Struggle Between Excellence and Mediocrity in The Fountainhead

1540 Words 7 Pages
Struggle Between Excellence and Mediocrity in The Fountainhead

Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead is a story of the struggle between men of greatness and men of mediocrity. An individualist to the core, Rand defines a man of greatness as one who is independent and uncompromising, one who derives his self-respect from his accomplishments and integrity rather than the approval of others. Rand defines a man of mediocrity, by contrast, as one who doesn't care about actually being competent and upright so long as he appears that way to others. Rand refers to these mediocre men as second-handers, because they get their self-respect second-hand, from the approval of those around them. In The Fountainhead, a man of greatness, Howard Roark,
…show more content…
Keating, however, whose position within his firm is based on manipulation, not original accomplishment, is soon confronted with his own incompetence when he tries to design a building for the Cosmo-Slotnick competition. After several frustrating attempts, Keating realizes his own ineptitude, and, abandoning any attempts to design something unified and honest, decides to instead focus on pleasing the jury by straddling styles and designing a compromise building: a skyscraper, but one in keeping with the style of jury-member Ralston Holcombe's favorite Italian palaces. As with all compromises in The Fountainhead, the results are hideous. And just as Keating compromises his buildings, Keating also compromises himself, hiding a mediocre structure behind a flashy facade. As a result of these compromises, Keating becomes depressed and turns to drinking as a means of coping with the sense of dissatisfaction brought about by making choices that he thinks will please others over choices that would bring him fulfillment. Meanwhile, Howard Roark, although his rent is overdue and his telephone on the verge of being disconnected, journeys on in his quest for artistic integrity and continues to turn down clients who won't give him total control over the projects they are
Open Document