Philosophy demands literature that can abet the understanding of social views. Without reflective literature, man cannot begin to comprehend the essential messages behind philosophy. One such philosophy, objectivism, is represented exceptionally by the timeless novel, The Fountainhead. Through the use of compelling dialogue, Ayn Rand reveals her own feelings towards objectivism, and her thoughts towards conformity and independence. The interpretations and the implications of several of the quotes within The Fountainhead accurately depict the essence of objectivism and encourages the opposition of conventional standards through the embodiment of the uncompromising innovator "standing against the world."
Society dictates that there will be those that follow and those that will lead the followers. Peter Keating is one that adheres to conformity; a man of little independent thought, a follower. Howard Roark, on the other hand, is a man aspiring to achieve a level of complete and utter independence from traditional principles. One telling passage occurs in a scene where Keating and Roark are discussing architecture.
Keating: "How do you always manage to decide?"
Roark: "How can you let others decide for you?"
As two men on the extreme sides of conformity and independence, it is hard for Keating to understand how someone could be so sure of himself, whereas it is incomprehensible for Roark to believe that Keating could have so little self-assurance and such a lack of resolve regarding the decisions he chooses to make. In this regard, Howard Roark is greater than Peter Keating. Often times in world affairs, smaller nations adhere to a state of Finlandization; they buckle under the pressures of a larger nation because they lack the strength to strive for independent thought. Howard Roark, is a man who refuses to succumb to that greater entity and is able to think and judge for himself.
Egotism is defined as an exaggerated sense of self importance. Often times, independence and conformity play a very large part in egotism. Whether a man is a conformist or non- conformist, he is affected to some degree by his own egotism. Is ego, then, harmful or beneficial to our growth and self- actualization? Katie, a somewhat ineffectual minor character had a very revealing discussion with her uncle, Ellsworth Toohey, regarding her unhappiness.
Toohey: "If your first concern is for what you are or think or feel or have or haven't got---you're still a common egotist."
Katie: "You mean, I must want to be unhappy?"
Toohey: "No. You must stop wanting anything." Ellsworth
Toohey, the humanitarian, is stating that when a person's first thoughts are about themself, than they are an egotist. Yet, to some degree, isn't everyone an egotist? If man does not care about himself, his feelings, or his possessions, and has just given up on the world, than what is that man? He is most likely be a Howard Roark. So, when Toohey advises his niece Katie to stop wanting anything, he is saying that to live a life of conceit is immoral, and that desire is a non-essential. What is essential to fulfillment, however, is dedication to and desire for commitment in our relationships and our life's work.
Dominique: "Roark, I can accept anything, except what seems to be the easiest for most people: the half-way, the almost, the just-about, the in- between."
In the American work force today, all too often there is a lack of concern for the quality of work accomplished. In our educational system, students often times only do enough to simply "get by." Dominique perceives people as lazy, and to her that is just unacceptable. To some degree Peter Keating is lazy because of his reluctance to broaden his architectural horizons and create; he simply copies the same design repeatedly with little variance. Dominique also makes a social statement by implying that society needs to reevaluate its work ethic and lack of care. She insinautes that while existing in a state of conformity, carelessness is often times overlooked as a problem. Roark takes this need for dedication one step further; he punctuates his life with not only devotion but also a maverick style that was all important to his feelings of self worth.
Roark: "Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself-- not what he has or hasn't done for others."
A man is defined by his actions. Peter Keating, for example, might be described as a good friend and an outstanding architect, but in reality he is a very shallow man. Never did he design any structures simply for the sake of self-enrichment. Howard Roark may be characterized as an eccentric introvert, yet at the same time he was able to surpass standards modernistic architecture never achieved, simply for the sake of creating, and innovating. Roark is most definately correct in saying that independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. A conformist has low value because of his refusal to jump the bounds of submission; the conformist would never experiment for the sake of self- improvement. This would not be looked upon well by other.
Conformity is governed by the laws of compromise, egotism, productivity, and value. A conformist must be willing to sacrifice his philosophies simply because it does not correspond with the attitude of the clique. Independence, on the other hand relies on only one thing: the performance of the individual. A conformist must be satisfied with the performance of the group. The independent individual has himself to blame when events turn for the worse, and he solely reeps the benifit of his own performance.