Ideal man / Ideal woman of Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’

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Morals and ethics are becoming more stringent with time all over the world especially by imposing stifling expectations on women in concerning their societal roles. When the novel was written women had just then begun to see the seeds of their struggle in gaining rights to get an education and employment. Under such pressure it is understandable why Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’ should have drawn stinging criticism from critiques, most importantly feminists. When the novel was published the role of a woman was clearly defined as homemakers and maternal beings. The clichéd conventional standards were being challenged which undeniably had paved way for considerable positive changes in the emancipation of women. The conflicting views between Ayn Rand and feminist criticism lies in the treatment of Dominique and her first intimate encounter with Roark. Hence this paper seeks to answer the question as to whether the efforts by feminists have resulted in women breaking away from one mould to be subjected to an alternate mould in the context of criticism Ayn rand has contracted through her novel ‘The Fountainhead’.

As an initial step to analyze the text, it is imperative to note the various theories available that influences the interpretation of a text. And with a text such as ‘The Fountainhead’ it is all the more evident that any political and philosophical theory that precedes it’s time could be applied in construing the text. It is admitted that the novel is loaded with political and philosophical allusions but the least expected by Rand would have been feminism. Interestingly the novel itself has influenced pop-culture in asserting the core value of the book which is ‘celebration of individuality over collectivism’. Where Rand failed was in how she used Dominique as a supplement in the cosmos. Rand does not employ any of the theory that she used in describing the male characters but uses Dominique as merely someone who gets a taste of the different political ideologies available at the time, only to return to Roark because she is passionately drawn towards him or rather she knows Roark is drawn to her.

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The entire novel is filled with political and philosophical representations and yet somehow Dominique does not represent any of Rand’s views as powerfully as she does with the male characters. The purpose of Dominique is to merely highlight the political tension of each character and in comparison she is someone who does not have the privileges to be or become or not to be or not become or even make mistakes. She is seen as more an aggressive being waiting to take revenge on the world whereas the men have the potential and it’s merely their own faults that they cannot become like Roark. Rand conveniently uses the male characters to express her political views as a way for herself to be heard. She needs men to be her voice because she herself looks at men as powerful beings, superior to herself given their physical strength, social adaptability and the disposition of being less threatened by society. In short capable of being achievers. Each of the male characters is complete beings whom Rand could fill with her political opinions whereas Dominique is a pawn in the hands of men. Roark hence becomes the ideal man for Rand who sticks to his convictions and that’s why he emerges victorious in the end. Whereas Dominique merely survives the ordeal of survival and disappointments turns frustrated despite the fact that her intellect and morals match that of men but she cannot operate independently as the men do. On the other hand, men are independent sovereign beings. Even in the end, Dominique is used as a prop to make Roark as the ideal man because he influences her not to care about the world or let them interfere in what she wants to be or do. She will for the rest of her life hero-worship Roark, thus giving him the status of a supreme being with or without a woman. The presence of the woman ‘asserts’ his supremacy. But the personality of Dominique to be shaped as the ideal woman is dependent on Roark, the ideal man. Dominique in the initial stages is seen as a nuisance to her father because of her free spirit, so this eliminates Roark as a father figure. She sees so much of herself in Roark but this makes her angry. But Dominique is yet again put in a position to look up to Roark because he teaches her to embrace individualism, which is ironical when she has always been and always will be dependent on him.

In Rand’s defense, though Dominique is seen as an anti-thesis of feminism, at least modern day feminism, set against a backdrop of romantic heroines, she is far stronger and superior. Even within the novel she does not come across as a domesticated, docile and fragile being. In fact she is far superior than her male counterparts in her novel except Roark. Her reasons for looking up to Roark is because she approves him as someone worthy of her, because of his convictions, creativity and most importantly his strength to ‘tame’ her. The alleged ‘rape’ incident or the ‘rough sex’ elaborately described represents the power of man over woman. It is only through sexual submission Dominique becomes what she wants to be. She derives a masochistic pleasure from Roark’s treatment.  Unlike most female characters Dominique is not a voiceless victim. She belongs to the upper class of New York and could have gotten back at Roark. The feminist rage is sparked at Rand’s indifference to feel obligated to do justice to the efforts taken for the development of women.  Rand is more loyal to her beliefs and what she perceives as the ‘real’ psychological nature of women. The author justifies the aggressive intimate relationship between Dominique and Roark as consensual sex. She defends the consensual sex as mutual since Dominique implicitly asked for it and Roark knew it and gave it to her. The threat lies in the influence of media on people where the very presence of women is seen as a ‘signal’ for violence putting women under more vulnerability. The fact of the matter that Dominique declares she’s been raped and enjoys reminiscing, this triggers deserved condemnation.

In conclusion, though Rand justified her stance as the relationship between Rand and Dominique as mutual, through her personal interviews, it is evident that she did not think women were as good as men. A woman in her opinion had to look up to a man, and given her tendency, she was convinced that being the president was no place for a woman. True, Rand’s heroines are unconventional, aggressive players, rebellious, and wild. The conflict in them makes them want to fight the very thing that they want. In the case of ‘The Fountainhead’ one can argue that the intimate moment was about passion and ecstasy. Nevertheless a character such as Dominique challenges the ‘conventions’ of feminist criticism.

Works Cited

1.      Brownmiller, Susan. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. New York: Bantam. 1976

2.      Feminists Interpretation of Ayn Rand, Pennsylvania State University Press, Pennsylvania, 1999. Ed. Mimi Reisel Gladstein and Chris Matthew Sciabarra

3.      Rand, Ayn. The Virtue of Selfishness, Signet, E.Rutherford, New Jersey, 1964.

4.      Register, Bryan. “Should Ayn Rand have been a feminist?”                                                 

5. Sciabarra, Chris Matthew.. “Ayn Rand”. In American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, Supplement IV, Part 2 Susan Howe to Gore Vidal, ed. A. Walton Litz and Molly Wiegel. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1996.

   6. Sciabarra, Chris Matthew “The Illustrated Rand” (PDF). The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

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