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An essay written for the Ayn Rand contest. hoping to win somthing at least.. anyway, enjoy
Dennis Delgado

Composition & Literature

April 6, 2011

                                        The Fountainhead Essay Question #1

         At first glance, one might think of the relationship between Peter Keating and Dominique Francon as incompatible. It is obvious from his first encounter with her that Peter was deeply in love with her and would give anything to be with her. She, however, acts indifferently to him, treating him as she would any other man. Knowing her undeniable love for Howard Roark’s building and person, one does not expect Dominique to marry Peter, the antithesis of Roark. Dominique marries Peter for a reason that may seem preposterous: to punish herself. Being the masochist she is, it was not pleasure that she had wanted from the marriage, but punishment and suffering. She had always been a person who purposely put herself in situations that caused her pain. The Stoddard trial is the event that finally causes her to lose all hope in the world. Her feelings of hopelessness and disgust are intense enough to impel her to carry out her most painful punishment, marrying Peter.

         Dominique is portrayed as a very beautiful and unique character who Ayn Rand presents as the only woman compatible with Howard Roark. She sees herself living in a world where greatness is not allowed to exist. She constantly tortures herself by surrounding herself with the people of this flawed collective society she ardently hates. Her first encounter with Roark was somewhat of an unusual one; by her first glance at him, she instantly knew that he was a perfect man like no other. No words were needed to be spoken in order to establish the ownership that Roark had over Dominique: “He stood looking up at her; it was not a glance, but an act of ownership” (Rand, 205). She becomes obsessed with him, unable to get him out of her mind and she hates him for it. She no longer felt like herself; she felt as if she had been tamed by him, stripped of her freedom. The feelings Roark gave her may seem contradictory; his touch against her body gave her feelings of great pleasure yet she despised him for existing in a world that did not deserve him. She also held a fervent love for all of Roark’s buildings, yet she loathed their existence in a world that was unworthy of them.

         Dominique, cynical of her society, did not believe the hopeless world in which she lived would ever allow anything great to exist. She, therefore, took it upon herself to attempt to destroy every form of greatness she encountered before the world did. Her action of destroying the statue of Helios, as revealed in her conversation with Alvah Scarret, quintessentially exemplifies her attempt to destroy greatness before the world could. Her justification for destroying the statue of Helios was simply, “so that no one else would ever see it” (145). After meeting Roark, she knows that he is too great and perfect and that the world did not deserve him. She is completely in love with him, yet abhors the very idea of his existence. Therefore, she attempts to destroy him for the same reason she destroyed the statue of Helios: so that the world wouldn’t destroy him first.

         Peter Keating, being the embodiment of everything a man should not be, is a character who provides Dominique with a perfect punishment if she were ever to feel the need to give up any possibility of achieving happiness. The novel presents Peter as a “parasite” who exists only through using others to gain prestige. He is portrayed by Ayn Rand as the “man who never could be. And doesn’t know it” (696). He is the complete antithesis of Roark, who is a man who “exists for no other.” According to Dominique’s philosophy, Peter represents everything she hates in the world; he is the perfect example of a “second-hander,” who lives and thrives only with the help of others around him. Peter, blinded by Dominique’s beauty, instantly falls in love with her from their first encounter. It is through their various dialogues that the candid indifference Dominique has towards Peter is shown. In one of their conversations, after Peter desperately asks Dominique to marry him, Dominique’s reason for her later acquiescence to marry him is manifested: “Peter, if I ever want to punish myself for something terrible, if I ever want to punish myself disgustingly- I’ll marry you. Consider it a promise” (181). This promise she makes with him also presents a moment of foreshadowing in the novel, indicating something terrible will happen to Dominique that would make her succumb to her promise of marrying Peter.

         The Stoddard Trial is the event that finally causes Dominique to completely give up all hope in the world and hate it for its inability to appreciate true greatness. Because she wanted to destroy Roark for being so perfect, she fell into an agreement with the evil Ellsworth Toohey to ruin Roark. Toohey hated him because he was a genius and an individual in a society where Toohey attempts to foster collectivism. He fears that Roark is a threat to this society because he is too great; Toohey doesn’t want anybody who is a genius to exist and instead promotes mediocrity.  His philosophy is revealed through one of his final conversations with Peter, after Peter’s career had met its demise: “I don’t believe in individualism, Peter. I don’t believe that any one man is any one thing which everybody else can’t be. I believe we’re all equal and interchangeable” (569). This explicitly demonstrates why Toohey had wanted to destroy Roark and promote Peter’s career. He believed that by extolling the mediocre of society, he would create a world where no true genius exists: a world full of parasites and “second-handers” who don’t create, but instead take what others make and use it to gain prestige. After Roark had finished the Stoddard Temple, one of his greatest works, Toohey wrote a vicious criticism of the work. Since Toohey held so much prestige in this world of “second-handers,” everybody agreed that the Stoddard temple was a horrible and repulsive piece of architecture. Dominique, loving all of Roark’s work, does not understand how people are able to adopt such horrible views of the Temple just because one man criticized it. She is not able to comprehend how people could be so ignorant and not be able to appreciate true greatness when they see it. In her testimony at the Stoddard Trial, she does not advocate Hopton Stoddard’s position in his suit against Roark; instead, she defends Roark’s work by claiming that the people of the world do not deserve the Temple because they are unworthy of it. She implies that the Stoddard Temple is much too great to coexist among a society of “second-handers.” She also testifies that the Stoddard Temple is too much of a burden on the people of her world; she declares that the building would compel people who view it to feel disgusted with themselves for being the “second-handers” they are: “If it were allowed to exist, nobody would dare to look at himself in the mirror” (356). She feels sickened by her society enough to advocate for the complete destruction of the temple in order to save men from seeing themselves as the worthless and disgusting people they are. 

In the end, Roark’s only defense was a collection of ten pictures of the Stoddard Temple; he did not even bother to argue with the people of the court, deeming it useless since they would never be able to come to understand true excellence. His act of using only the pictures of the Temple in his defense exemplifies how Roark believed it to be the only materials necessary to win the trial if he were living amongst other individualists like himself. However, after he is found guilty in the trial, it is evident that the society in which he lives is not even close to being anything like him; they were all too consumed by the evils of collectivism to realize that the Stoddard Temple was, in essence, a true piece of architectural mastery. 

         It is because of the world’s inability to appreciate greatness that Dominique finally chooses to punish herself through her marriage to Peter. This marriage was obviously not one which involved love and pleasure; it was instead one meant to inflict pain upon herself. She had wanted to be the one who inflicted pain upon herself before the world could: “I will live in this world as it is…[n]ot pleading and running from it, but walking out to meet it, beating it to the pain and the ugliness, being the first to choose the worst it can do to me” (375). By choosing to marry Peter, she indeed did choose the worst pain she could possibly impose upon herself. It is because of the world’s inability to allow such a brilliant piece of architecture to exist that Dominique commits her worst punishment in marrying Peter- a man shaped by a collective society and the man whom she despises most. In being with him, she knows that she could never be happy. Her reason for surrendering her happiness was because the world she lived in was incapable of appreciating Howard Roark, a true man of integrity and excellence, the apotheosis of “...man as man should be” (696).


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