Tanaji S. Kamble
Assistant Professor, Department of English,
Shahajiraje Mahavidyalaya, Khatav.
Ayn Rand (1905-1982) is a nineteenth century Russia-born American novelist and Objectivist philosopher who contributed to the popular literature with her four novels- We the Living (1936), Anthem (1938), The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). Her eight works of non-fiction help the reader to understand her Objectivist ideas. The present paper undertakes to discuss characterization in Rand’s widely popular novel The Fountainhead into three sections: first section contains theoretical discussion of characterization; second section discusses the major characters in Rand’s The Fountainhead and in the last section the theoretical discussion of character and characterization will be applied to the major characters in the novel and concluding statements will be made.
Characters are human beings who appear in the fictional as well as dramatic works and constitute the literary world. In this connection, E.M. Forster’s Aspects of Novel (1927) is of immense importance. He states that characters are human beings who people the fictional work. These human beings are word-masses whom the novelist gives name, sex, and gestures. He makes them to speak as well as to behave. And these word-masses are called characters.
E.M. Forster discusses three categories of characters. First, flat characters, also called humours, types and caricature, are one-dimensional and are constructed around single idea or quality and can be expressed in one sentence. Flat characters are advantageous in two ways. One, they are easily recognized whenever they appear in the literary work. Another, the reader easily remembers them because they undergo no change in most crucial and difficult circumstances. Hence, they are static characters who
remain the same in their attitude, belief from the beginning to the end of the literary work. Once introduced, they need no introduction or modification.
Second, round characters exhibit more than one idea or quality and are difficult to express in limited way. They seem to be close to human life as they undergo certain changes in the course of action and appear with certain changes in thought, ideals and behaviour. They are real to life because they are capable to surprise or convince the reader. Hence, they are called dynamic characters, and the last type, flat pretending to be round. If a round character fails to surprise or convince the reader, then it is called flat pretending to be round character.
The characters can be differentiated from characterization. Cockelreas and Logan, define characterization as “the artist’s creation of imaginary persons who seem so credible that we accept them as real” (p-81). They state that characters move the plot and characterization conveys the theme. Further, they discuss three techniques often used to introduce characters by the novelists: First, expository method where the novelist directly discloses the character and his mind-set-up. Second, dramatic method where the novelist reveals nothing about personality of character and his mental make-up and the readers is expected to understand character, his personality and mental make-up through his action and deeds. Third, subjective method, where the novelist enters into the consciousness of characters and discloses the working of his mind and emotions. This theoretical discussion of character and characterization will help in the study of characters in The Fountainhead.
Howard Roark is a young, innovative, first-hander, self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated architect and is the hero of the novel. Rand described him as an ideal man, the man as man should be (The Fountainhead, p.97). He is Rand’s mouthpiece who embodies principles of Objectivism. Frank Lloyd Wright has been accepted as a role model for Roark by almost all critics. Berliner (2007) examines their relationship and states that both share the field of architecture and views about modern architecture but differ at philosophical level. Frank Wright was a source of inspiration to Roark and was not a role model.
Roark is a principled architect who tries to maintain the standard and dignity of the profession of architecture. At the outset of the novel, he is expelled from the Stanton Institute of Technology as he disapproves the traditional, collectivist principles of the Dean of the institute. The Dean believes that the best designs in the field of architecture are already done and regards the prime duty of architect to repeat them respectfully. Roark disapproves Dean’s views as he wants to become “an architect, not an archeologist” (p. 22). Roark expresses his distress for reproduction of the same. The Dean disagrees with Roark’s individualistic ideas, expels him from the institution.
With original passion for architecture, expelled Roark prefers to work for Henry Cameron, once very reputed, popular architect but now ruined, who is professional guide of Roark. Roark’s meeting with Cameron reveals his craze for the profession. He has decided to become an architect at ten because he loves the earth and does not like the shape of things on the earth and wants to change them.
Rand has portrayed Roark as an uncompromising architect. As a draftsman of Francon & Heyer Firm, Roark denies reproducing a structure like Dana Building built by Henry Cameron and expels him from the firm. Roark is an integrated architect whose professional career starts with the Heller House and its contract is already signed by John Erik Snyte who desires to build it in collaboration with Roark. Roark denies doing so as he does not believe in cooperation and he is fired. Further, Roark builds the Heller House which receives bitter criticism. Architectural Tribune surveys the best building erected in the country but is without reference to the Heller House. In addition, Ralstone Holcombe, John Erik Snyte, and other second- rate architects, denounce the house and distort its standard. Roark possesses exceptional ability and talent and believes in originality and creativity. Others believe in cooperation, collaboration and borrow their structures from the past sources. While pointing out the difference between all structures, Dominique writes that the Heller House stands for “the egotism of Mr. Heller and of Mr. Roark” and the house serves “as a mockery to all the structures of the city and men who build it” (p. 265-66).
Roark is Rand’s mouthpiece who embodies egoism, rational self-interest, individualism. Toohey, exponent of collectivism, communism, and socialism,
realizes that Roark is not just a man but he is “force so explicitly personified in human body” (p.262). Toohey believes that greatness is rare, difficult, and exceptional that should be destroyed. The Stoddard Temple is the fatal conspiracy led by Toohey against Roark. Toohey writes in his column that the temple looks like a warehouse, brothel, and western saloon. He states that it is not a temple but an insolent mockery of all religions. As a result, Hopton Stoddard files suit against Roark who has to pay all the cost for the reconstruction of the temple. This ruins Roark economically but his spirit for the profession is strong within him.
As an architect and a man, Roark is self-centered and is oblivious about other’s problems. In other words, he is egoist who inherits nothing from others. Roark considers his life as an end in himself and not meant to any further end. As an architect, he builds to satisfy his passion for the profession. Moreover, he is oblivious with the problems of Dominique, Gail Wynand and Steve Mallory.
Rand champions American individualism through Roark. He dynamites the Cortlandt Housing Project and is arrested and presented before the court as a criminal. In the court, he reminds all people that American society is built on the principle of individualism. The country is “based on a man’s right to the pursuit of happiness” (p.683). America is the country of greatest achievement, prospect and freedom where man’s private, personal, selfish motive is considered important. Peter Keating has destroyed Roark’s private property in the form of design of the Cortlandt Housing Project. Roark’s last speech before the court underlines the role and importance of an individual in the construction of any society.
In this way, Roark defeats all the exponents of collectivism. By the end of the novel, Rand has shown Roark and Dominique on the top of Wynand Building, the last skyscraper built by Roark, which symbolizes the victory of American individualism and defeat of collectivism.
Peter Keating is an architect who is a complete antithesis of Howard Roark. Rand describes him in her notes as everything a man should not be (p.696). As an architect, Peter is second- rate, dependent, parasite, mean who builds in order to achieve money and fame and always tries to exist in the eyes of society. Rand has presented him
as an emotional being without rational self- interest that leads him towards frustration in family as well as professional life.
Rand has portrayed Peter Keating as a victorious and glorious figure at the outset of novel. The novel opens with the celebration of Peter Keating’s graduation at the Stanton Institute of Technology as the star student of the institute, but his architectural designs are made by Roark. On this occasion, Peter gives impression that he is not self- generated as his success is due to his competition with Salinger and is indecisive and less confident about his further education. Peter is inferior to Roark.
Peter’s professional career shows that he lacks rational self-interest. Peter wanted to be an artist and was interested in drawing. But Mrs. Louisa Keating, his mother, forces him to study architecture as it is a respectable profession. After graduation, Peter desires to study further but he is forced to join Francon and Heyer firm where he achieves strong position at the cost of Tin Davis and Claude Stengel. Peter is willing to become partner of any Francon and kills Lucious Heyer. By using sneaky ways Peter consolidates his position in the firm but he can not consolidate his position in the profession of architecture. Peter loves Catherine but marries to Dominique because of his mother. Peter’s married life ends when he receives fifty thousand dollars and Stoneridge contract,
$ 250,000 from Gail in exchange of Dominique Francon. On account of lack of rational self- interest, he meets frustration in professional as well as family life.
Peter Keating is celebrated parasite who has borrowed all architectural designs from Roark. He exists in the eyes of society as a designer of Cosmo- Slotnick Building, Cortlandt Housing Projects which are originally designed by Roark. Unfortunately, his parasitic nature brings frustration in his life. He gives confession of his being Parasite: “Howard, I’m a Parasite. I’ve been a parasite all my life…” (p.575). Yet, he is not able to build Cortlandt Homes and expects Roark to design its structure and he will put on his name. Peter meets frustration in his professional, family on account of lack of rational self-interest, independence.
Ellsworth M. Toohey is the main villain of the novel whom Rand in her notes describes as a man who never could be. He embodies Rand’s contempt for modern variants of Collectivism- Socialism, Communism, Nazism and Fascism. As an architectural critic, he tries to shape the society through his socialist, collectivist views.
Ellsworth Toohey is a staunch collectivist who denies the role of individual in a mass society and demands economic, artistic, intellectual subordination of an individual in the society. Toohey desires to open the field of architecture to common people. He denies the role of individual and states that nothing is created by an individual in architecture. He believes that any great building in the history of architecture is not the private invention of some genius but “… a condensation of the spirit of the people” (p.78). Toohey opens struggles-individualism verses collectivism- at the beginning of the novel and continues till the end of the novel.
As a socialist critic, Toohey tries to shape the society through collectivist ideas and wants to build a society in such a way that individual talent like Roark should not grow again. He believes:
“Great men can’t be ruled. We don’t want any great men. Don’t deny the conception of greatness. Destroy it from within. The great is the rare, the difficult, the exceptional”(p.635).
This is out of fear that the great people will not allow him to live. Hence, his aim in life is to destroy Howard Roark.
Enshrinement of mediocrity is a typical Toohian formula that he uses to destroy individual talent. Toohey is well aware that Roark is talented architect and Peter is a mediocre one. Yet, he tries to worship mediocrity of Peter Keating. According to Toohey, the Cosmo-Slotnik Building, built by Peter, is a most ingenuous, a brilliant and very unusual plan. He regards Peter Keating ‘not just a common mason, but a thinker in stone’ (p.229). This explicitly shows that Toohey is much concerned with enshrinement of mediocrity (Peter Keating) and destruction of originality, talent (Roark). The ultimate aim of Toohey is power:” I want power. I want my world of the future” (p.639). He is unable to attain power through constructive works.
Toohey tries to attain power though destructive works. He has successfully ruined Henry Cameron and Steve Mallory and is willing to destroy Roark, Dominique and Gail Wynand. He tries to destroy Roark through the Stoddard temple. Toohey sets in to destroy Dominique. Peter- Dominique marriage, he believes, is fifty percent destruction of Dominique and her complete destruction will be achieved through her marriage with Gail Wynand. He sees Dominique as dangerous and takes every opportunity to insult
her:” You’ve much worse than a bitch” (p.422). He successfully led a strike of the Banner employees against Wynand and destroys him within inside.
Toohey enslaves Peter Keating and is accountable for the tragedy of Peter as an architect and as a man. From the beginning of the novel, Toohey has glorified Peter Keating as a great architect that he never deserves. Actually Peter Keating lacks initiative, courage, independence, creativity. Yet, Toohey keeps on glorifying him. Toohey has ruled his soul and used him as shield against Roark that Peter never realizes. Again, Toohey is accountable for the failure Peter-Catherine relationship and poisons their life and deprives them of happiness. Catherine is his niece but to destroy Dominique, he destroys the life of his niece. Peter and Catherine could have been happy in their marriage but Toohey destroys their life.
Gail Wynand is Rand’s secondary important character next to Roark whom she has described in her notes as a man who could have been. He is the hard and fast owner of the Banner, the vulgar newspaper of the country that he has owned through corruption, deception. He is morally a fallen person whose only aim in the life is power through money. He represents the capitalist class of America.
Gail is the owner of the New York Banner which was earlier Gazette that he owned deceptively. It has no chief aim and represents yellow journalism. It is away from the true function of journalism and is devoted to the secondary subjects. As a capitalist, Wynand is socially isolated figure. His past is deeply rooted in poverty but now he has achieved financial security. Wynand is a morally degraded person who has a long list of mistresses. Even, his childhood is marked by his evil activities. Gail had been a leader of a gang that was concerned with polities and corruption. He has ruined the life of many people. He has control over American politics as well as the Senators.
Gail Wynand is a morally fallen person who lacks integrity, moral finesse and self value. The Stoneridge contract explains the moral degradation of Wynand. Peter Keating desires to have the Stoneridge contract and wants Dominique to plead the case before Gail. Dominique is ready to sleep with Wynand so as to have the contract for Peter and Gail shows his consent. This contract changes the mode of Wynand’s life and Dominique brings an end to his morally degraded life and gives new motives in life.
Moreover, Gail Wynand is the only character who understands the difference between Dominique and her statue: “Everything about you in that statue is theme of exaltation. But your own theme is suffering” (p.48) Gail realizes that she is ready to spend a night with Gail for Peter, not out of love for Peter but out of self-contempt and contempt for men. Wynand recognizes that Dominique does not want the Stoneridge but wants to sell herself for the lowest motive to the lowest person. Perhaps, for the first time in his life, Wynand tries to understand a woman of this kind. This is a kind of change the readers observe in Wynand. Further, Wynand marries Dominique because she is purest person he has ever seen.
Gail Wynand has learnt to love the purest person – Dominique Francon and is much devoted to her. Gail remains unmoved by Alvah Scarret’s remarks- Dominique is a public figure as well as public property and a wildest person with a terrible reputation. Scarret questions her character and purity that annoys Gail. In order to protect her from the evil world, he exhorts the staff of Banner to write and publish nothing about her.
Gail passionately loves Dominique and has realized dangers awaiting her in the outer world. Gail wishes to build a house that could fortify Dominique. He hires Roark as an architect and desires to build house like a fortress. Gail wants his house to be ‘a temple to Dominique Wynand’ (p-520). This gives an impression that Gail is so passionately in love with Dominique that he is willing to worship her as goddess. This marriage continues for seven years which are marked by her social alienation and confinement which is the result of Gail’s utmost care.
Gail-Dominique marriage results in Roark-Gail friendship that brings happiness in the life of Gail. He has been unhappy and disgusted throughout his life. Roark creates new spirit, motives and happiness that Gail expresses candidly: “These are the first happy years of my life. I met you because I wanted to build a monument to my happiness” (p. 544). This happiness is due to Dominique as his life partner and Roark as his friend. Gail has built nothing for his personal use due to unhappiness. Through his friendship with Roark, Gail realizes that a house is a statement on the life of man. And he decides to build a house for himself and Dominique. He has learnt to believe in greatness and considers Roark as a great person. Hence, he puts an enlarged photograph of Roark in his
office and prohibits Toohey to mention name of Roark in his column. This kind of change that Gail undergoes in his life is because of Roark.
Gail-Roark friendship constructs the life of Gail but the same is accountable for Gail’s failure in his life and defeat before the strike led by Toohey. Though Rand has presented Gail Wynand as a powerful man, he is not powerful enough because his power lies in money and lacks self-power. He is under wrong impression that he is powerful and he controls people. Gail exists as a second hander in Roark’s eyes because he desires to control other people. The strike led by Toohey shows how powerless Gail is and realizes his true power. He has to accept the conditions put forth by the strikers and accept the defeat. This defeat gives a Gail a realization that he is a second hander.
Dominique Francon is the heroine of the novel whom Rand describes in her notes as the perfect priestess for a man like Howard Roark. She represents many relations: daughter of Guy Francon; beloved of Roark and wife of Peter Keating and later on of Gail Wynand. Dominique Francon is the daughter of Guy Francon and their relationship is marked by the emotional detachment. His malpractices in the profession of architecture might have disturbed their relationship. She despises the position and possession of her father and tries to build her own identity in the novel. Hence, she is alone in the world to face all the difficulties and troubles.
Andrew Bernstein (2007) states that Dominique’s character is an amalgam of idealism and pessimism. Dominique’s praise of the Enright House is an attempt to offer due respect to Roark’s greatness as an architect. This praise invites hostility of Ellsworth Toohey that puts her in danger. This idealism is replaced by pessimism. She has observed that her father, a second-rate architect, is accepted and Henry Cameron, the world’s greatest builder is rejected. Peter Keating, a dishonest, is on fast track of success. Gail Wynand has achieved enormous commercial success. Toohey, vicious villain, has been accepted by masses as a saint. But a great inventor like Roark is scorned by the society. These observations develop pessimistic attitude in her that human society is corrupt that neither admires nor rewards greatness. Even, she has been not successful in her career because she believes that success needs corrupt methods of Peter and Mr. Francon
Dominique realizes that Roark is a great architect but soon she realizes that the society will not accept Roark as a great architect. She believes that great people like
Roark cannot exist in the world. So, she sets in to destroy him before the rest of the world destroys him. She wants to destroy Roark immediately so as to avoid the fate of Henry Cameron. Practically, she has started to destroy Roark. Hence, she has recommended Peter Keating as a good architect to Mr. Joel Sutton instead of Roark. Peter is able to build folksy, comfortable and safe building. She rejects Roark because his building will be appreciated after hundred years. Out of unhappiness, Dominique seeks self- humiliation, self- demolition and self- torture because the society cannot accept Roark, his greatness and individualism. She blocks his commissions and out of unhappiness she seeks her immolation at the hands of Roark.
Feminist critics are hostile to Rand for being dishonest, disloyal to her own sex in the sex scene in the novel. Rand believes that “sex is an expression of man’s self-esteem, of his self-value” (Toffler, 1964) and yet, the sex scene doesn’t have anything to do with woman’s self-value. In this context, the expression of man’s (male’s) self-esteem, self- value is of much importance and the character of woman and her moral grace, strength has little or no meaning. Roark is not just expressing his self-esteem, self-value but is violating her aggressively. The feminist critics are hostile to Rand’s sex scenes. Susan Brownmiller charges Rand as a traitor to her own sex. (1999, p. 65). Other Feminist critics like McElroy (1999) try to justify by saying that the ‘rape scene’ was consensual in the novel. In addition, Andrew Bernstein (2007, p.202) states that the “Rape scene” is highly confusing and misunderstood because Dominique is real aggressor throught the scene.
Dominique is attracted by Roark’s moral integrity and despite of her marriage with Peter and Gail, she prefers to belong to Roark. Her love, worship, devotion is observable in the Stoddard temple construction where she is willing to give naked pose for the statue to be placed in the temple. Stoddard desires to build temple of human spirit and Roark observes such human spirit, in Dominique. Hence, he decides to place a naked statue of Dominique. The Stoddard temple is built and later on destroyed by the evil society. Her Stoddard testimony reveals her glorification of Roark and her strong hatred toward Toohey and his followers. She says that Roark has built a temple of Human spirit because he has seen man as strong, clean, wise, fearless and a heroic being. But Toohey fails to see greatness in man and regards this temple as a profound hatred of humanity.
She thinks of Roark as a man who is ”casting pearls without getting even a pork shop in return”(p.356). This testimony openly expresses her indignation about the society that fails to realize importance of Roark who is not getting due respect in the society in which he lives.
Rand’s The Fountainhead contains these five cardinal characters. Besides, there is long range of minor characters who participate in the construction of the novel and all these characters broadly fall into two groups. First, the believers in individualism, freedom and nobility of human beings- the man worshipers. Second, the believers in collectivism, altruism and the need to put the good of all over that of one – the man haters or parasites or second handers.
Application of theoretical framework to characters and characterization to above major characters raise various problems about Rand’s characters. A close study of these five major characters shows their stagnant position till the end of the novel. As a creative architect, Roark stands independently in the field of architecture with disdain for cooperation and collaboration. Till the end of the novel, he maintains his individualism and no change in his behavior, principled life is found. Peter Keating remains a parasite, second-hander till end of the novel. Even, Toohey is strongly sticks to the principles of collectivism. These characters appear less as human beings of the real world. They never appear to be real human beings of flesh and blood and seem to be cut outs of cardboard. This is the flaw of Randian characters. This has happened in the novel because Rand is trying to present ideal man and ideal set-up. Rand (1969) writes in her essay entitled ‘The Goal of My Writing’ that the motive and purpose of my writing is the projection of an ideal man (p.162). So, she has created Roark as an ideal human being and others as non- ideal. This pre-formulation of Rand has reduced her characters to a stereotype and no scope is given to change. All these characters are two-dimensional-virtuous and vicious, good and bad, black and white. Dominique and Gail Wynand stand a little different from the rest of characters and show certain changes in the behavior.
Rand’s seems to be making use of characterization since her characters are not real people but imaginatively created. The proof is her pre-formulation about her characters. She seems to be using dramatic method of characterization. Roark’s denial of reproduction of Dana Building to Guy Francon and his unwillingness to build the Heller House with John Erik Snyte shows disdain for reproduction and hence, show prime interest in originality and creativity. Toohey’s constant hostility to Roark, through various deeds like the Stoddard temple conspiracy, shows his collectivist nature. It could be argued that Rand’s Russian background is responsible for having flows in her characters. She champions American individualism and capitalism and strongly hates Russian communism. The final victory of Roark in the novel is the symbolic victory of American individualism and capitalism and defeat of Toohey is the symbolic defeat of Russian communism. In order to attain this aim, Rand creates ideal and non-ideal characters which are stereotypical and two-dimensional in nature.
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