Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand
I just finished reading "The Fountainhead" for one of my book clubs. Even though this is not one of the GBWW, it is still a modern classic for several reasons. Ayn Rand (1905–1982) was a Russian-American writer and philosopher who is best known for her books "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged".  Born in St. Petersburg, Russia to upper-middle-class parents, she immigrated to the US in 1925 under the pretense of studying the American film industry.  Early in her life Rand embraced the intrepid American entrepreneurial spirit and independence of thought.

In contrast, she maintained a passionate animosity toward the collective ideals of Communism, Fascism, the welfare state and other forms of national conformity and unity.  This is reflected in her writing which she promotes the individual, the creative spirit, the isolated man who stands against the tide of humanity. She called her philosophy "Objectivism" and it is still taught and promoted by the Ayn Rand Society, a sub-group in the American Philosophical Association.

 Ayn Rand has been called one of the most influential writers of the 20th Century.  The heroes in her novels are innovative, free-thinkers who identify with meritocratic American ideals. In "The Fountainhead" the hero is Howard Roark, a young architect who designs buildings which reflect his own creative spirit. He does not care what the masses want and most of his clients know that. The people who understand Howard realize that he will design completely unique buildings that are incomparable to anything else.   Howard persistently pursues his own ideals and beliefs and this is personified in the buildings he designs and sees constructed. However, to most people, the structures that Howard creates are met with apathy or outright hostility.  He creates several powerful enemies but also finds kindred spirits who can appreciate Howard's genius.  Howard must resist the people who try to destroy him and his buildings, who want to crush his spirit and make him conform to the standards of modern architecture.

Rand identifies the character of Howard with other visionaries from history such as Columbus, Copernicus, Galileo. Initially these mean were misunderstood and ridiculed but their ideas propeled  the progress of humanity forward, even if they were not appreciated at the time.  The point is that one cannot let other decide what is right for us, that we each need to follow our own course and we should not feel compelled to follow the majority simply because it is the majority.

No comments:

Post a Comment