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THE AVERAGE MAN AND THE MASSES
The creator is mistaken to give sway to other people. In his view of how to reach his goal, of whether it is possible to reach his goal, and of what goal he should therefore be trying to reach, he must not allow the specific choices or actions of other men to enter. To his basic goal of building the things he knows to be valuable, in order to reshape for himself the earth that he loves, he must hold fast. If he does, the evil of the “masses” and of their intellectual molders and agitators will have no power to touch him. If he does, the ideal of creative productivity and joy is reachable — here, now, on this earth. In The Fountainhead, individual greatness does not consist in ruling others, but in being radically independent from them.
When the creator grasps the nature and meaning of his actual motivation, he will also understand that the idea that others form a mob eager to tear him to pieces is mistaken. In essence, anyone can share the motive of the creator. As Roark explains in his courtroom speech: “Degrees of ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man’s independence, initiative and personal love for his work determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man” (681). The masses do not represent a fact of nature; membership in their ranks is self-made, by a chosen default, and does not indicate the essence of man, not even of the man of average ability (hereafter, the “average man”). It is wrong, as the notes for The Little Street suggest, that “all humanity and each little citizen is an octopus that consciously or unconsciously sucks the blood of the best on earth and strangles life with its cold, sticky tentacles.” Some men lower themselves to the state of an octopus — or to that of a swine grunting in the muck, in the more accurate imagery of The Fountainhead — and some do not. The creator’s attitude should be to ignore those who debase their own souls, however many their number, and to seek out those who do not.
In the world of The Fountainhead, average men are divided into two categories, inclusion in which is determined by their singular response to the greatness in man. Do they admire competence and look up to the creator? Or are they indifferent to, even resentful of, the presence of both? The indictment of the masses in The Fountainhead is the indictment of the average man who is not roused by the sight of greatness. Even if such a man cannot match the enormous creativity of the pathbreakers in his society, he can appreciate and give thanks for what they bring into existence that he could not; he can acknowledge his intellectual debt to them; he can resolve to equal their creative dedication in his own life and on his own scale, with whatever creative spark he possesses and has managed to fan; and he can defend and support them when they come under attack. Average men who refuse to do this — average men who, in Toohey’s words, “have not risen in fury when we called you average” (638) — are condemned.1
Most of the opposition Roark (and the other creators) faces comes from those indifferent or hostile to achievement. From the Dean, who neither approves of criminals nor great men and therefore concludes that Roark is a dangerous man, not to be encouraged (25–26) — to the architects who will not consider hiring Roark, not because they thought he was worthless but because they “simply did not care to find out whether he was good” (99) — to Gordon L. Prescott, an architect who bemoans “the hardships placed in the way of [the profession’s] talented beginners” but who, when he meets Roark and sees Roark’s drawings, tells him that the “genius is the one who knows how to express the general” (100) — to Mrs. Wayne Wilmot, who resents that Roark is trying to teach her something about buildings (162) — to those who “did not know whether his buildings were good or worthless” but who think they are nevertheless fit to judge Roark because “they knew only that they had never heard of these buildings” (175) — to Ralston Holcombe, who, in a moment of “complete sincerity,” can say before his fellow architects that we “are only men and we are only seekers. But we seek for truth with the best there is in our hearts” (200), and yet who can, when he sees the Heller house, denounce it and declare that there “ought to be a law” (137) — to Joel Sutton, who tells Roark that “I think you’re a great architect” but that “that’s just the trouble, greatness is fine but it’s not practical” (271) — to the wretches who criticize the Stoddard Temple (342–43) — to those who attack Roark as “an egomaniac devoid of all moral sense” (622) because he deprives them of the idea that charity is an “all-excusing virtue” and exposes the social worker as deriving “an unearned respect from all, by grace of his fingers on the wounds of others” (622) — the sum and essence of people’s opposition to Roark is their unwillingness to try to match his achievement and stature of soul. These are the average men who see greatness — and do not want it. These are the men who form Mallory’s beast (331–32, 511).
In the character of Peter Keating we see the basic cause of this rejection of greatness. Keating can recognize Roark’s greatness, and one of Keating’s most appealing aspects is that he occasionally responds to it. Early in the story, for instance, in a conversation with Roark, Keating remarks: “‘You know,’ said Keating honestly and unexpectedly even to himself, ‘I’ve often thought that you’re crazy. But I know that you know many things about it — architecture, I mean — which those fools never knew. And I know that you love it as they never will’” (33). But to match Roark’s dedication and effort is too demanding. “When I’m with you,” Keating tells Roark, “it’s always like a choice. Between you — and the rest of the world. I don’t want that kind of a choice” (89).
What Keating wants is a borrowed greatness: greatness, without the effort it entails; self-respect, without the bother of having to achieve it. He flocks to those who make him feel that this is possible. Prescott gives a speech about the meaning of architecture: “The architect is a metaphysical priest dealing in basic essentials, who has the courage to face the primal conception of reality as nonreality — since there is nothing and he creates nothing. If this sounds like a contradiction, it is not proof of bad logic, but of a higher logic.” Keating listens attentively, with “thick contentment”; he thinks to himself: “One could not worry about one’s value or greatness when listening to this. It made self-respect unnecessary” (292). At Toohey’s meetings for young architects, Keating finds “a feeling of brotherhood, but somehow not of a sainted or noble brotherhood; yet this precisely was the comfort — that one felt, among them, no necessity for being sainted or noble” (245).
To men like Keating, the presence of a great man can topple their moral rationalizations and fraud. A man like Roark stands as a constant reminder of what they are not, and as a reproach. They need to feel superior to a man like Roark, so they ignore him and oppose him and hate him and denounce him — and seek an escape from him. For all of this, Toohey supplies them the means.
Toohey helps manufacture the masses by appealing to the worst in the average man. His racket is to convince men that it is wrong to admire greatness and, even more, to kill in their minds the very conception of greatness (635). He helps deprive men of genuine self-respect, which they must then replace with the illusion of self-respect (605–7, 635). It is an illusion that requires, as Keating’s example shows, the spiritual slop of irrationalism, altruism, and collectivism that Toohey continuously feeds them. But Toohey’s racket cannot exist without the basic default of a man like Keating: Keating’s refusal to exert the effort required to work and to rise. A man who retains a core of competence and so of self-respect is immune to Toohey’s machinations. “I can’t understand why people of culture and position like us understand the great ideal of collectivism,” declares Mitchell Layton, “while the working man who has everything to gain from it remains so stupidly indifferent. I can’t understand why the workers in this country have so little sympathy with collectivism.” “Can’t you?” answers Toohey (556).2 Toohey knows the source of his power; he knows that he is a dependent seeking power over dependents, a life even more empty than Keating’s (638–39).
The average man enters the rank of the masses only by his own default. It is neither his fate nor indicative of his nature. How can he achieve the moral stature of a Howard Roark? Only by practicing the opposite of compassion: the demanding virtue of admiration. “Compassion is a wonderful thing,” Dominique explains to Mrs. Jones.
It’s what one feels when one looks at a squashed caterpillar. An elevating experience. One can let oneself go and spread—you know, like taking a girdle off. You don’t have to hold your stomach, your heart or your spirit up—when you feel compassion. All you have to do is look down. It’s much easier. When you look up, you get a pain in the neck. Compassion is the greatest virtue. It justifies suffering. There’s got to be suffering in the world, else how would we be virtuous and feel compassion? . . . Oh, it has an antithesis—but such a hard, demanding one. . . . Admiration, Mrs. Jones, admiration. But that takes more than a girdle. (282)
To practice the virtue of admiration does demand much of a man. He must respect and nurture the best within himself and within any man: his ability to produce and create on whatever scale he is capable of. His God must be man’s competence. He must be willing to look up and to exert the effort to learn from those of superior knowledge and ability. He must be willing to acknowledge the intellectual gifts that he receives from those more productive than him, which he can become worthy of in part by showing his gratitude. He must judge the world scrupulously, deciding for himself what deserves his “Yes” and his “No” (539). And then he must further and fight for that which he sees to be good, for that to which he has granted his “Yes.” To practice the virtue of admiration is to stand, head lifted, and give thanks for the greatness of another man and all that it, and its sight, will make possible in one’s own life. It is to be motivated by the best possible to oneself and to man.'To practice the virtue of admiration does demand much of a man. He must respect and nurture the best within himself and within any man: his ability to produce and create on whatever scale he is capable of.' Click To Tweet
This is the virtue that Mike Donnigan exemplifies — and why he represents the best of the men of average ability. When Roark first meets him, Mike is struggling to bend some conduits around a beam. Impatient with the know-nothing architects normally sent to the building site, Mike dismisses Roark when Roark tells him that he is wasting his time. But when Roark demonstrates to Mike a more efficient way, by cutting a hole in the beam and running the pipes straight through, Mike’s attitude changes. He stares with reverence at the hole that Roark’s expert hands have burned: “Jesus! . . . Do you know how to handle a torch!” (92). Mike is not, as many people would be, resentful of the fact that Roark has “shown him up”; Mike, rather, is appreciative of the fact that he has learned a better way to do things. He later seeks out Roark’s company and tells Roark of the only thing he worships: “expertness of any kind” (93). As to what counts as expertness, Mike judges that first-hand; Mike despises all other architects, but profoundly admires one, Cameron, for whom he once worked. When Roark tells Mike that he too has worked for Cameron, and indicates the same admiration for Cameron as Mike’s, their friendship is sealed.
Thereafter Mike supports and fights for Roark in whatever way he can, knowing that he is the lucky one for being able to participate in the erection of Roark’s buildings and the progression of Roark’s career. Mike works on every one of Roark’s buildings (336). When Roark discovers him at the construction site of his first building, the Heller house, Roark is shocked that Mike would bother with a small private residence. “Why such a come-down?” Roark asks him. Mike knows better: “you think it’s a come-down? Well, maybe it is. And maybe it’s the other way around” (134). Mike is properly outraged when Roark is fired from Francon and Heyer (97) and, later, when Roark must close his office because he cannot find enough clients (197); Mike helps land Roark the job he needs in the granite quarry. He stands by Roark’s greatness despite the abuses hurled at Roark by the hostile crowd: he is in Roark’s camp of supporters at both the Stoddard and Cortlandt trials. And he takes inspiration from Roark, who helps Mike sustain his conviction that the good is worth striving for and will prevail: “I told you not to worry,” he tells Mallory at one point during the construction of Monadnock Valley, “at the [Stoddard] trial that was. He can’t lose, quarries or no quarries, trials or no trials. They can’t beat him, Steve, they just can’t, not the whole goddamn world” (508).
This virtue of admiration is shared by all of Roark’s friends and forms the bond between them. Cameron hires Roark over his own reluctance, because he recognizes Roark’s incredible talent. Austen Heller responds to Roark’s greatness when he sees it in Snyte’s office, offering Roark the commission on the spot. He then works to bring Roark clients and praises Roark’s buildings in print. Roger Enright picks Roark as his architect based on his own judgment of good architecture; persists in locating Roark, who is working in the granite quarry; and fires from his employ the bored secretary who could not be bothered to properly assess Roark as a potential builder of the Enright House (251); he also wants to bring Roark clients. Both Heller and Enright confront Dominique when they think she is attacking Roark’s buildings in her columns. Kent Lansing fights savagely for Roark. He tells him: “I want a good hotel, and I have certain standards of what is good, and they’re my own, and you’re the one who can give me what I want. And when I fight for you, I’m doing — on my side of it — just what you’re doing when you design a building. Do you think integrity is the monopoly of the artist?” (313). And of course Roark acts in the same way. He respects the work of Enright and Lansing, he praises Heller’s articles, he profoundly admires Cameron.
After Heller in his writings defends Monadnock and Roark’s other buildings by putting “into words the things Roark had said in structure. Only they were not Austen Heller’s usual quiet words — they were a ferocious cry of admiration and anger,” Lansing names the quality all these men share: “It takes two to make a very great career: the man who is great, and the man — almost rarer — who is great enough to see greatness and say so” (512).
To cultivate the ability to recognize greatness reaps immediate benefits. Mike learns from Roark and gets to participate in the construction of buildings he could never have designed himself. Heller gets his house; Enright, his apartment building; Lansing, the Aquitania Hotel.
But the virtue should be cultivated for more than this. To practice the virtue of admiration is how men of less than supreme ability play their role in creating a human world. As Toohey notes, looking out over the lights of the city. “Think of the thousands who worked to create this and of the millions who profit by it. . . . it is said that but for the spirit of a dozen men, here and there down the ages, but for a dozen men — less, perhaps — none of this would have been possible” (281). These few men, Roark observes in his courtroom speech, were usually made to suffer for the great gift they brought. Imagine if they had not been made to suffer. Imagine if the creators sensed that they faced not a drooling beast — masses indifferent, even hostile, to achievement — but a group of individuals eager to rise and meet the demanding task of looking upward. What then might have been possible?
Imagine what Cameron might have created, if he had not turned, in despair of finding another human face, to drink. Imagine what Dominique might have done, if she had not been paralyzed by people who settle for the half-way and the in-between. Imagine what Mallory might have created, if he had not sensed that he was ignored and hated for his ability. Imagine what Wynand might have built instead of the Banner, if in childhood he had been admired and encouraged for his tremendous intellect and drive.
A creator like Roark will hold out to the end. The creator who is fully conscious of the nature and moral rightness of his motivation knows that he is beyond the grasp of evil; the pain can go down only to a certain point. But men of lesser ability have no right to demand such moral endurance of the Roarks, and no interest in doing so.3 'The creator who is fully conscious of the nature and moral rightness of his motivation knows that he is beyond the grasp of evil; the pain can go down only to a certain point.' Click To Tweet
The crucial difference between the virtue of admiration and of compassion is captured in the scenes dealing with the disfigurement of the Stoddard Temple (383–87). Built, as Dominique says, as a “temple to the human spirit,” in which one can experience exaltation through the contemplation of man “as strong, proud, clean, wise, and fearless” and the consciousness of “living up to one’s highest possibility” (355) — it is transformed into the Hopton Stoddard Home for Subnormal Children. It goes from a building dedicated to man’s greatness to one dedicated to cases of congenital incompetence. The ladies who pick the Stoddard House’s occupants make “a point of rejecting those who could be cured and selecting only the hopeless cases” (385). The children enter “their new home, their eyes staring vacantly, the stare of death before which no world existed” (385). Outside, children from the slums “gape wistfully” at the Home (385). “These children had filthy clothes and smudged faces, agile little bodies, impertinent grins, and eyes bright with a roaring, imperious, demanding intelligence. The ladies in charge of the Home chased them away with angry exclamations about ‘little gangsters’” (385–86).
One can only wonder how many Wynands are among those “little gangsters,” and how badly they have been mangled inside.
Men of greatness, as already indicated, must also practice the virtue of admiration. In regard to a man of equal ability, this means mutual admiration, as exists between Roark and Cameron. In regard to a man of lesser ability, this means that they should appeal to, deal with, promote, and accept nothing less than the man’s best; great men will thereby play a role — beyond creating their life-giving products — in creating a human world. This is Roark’s policy.
Roark patiently waits for clients: for his kind of men. He offers them the very best of himself — his work — and in the name of that value often explains to them the meaning of buildings and what they should be seeking from architecture. We see Roark doing this with the very first of his potential clients, with Wayne Wilmot, with Robert L. Mundy, with Nathaniel Janss, and with the Sanborns (161–70). As Roark begins to build, choosing to erect only uncompromised structures of incomparable value, individuals who may not be able to equal Roark’s achievements, but who have retained the capacity to respond to them, see Roark’s buildings and do respond. Jimmy Gowan sees Heller’s house, likes it, and hires Roark to build his filling station (158). John Fargo hires Roark to build his department store after walking through the Gowan Service Station and the Heller house (167). This is the pattern by which Roark gets almost all his clients.
Roark knows that such men, though comparatively rare, are not freaks.4 They have simply achieved their human stature, the basic independence that anyone can attain. It will take patience to find them and for them to see and to learn — as Lansing says to Roark, “men like you and me would not survive beyond their first fifteen years if they did not acquire the patience of a Chinese executioner” (336–37). But it is possible, and they are the only kind of people worth dealing with.
And the better people do learn from Roark — they come to see the logic, the purpose, and the functional beauty of his buildings, and they respond. Roark designs the Enright House “as a rising mass of rock crystal . . . so that the future inhabitants were to have, not a square cage out of a square pile of cages, but each a single house held to the other houses like a single crystal to the side of a rock” (234). It rents “promptly. The tenants . . . did not discuss the value of the building; they merely liked living there. They were the sort who lead useful, active private lives in public silence” (308). The Stoddard Temple also attracts patrons to experience its unique conception of exaltation. “There were a few who came, and saw, and admired the building in silence. But they were the kind who do not take part in public issues” (342). Monadnock Valley—for which Roark had argued that “people of good taste and small income had no place to go, if they found no rest or pleasure in herds. . . . Why not offer these people a place where, for a week or a month, at small cost, they could have what they wanted and needed?” (506–7) — also proves a success. It is rented out within a month of opening and by the end of the summer leased for the following year. It attracts a “strange mixture” of people: “society men and women who could have afforded more fashionable resorts, young writers and unknown artists, engineers and newspapermen and factory workers. . . . The place became news; but it was private news” (510).5
In his day-to-day work Roark also seeks to deal only with the best within each man. In the sunlight of Roark’s office, each man’s irrelevancies are stripped away.
[Roark] did not smile at his employees, he did not take them out for drinks, he never inquired about their families, their love lives or their church attendance. He responded only to the essence of a man: to his creative capacity. In this office one had to be competent. . . . But if a man worked well, he needed nothing else to win his employer’s benevolence: it was granted, not as a gift, but as a debt. It was granted, not as affection, but as recognition. (309)
Rather than feeling vulnerable or insignificant, each man feels that, for once, he is being seen for whom he really is, for what really matters about him and for what is truly important in life. Although their friends and family say that Roark’s office must be cold and inhuman, the employees know, without having the ability to put the knowledge into words, that for the first time in their lives they are in a human environment. They experience self-respect toward themselves and loyalty and love toward Roark (309).
When a creator like Roark ceaselessly strives for the best within himself, and then offers that in trade to those who can see and appreciate it, he gives courage and inspiration to those willing to enter the same battle. Mallory might not have the breadth of vision and conviction, and the moral strength and endurance, to persevere alone, as Roark does, but he will work to earn the lifeline Roark’s very existence throws him (329–32). During the construction of Monadnock Valley, Mallory thinks to himself: “Battle . . . is a vicious concept. There is no glory in war, and no beauty in crusades of men. But this was a battle, this was an army and a war — and the highest experience in the life of every man who took part in it”; those working on the project do their part to deserve the experience that Roark makes possible for them, with the unstated knowledge that their leader will keep them from harm — “the architect who walked among them . . . the man who had made this possible — the thought in the mind of that man — and not the content of that thought, nor the result, not the vision that had created Monadnock Valley, nor the will that had made it real — but the method of his thought, the rule of its function — the method and rule which were not like those of the world beyond the hills” (508).
By his life, Roark does what George Washington advised: he raises a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. As Part Four of The Fountainhead opens, the boy on the bike is searching for real “joy and reason and meaning in life.” “Don’t work for my happiness, my brothers,” he thinks to himself, “show me yours — show me that it is possible — show me your achievements—and the knowledge will give me courage for mine” (504). He sees Monadnock Valley. “Who built it?” he asks Roark. “I did.” “Thank you,” the boy replies. Roark inclines his head, in acknowledgement; he “did not know that he had given someone the courage to face a lifetime” (505–6).
But there is even more than this to Roark’s benevolence. Roark knows that the good has never had a voice. Recall those who can respond to the Enright House, to the Stoddard Temple, and to Monadnock Valley: good people, but without public voice. Remember his employees, who can find no name for the feeling that represents the best within themselves. Remember that even exemplary men like Roger Enright think they have no abstract ideals (251). And remember the task Cameron charges Roark with:
I have no answer to give them, Howard. I’m leaving you to face them. You’ll answer them. All of them, the Wynand papers and what makes the Wynand papers possible and what lies behind that. It’s a strange mission to give you. I don’t know what our answer is to be. I know only that there is an answer and that you’re holding it, that you’re the answer, Howard, and some day you’ll find the words for it. (76–77)
Roark will find the words, primarily for himself — “I wished to come here and state my terms,” Roark says at the Cortlandt trial. “I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life. . . . I am a man who does not exist for others” (684) — “and for every creator whose name is known — and every creator who lived, struggled and perished unrecognized before he could achieve” (685). But Roark’s words are also addressed to the jury, and he thinks that he has a chance of winning (654).
Roark selects as jurors those with the “hardest faces,” “attentive and emotionless” (675). The twelve men — executives, engineers, factory workers, a mathematician, a truck driver, a brick layer, an electrician, a gardener — are precisely the type of men who would choose to live at the Enright House, to come to the Stoddard Temple to experience uplift, and to vacation in the peaceful solitude of Monadnock Valley. These are good, average men, who live honorable lives, without public acknowledgment or voice. These are men who are unable to equal Roark’s creative genius, unable to find the words that name Roark’s achievement and the forces that oppose Roark, and unable to express their understanding and gratitude (though they probably should do more in regard to this last, as Mike does). But if the words and the case are presented to them, they will make the right choice. Roark explains to them the conflict between creators and second-handers, the immorality of their existing moral concepts, the fact that he was not paid for Cortlandt, and the reason why he had to dynamite it. The jury acquits him (685).6
There is in The Fountainhead a tremendous rift between the honest average man, represented by Mike, and the intellectuals, represented by Toohey and his avant-garde of nihilistic writers, architects, and critics. True, to the extent that the average man is not motivated by his work, by developing his competence and earning his self-respect, he needs the moral rationalizations the intellectuals provide him. This is Keating’s dependence on Toohey: Toohey preys on a person’s insecurities and immoralities, and drives a wedge between a person and his soul. But to the extent that what motivates the average man is commitment to creative work and genuine self-respect, he is in no need of the intellectuals. This is why the workers — who would contain men in varying degrees similar to Mike — do not go for Toohey’s collectivism. But even the best of them remain vulnerable, unable fully to understand themselves, unable consistently to identify the good, unable to explain and defend it against those who attack it. To all the good men whom the intellectuals deprive of voice — from honest men of average ability to, most importantly, creators like Cameron and Mallory and Wynand — Roark provides a voice in his courtroom speech.
Gail Wynand’s course of action in this regard is the opposite of Roark’s. Wynand appeals to the worst in men (which is the reason Roark’s friends hate Wynand). Wynand does not look for his kind of reader; he designs his papers for the man who “lacked even the positive distinction of a half-wit” (409). He does not address the minds of the public, but instead, through “enormous headlines, glaring pictures and oversimplified text,” helps relieve them of the responsibility of thought, of “any necessity for an intermediary process of reason, like food shot through the rectum, requiring no digestion” (409). He does not offer his creative best to the world and thereby inspire fallen creators to rejoin the battle or nascent ones to take it up; he offers the spectacle of an “exceptional talent . . . burned prodigally to achieve perfection in the unexceptional” (409). His work helps drive a man like Cameron to despair and an average man to spiritual bankruptcy. Wynand does the opposite of raising a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair; he creates a pool of slime in which the dishonest can frolic. Is it any wonder, then, that he comes to loathe the sight of the men around him?
During the strike of the Union of Wynand Employees, as Wynand tries to use the Banner to defend Roark, he thinks to himself
that men had been willing to work for him when he plugged known crooks for municipal elections, when he glamorized red-light districts, when he ruined reputations by scandalous libel, when he sobbed over the mothers of gangsters. Talented men, respected men had been eager to work for him. Now he was being honest for the first time in his career. He was leading his greatest crusade—with the help of finks, drifters, drunkards, and humble drudges too passive to quit. The guilt, he thought, was not perhaps with those who now refused to work for him. (650)
Worst of all, Wynand has the intellect to explain and defend greatness. We see this in his conversation with Roark aboard the yacht and in his articles defending Roark. But Wynand chose to turn his voice over to others. He does not present to men the actual alternatives, in clear, explicit, graspable terms. He never allows them the possibility of making an honest, informed choice. He presents them only the Banner’s and Toohey’s intellectual corruption. When Wynand tries to argue Roark’s case with minds that have been constantly fed such corruption, he is met with “indifferent silence, half boredom, half-resentment” — and with pronouncements quoted from the Banner (628–29).7
Wynand has helped create Toohey; without him, Toohey is powerless. Toohey’s first mention in the story is in connection with the magazine New Frontiers, which has “a following that described itself as the intellectual vanguard of the country; no one had ever risen to challenge the description” (50). Wynand’s crime is not only that he did not challenge this vanguard — he who, like Roark, could have found the words “for something that should win” (133) — but that he built Toohey his platform. Wynand has unleashed Toohey and the masses:
I released them all. I made every one of those who destroyed me. There is a beast on earth, dammed safely by its own impotence. I broke the dam. They would have remained helpless. They can produce nothing. I gave them the weapon. I gave them my strength, my energy, my living power. I created a great voice and let them dictate the words. The woman who threw the beet leaves in my face had a right to do it. I made it possible for her. (663)
At the end of the Cortlandt trial, when Wynand and Roark both rise to face the jury, it is the final verdict on Wynand’s life. At this point, there is no question in Wynand’s mind that, whether or not Roark is acquitted, Roark’s way of life is right and Wynand’s is wrong. In this sense, Wynand is simply awaiting formal sentencing. But one outstanding issue remains. Was Wynand right that the average man is inherently corrupt and impervious to reason? This would not justify, but it would at least mitigate, his quest for power. But the jury’s acquittal of Roark, without need of further deliberation upon hearing Roark’s speech, reveals that even on this issue Wynand is mistaken. Offered clear alternatives, the best among average men will choose the rational one.
In her 1945 letter “To the Readers of The Fountainhead,” Rand observes:
The success of The Fountainhead has demonstrated its own thesis. It was rejected by twelve publishers who declared that it had no commercial possibilities, it would not sell, it was “too intellectual,” it was “too unconventional,” it went against every alleged popular trend. Yet the success of The Fountainhead was made by the public. Not by the public as an organized collective—but by single, individual readers who discovered it of their own choice, who read it on their own initiative and recommended it on their own judgment. . . . To every reader who had the intelligence to understand The Fountainhead, the integrity to like it and the courage to speak about it—to every one of you, not in mass, but personally and individually, I am here saying: Thank you.8
At a deeper level, however, it is the existence of The Fountainhead that demonstrates its own thesis. It took a mind like Roark’s, a mind whose motive was its own truth, a mind which wanted to see, for itself, this kind of story and characters made real, a mind which understood that meaning in life comes from what one creates, not from how others respond or fail to respond to it — it took such a mind to create The Fountainhead. For a reader who cherishes the sense of exaltation that comes from entering The Fountainhead’s world, and who has been inspired by Ayn Rand’s achievement to have the courage to revere the best within himself and within man, to say “thank you” hardly seems enough.9
Reprinted from the English Language edition of Essays on Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” edited by Robert Mayhew and originally published by Lexington Books, an imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., Lanham, MD, USA. Copyright © by the author. Published in the English language by arrangement with Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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- In her 1947 “Screen Guide for Americans” Rand writes:
In the American doctrine, no man is common. Every man’s personality is unique—and it is respected as such. He may have qualities which he shares with others; but his virtue is not gauged by how much he resembles others—that is the Communist doctrine; his virtue is gauged by his personal distinction, great or small. In America, no man is scorned or penalized if his ability is small. But neither is he praised, extolled and glorified for the smallness of his ability. America is the land of the uncommon man. It is the land where man is free to develop his genius—and to get its just rewards. It is the land where each man tries to develop whatever quality he might possess and to rise to whatever degree he can, great or modest. It is not the land where one is taught that one is small and ought to remain small. It is not the land where one glories or is taught to glory in one’s mediocrity. No self-respecting man in America is or thinks of himself as “little,” no matter how poor he might be. That, precisely, is the difference between an American working man and a European serf.
- In her article “Don’t Let Go,” Rand writes:
The innocence and common sense of the American people have wrecked the plans, the devious notions, the tricky strategies, the ideological traps borrowed by the intellectuals from the European statists, who devised them to fool and rule Europe’s impotent masses. There have never been any “masses” in America: the poorest American is an individual and, subconsciously, an individualist. Marxism, which has conquered our universities, is a dismal failure as far as the people are concerned: Americans cannot be sold on any sort of class war; American workers do not see themselves as a “proletariat,” but are among the proudest of property owners. It is professors and businessmen who advocate cooperation with Soviet Russia—American labor unions do not.
- In her article “The Establishing of an Establishment,” Rand writes:
We shall never know how many precociously perceptive youths sensed the evil around them, before they were old enough to find an antidote—and gave up, in helplessly indignant bewilderment; or how many gave in, stultifying their minds. We do not know how many young innovators may exist today and struggle to be heard—but we will not hear of them because the Establishment would prefer not to recognize their existence and not to take any cognizance of their ideas. So long as a society does not take the ultimate step into the abyss by establishing censorship, some men of ability will always succeed in breaking through. But the price—in effort, struggle and endurance—is such that only exceptional men can afford it. Today, originality, integrity, independence have become a road to martyrdom, which only the most dedicated will choose, knowing that the alternative is much worse. A society that sets up these conditions as the price of achievement, is in deep trouble.
The following is for the consideration of those “humanitarian” Congressmen (and their constituents) who think that a few public “plums” tossed to some old professors won’t hurt anyone: it is the moral character of decent average men that has no chance under the rule of entrenched mediocrity. The genius can and will fight to the last. The average man cannot and does not. In Atlas Shrugged, I discussed the “pyramid of ability” in the realm of economics. There is another kind of social pyramid. The genius who fights “every form of tyranny over the mind of man” is fighting a battle for which lesser men do not have the strength, but on which their freedom, their dignity, and their integrity depend. It is the pyramid of moral endurance.”
- Note that Mallory puts the percentage of men who understand and respond to Monadnock Valley at one tenth of one quarter of the population (512).
- In her article “What Is Capitalism?” Rand explains the progress of innovation under capitalism: without sacrifice of anyone to anyone, the creator raises the intellectual standards and judgment of other people by demonstrating to them what is possible. In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967), 11–34.
- In her article “Altruism as Appeasement,” Rand writes:
When intellectual leaders fail to foster the best in the mixed, unformed, vacillating character of people at large, the thugs are sure to bring out the worst. When the ablest men turn into cowards, the average men turn into brutes. No, the average man is not morally innocent. But the best proof of his non-brutality, of his helpless, confused, inarticulate longing for truth, for an intelligible, rational world—and of his response to it, when given a chance he cannot create on his own—is the fact that no dictatorship has ever lasted without establishing censorship. No, it is not the intelligent man’s moral obligation to serve as the leader or teacher of his less endowed brothers. His foremost moral obligation is to preserve the integrity of his mind and of his self-esteem—which means: to be proud of his intelligence—regardless of their approval or disapproval. No matter how hard this might be in a corrupt age like ours, he has, in fact, no alternative. It is his only chance at a world where intelligence can function, which means: a world where he—and, incidentally, they—can survive.
- The sentence before Washington’s famous words is apt in regard to Wynand: “If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”
- Berliner, Letters of Ayn Rand, 672–73.
- I would like to thank my fellow participants in the March 2006 Anthem Foundation Consultancy at the University of Texas, Austin — Harry Binswanger, Allan Gotthelf, Robert Mayhew, and Tara Smith — for preliminary discussion of some issues pertaining to the subject of this essay.