The Fountainhead totally believes in the American dream: the idea of America as a land of opportunity, where it is possible to work hard and achieve great things. Howard Roark, American to the core, is an idealized American hero: self-made, hard-working, individualistic, and at liberty to achieve greatness.
While Rand's America might be a place of opportunity, it is far from a paradise. Among the problems America has in this book are intolerance, persecution, and (the #1 thorn in Rand's side) collectivism.
Rand imagines an America that is falling prey to dangerous influences, like the socialist ideas preached by Toohey. Rand's portrayal of America is part warning and part praise: America has a lot of problems, but people like Roark could still make it great.
Questions About Visions of America
- Though we get some scenes of nature, this novel is largely an urban view of America. How is the almost exclusively urban setting significant, and how does it help set a certain tone for the novel overall?
- In what ways is Wynand strongly connected to the city of New York, and how does New York help to flesh out Wynand’s character?
- Roark seems at home no matter where he is; he isn’t strongly linked to a specific place like some characters are. How is Roark’s ability to be comfortable everywhere (city, country, New England, Midwest) significant?
- Do you think this novel could have worked in another American city, or are there things that are particularly New York-y about the book?
Chew on This
Rand adopts a very gloomy view of America. The Fountainhead suggests that she thinks the country is facing steep obstacles.
Rand exaggerates certain historical facts and features of 1920s and 1930s America in order to explore her ideas, but The Fountainhead would have been a stronger novel had she created a historically accurate vision of America.