Study Guide

The Fountainhead Visions of America

By Ayn Rand

Visions of America

Something was growing in him with each new building, struggling, taking shape, rising dangerously to an explosion. The explosion came with the birth of the skyscraper. (1.3.66)

Sometimes a skyscraper isn't just a skyscraper. In The Fountainhead skyscrapers act as a metaphor for America's explosion into the twentieth century and the modern age.

Roark glanced through the paper. The front page carried the picture of an unwed mother with thick glistening lips, who had shot her lover [....] (1.5.104)

The Banner is depicted as a tawdry tabloid here, and it's something that Roark and Cameron hold in contempt. Cameron seems to think The Banner represents America, sadly, but the always-cool Roark doesn't seem to care one way or the other.

"Look at those who spend the money they've slaved for - at amusement parks and slide shows." (1.12.72)

Dominique puts on her monocle and proceeds to judge "the rabble" for their stupidity. Modern America is a corrupt Pleasure Island in Dominique's mind.

He thought, this is how men feel, trapped in a shell hole; this room is not an accident of poverty, it's the footprint of a war [....] (2.11.160)

The scene is interesting because of the imagery Roark uses. Here he talks about a "shell hole" and goes on to use images of war, and particularly of World War I to describe his tense and demoralizing encounter with Mallory.

Nobody had ever heard of them, but they were Councils and this gave weight to their voice. (2.12.38)

Rand frequently critiques American bureaucracy throughout the book, and here she tackles the way people cede power and influence to groups just because they call themselves "Councils."

It was a pedestal from which a god had been torn, and in his place there stood, not Satan with a sword, but a corner lout sipping a bottle of Coca-Cola. (3.8.53)

This sounds like the lyrics to a folk song. Rand mashes up religion and American pop culture here, emphasizing how "evil" commonplace things (a dude drinking a Coke) can be by comparing the image to Satan.

From different states, little unexpected parts of the country, calls had come for him: private homes, small office buildings, modest shops. (4.1.48)

So much of this novel is based in New York that it's easy to forget there's an America outside the city. We get occasional reminder though.

"[The city] gave me everything I have. I don't know why I feel at times that it will demand payment some day." (4.9.10)

Wynand has a huge respect for the city, but he feels as though it might demand a hefty payment for allowing him success. New York has become a living entity for him.

When Keating tried to invoke his contract, he was told: "All right, go ahead, try to sue the government. Try it." At times, he felt a desire to kill. There was no one to kill. (4.12.20)

Keating's rage at government bureaucracy is definitely not something that has gone away in the years since 1940. Unfortunately, it's a formless entity that cannot be killed, no matter how much you hate standing in line at the DMV.

My city, he thought, the city I loved, the city I thought I ruled. (4.16.49)

In the end Wynand realizes that he never controlled "his" city at all. This idea of the city as a powerful, almost seductive, creature crops up in a lot of American literature. In this book, however, Wynand's intense relationship with New York is unique among the other characters.