Stuck (and frustrated) again reading The Fountainhead

Posted by $ rainman0720 5 years, 2 months ago to Books
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Good evening. I need help. I desperately want to finish The Fountainhead, but once again I've hit the same point in the novel and can't get any farther.

Dominique Francon has just toured the Enright House, and in her subsequent article she suggests that the world would be better off if the house was destroyed in an air raid.

For the third time, I've gotten so mad at Howard Roark that I cannot keep reading. Roark knows that Dominique is doing everything she can to ruin him, yet he continues to sleep with her, and considering she knows so much about the commissions he's trying to get, I have to assume that he tells her about the ones he wants. With that knowledge, she dates disgusting men and plays nice with obnoxious women, just to sway them away from Roark and towards Peter Keating.

Not only is Roark willingly (and gladly) walking in front of the firing squad, he's also bought the bullets, he's loaded the rifles, and he's putting on his own damned blindfold. He might as well be pulling the trigger as well.

I'd give my (insert body part here) to see Peter Keating and his mother and Ellsworth Toohey and all the rest staked to the ground and eaten by fire ants. But I have an idea what happens in the second half of the book, since I did some research about it before getting it, so I know that particular wish won't come true.

But I'm looking for a nudge to help me clear this hurdle, as it has tripped me up three times in three attempts. I just can't get past what Roark is doing to himself, his career, his life.

Help!


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    Posted by sdesapio 5 years, 2 months ago
    RE: "Dominique Francon has just toured the Enright House, and in her subsequent article she suggests that the world would be better off if the house was destroyed in an air raid."
    Pseudo-sabotage. Dominique believes the world does not deserve Howard Roark's work. She never thought a man like Roark could exist, but there he is in all his glory. Dominique tries to protect Roark, and his work, by keeping him and it from the second handers.

    RE: " Roark knows that Dominique is doing everything she can to ruin him, yet he continues to sleep with her"
    It might not be obvious, but Roark knows that Dominique gets him and loves him the way a man should be loved.
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    • Posted by $ 5 years, 2 months ago
      Interesting point, but I'm not sure I see it. Rhetorical questions coming.

      If she really doesn't think the world deserves Roark's work, why wouldn't she work to make the world worthy of it?

      Why would she protect (I see ruin) Roark by preventing him from sharing his genius with the world?

      Why wouldn't she train her guns on Toohey instead, since destroying Roark seems to be his primary goal? Or is Toohey also trying to protect Roark by attempting to destroy him?

      I'll try and put your ideas against how I "see" Roark's actions. Like I said, I really do want to read this in its entirety.

      Thanks for the ideas.
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      • 10
        Posted by sdesapio 5 years, 2 months ago
        You have to remember that rarely is a Rand hero character a full blown Randian Hero when you first encounter them. Most are men with great potential, but with a hell-of-a journey in front of them. They're Randian-Heroes-in-the-making if you will.

        Dominique too has not yet reached her full potential. She is a woman who has been in search of the ideal man her entire life, only to come up short at every turn. She is a beaten-down, disappointed, shell of a woman.

        When she comes to know of Roark, her reaction is one of "OMG!!! HOLY SHIT!!! THERE HE IS!!! WAIT!!! I NEED TO HIDE HIM BEFORE THE WORLD DESTROYS HIM TOO!!! QUICK, INTO THE CLOSET WITH YOU!!! Nothing to see here... move along." It's a knee-jerk panic reaction - because she doesn't realize Roark is Superman. She wants to hide him before the second-handers get a hold of him and turn him into Steven Mallory (not sure if you've met him yet in the novel). She wants to preserve Roark's greatness by never allowing it to enter that world to begin with.

        She's fine to just let the world be what's it's become. She sees fighting with it as a lost cause.

        To quote Ayn Rand: "Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone."

        EDIT: a sentence for clarity.
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        • Posted by $ 5 years, 2 months ago
          Thanks again. I think I understand what you're saying; I haven't been able to see her from the perspective you've pointed out. I'll resume my reading, trying to focus on that rather than my frustration with Roark.

          Thanks for the comments. I really appreciate them.
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        • Posted by khalling 5 years, 2 months ago
          What if I am in love with Galileo? If I discredit him in a back-handed way-can I protect him from becoming famous enough to garner the interest of the Catholic Church? once again, nailed it scott. comment more
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      • Posted by Herb7734 5 years, 2 months ago
        Dominique is a flawed woman almost to the point of psychosis. She is aware of what men and women could and should be, but she has been constantly disappointed, finding most idols with feet of clay. Then she meets Roark. She can't believe in him at first . She looks for the feet of clay. She tests him and finds him to be what she only imagined a man could be. Roak, on the other hand, gets her. He sees into her madness and has faith in the real woman he sees within. He decides to allow her to do what she wants because he knows that he will win in the end. He has enough faith in himself and his ability to overcome setbacks no matter who provides them. Keep on going. You will love the climax.
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        • Posted by $ Flootus5 5 years, 2 months ago
          Well said. The flawed psychosis characterization encapsulates my reaction early on when she is destroying priceless pieces of art because they are "too good".

          Rainman; What is coming up is too good to miss. Ayn Rand runs an incredible balance of rationality in a senseless world, of personal morality and conviction and the price tags and rewards. And the court room defense - magnificent eloquence.
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    • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 years, 2 months ago
      "Pseudo-sabotage. Dominique believes the world does not deserve Howard Roark's work. "
      With Gail Wynand I thought his motivation was fear of non-second-handers. Wynand is on top of the world of the second-handers. The existence of intelligent non-second-handers makes him uneasy. So he tries to pay Roark to be mediocre and threatens to try to ruin him if he expresses his genius.

      Unlike Toohey, who is a black hole bent on destroying individual human achievement, Wynand admires achievement. Wynand is on the boundary between being the master of the second-handers and not caring about them. Roark truly doesn't care about them.

      I imagined Dominique had similar motivations to Wynand's, but you're suggesting something different. Her behavior toward him in public may have be an extension of their little kink where after their dates she goads him into ravishing her. Maybe her undermining him doesn't matter because she and Roark don't really take seriously the world of public opinion and just can't get into vanilla art in which he creates expected art and she writes the expected reviews and both of them care about what other people think.
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      • Posted by sdesapio 5 years, 2 months ago
        RE: "With Gail Wynand I thought his motivation was fear of non-second-handers..."
        Not exactly. Wynand was actually a would-be hero. And, because he failed to reach his true potential as a hero, he thought no one could. Anytime anyone showed a semblance of integrity, he sought to destroy it. As if to say, "See? No one can have integrity. It's all pretend until it counts - until the moment of truth. If I can't do it, no one can. And, I'll prove it."

        And he did prove it. Until he met his match, Roark.

        So on one hand, you can say he acted out of fear of the non-second-hander, but not because it would dethrone him. Rather, because it would prove him wrong and forever cause him to regret his life decisions. Ouch.

        RE: "Her behavior toward him in public may have be an extension of their little kink..."
        Nope. I think I've seen you say somewhere before that The Fountainhead was your favorite Rand book. :) Read it again keeping in mind what I said to rainman720. It may reveal even more for you this time around.

        EDIT: a phrase for emphasis
        EDIT 2: added smiley to emphasize friendly sarcasm
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        • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 years, 2 months ago
          I don't detect any sarcasm. but I like the notion it's friendly. :)

          "Rather, because it would prove him wrong and forever cause him to regret his life decisions. Ouch."
          I took this same thing away from when he was noting the leaves changing. It's like Roark is a demonstration that one of the main motivations in his life really doesn't matter.

          "Dominique believes the world does not deserve Howard Roark's work."
          I can see that, and I find her misanthropy annoying. It's not her decision to make. If the story took place today, she could stop working at a large media outlet that tells people who are unsophisticated about architecture what is good art, and instead write some blog for a tribe of weirdos who appreciate the same art she does.
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  • Posted by cranedragon 5 years, 2 months ago
    I find it interesting to consider Rand's three major female characters: Kira, Dominique, and Dagny. I see Rand's male heroes as Prime Movers, as self-generated and self-determining energy fields. Kira is drawn to two separate men who have that energy, Leo [who becomes a dissolute wastrel] and Andrei [who maintains his integrity but never quite wins her love]. Dagny is the final expression of the female hero is herself a Prime Mover who longs for the man who is her soul mate.

    Dominique is the bridge between them. Telling is the little vignette about the perfect Greek sculpture that she loved -- she threw it down an airshaft and destroyed it. Her values are so important to her that she must pretend that she has no values to protect them from being attacked by the society in which she lives and circulates. Roark challenges all of her beliefs: that men like him are impossible in her time; that men like him can survive openly, rather than in her secret, even closeted fashion; that success is possible on one's own terms rather than society's terms. You would think that she would take one look and yell, "you Tarzan me Jane!" but her own beliefs are too strong. She must prove herself right and she exerts all of her efforts to do that.

    There is also the facet that Dominique throughout is punishing herself. She puts herself through Hell in her marriage to Peter Keating and then agrees to be sold to Gail Wynant to get a big commission for Keating -- until that backfires on him. Although there's not a lot of psychobabble in the Fountainhead about her emotions in the Wynant marriage, and clearly he is someone who should have been a Prime Mover himself [echoes of Leo from We the Living], but she is separated from Roark for all that time, which would have been a daily punishment. For all that Wynant had a great deal of potential and clearly enormous intelligence and drive, she willingly became Mrs. Wynant Papers with all that entailed while cutting herself off from everything that she loved. There's a strong element of self-flagellation here, of the mental rather than physical kind.

    I think you need to think of Roark a little differently. You speak of "walking in front of the firing squad" -- but does he think that he is in danger? I always saw him as strong enough to bear with her while she struggled through all of the issues that clouded her vision, until she could see clearly and not be afraid of the world, be willing to come out of her closet and acknowledge her values and who she loved. It's like a man who loves a woman with an illness, and he must be patient until she goes through a long healing, cathartic process until she becomes heathy enough to get married. I would analogize it to John Galt, refusing to leave New York even at risk of his own life, until Dagny had finally seen enough that she was willing to leave it all behind because she saw that the things she was trying to hold together were threatening the life of the man she loved.

    So, persevere, mon ami. The final trial scene alone is worth the price of admission.
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    • Posted by $ 5 years, 2 months ago
      It's not so much that I think he's in danger per se; it just feels like he's providing the world more than enough ammunition to professionally destroy him.

      To walk back one of my rhetorical questions to one of Mr. DeSapio's comments, it's obvious that Toohey is out to completely destroy Roark. Until I read his comments about Dominique, I had never considered that she was trying to shield him from the Tooheys of the world.

      And after reading the various comments here, I think I've been too focused on Roark, only seeing things from his perspective.

      I am going to pick it up and continue, keeping in mind everyone's comments. This kind of input is what I was hoping for when I posted my SOS.
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  • Posted by Bethesda-gal 5 years, 2 months ago
    I'm a newbie to the Gulch and to Rand and I just finished reading The Fountainhead. I have to say when I stuck with it I LOVED it by the end (yes, as a previous commenter said - the courtroom scene is worth the entire price of admission !! It explains EVERYTHING) but the vast middle of the book was mishugah (yiddish word) and a little tough to get through.
    You might even consider reading first the courtroom scene of Roark's testimony when all is explained and then go back to your stuck point to resume from there.
    I'd make one slight different comment from what's been said and that is that IMO Roark not only doesn't care what the "second handers" think. IMO he doesn't care what ANYONE thinks because he is so solid in his own opinion of beauty and design and unique expression. He doesn't care what anyone else thinks which I found really liberating to read / experience in this age of PC.
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  • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 2 months ago
    I'm fascinated.... you say you stop reading because you're so angry at the actions of a fictional character....
    Hm? WTF?! I think that needs some looking into.

    I've rarely, but I have... stopped reading a book or watching a movie... usually because I find the premise to be incalculably stupid or illogical... or just TFB... (Boring.)

    I've gotten upset or incensed by the actions of characters in books or movies, but usually stuck around to see 'what happens next' or HTF (How...) they get out of THAT predicament!

    I think the only kind of characters which would make me stop reading a book would be if Al Gore writes a book in which Al Gore is the main character.... or Barney Frank or Presidebt Obama or Hillary Clinton or a select few others.

    In the meantime, my recent 'reads' have been in the Freakonomics series, and THOSE two really piss me off, because I think their real thesis is about Critical Thinking, but they never mention it, per se, and that's the book I want to write, and NO, I would NOT be the 'main character' in it... at least not by name....

    :)
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  • Posted by $ Starwagen 5 years, 2 months ago
    Many, if not most, of Rand's characters in "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" are archetypes of people that in many cases in real life are more muddled. And the actions of those characters become extreme examples of the point that Rand is trying to make. As in "Atlas Shrugged" Rand has made her point on many ideas through example of people and their actions long before getting to "This is John Galt speaking" but Galts speech sums up the ideas that have already been driven home in the first part of the novel. The same in Fountainhead. Stuck at a point in the novel? Why not push on and find out if Rand is able to have her characters resolve the apparent contradictions in their lives? Or find out if Rand has dug herself a literary hole she can't get out of? When finished give us a one page book review, we'll be wating.
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  • Posted by dwlievert 5 years, 2 months ago
    "But I don't think of you Ellsworth." I DO passionately think of you Dominique!

    Both of you have much to learn. You will never learn it Ellsworth. I shall make it inescapable that you shall learn it Dominique, while I relish in the joy you provide me as I do so.

    Both of you are powerless to prevent me from succeeding in living my life.
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  • Posted by term2 5 years, 2 months ago
    Maybe Roark is not perfectly controlled by his mind, but has let emotions run him when dealing with Dominique. Look at the stupid things a lot of men and women do when love enters into it. Even ayn rand herself did some strange things that seemed to be emotionally driven
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  • Posted by philosophercat 5 years, 2 months ago
    The book is in four sections. The fourth is "Howard Roark" This section begins with the most beautiful presentation of Roark and the world he represents. A young boy sees the world as shaped by Roark's architecture and is inspired by Roark's benevolent view of the earth and man. This gives him the courage and energy to lead a life of the pursuit of values. Roark understands that gift. Each of the other characters sees in Roark and his work the same sense of what could be and responds according to their values. You should finish the book to complete the journey into the world of Roark's triumph and a vision that drives all of us who loved he book to make it real. "...the ocean and the sky and the figure of Howard Roark."
    The greatest first line in literature is "Howard Roark laughed." She leaves you with the world in which he can laugh. Carry on.
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  • Posted by Eudaimonist 5 years, 2 months ago
    The good news is (and this is a bit of a spoiler, but justified if it keeps you reading) is that Dominque does finally come across to Roark's way of thinking. She realizes that she was mistaken, and turns over a new leaf. This moment is worth reading for!
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  • Posted by Nalani 5 years, 1 month ago
    So it has been a month. How did the reading go? Are you happy with the resolution? Both Atlas and Fountainhead can be read numerous times and still you will find new meanings or depths of understanding in Ms Rand's ideas. I have read The Fountainhead at least 5 times and seen the movie at least 8 times. I have read Atlas Shrugged somewhere between 25 and 30 times. My book has asterisks and underlining all throughout. I find JOY every time I reread it as well as new insights. The quality of the writing over 14 years...reworking the order, the wording or saying something JUST SO is the genius of Ms Rand and what makes her books so fascinating.
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  • Posted by ameyer1970 5 years, 2 months ago
    Anybody that Dominique can talk out of hiring Roark, Roark doesn't want to work for. Anybody who wants to Hire Roark is not going to let Dominique talk them out of hiring Roark. Roark realizes this, he has to let Dominique learn it for herself.
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  • Posted by LibertyBelle 5 years, 2 months ago
    I think he tolerates it because he knows Dominique
    needs to do it. She thinks she is performing a
    sort of "mercy killing" on him; she thinks if she
    destroys his career early, she will spare him from
    going through a lot more suffering later.
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  • Posted by salta 5 years, 2 months ago
    I sympathize with your difficulty. The thing I could not cope with was her self-destructive attitude, like marrying Keating because of his lack of integrity.
    I hope you finish it, as I did, but possibly only because I listened to the audio while multi-tasking.
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  • Posted by blackswan 5 years, 2 months ago
    Do you believe that a man like Roark NEEDS anyone, or that he can make it on his own terms? Finish the book, so you can see who succumbs to whom.
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  • Posted by wiggys 5 years, 2 months ago
    you do not seem to understand the HR is a man of total/complete confidence in himself and as such does not need the approval on anyone. You must also understand that this is the way Ayn Rand lived her life.
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  • Posted by Dennis55 5 years, 2 months ago
    I hope I can help. Like a lot of us I was a committed Objectivist before I knew the term. About a year ago I heard Atlas Shrugged mentioned on the Stossel show. I thought it's about time I learn what all the fuss is and read it. I loved it. Couldn't put it down and literally tear up reading the "John Galt" speech. So I'm totally in and read We The Living, Anthem, a couple books about Ayn and numerous essays. Then I REREAD AS!! All 1200 pages. Then I thought-got to read The Fountainhead.....I had seen the movie. Make a loud screeching braking sound. I did NOT enjoy. I was still waiting for "the movie parts.". I really struggled (did I mention I read AS twice? LOL). I thought after all of my preaching I had to get through it. I stayed the course and the last 1/8 salvaged it. It became work instead of entertaining. But, I think if you stick it out it not only does it get better but you can call it done and read AS again. Still LOL
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  • Posted by wdg3rd 5 years, 2 months ago
    Just read the damn thing. I managed it in junior high school (not as an assignment) at the height of the hippie era. Didn't even see the movie till 20 years later. If you want a difficult task, try rereading "Reprisal" by F. Paul Wilson. I managed after three retries. (A damn good book, but when you know how nasty things are gonna get, you hafta roll over, read some Dr Seuss or A.E. Milne, listen to something innocent like Megadeth).
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  • Posted by term2 5 years, 2 months ago
    Living in today's hostile world is very debilitating to the human spirit. On the one hand you want to do great things, but on the other hand the very great things you do are used to
    Punish you unless you lie and say you acted only for the benefit of the socialists.
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    • Posted by Bethesda-gal 5 years, 2 months ago
      Yes, I agree if you do that it does drain one's spirit. For me, that is the whole point of the Roark character - that he doesn't design his buildings for fame, or in one case not even for money. He does what he does purely for the artistic creation, irrespective of any outside benefit and totally immune of any outside criticism. He lived in a bubble of pure creation for creation's sake, which I found so liberating.
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      • Posted by term2 5 years, 2 months ago
        I am an inventor and what I do really is just for me. If I never sell one of them, or get shut down by some bureaucrat, thats OK really. I am pretty aware of what the b ureaucrats are up to and tend to get IN and OUT quickly, so it hasnt been that bad yet. But some people really need the money from their work, and its terrible that its stolen from them.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 years, 2 months ago
    Why do these competent independent-minded people like Dominique and Gail Wynand want to undermine a fellow independent-minded person?

    I almost gave up at this point, but it ended up being my favorite book.
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  • Posted by Itheliving 5 years, 2 months ago
    Watch the movie instead. It will help. Rand wrote the screenplay. Max Steiner's themes are good but he was heavy handed by writing end to end with a few banana peel type effects that were unneeded.
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