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How should man live his life? Is man an object of
altruism, of self-immolation— to be sacrificed for the
sake of what is called the common good, or for the
best of everybody? Why does society usually regard
self-interest or ego as evil, and why does it hold selfsacrifice
or unselfishness as a virtue which should be
embodied by every human being?
Ayn Rand, a best-selling author and a Russian-born
American philosopher, addressed all these questions
in her novel The Fountainhead, whose literary
objective is to portray man as an end in himself and
as he is meant to be— a man of reason and of
rational virtues. To answer the question what is the
purpose of life and how should man live his life, Ayn
Rand presents the hero of his book Howard Roark,
who concretizes the abstractions of an ideal man.
In this book, the author focused on the virtues and
the purpose of an individual as opposed to the values
and objectives any society holds as sacred and
necessary. The heroic character of Roark shows that
in order for man to live on earth, he must exemplify
the rational and moral philosophy for the living, and
that his actions and choices must not contradict the
inner workings of his mind— or those values which
he regards as sacred and essential for him to live as
a human being and to coexist with other individuals.
One of the most striking parts of the book is the
dialogue between Roark and Peter Keating regarding
the Cortlandt Homes, a housing project of the
national government for the poor. Keating, who finally
admits he is “finished as an architect”, asks Roark to
complete the design of the low-cost housing project.
Roark manifests his willingness to work on the
Cortlandt Homes if Keating agrees to offer him
‘enough.’ The latter replies by saying— “I’d sell my
soul…” With this, Roark solemnly states: “To sell your
soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what
everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you
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to keep your soul—would you understand why that’s
much harder?” (Rand, 2005, p.577).
The philosophy, virtues and codes of morality Roark
and Keating embrace are opposites, as the first
represents the image of man as he is meant to be,
while the second symbolizes all the qualities of a
second-hander or a parasite. Ayn Rand believed that
every word or terminology has its exact, objective
meaning, thus she defined soil or spirit as man’s
consciousness, just as she classifies man’s free will
as his “mind’s freedom to think or not” (Rand, 1961,
p.242). However, this is not Keating’s definition of
soul that is why Roark says that it is the easiest thing
that a man can sell in the world.
Keating wholly embodies the philosophy of a secondhander,
a term which refers to a man who is
unselfish, who lives by depending upon the ability
and strength of the men of mind and ability. A
second-hander is one who survives by mercy and by
force, who takes other people’s praises or admiration
as a genuine reflection of his character, who rejects
competence and other values that make a rational
man great and productive, who grabs undeserved
credit for an accomplishment which he has never
earned. A second-hander— in the strictest sense of
the word— is one who sells and betrays his soul.
Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism advocates the
primacy of reality over consciousness— that reality
exists and it “exists independent of man’s
consciousness, independent of any observer’s
knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires or fears” (Rand
; Peikoff, 1995, p.253). This means that man cannot
fake reality, and if he did such as act would be
tantamount to self-destruction.
Keating, who unwittingly holds the primacy of
consciousness over objective reality, tries to fake it
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law of causality. As a failed architect, Keating turns to
Roark whenever he needs help and allows his mind
to be substituted by the mind of a person of ability.
He looks upon Ellsworth Toohey as a man of great
honor and a man who embodies those ideals which
he regards as sacred and necessary— altruism, selfsacrifice,
service, etc. Toohey’s literary tributes
complete Keating in spite of the fact that the latter is
fully aware of his lack of skill and ineptitude.
Roark, on the other hand, believes that objective
reality exists. He lives by his own ability, without
asking others for help and without seeking their
approval or respect. Instead of courting other
people’s attention, he focuses on his works and
develops his ability, simply because he believes that
self-respect and self-interest is what completes him.
He does not suffer because he rejects the idea of
suffering. Roark is a self-made man just like the
heroes of Atlas Shrugged— John Galt, Francisco
D’Anconia and Dagny Taggart. He rejects all the
ideals that the society holds as moral and rational,
like self-sacrifice and service of others. He regards
altruism as evil because it makes man of ability and
strength an object of self-immolation— to be
sacrificed for the sake of the common good.
Ellsworth Toohey, a self-confessed humanitarian,
preaches all the things which Roark considers as evil
and immoral. Unlike Gail Wynand— the man who
could have been— Toohey is simply a man who
never could be— and is completely aware of it. In the
early part of the book, a young Toohey tells his
teacher that if man would lose his soul even if he
succeeded in taking all the wealth of the world, then
man could collect soul. Toohey knows that by
collecting soul, he would be able to enslave man
without using force.
He is aware of the power of number, and his intention
is to preach the ideals of altruism and service to
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destroy man’s soul. By praising Lois Cook, Toohey
destroys literature— by hailing Ike, he mocks theater
— by glorifying Lancelot Clokey, he ruins the press—
and by exalting Gus Webb and Keating, he upholds
incompetence and destroys architecture. Toohey and
Keating complete each other, and their parasitical
and non-commercial relationship is one of the
concretes that a rational man should regard as evil.
Ayn Rand’s literary purpose is to portray Howar

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