Thursday, July 9, 2009


"What is it that I like so much about the house you're building for me, Howard?"

"A house can have integrity, just like a person," said Roark, "and just as seldom."

"In what way?"

"Well, look at it. Every piece of it is there because the house needs it -- and for no other reason. You see it from here as it is inside. The rooms in which you'll live made the shape. The relation of masses was determined by the distribution of space within. The ornament was determined by the method of construction, an emphasis of the principle that makes it stand. You can see each stress, each support that meets it. Your own eyes go through a structural process when you look at the house, you can follow each step, you see it rise, you know what made it and why it stands. But you've seen buildings with columns that support nothing, with purposeless cornices, with pilasters, mouldings, false arches, false windows. You've seen buildings that look as if they contained a single large hall, they have solid columns and single, solid windows six floors high. But you enter and find six stories inside. Or buildings that contain a single hall, but with a facade cut up into the floor lines, band courses, tiers of windows. Do you understand the difference? Your house is made by its own needs. Those others are made by the need to impress. The determining motive of your house is in the house. The determining motive of the other is in the audience."

"Do you know that that's what I've felt in a way? I've felt that when I move into this house, I'll have a new sort of existence, and even my simple daily routine will have a kind of honesty or dignity that I can't quite define. Don't be astonished if I tell you that I feel as if I'll have to live up to that house."

"I intended that," said Roark.

"And, incidentally, thank you for all the thought you seem to have taken about my comfort. There are so many things I notice that had never occured to me before, but you've planned them as if you knew all my needs. For instance, my study is the room I'll need most and you've given it the dominant spot -- and, incidentally, I see where you've made it the dominant mass from the outside, too. And then the way it connects with the library, and the living room well out of my way, and the guest rooms where I won't hear too much of them -- and all that. You were very considerate of me."

"You know," said Roark, "I haven't thought of you at all. I thought of the house." He added: "Perhaps that's why I knew how to be considerate of you."

--The Fountainhead

Last summer, I started reading The Fountainhead and felt very frustrated with it. I did not like either of the main characters, seeing them both as crazy extremes of the way one is to approach life. This summer, I am reading it again and I find it to be an interestingly, wonderfully different experience. It's amazing how much a person can change in a year. Even subtle changes can inspire drastic growths in one's outlook on the world.

This particular segment of the book is one which I feel speaks directly to me and my learning experiences this past year, so I am sharing it with you. It speaks volumes of truth to me. I hope it does to you, too.


harry-er than them all said...

its amazing how its such a compelling book, yet you can utterly hate the characters in it

Moshe said...

yes, yes. it is an amazing book but recognize that Rand is creating a very black and white world that is unrealistic.

Erachet said...

Harry-er (Harry-est?) - Amazing, right?

Moshe - Of course, but hidden within that black and white world are ideals that I think rise above the grayness of our own. Not everything she professes is appropriate for living normal life, but certain ideas hold important philosophies (in my opinion).

harry-er than them all said...

idealism is just that. a set of ideals that cannot be in the real world, then it would be reality.

Pure capitalism, while an ideal, you can't nickle and dime people.
Pure socialism, while an ideal, you can't socialize economics.

like everything in life, its a balance, which is really what Ayn rand was wrong about.

Erachet said...

True. Conceptually, I think she has a philosophy that, in certain ways, holds a lot of honesty and integrity in the way a person approaches life. In other ways, it's kinda crazy. And practically, well - it's not very practical. At least, not all the time. Or a lot of the time.

I don't agree with everything Ayn Rand professes, but I do think a lot of the underlying philosophies in The Fountainhead - especially the ones seen through the character of Howard Roark - are ones to be thought about and taken seriously in certain ways.

...I hope that sounded somewhat coherent. :)

Anonymous said...

It's a funny thing about Rand. I hate her books while I'm reading them for their extremism, but once they're softened with time and distance, I find them brilliant.

And of course, though I hate everyone in the book while I'm reading it, I somehow can't put it down. Odd. How does she do it?