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Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary
devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
In The Fountainhead, technical progress
indicates the forward movement of society. The novel measures the
progress of mankind by the number of buildings and scientific innovations
it produces, rather than by its art and philosophy. All of the most
crucial industrial developments come from the minds of individuals
and entrepreneurs rather than from the masses. Therefore, the period
of greatest industrial development also marks the period of greatest individualism.
Rand’s adoring treatment of the New York skyline signals her glorification
of industry and technology. Wynand, Dominique, and Roark all gaze
admiringly at the skyline, which serves as a reminder of their ambitions
and goals. Beautiful, inspired skyscrapers represent human conquest
over nature and symbolize modernity. In contrast to this glorification
of architecture, the novel scoffs at other forms of art. Every time
a new play or work of literature crops up in the narrative, the
work in question is made to appear ridiculous and self-indulgent.
The novel holds up architecture as the ideal art form,
and journalism as all that is banal and corrupt. The villainous
Toohey works his ill will as a sneaky, manipulative journalist,
and Wynand builds his empire on a chain of exploitative and sensationalist
papers that cater to the most depraved emotions of the masses. Rand
constantly suggests the impossibility of reasoned, intelligent journalism.
The one time Wynand tries to use his paper for good, he fails. According to
Rand, newspapers are fundamentally weak because they have to cater
to the public. The idiocy of the public becomes clear when Wynand
holds a contest. He tests the public by trying to raise money simultaneously
for a brilliant scientist and for the pregnant girlfriend of a convicted
murderer. When the public overwhelmingly supports the girl, it suggests
that the public is incapable of the rationality necessary to accomplish
great things. Rand suggests that any medium that relies on the public
is doomed to mediocrity.
The novel exhibits mixed views on manual labor, regarding
it as both one of the few authentic occupations and as a den of
collectivist activity. Roark works at many construction sites, which
allows him to preserve his integrity by earning wages when he cannot
find clients. Roark has good friends who work as laborers, such
as Mike the electrician. The novel presents physical labor as a
pure, productive activity and thus something admirable. On the other
hand, labor breeds unions, groups that the novel violently condemns. Nefarious
Toohey makes his first appearance in the novel when he addresses
a crowd of discontented laborers and easily manipulates their cooperative
spirit to make them his spiritual captives. Rand was a virulent
anti-communist and saw socialism, which grew out of the labor movement,
as the greatest threat to the United States. The novel admires laborers
and workmen as individuals, but it fears and mistrusts them as a
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Fountainhead!