Study Guide

The Fountainhead Society and Class

By Ayn Rand

Society and Class

The Fountainhead sticks out like a sore thumb in the American literary tradition of celebrating the underdog. Granted, Roark is a poor underdog, and persecuted to boot. So how is Rand abandoning the "Yay, underdog!" stance, exactly?

Well, usually in underdogs stories the baddie is the rich dude. Capitalism and selfishness is portrayed as none too great: think of Ben Stiller's sleazy, rich character in DodgeBall: An Underdog Story, or the wealthy, pampered Apollo Creed in Rocky. But Rand is all for capitalism and wealth. For example, the character of Wynand isn't seen as evil because he's rich or because he's a conspicuous consumer. His character flaws revolve around his lack of individualism; he bows down to society too often to be a true hero.

And just as wealth is exalted, poverty is looked down on. Take a look at Katie's vicious attitude toward the people she is supposed to be helping with her social work.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. How is poverty portrayed in this novel through characters like Henry Cameron?
  2. Is monetary wealth seen as very important in the novel, or is it sort of beside the point for characters like Roark?
  3. Wynand seems like he's living the American dream—he pulled himself up from his bootstraps and became a success. Yet he isn't the novel's hero and he isn't very successful in the end. Where exactly did Wynand, and the American "dream" he represents, go wrong?
  4. Do we ever get a sense of what class Roark belongs to, or does he exist beyond class definitions?
  5. What exactly does Toohey mean when he rambles on about "the public" and "society"?

Chew on This

This novel celebrates wealth and doesn't see anything wrong with having it; it judges characters more on how they behave and not on their class affiliation.

Society at large is depicted as kind of dumb and pathetic here; society falls for Toohey's lies, after all.