The Fountainhead

Practical Success vs. Morality

In her historic novel, The Fountainhead, author Ayn Rand presents one man's struggle to reconcile his desire for success with an admirable vision of morality. One can define both success and morality in a variety of ways. On the one hand, success can represent a person's power, prestige and wealth; on the other hand, success may imply personal happiness, integrity and self-respect. Morality might be understood in the most literal sense, where one acts in accord with standards of right or good conduct, but in the context of Rand's story, morality represents a character's ability to think for himself. While the initial success of Peter Keating, the pessimism of Dominique Francon, the power of Gail Wynand, and the popularity of Ellsworth Toohey suggest that Ayn Rand upholds the conventional theory that success and morality cannot coexist, the final triumph of protagonist Howard Roark supports the theory that characters can achieve practical success and be moral at the same time.

A constant foil to Roark, Peter Keating is the antithesis of the morality that Roark represents. Envious of others, Keating ruthlessly uses other people in order to advance his own position, acquire money, and achieve fame. For instance,...

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