well as the more concrete tangible occupations. In AS some of her "heroes" and citizens of the gulch were music composers, actresses as well as miners and engineers. It is interesting to me that she chose an architect as the subject of "The Fountainhead" since that is at an intersection of art and engineering.
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    • Posted by 5 months, 3 weeks ago
      " the subject of "The Fountainhead" since that is at an intersection of art and engineering"
      I thought he was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, but that may be apocryphal. I thought that because he worked in the Midwest part of the time, was an atheist who built a secular church. I recall that church was in NYC, but I thought it might have been loosely inspired my church, First Unitarian Society of Madison.
      OTOH, it said he was tall and muscular, so it could have been inspired by a combination of people.
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