CliffsNotes, Rand's The Fountainhead

CliffsNotes, Rand's The Fountainhead

CliffsNotes, Rand's The Fountainhead

CliffsNotes, Rand's The Fountainhead

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The original CliffsNotes study guides offer expert commentary on major themes, plots, characters, literary devices, and historical background.

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    The Fountainhead takes place in the United States, mostly in New York City, during the 1920s and 1930s. It chronicles the struggles of the innovative architect Howard Roark in his effort to achieve success on his own terms.

    As the story opens, twenty-one-year-old Roark is expelled from the Stanton Institute of Technology for "insubordination." Most faculty and administration members want him to design in traditional styles, but Roark has his own ideas. On the other hand, Peter Keating, a classmate of Roark’s and the son of the woman whose boardinghouse Roark lives in, though lacking Roark’s brilliance and love of architecture, gives the professors exactly what they want and graduates as valedictorian with high honors.

    After leaving Stanton, Roark goes to work for Henry Cameron, an elderly and cantankerous genius, whose ideas are far ahead of their time. Cameron is a commercial failure, but an uncompromising man of integrity. Though a successful architect in the 1880s, Cameron’s ideas became increasingly revolutionary, resulting finally in the birth of the skyscraper. He is one of the first to design buildings that tower over others, and the first to insist that a tall building should look tall. Where other architects use every device they can to make their tall buildings appear shorter, Cameron openly flaunts his skyscrapers’ height. When American society falls under the sway of the Classical styles highlighted in the Columbian Exposition of 1892, Cameron’s modernist ideas are rejected. Compounding the problem is Cameron’s contemptuous rejection of those not open to change. His hostility only increases the difficulty that a public fearful of progress has in recognizing his genius. Roark works for him for three years (until Cameron’s health fails) and learns to perfect the great and original talent he possesses.

    After graduating from Stanton, Keating works for Guy Francon, the most successful and prestigious architect in the country. Francon is a mediocre architect who copies from the designers of the past; but he gives the public what it’s used to, and, with a superb mastery of the social graces, he wines and dines prospective clients at New York’s most exclusive restaurants. Francon is a phony, who teaches Keating only about manipulating and influencing people, not about building honestly and effectively.

    Francon has a beautiful young daughter, Dominique, who possesses a mind of her own. Brilliant and outspoken, she is brutally frank in criticizing the buildings of her father and his young protégé. Dominique writes a column devoted to design and interior decorating in The New York Banner, a daily newspaper owned by the powerful publisher, Gail Wynand. Dominique is a passionate idealist who recognizes and reveres the human potential for greatness. But finding little of it in the world- indeed, finding everywhere the triumph of vulgar mediocrity-she...

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