What is the theme of The Fountainhead?
In Ayn Rand’s words, the theme is “individualism vs. collectivism, not in politics but in men’s souls.” The story opposes two different methods of approaching reality, including other people: using one’s own mind to the conscientious best of one’s ability—or surrendering one’s mind, in various forms, to the beliefs and wishes of others; being cognitively and psychologically independent—or being dependent on others for one’s ideas and values; seeking truth in nature, in the facts and laws of reality—or in society, in the opinions and unsubstantiated claims of others. The Fountainhead dramatizes the life-promoting nature of the virtue of independence—of guiding every aspect of one’s life by one’s own mind—and, as a corollary, the inevitable destruction wrought by abandoning one’s mind.
In the story of architect Howard Roark, Ayn Rand shows the struggle of innovative thinkers against the entrenched beliefs of a society hostile to new ideas. Historically, the revolutionary thinkers who carried mankind forward—from Socrates to Galileo to Darwin to Pasteur to many others—were generally denounced and opposed by the men of their day for championing ideas that challenged prevailing social doctrines. Sometimes the independent thinkers were tortured and executed, but the truth of their ideas could not be stifled—and, in the long run, they triumphed. Howard Roark’s struggle and ultimate triumph is the author’s testament to the great independent minds who, in promoting progress against daunting social opposition, have enormously benefited all of our lives.
Roark’s independent life and work are opposed by a variety of characters whom Ayn Rand terms “second-handers,” i.e., those who gain their ideas and convictions by uncritical obedience to, or blind rejection of, others—those who permit other people to dominate their lives. For example, there are the traditionalists, who uncritically follow the architectural principles of the past—such as the Dean of Stanton Institute, Guy Francon, and Ralston Holcolmbe. There are the conformists, who pander to the tastes of the public, e.g., Peter Keating. There are the non-conformists, who claim to rebel against the standards of others, but in fact are rebelling against all standards, including rational ones, instead following their whims, e. g., Lois Cook, Gordon L. Prescott, Gus Webb and the other avant-garde artists. Above all, there are the socialists—Ellsworth Toohey and his followers—who seek to impose a collectivist dictatorship on America.
What all of these individuals share is an implacable hostility toward the independent mind. All share the premise that, in one form or another, an individual should be cognitively and psychologically—and, according to Toohey, economically—dependent on others.
How would you characterize the hero of the novel, Howard Roark?
Although he possesses all of the moral virtues (for Ayn Rand’s definition of the virtues, see “The Objectivist Ethics” in Virtue of Selfishness), Howard Roark’s character is a dramatization of the essence of a specific virtue: independence. He guides his work and his personal life—indeed, every aspect of his existence—by the conscientious judgment of his own mind. He is a brilliant man, it is true—but above all, he is a thinker, a man who employs every ounce of his intelligence in the governing of his own life. Because of these two qualities, he is a creative genius. Independence is a primary orientation to reality, not to other men. It means that one seeks knowledge by the most scrupulously honest use of one’s own mind, not by an uncritical acceptance of the opinions of others. It means that one looks to reality for truth—at the laws and facts of nature—rather than takes public opinion polls. An independent individual is neither a conformist nor a non-conformist—he doesn’t follow others and doesn’t as a fundamental principle rebel against them. He thinks—and consequently, lives by his own judgment. As discussed above, he is a first-hander, a man who sees reality through his own eyes, understands it in his own mind, and lives in accordance with his own judgment.
Being independent, Roark is concerned with his own happiness, and achieves it by means of his own thinking and effort. In other words, he is consistently egoistic. Egoism is a moral code exhorting men to be the beneficiary of their own actions, i.e., to pursue their own happiness—or, put negatively, to never sacrifice the self. Roark, who remains true to his own judgment, who always pursues and never betrays the values on which his happiness depends, represents Ayn Rand’s vision of the actual nature of egoism. True egoism, the author shows, lies in holding rational values, i.e., ones that, given man’s nature, factually, objectively promote human life—and then indefatigably pursuing such values by means of one’s own effort, not by the victimization of other men. Keating, who embodies the traditional view of egoism as the cynical exploitation of others, is, in fact, the antithesis of a selfish man or egoist. He is utterly selfless, as discussed below.
How would you characterize the heroine, Dominique Francon?
Dominique Francon is one of the novel’s most fascinating, and most misunderstood, characters. Dominique, an impassioned idealist, reveres only human beings at their highest and best. This is why she loves the Greek statuette, Roark’s buildings, and Roark himself—for these are, respectively, an artistic projection of human nobility, an exalted achievement by man, and a sublimely heroic man.
But Dominique is also a philosophical pessimist, who believes that the great men of integrity she worships have no chance in this world. She fears that Roark and his accomplishments will be scorned by a mindlessly corrupt society that repudiates a vision of man the hero. Dominique thinks the world will inevitably prefer Keating’s copied designs to Roark’s brilliantly innovative ones, just as it favored the mediocrity of her own father to the genius of Henry Cameron. Worst of all, she recognizes, is that society holds up as a moral exemplar the man least worthy of it: the malignant power seeker, Ellsworth Toohey.
Because of this inner struggle, Dominique destroys the Greek statuette that she loves. There is no world for the heroic vision of man it projects. It suggests a world that does not exist, a world she craves—and because for her it must be all or nothing, she chooses nothing. Consequently, Dominique is best described as an embittered idealist.
Because of her exquisite idealism, she is drawn irresistibly to Roark’s moral and intellectual stature; but because of her profound pessimism, she believes he will inevitably be destroyed. She joins Toohey in an anti-Roark alliance, seeking to wreck his career. For Toohey it is an attempt at spiritual murder—but for Dominique it is mercy killing. It is all-important to her that Roark’s professional life end quickly and painlessly, not in a doomed struggle similar to Cameron’s. Her inner conflict manifests itself dramatically: she works by day to take commissions away from Roark but spends her nights with him in the most passionate love-making. (Note the relatively harmless nature of Dominique’s campaign against Roark’s career. She prevents him from receiving a number of small commissions—but is not able to prevent him from gaining his kind of clients.)
Dominique, like Roark, is an independent thinker. Because she sees with her own eyes and understands with her own brain, she is not a blind follower of prevailing social trends. She observes that Roark gradually advances in his career and that all of Toohey’s schemes are powerless to halt him. She notices that Keating fails—and fails because he betrayed his self. Based on her grasp of the facts, Dominique comes to see that her original assessment was mistaken and that Roark’s was accurate: where men are free to think and act on their judgment, they will, in time, come to recognize the accomplishments of a Roark-type hero. Consequently, in the long term, the men of integrity and achievement will not fail to gain the success they so abundantly deserve. With this realization, she is finally liberated from her fear that the great men will be inevitably destroyed—and free to pursue what she always wanted: an intensely passionate relationship with the extraordinary man she loves.
How would you characterize Gail Wynand?
Gail Wynand is the great tragic hero of The Fountainhead. Growing up in the tough slums of Hell’s Kitchen, Wynand was a brilliant youth whose innovative ideas were always greeted with derision by the short-sighted men he worked for. Consequently, he came to believe that the only chance for pioneering thinkers was to gain power over the corrupt fools who, in his view, ruled human society. The result was the profoundly sad spectacle of Wynand’s brilliantly original mind used for the degraded purpose of acquiring power over others.
Wynand is a man of mixed premises and, consequently, lives with deep inner conflict. He is a gifted independent thinker who “was not born to be a second-hander,” and yet devotes his work to the most egregious form of dependency—the quest to control other men. Like Dominique, he reveres only men at their noblest and most exalted, e.g., Roark’s designs and character, yet his lurid newspaper panders to men at their most ignorant and debased. For example, he selects for his art gallery only works of the most elevated standards, but does not apply the same criteria to his journalistic career.
The result of Roark’s struggle with society determines the result of Wynand’s inner conflict. For Roark is on trial for far more than the Cortlandt dynamiting. He is fundamentally tried for seeking success on his own terms rather than on society’s. Because of this, Wynand is also on trial. If Roark is convicted, then Wynand is acquitted, for the publisher’s view that independent thinkers can attain practical success only by selling their souls is thereby vindicated. But if Roark is acquitted, then Wynand is convicted, for Wynand’s view is then shown to be utterly false: a man of integrity can achieve practical success; therefore, Wynand is guilty not merely of selling his soul, but of selling it unnecessarily. The superb dramatic conflict achieved when both Roark and Wynand rise to receive the verdict is based on the realization that, no matter the jury’s decision, the hero will receive a heavy blow: either Roark goes to prison—or his dearest friend receives a guilty sentence on his entire career.
Dominique says to Wynand: “I think we have a great deal in common, you and I. We’ve committed the same treason somewhere.” Her claim is accurate. The conviction they have in common is that the good have no chance to gain success, that only the ignoble rise to the top, that there is a breach between the moral and the practical—and that an individual must choose between a corrupt success and a noble failure. The key difference between them is that whereas Wynand pursues corrupt success, Dominique reconciles herself to noble failure. Wynand sells his soul—but Dominique holds onto hers. Wynand’s moral character is mixed—but Dominique’s is pure. This is why Dominique can be redeemed—but Wynand’s power-seeking places him beyond redemption.
How would you characterize Peter Keating?
The basic struggle of The Fountainhead is between first-handers, or creators, and second-handers, between the independent men and the dependent ones. Keating is a classic example of one common form of second-handedness: blind conformity. A conformist is one who uncritically accepts the judgment, the standards, the values of others, who permits the beliefs of others to dominate his own life. A conformist surrenders his judgment, i.e., his mind, to others, thereby permitting them preeminence in guiding his life.
Keating is not a creative thinker and does not even value originality. On the rare occasion that he conceives an original thought, he betrays it. For example, in his youth he nurtured the dream of being a painter, but quickly relinquished it to satisfy his mother’s demand that he pursue architecture. Similarly, as a young man, he loved Catherine Halsey, whom he planned to marry. But since the elegant and poised Dominique Francon made a far more positive impression on other people than the awkward, unprepossessing Catherine, Keating—on the advice of his mother and at the suggestion of Toohey—chose to sacrifice his judgment to satisfy theirs. He abandoned the plain woman he loved for the beautiful woman he did not.
Conventionally, Keating is considered an egoist, a man who would commit any moral transgression or crime to attain practical success. But Ayn Rand shows that, in reality, Keating is selfless, not selfish—and literally selfless, for a self is exactly what he lacks. An individual’s self is fundamentally his values and the judgment he exercised in choosing them. But Keating chronically betrays his values and his mind, letting others set the basic terms of his life. For example, he does not seek to be a great architect; he desires others to believe he is a great architect. Impressing others, the fundamental drive of Keating’s existence, is not a viable alternative to achieving personal values. Roark, the true egoist, fills his life with what he loves. Keating, his foil or antipode, sacrifices what he loves, and fills his life with what other people want. The consequence is: Roark gains happiness; Keating gains a few moments of pleasure when he shows off his trophy wife at a social function—but then must go home to a loveless, meaningless relationship. In contrast to Roark, Keating’s life is utterly empty, as it inevitably must be for one who has betrayed every value dear to him.
How would you characterize Ellsworth Toohey?
Ellsworth Toohey is the arch-villain of The Foutainhead. He is the most egregious second-hander of all: the seeker of undiluted power. Every aspect of his existence—his personal life as well as his career—is, without exception, devoted to gaining control over others. For example, in his personal life, Toohey, masquerading as a benevolent mentor or avuncular friend, uses the naive trust of his protégés to gain unquestioned authority over their souls. Keating is a perfect illustration. For example, Keating surrenders the woman he loves to marry one he does not largely under Toohey’s “guidance.” Similarly, Hopton Stoddard regards Toohey on earth much the same way he expects to “regard God in Heaven.” Additionally, after convincing Keating to give up Catherine for Dominique, Toohey takes his broken-hearted niece fully “under his wing,” gaining unchallenged control over every aspect of her life. At the personal level, Toohey is a cult leader with hundreds of blindly obedient followers—similar to Jim Jones and as lethal.
But Toohey’s lust for absolute power does not end with his cult following. For Toohey is the one character in the book with political goals—he is a Marxist intellectual, seeking to establish a communist dictatorship in America. He devotes his newspaper column, “One Small Voice,” to architecture once a month and regularly uses it as a soapbox from which to spout socialist propaganda. Because such an independent thinker as Roark poses a profound threat to the communist dictatorship Toohey seeks to impose in America, the arch-power broker seeks to end his career. Deeper, Toohey recognizes that Roark is a creative genius and that he, Toohey, is not. Instead of admiring Roark’s brilliant originality, Toohey’s envy-riddled soul hates him for it. He confesses his goal regarding Roark to Keating: “I want him in jail . . . Locked, stopped, strapped—and alive . . . he’ll obey. He’ll take orders. He’ll take orders!” Toohey hates him so desperately, that he wants him alive and broken in spirit, rather than dead. Toohey is clear about his own place in a future collectivist dictatorship: he will be the intellectual advisor behind the throne, guiding the dictator’s decisions. He concedes he will never be happy, but his sick substitute for values is the power to ensure that nobody else will be able to achieve them either.
Toohey is more abjectly dependent on others than even Keating, whom he controls. Every aspect of his life, without exception, is devoted to the plots, schemes, scams and manipulations required to enslave and control others. Keating, at least, can design buildings, however inexpertly—and love a woman, however superficially and tragically. But Toohey is insufficiently rational to attain—or even seek—any positive values. He is relentlessly non-creative and non-constructive, incapable of operating a hammer, let alone becoming an architect. His writing and lecturing, for example, are not intended to disseminate truth—but to seduce the thoughtless to the related causes of “Toohey-ism” and communism. Power can be employed to either create or destroy. Roark possesses and wields the intellectual power to create; Toohey seeks and gains only the political, physical power to destroy. It is literally true, without hyperbole, that Toohey is helpless to deal with physical reality: his sadistic intelligence is capable only of “creating” power-lusting schemes, not of creating buildings or any other life-promoting values.
How would you describe the relationship between Roark and Dominique?
It is a love relationship based on reverence for the heroic in man. Roark’s creative genius and, above all, his unyielding character embody everything Dominique values in life—man’s capacity to achieve the noble and sublime. Similarly, Roark falls in love with far more than Dominique’s beauty. Her exquisitely-sensitive intelligence and, especially, her high-minded idealism—her devotion to man at his highest and best—is the foundation of Roark’s love for her.
The problem for their relationship is Dominique’s pessimism, as discussed above. Roark’s unique stature, combined with Dominique’s belief in society’s malevolent nature, leads logically to her conclusion that the man she loves will be inevitably destroyed—and, given her passion for values, she will feel every twist of the knife into the bleeding body that had been Roark’s career. This is intolerable to her. Her love leads her irresistibly into his arms; her profoundly malevolent view of society leads her, as an act of mercy killing, to seek a quick, painless death to his career. In fundamental terms, the conflict in the heroine’s soul cannot be quarantined and kept out of their relationship.
It is only by witnessing key events in the lives of Roark, Wynand, Keating and Toohey, over a period of years, that Dominique comes to recognize that heroic men like Roark can and do succeed; that men are not as depraved as she initially feared; that when men are free, many will, in time, recognize and sincerely honor the true heroes among men. When she comes to respect men’s rational potential—their capacity to recognize truth, integrity, justice—she no longer fears an untimely end to Roark’s career. She is liberated from the profound pessimism that permeated her social view and, consequently, from her internal conflict. She is free to pursue values in a world where rational individuals can achieve them—and she begins with the one uppermost in her personal pantheon: she marries Howard Roark.
Does Roark rape Dominique, and if so, isn’t that a horribly immoral action?
Ayn Rand’s own brief answer to the question (in a letter to a fan) was: “You say you were asked whether ‘the rape of Dominique Francon by Howard Roark was a violation of Dominique’s freedom, an act of force that was contrary to the Objectivist Ethics?’ The answer is: of course not. It was not an actual rape, but a symbolic action which Dominique all but invited. This was the action she wanted and Howard Roark knew it.”
The “rape” scene can only be understood in the context of Dominique’s inner conflict between impassioned idealism and profound pessimism. Her idealism has led her to desire a hero like Roark—and no one less; her pessimism has led her to resist any and all attachment to values. Consequently, when Roark enters her bedroom, she resists him in every way she can, except by doing what would have stopped him—“an answer of simple revulsion” or a call for help.
Dominique can only love an exalted hero. But, in her view, exalted heroes have no chance in the world. Thus begins her tormented struggle to have the love relationship she desperately wants—but is terrified of. She scratches the marble slab of the fireplace in her bedroom to draw him into her life. She waits in mounting sexual frustration for the new piece of marble to arrive. She swats Roark across the face with a branch when he sends another worker to set the marble. Alone in her bedroom, she cannot sleep when he makes her wait an additional three days before coming to her. She feels “relief in the cold, contracting bite of the liquid on her skin” when she presses perfume to her temples. She thinks that she will “try” to sleep.
Though reduced to an animal desperate with sexual desire, she resists Roark when he advances. Or does she? “She did not know whether the jolt of terror shook her first and she thrust her elbows at his throat . . . or whether she lay still in his arms, in the first instant, in the shock of feeling his skin against hers, the thing she had thought about, had expected. . . .” She fights, she tries to smash Roark with a lamp, she seeks to escape his grip. Later, she thinks of their act, proudly, as a “rape.” But Ayn Rand presents subtle details belying Dominique’s assessment. Notice that although her servants are nearby and her mouth uncovered, she refuses to scream for help; that although she runs the water in her bath, hoping to scrub away Roark’s touch, she refuses to get in, instead sleeping all night on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor: “She knew that she would not take a bath. She knew that she wanted to keep the feeling of his body, the traces of his body on hers. . . .” Though her father has great influence in this town and Roark is a lowly worker, she refuses to contact the police. When she meets Roark again at Kiki Holcombe’s party, she is deeply in love and thinks of him as having the “face of a god.” In their next intimate encounter, she gives herself to him in a “surrender more violent than her struggle had been.”
That Dominique physically resists, there is no doubt. But there is equally no doubt that she deeply loves and desires Roark—and that he knows this. She resists Roark for the same reason she later tries to end his career, and earlier destroyed the Greek statuette: because she thinks the world is malevolent and the people in it undeserving of greatness, and that greatness cannot survive in such a world.
Ayn Rand presents Howard Roark as both virtuous and, by the end of the novel, successful (professionally and romantically). So, is he essentially moral or practical?
He is both. The choices he makes are practical—he is ultimately successful—because he is fully virtuous. Ayn Rand rejects any dichotomy between the moral and the practical. Unlike Wynand, Roark believes the fully virtuous man of integrity is possible; and unlike Dominique (until she corrects her error) Roark does not believe the universe is set against such a man.
Roark holds a theory on the relationship between morality and practicality that is positive and accurate. Human life requires the achievement of values. For example, homes must be built, food must be grown, medicines must be researched and developed, etc. Moral virtues are states of character by means of which human beings achieve the values their lives depend on. According to Ayn Rand, rationality is man’s fundamental virtue precisely because it is by means of rationality that men create the values their survival depends on. Indeed, Roark’s character dramatizes that without the virtue of independence men would be similar to a flock of sheep, unthinkingly following the beliefs of the crowd. But human beings cannot survive like sheep. It is only because independent thinkers achieved breakthroughs in philosophy, science, medicine, etc., that human society has been carried to the advances of the modern world. Therefore, the idea that virtue is an impediment to success is utterly false, even ludicrous. On the contrary, virtuous character traits are the only means by which men survive and prosper on earth. The literal truth is that virtue is a necessary condition of survival and prosperity. Roark’s success is gained because he is independent, because he refuses to surrender his mind to others. He gains success because he is moral, not in spite of it. For example, were Roark not the principled man of integrity he is, his work would not have attracted “his kind of clients”—Austen Heller, Roger Enright, Kent Lansing, Gail Wynand, et al. Nor, if he were morally a lesser man, could he have won Dominique.
Similarly, Keating fails because he betrays his mind and his values, i.e., because he repudiates the virtues of independence and integrity. Human beings cannot survive by surrendering their minds—their means of survival—to others. A man can no more flourish by this means than a bird can by breaking its wings. Observe that Keating is not unintelligent. Early in the story, for example, he asks Roark for advice. Keating acknowledges that Roark knows more about architecture than their professors and that the expelled student loves it in a way that they never will; he states that Roark’s judgment means more to him personally than the Dean’s. Such incidents show Keating’s acumen. But what good is ability if one squanders it? From his early childhood, Keating shows no willingness to resist pressure from others, i.e., his mother, and stand by his values. He places the judgment of others above and before his own. His ultimate demise dramatizes that because life requires the achievement of values—because it depends on an unswerving commitment to one’s own thinking—the betrayal of one’s mind and consequent surrender of one’s values can lead only to failure and collapse. Once Keating relinquishes his mind and soul to others, his life is empty, utterly devoid of meaning—as it would have to be. Success and happiness require the virtues of independence and integrity, fundamentally, the virtue of rationality. Practicality is based in morality. There is no other path to a long-term flourishing life. Consequently, Keating ends a failure not in spite of surrendering his soul—but because of it.
Roark is supposed to be an egoist, but isn’t he acting against his egoism by sacrificing certain important commissions on the grounds of esthetic integrity? Wouldn’t it have been better for him if he had accepted the Manhattan Bank commission, with all the money that involved, despite disliking the changes the committee made to his plans?
According to Ayn Rand, a sacrifice is the surrender of a higher value for a lesser value or a non-value, and as such is always morally wrong. Sacrifices do contradict her theory of egoism. Although in several instances Roark refuses commissions that would help him gain fame and wealth, he is emphatically not guilty of such a vice. Indeed, the exact opposite is true. The integrity of his design, the artistic integration and perfection of his building, is far more important to Roark than any money or fame that could be gained by adulterating his work. Further, Roark knows that, in time, rational men will come to recognize the value of his revolutionary designs—and that, in a free society, nothing could prevent men from hiring him. Ultimately, he knows, he will gain commercial success on his terms—the only kind of practical success worth having.
Roark understands that compromising his designs would constitute an enormous impediment to his success. The problem is that he would, indeed, become known—but as what? As an architect who builds debased, corrupted, adulterated buildings. His type of clients—the Austen Hellers, Roger Enrights, Gail Wynands, et al.—would be repelled by such buildings. Such a compromise on Roark’s part would make it significantly harder, not easier, to get the clients he seeks. If he became known as a designer of flawed, compromised buildings, it might take 20 years to live down his tainted reputation (assuming his reputation is not tainted forever).
Further, one could ask: would selling out his designs for “fame and fortune” make him happy? The answer is a resounding “no.” Any time he thereafter looked at or thought of such a corrupted design his immediate response would be a deep sense of shame, not of pride or happiness. Joy comes from achieving one’s values, not from surrendering or betraying them. If Roark permitted the debasement of his designs, he would be committing an act of self-sacrifice—and this he resolutely refuses to do.
How are Roark’s love for Dominique, and his friendships and the help he gives others, consistent with egoism?
“Egoism” involves an individual’s commitment to achieving the values that make possible human survival, prosperity, happiness. It means a man’s dedication to the factual requirements of a flourishing life, such things as education, career, romantic love, family, friendship. Egoism does not mean the cynical exploitation or victimization of others. For the sake of their own happiness, Ayn Rand’s heroes and heroines—as well as millions of rational individuals in real life—seek a passionate love relationship, e.g., Roark and Dominique. The same is true of the love Roark and Wynand felt for each other, and of the friendship Roark had with Steven Mallory and Mike Donnigan. Both love and friendship bring significant joy and meaning into an individual’s life.
Further, there is no conflict between egoism and helping others—as long as there is no sacrifice involved (as described above, see Q&A 10). Rationally egoistic individuals help others all the time—as Roark helped Mallory. As another example, note that a man gains happiness from helping his wife, child or close friend; a competent physician earns both pride and a well-deserved fee by expertly administering to a sick patient, helping him recover from illness. There are countless ways in which a man helps both himself and others.
Does The Fountainhead portray a conflict between the heroic individual and the masses?
The key philosophical point is that the “masses” do not exist, only individuals do. A group of 5 billion human beings is nothing more than 5 billion individuals. Every individual is unique and unrepeatable—especially to the extent to which he practices the virtue of independence, which does not require Roark’s genius, only his commitment to thinking for himself. Ayn Rand once observed that “There have never been any ‘masses’ in America: the poorest American is an individual and, subconsciously, an individualist.” This was her view when she wrote The Fountainhead, and she held it for the rest of her life. Therefore, the so-called “masses” do not oppose Roark. Rather, some individuals do—and very few of them.
Toohey, of course, views human beings as “the masses,” and seeks to transform America into a collectivist dictatorship. He fails in the same way and for an identical reason that the Soviet Union failed: there are in fact no faceless, mindless masses—only individuals, many of whom choose to think and vastly prefer freedom. (And to the extent that a portion of the population can be transformed into something like mindless masses, as in the Soviet Union, to that extent the country is doomed to misery, starvation, failure.) As an example, to the extent that a unique individual can be indicative of “the masses,” the construction worker, Mike Donnigan, represents the best of “Everyman.” Though of modest intelligence compared with the brilliant Roark, he knows a good quality building and an expert builder when he sees them—and he emphatically stands by Roark.
Most individuals hold no explicit ideas regarding architecture—although, to their credit, they may know what they like—or about intellectual issues more broadly. In the United States, many individuals are, sadly, indifferent to intellectual questions. Further, they necessarily take years, even decades, to recognize the merit of inventions and new ideas. But they generally do not oppose men of legitimate genius. For example, inventors like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Eastman, became successful and honored men. In Roark’s own field, such modernist designers as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright eventually broke through to legitimate recognition and commercial success.
Even Keating, though his conflicted love-hate attitude toward Roark leads him several times to attempt to damage Roark’s career, admires Roark beyond all other architects and comes to him because he understands that nobody else could design Cortlandt. Essentially, it is only Toohey, the Harvard-educated leader of the elite intelligentsia who opposes Roark. But in time, most members of this society, to the extent that they have interest in architecture, come to recognize Roark’s creative talents and repudiate Toohey’s assessment of his work and character.