Study Guide

The Fountainhead Society and Class

By Ayn Rand

Society and Class

"Accept them, Roark. Compromise. Compromise now, because you'll have to later, anyway [....]" (1.4.146)

For Cameron, society is all about being forced to compromise and to give in to all the corruption. Maybe he had been mainlining The Wire before he met with Roark.

[T]hat merely by living through their own obscure days his readers were representing and achieving all the highest objectives of any civilization. (1.6.2)

The tone here is pretty bitter, as the narrator assesses what Toohey is preaching to the masses. Here Toohey gives everyone a false sense of importance by telling people that they are important just by existing. This logic is supremely not Objectivist.

He dressed well and watched people noticing it. He had an apartment off Park Avenue, modest but fashionable, and he bought three valuable etchings as well as a first edition of a classic he had never read nor opened since. (1.6.31)

Keating's rise up the social ladder is one of superficial achievements and materialism. All the details here help to emphasize the superficial and hollow nature of Keating's life.

"The family on the first floor rear do not bother to pay their rent, and the children cannot go to school for lack of clothes. Their father has a charge account at a corner speak-easy." (1.12.11)

Dominique's scathing run-down of various people living in a tenement is pretty controversial. She doesn't glamorize or sugarcoat the poverty or the social ills (like alcoholism) going on. But it's her tone of contempt and judgment that is really worth noting here. Dominique seems to have as much love for humanity as Scrooge or the Grinch does.

"Because on your side you have reason—oh, I know, it's something no one really wants to have on his side—and against you, you have just a vague, fat, blind inertia." (1.13.112)

The image of "inertia" here, with descriptive words that make it sound like an actual body, provides a good image of how society is viewed in this novel. And it's not very pretty.

"That is not an insult to you, Keating. Try to understand that. You're not the worst of the world. You're its best. That's what's frightening." (2.5.100)

This really is an insult. Dominique inverts worst and best here to emphasize just how much she dislikes the world as it is, and how much she dislikes Keating by extension.

If the violence of the battles which people never hear about could be measured in material statistics, the battle of Kent Lansing against the board of directors of the Aquitania Corporation would have been listed among the greatest carnages of history. (2.10.31)

The narrator doesn't often get to display a sense of humor, but this is one of the rare, and awesome, exceptions. We get a good example of a mock epic here, when a dull board meeting is described in terms associated with great battles.

"The senseless is the major factor in our lives." (2.12.82)

Toohey should get a gig writing depressing fortune cookies. This introduces a debate about free will (Roark is for it, Toohey is not), and also describes society at large as rather stupid.

The public asked for crime, scandal and sentiment. Gail Wynand provided it. (3.1.170)

The public is a bunch of heathens, and Wynand's contempt and bitterness toward his audience come out strongly in this section of the book, which deals with Wynand's career.

"Give it up. Take some meaningless job—like the quarry. We'll live here. We'll have little and we'll give nothing." (3.5.292)

For a long time Dominique wants to hide from society. She eventually learns to share Roark with the wider world. Sharing is caring, Dominique.