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. There is no substitute for personal dignity.
Part IV Chapter 18
While I don’t agree with everything that Ayn Rand says, I tend to believe she is on to something with objectivism. The true democratic nature of it is something that appeals greatly to me. I said as much when I reviewed “Virtue of Selfishness” in this space. I would have said it again if I was in the habit of writing book reviews on the blog when I read Atlas Shrugged. All that said, The Fountainhead has to be one of the best Fiction books ever written and certainly is better then Atlas Shrugged; from both a pleasure of reading and an understanding of objectivism perspective.
The reason it is more enjoyable from a pleasure of reading perspective is that it does not suffer from the same long, boring middle that Atlas Shrugs does. As the world slowly creeps away from Daphne Taggert, my interest waned. In Fountainhead some of the most interesting dialog and actions happened while the world crumbled around Howard Roark.
The reasons it makes objectivism more understandable are Peter Keating and Gail Wynand. Keating’s character (though intended to be the villain) is one that we can all relate to. He lives his life in a way that we can sympathize with, probably even see in our own. At the same time though, we can understand why Rand feels it’s terrible. Wynand attempts to live by the objectivist ideals and fails miserably. The way Roark encourages him to recover is a lesson to all of us who are incapable of living Roark’s unblemished life. In Atlas Shrugged, Rand didn’t present such relate-able characters, instead providing only Elsworth Monkton Tooheys (the arch villain) and Howard Roarks (the unattainable hero).
For this reason, I highly recommend The Fountainhead. Read it slowly if you must, even with other books in the middle. It took me 4 months, and I read it while reading plenty of other texts, but do yourself a favor and read it, then evaluate your priorities.