Ayn Rand’s the Fountainhead: Novel Analysis

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The Purpose of the Stoddard Temple

The Fountainhead is a novel full of scheming, plotting, and power struggles. Howard Roark, after avoiding the public eye for some time, leaves the sanctuary of the granite quarry and heads back to New York after being discovered by Roger Enright, a businessman, to design a new apartment building. Soon after the Enright House is completed, Roark receives many promising commissions from people such as Anthony Cord and Kent Lansing. All this time, Ellsworth Toohey observes the success of the young architect. Toohey, feeling his architectural authority threatened, decides that Howard Roark’s career must be destroyed to allow him to keep his power.

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Ellsworth Toohey had built up a reputation in architectural critique by publishing a book and writing a column in The Banner, a New York newspaper. With this publicity, Toohey gains a public following and attracts an assortment of lost people. Being persuasively demeaning, Toohey indirectly convinces one of his followers to help him destroy Howard Roark. Hopton Stoddard, being afraid of not being remembered in the afterlife, is convinced by Toohey to build a temple with his name on it and to have it built by Roark. Stoddard, not understanding Toohey’s reasoning, ends up being spoon-fed what to say to get Roark to accept the contract. Toohey knows that Roark will build an original structure that can very easily be deemed inappropriate with a few simple words. By doing this, Roark would be destroyed with the help of Toohey pushing the public along. Through the Stoddard Temple, Toohey would accomplish his goal of destroying Roark.

With Howard Roark being an atheist, he does not believe in any sort of religion. Stoddard’s ‘temple of the human spirit’ is therefore seen differently through Roark’s eyes just as Toohey had planned. Roark ends up constructing a temple that captivates the vast achievements of mankind and elevates their success. Toohey ends up convincing the public in his articles, though, that religion is a way for mankind to remember they didn’t create themselves and how unimportant they are as individuals. Religious buildings, therefore, are supposed to be built in an intimidating style. Toohey uses religion, a common corner stone of society, to ruin Roark by uniting the public under the common banner of religious persecution. Toohey knows that religion is a passion that many people get defensive over. When the public heard the call, they were willing to fight without checking their facts. By branding Roark an enemy of religion, Toohey easily banded the public against him.

Ellsworth Toohey does have a deeper purpose in attempting to destroy Howard Roark’s career than just his designs. As a child, Toohey was frail compared to other kids. Instead of trying to better himself, Toohey became a bully. He used a calm, collected manner to lower people, including his parents, and raise himself up. Unfortunately, this bred a hunger for power in Toohey long before he started conquering social circles. From there, Toohey grew into a dependant that required the constant groveling of others, a sort of social leech. Doing his research, Toohey entered a nonexistent field of architectural critique and created himself a social status that was the start of a much bigger scheme. Toohey thought he had the world on a string, but Howard Roark came along. Roark is the opposite of Toohey: independent, creative, and courageous. Roark, being a shining star of Ayn Rand’s objectivism, is a man independent from public thought. Roark works for himself to conquer nature and better the world. Toohey, being dependent upon peoples’ emotions, hates all men like Roark because they clash with his attempt at controlling the public. In destroying Roark, Toohey destroys not only a man of integrity but a philosophy he had been against since birth.

The Stoddard Temple, while not the first attempt to destroy Howard Roark, is Ellsworth Toohey’s first plan to actually succeed. The plan was a winner from the beginning: the publicity during the construction kept the public interested in the project; Toohey’s articles spread a biased opinion throughout New York like wildfire; and the trial created a vision of a smug, conceited architect working for self-gain. Howard Roark, perceived to be distinguished by Ellsworth Toohey, was not done with his architectural career though. The battle between Ellsworth Toohey and Howard Roark, dependent versus independent, had just begun to simmer.

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