Michael Stuart Kelly

Theme and Plot Theme of The Fountainhead

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Theme and Plot Theme of The Fountainhead

The Atlas Society is currently holding a reading group on The Fountainhead (run by George Smith) and they have a closed Facebook group as part of the shindig. Sometimes a person in that group will ask questions or raise issues. One member (Kai Taylor), after mentioning Rand's standard description of the theme of The Fountainhead, asked if she ever described what the plot theme was.

This nagged at me because I've always had problems with Rand's concept of plot theme. And I didn't recall her ever talking about the plot theme of The Fountainhead. So I started writing an answer and as I went along, clarity on this issue finally came to me. 

The following is a modified version of what I wrote. I not only goes into the theme and plot theme of The Fountainhead, I managed to recast in my own words Rand's notions of theme and plot theme. (The paragraph is in bold and italics for easy reference.) This is important to writers who are interested in Rand's ideas because her meanings are different than normal (as usual :) ).

In The Journals of Ayn Rand, p 233, Rand expressed her theme for The Fountainhead as given below. According to Harriman, the editor, this was probably written in 1940. 

Quote

The theme of this novel is individualism versus collectivism, not in politics, but within a man's soul. It is the conflict of these two principles in their fundamental aspect.

On March 4, 1945, Rand wrote to a fan, O. W. Kracht: 

Quote

The general theme of The Fountainhead is the conflict between good and evil—in a new definition. More specifically, it is the conflict between Individualism and Collectivism. Not in politics, but in man's soul.

Rand settled on the "individualism versus collectivism" form of expressing her theme. However, I can't help think this was due to tacking on emphasis of her politics at the end. In her early notes, she talked more about how men should be like Roark, his egoism and so on. My objection? You have to really strain and twist to fit individualism versus collectivism to the love story between Roark and Dominique.

Also, in The Journals of Ayn Rand, pp 234-235, there is an entry (with notes in italics from Harriman) dated December 13, 1943:

Quote

[Shortly after The Fountainhead's publication, Warner Brothers bought the movie rights. The following notes were made as AR began work on the screenplay.]

General Theme: Man's integrity.

Plot Theme: Howard Roark, an architect, a man of genius, originality and complete spiritual independence, holds the truth of his convictions above all things in life. He fights against society for his creative freedom, he refuses to compromise in any way, he builds only as he believes, he will not submit to conventions, traditions, popular taste, money or fame. Dominique Francon, the woman he loves, thinks that his fight is hopeless. Afraid that society will hurt and corrupt him, she tries to block his career in order to save him from certain disaster. When the disaster comes and he faces public disgrace, she decides to take her revenge on the man responsible for it, Gail Wynand, a powerful, corrupt newspaper publisher. She marries Wynand, determined to break him. But Roark rises slowly, in spite of every obstacle. When he finally meets Wynand in person, Dominique is terrified to see that the two men love and understand each other. Roark's integrity reaches Wynand's better self, Roark is the ideal which Wynand has betrayed in his ambition for power. Without intending it, Roark achieves his own revenge—by becoming Wynand's best friend. Dominique finds herself suffering in a strange triangle—jealous of her husband's devotion to the man she loves. When Roark's life and career are threatened in a final test, when he becomes the victim of public fury and has to stand trial, alone, hated, opposed and denounced by all Wynand makes a supreme effort toward his own redemption. He stands by Roark and defends him. Wynand loses, defeated and broken by the corrupt machine he himself had created. But Roark wins without his help—wins by the power of his own truth. Roark is acquitted—and Dominique comes to him, free to find happiness with him, realizing that the battle is never hopeless, that nothing can defeat man's integrity. 

(Harriman:) [Note that the movie's plot is to focus on Roark, Wynand, and Dominique; Keating and Toohey are not even mentioned.]

This is a very long plot theme compared to the shorter form Rand discussed later in her theoretical works. From what I've been able to find, this is the earliest time she is on record using the term "plot theme," so this might be around the time she came up with the idea. Also, since it was for the screenplay, it might have been something she came up riffing off discussions about writing with other writers (or producers, directors, etc.) in Hollywood.

Note that plot theme is not an idea used by other writing teachers anywhere--at least I've never seen it. And there are tons of books, audios and videos, and classes and lectures on writing all over the place. I've seen lots of talk about premise, theme (usually moral theme at that), conflict, goals, desire, story question, character, description, subtext, structure, etc., and it seems like everyone has a different opinion on what these things mean. They can't even decide on what story means or how it is defined. 

That said, Rand apparently came up with her own way of thinking about and organizing her story writing. She used some standard terms, but used them with meanings that generally fall outside the traditional usage, all the traditional disagreements notwithstanding.

Even Rand's notion of theme is different. The way I understand her version of theme is as "subject matter," like a nonfiction topic. It's static. It's a thing or an idea. And plot theme would be the subject matter used in a conflict intense enough to run throughout the entire story.

So, to me, I can go with Rand's stated theme of The Fountainhead (either version), but I want to take a crack at my own version. Why? To have enough breadth to include the love story. So I would riff off her original title (Second Hand Lives) and call the theme something like: Integrity and ego in thinking, valuing, creating and producing.

This covers individualism, collectivism, good and evil, love, etc. All of it. Granted, it's pretty abstract, but Rand's form of theme is abstract.

For the short-version plot theme, I would state it something like this: The struggle of an architect to live and succeed by keeping true to his individual first-hand vision and values in a society that demands he betray and/or compromise them and adopt deference to other people instead.

This conflict runs throughout all the major story events (including the love story) except the subplots (like Peter and Katy's romance), but the subplots are related.

I realize my formulation is too long, but it's getting late and, with hat tip to Mark Twain, I didn't have time to make it shorter. :) 

Apropos, Ron Merrill in his book, The Ideas of Ayn Rand, p. 46, gives the theme of The Fountainhead as "the ideal man" (probably basing this on Rand's essay "The Goal of My Writing" and her "Introduction") and came up with an intriguing plot theme: "How would imperfect people react to the perfect man?"

The only problem with his theme is that (in my opinion) it's too broad for the story Rand told. It's there in the story and it's there a lot, but probing the full nature of the perfect man is not the integrating idea behind the events in the manner that "the role of the mind in man's existence" is behind the events of Atlas Shrugged

Also, the problem with the plot theme as Merrill stated it is that it does not include a situational conflict. But supposing we accept this theme (the ideal man), the plot theme could easily become something like: An architect who is an ideal man struggles to live and work in a society of imperfect people who are disturbed by his moral perfection and try to enslave him.

That kinda works, too, but I prefer the one I originally came up with. (Imagine that--I mean, who would ever guess that I would feel that way? :) )

(Added later.)

I left out the most important source of Rand's statement of The Fountainhead's theme: For The New Intellectual, p. 68:

Quote

Its theme is: individualism versus collectivism, not in politics, but in man’s soul; the psychological motivations and the basic premises that produce the character of an individualist or a collectivist.

But wait! There's more! :) 

The passage continues thus:

Quote

The story presents the career of Howard Roark, an architect and innovator, who breaks with tradition, recognizes no authority but that of his own independent judgment, struggles for the integrity of his creative work against every form of social opposition—and wins.

If one takes out "and wins," that looks pretty much like a plot theme to me. :) 

Ah yes. And on a mythological basis as implicit plot theme, there's always David and Goliath. :)

Michael

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anthony    0

Spiritual collectivism, represented by Toohey, is the counter to Roark's independent individualism, and I must say it's this "theme" which sticks in my mind many years after my last read. This novel of course stays outside collectivism in politics, and exposes the mind of a single collectivist.

"The four essential attributes of a novel are: Theme--Plot--Characterization--Style. These are ~attributes~ not separate parts.They can be isolated conceptually for purposes of study, but one must always remember that they are interrelated and that a novel is their sum". (Basic Principles of Literature, TRM)

Each "attribute" rests upon and follows the others, as I see it. But "theme" is recurring all the way through in the other attributes, and gradually rises to the fore, like a background music theme. I think of TF's love story as the major sub-plot, which also includes the powerful individualist character of both lovers.

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anthony    0

OK. I looked up Rand's "plot theme" idea. I had half forgotten.

"This leads to a cardinal principle of good fiction: the theme and the plot of a novel must be integrated. [...]

The theme of a novel is the core of its abstract meaning--the plot-theme is the core of its events.

For example, the theme of Atlas Shrugged is: The role of the mind in man's existence. The plot-theme is: The men of the mind going on strike against an altruist-collectivist society". [TRM] 

I'll put it that Rand sees the novel form as the unity of soul and body, to be brief. Idea-action. The ~action~ of the body is the "plot-theme", the ~ideas~ of a mind, the "theme". You can't have one without the other, in life and literature.

 

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2 hours ago, anthony said:

I'll put it that Rand sees the novel form as the unity of soul and body, to be brief. Idea-action. The ~action~ of the body is the "plot-theme", the ~ideas~ of a mind, the "theme". You can't have one without the other, in life and literature.

Tony,

That works as theory, as does Rand's description.

The problem of the writer is what to do and how to do it. How to write the damn story. Try using that to make an events outline of, say, a bank robbery.

Based on this understanding alone, what would be the theme and what would be the plot theme?

Let's make it worse, shall we? How about a bank robbery gone terribly wrong? How on earth would you use that system to outline the events of, say, Dog Day Afternoon?

Or maybe a black comedy casino robbery like The Ladykillers?

:)

To be fair, she did come up with an outline creation system of working backwards from the climax (once you know what the climax is) in her lecture on fiction writing. She even threw in a bit of Aristotle to jazz it up--saying you use Aristotle's process of final causation as your writing process even though, to her, final causation does not exist.

Oddly enough, she did not use Aristotle's Poetics for practically anything except, maybe his idea that a story has a beginning, middle and end. I know why, too. It has to do with pity and her wholesale condemnation of that emotion on a metaphysical level--a notion she got from Nietzsche, although, to be fair to him, he didn't think all pity was bad. Aristotle in The Poetics said the best tragedies start with the protagonist suffering unfairly so the audience will feel pity and bond with him. Then the protagonist has to start facing bad things so the audience will feel fear and that the bad things have to get worse so these feelings can be intensified until a moment of catharsis, when the emotions are purged.

What's even odder is that Rand actually did this in all her fiction, but she did not preach it.

Michael

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anthony    0

Michael,

I'll go so far as to advise a writer (or artist) - Forget what Rand wrote about writing! Begin at the ground level. Write from who you are, what you imagine, know about and what you care/loathe about, and if your plot, characters and of course, your style, are strong and original, "the theme" etc. will take care of itself, be self-evident. After it's done. This is not said to disparage her incisive analysis in the Manifesto; the grand work was one of her most influential for me. There, she 'deconstructed' literature in all its variety, after the fact, in order to objectively identify its essence, and the novel's essentiality to man's life and conceptual mind(very simplistically). Not exclusively, since she was insightful into the artist/writer's mind and creativity, but that seems the main purpose. 

I've the very definite feeling she'd be most disturbed to know that any writer tried to modify his independent life-view ("metaphysical value-judgments") - or his early subconsciousness ("sense of life")- to align with hers.

One *has* to have a fresh story to tell and be bursting to tell it. I went as far as two started novels, ow - still hurts a little, and I have some idea of the unbelievable demands, self-belief and commitment required.

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6 hours ago, anthony said:

I'll go so far as to advise a writer (or artist) - Forget what Rand wrote about writing! Begin at the ground level.

Tony,

I agree with that.

6 hours ago, anthony said:

Write from who you are, what you imagine, know about and what you care/loathe about, and if your plot, characters and of course, your style, are strong and original, "the theme" etc. will take care of itself, be self-evident. After it's done.

This is good advice for some people who already know some of the basics, but I see a deeper, more elementary problem in the O-Land subcommunity. 

It starts with trying to figure out how to tell a simple story of someone who wants something and tries to get it. Seriously. I've seen too many people screw this up. (Not only in O-Land, but it's rampant in our neck of the woods.) Some forget to frame the story correctly, which means start with who when where, then say what the protagonist wants and what life sort of looks like for him or her at that moment. This can be implied rather than stated if there is enough context so the audience can fill in the missing parts, but if any of this is totally left out, the audience mind can't process any of it well. The audience mind stays confused. And if the confusion lasts for too long, most people get bored and move on to something else.

This isn't in the category of do it because I say so (or because this is the particular story form I prefer). It's the way the mind processes narrative and I can even provide some neuroscience to back this up.

Form-wise, that part above is the set-up, or introduction, or opening, or whatever term you want to use to get the story trance in the audience prepared. Then we come to the problem that appears. A disruption. Trouble. Believe it or not, some people leave this out. Imagine the following story:

Jack wanted to get a glass of milk because he was thirsty. He went to the refrigerator, opened it, took out the milk carton, poured himself a glass and drank it. The end. :) 

Apropos, notice that "when" and "what life normally looks like" are implied here. "When," we assume, is now or the recent past and "life looks" more or less like our lives. The "where" is in Jack's home.

But there's no trouble. No problem to solve. Jack didn't trip over his own two feet getting to the fridge, nobody suddenly showed up yelling and causing a mess, the power didn't go out, he didn't even knock a lamp off a table. Hell, he didn't even spill the milk.

I've also seen people describe every detail along the way to the fridge. And that's about as exciting as reading a telephone book or grocery list.

There are a bunch of basic story elements like that and you need to work on them just like a pianist practices scales. For some reason, they're not taught in interesting ways you can practice. And what little people get in grade school is being undone by Common Core. So the new folks coming up are going to suck even worse at storytelling than the present adults do. :) At least they're getting to practice some story stuff with social media.

If people want to write like Rand (or write Romantic Realism), I believe they need to learn how to write a simple narrative first. It's like learning words and basic grammar before writing a book. I found a neat little training formula in the footnotes to a book called Aristotle in Hollywood by Ari Hiltunen. It's a schema some psychologists use in some experiment or other (I'm going on memory so I don't recall who they are at the moment). I added a couple of things to it for the purpose of training some of the main elements of story structure.

It goes like this:

1. Who, when, where.
2. Normal situation and, optionally, what the protagonist wants.
3. Disruption.
4. Reaction to the disruption.
5. Deciding on a goal to deal with disruption.
6. Try-fail sequences. (Only one to start with, but three makes for a pretty good story.)
7. Outcome of the goal (success or failure).
8. Reaction to the outcome.

The end.

This works whether the disruption is due to a villain or an obstacle. And it's broad enough to allow the protagonist to want either one thing only or two different things (his starting want if it is more than just to keep on living the way he is in the opening situation and his disruption goal). 

Once people can work events to that little formula on demand, they can start to see the basic elements (who, when, where, normal situation, desire, disruption, making a goal, acting toward a goal, outcome and reactions) in the stories they read or hear or watch. Sometimes a piece will be missing, sometimes the order will be different, sometimes there will be other stuff added, and sometimes some elements will be super strung out or super compressed. But they will start to become evident, which is saying a lot because we normally go into a trance while listening to a story and in that state, it's hard to identify anything meta about the story. You have to step back at the same time you are in the story and your subconscious will only be eager to do that if it has some automatic place to step back to. Learning, analysis and practice provide this place.

This is not the only little mini-form for writers to train with, but it is a basic one that works well. I've used it with my semi-autistic step-son and he has already published two fiction books on Amazon. 

6 hours ago, anthony said:

I've the very definite feeling she'd be most disturbed to know that any writer tried to modify his independent life-view ("metaphysical value-judgments") - or his early subconsciousness ("sense of life")- to align with hers.

Maybe consciously, but I'm not so sure otherwise. Rand did a lot of writing coaching and even ministered some psychotherapy to her collective. By accounts, she was rigid in making people conform. (Even among the orthodoxy, she held up Peikoff's first nonfiction book for years by demanding constant rewrites.) As she was wicked intelligent, she had to have been aware on some level of what she was doing.

As a cute aside, you should have seen the look on Barbara's face when she talked about Rand demanding outlines and more outlines and more outlines for her own writing. Think of a kid talking about memorizing long stretches of classical poetry. :) 

6 hours ago, anthony said:

One *has* to have a fresh story to tell and be bursting to tell it. I went as far as two started novels, ow - still hurts a little, and I have some idea of the unbelievable demands, self-belief and commitment required.

Now that's interesting. I think you should go for it. I've seen enough of your writing to believe you could spin a good yarn.

Michael

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Wolf DeVoon    0
9 hours ago, anthony said:

Spiritual collectivism, represented by Toohey

whoa, not my take on Toohey at all. He learned early in life how to manipulate and gain power, and since he had no power to create anything, he devoted his life to killing, a sort of jackal or hyena who ran with the pack -- Jules, Lois, Alvah, Gus

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Brant Gaede    1

I don't read essays on Rand's novels. I may have read one article published by JARS on any subject. I'm not even that much interested in the double issue on Nathaniel Branden. I'm only interested in what's in my own head based on my first-hand experiences. Sometimes I write about such, in parts here, and sometimes--much less--elsewhere. If I write later at considerable length it's going to be all me as these things and people were of my experience. Afterwords I'll go back and read all that stuff, maybe. For me it's memoir first, scholarship second. Barbara Branden did both at once in The Passion of Ayn Rand. Nathaniel Branden was all memoir in Judgment Day.

I wouldn't have joined into George H. Smith's talkafest about The Fountainhead even if i could have. I couldn't have. The (secondary) problem is George's big brain. The secondary problem with others is--well, not to say. (The primary problem is my brain--what's in it, as the result of experience and it's that I work off of.) Re George, he once said he'd read AS once and that was that so why wasn't The Fountainhead  that was that? One thing I run from is lack of passion. Don't get me wrong, George has lots of passion, at least about more political and political-historical philosophical means. It's the essential libertarian-Objectivist divide. Well, to more clarify, there's Objectivism qua Objectivism then there's Objectivism qua esthetics and Objectivism qua politics. There's more, but George isn't qua any of that. He's a libertarian qua politics and to hell with politics, ideally speaking.  Anarchy--now THAT'S passion!

If I had to do it again when I went to Los Angeles in 2012 to see Nathaniel, I'd also have tried to see Barbara. I didn't because I inferred she was in ill health. Unannounced--to avoid the stress of a visitor--I'd have knocked on her door. You see we were friends, albeit not close friends--I was friendly with Nathaniel, but I'd not say friends for with him I'd have to be living  in LA and work at it really hard while with her it was more natural--and that way she'd finally have had a visual and tactile knowledge of me I had had of her just from the photo on the back of the book Who Is Ayn Rand and then in real life later. She had had visual contact with me (and one telephone while researching PAR) three times only: 1) On September 20, 1968 when I walked into NBI in NYC and they were shutting it down (I'd come into NYC from NJ for Movie Night) completely ignorant of what had happened and there was Barbara behind the desk. I walked up to her asked, "What happened?" and she stated that NB and AR had had ... etc. A total shock to me. I wandered around the facilitiy and purchased a couple of items and left. I had dropped out of the University of Arizona after a semester and a half after coming home from Vietnam and came to NYC (living with my Dad and step-mother in NJ) in April and had attended some courses and seen NB and AR and LP and MARS(ures) and Frank O'Connor and I thought after being a killer medic I was in intellectual and moral heaven. 2) In 1975 NB came to NYC to give a lecture on some new something about self esteem (New Lectures?). Barbara was manning the desk and I exchanged some friendly words with her. 3) In 1986 on a book tour for PAR she came to NYC and there was a big get together and a lot of Objectivist and non-Objectivist bigwigs (were there including my old acting teacher Phillip J. Smith [whom I embraced but was shocked at his fragility [he felt so lite] and I filed up for an autograph for her PAR, deliberately last in line, and she remembered me from the telephone conversation ("The first thing I check when reading fiction is the style of writing"--"Oh, me too!" [approximate quotes] and after the autograph I kissed her on the cheek). There's more but that's enough, at least, for now. And likely enough.

I liked all these people: AR, LP, BB, NB et al. and the personal, intellectual and moral context they were part and parcel of. And I was. Fundamentally, way down deep, that includes to this day Leonard Peikoff. I don't care that much re that that he went off the tracks in 1986 when he couldn't rationally and humanly deal with PAR. The only thing that really pisses me off about the man is the way he has let the AR material be butchered up by the two-bit re-doers of AR. The scholarship went completely out the window. The man was completely trapped in the AR matrix--as was AR herself--the matrix NB was blown out of--to his admitted great benefit--in 1968. It was a matrix BB never completely left. She kept touting AR as a (great) human being for the rest of her life. Natch! She was. Never mind any other stuff! The philosophy is simple, basically. The complexity is people. The true complexity of philosophy is when you throw in sundry people's esthetics. Objectism is 95% people, many at each others' throats. Objectivsm should be more 50/50, but it's very young.

--Brant

a modern man--there aren't many of us--and good luck understanding half of what that means (for I hardly do)

women!--they know we boys need our toys (in that sense AR was a boy [my highest compliment])

the Ford Mtr Co. was a toy, BTW, and when Mrs Ford told Henry to settle with the striking union that's what he did

Barbara Branden last (officially [signed in]) visited OB on March 28, 2012, my 68th birthday

I am now rushing to the end of my (intellectual) life--I've got 10-15 years max to go on that thx to my genes (but thx to my genes I shouldn't be bald)

 

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anthony    0
15 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

whoa, not my take on Toohey at all. He learned early in life how to manipulate and gain power, and since he had no power to create anything, he devoted his life to killing, a sort of jackal or hyena who ran with the pack -- Jules, Lois, Alvah, Gus

Where you see people after power for the sake of power, there will be altruism (-collectivism). The Other (any other) is their only standard. Some say power is "selfishly" sought, but Toohey is the most self-less of all, Rand showed. Toohey wanted control of men by way of their minds and understood the independent Roarks of the world blocked his way and had to be defeated.

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3 hours ago, anthony said:

Toohey wanted control of men by way of their minds and understood the independent Roarks of the world blocked his way and had to be defeated.

Tony,

Toohey didn't just want to defeat Roark.

He wanted to enslave Roark and decide when, where and what he would allow Roark to produce. I just reread The Fountainhead and (if I remember correctly) he covered this in his speech to Peter Keating (when Peter went to his home near the end). He didn't use exactly those words, but that was his message loud and clear.

In other words, he didn't want to kill Roark at root (although I'm pretty sure he would not be sad--to project and butt into Rand's character creation :) ). He wanted to rule the Roarks of the world.

Michael

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8 minutes ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

Anthony says defeated. MSK thinks Toohey wanted to enslave. Good men find it hard to see. He wanted Roark dead.

(sigh)

Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead. Peter Keating speaks first, then Toohey.

Quote

"Why do you want to kill Howard?"

"I don't want to kill him. I want him in jail. You understand? In jail. In a cell. Behind bars. Locked, stopped, strapped—and alive. He'll get up when they tell him to. He'll eat what they give him. He'll move when he's told to move and stop when he's told. He'll walk to the jute mill, when he's told, and he'll work as he's told. They'll push him, if he doesn't move fast enough, and they'll slap his face when they feel like it, and they'll beat him with rubber hose if he doesn't obey. And he'll obey. He'll take orders. He'll take orders!"

Good women apparently find it hard to see, too.

:)

Michael

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anthony    0

I agree upon combined defeated and enslaved, I think we can agree he wanted Roark ... broken.

"He'll take orders!"

A "sacrificer" who can't get his way with the individualist who won't obligingly "self-sacrifice", ever, always resorts to force.

(See also, John Galt in captivity).

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54 minutes ago, anthony said:

I think we can agree he wanted Roark ... broken.

Tony,

I don't know how to parse Ayn Rand's phrase, "I don't want to kill him," other than say Toohey did not want to kill Roark.

:)

I don't agree with broken. Toohey was not psychotic in his evil. He was pure spiritual evil. He wanted Roark whole and healthy, but obedient to men like Toohey, obedient against Roark's will. Toohey wanted to torture Roark by not allowing him to exercise a fully functioning mind and talent and goodness of soul and to know it--and Toohey wanted this awareness to endure day after day after day.

People who Toohey broke like Keating ultimately bored him. Roark excited him.

Ron Merrill said that Toohey was the closest Rand ever came to presenting a pure Satan. I agree with that. The devil collects souls through temptation and tortures them for eternity. Eternity aside, that's what Toohey did in the book. And if he couldn't get the soul through temptation, force would do and do so much better. Just so long as Toohey ruled. But the torture, the making earth a place of spiritual pain and despair for all except him and his kind, the removal of hope for a good life on earth, was his inner motor. That was his end game. That's what he wanted to do with his power.

Michael

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anthony    0
3 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

I don't know how to parse Ayn Rand's phrase, "I don't want to kill him," other than say Toohey did not want to kill Roark.

:)

I don't agree with broken. Toohey was not psychotic in his evil. He was pure spiritual evil. He wanted Roark whole and healthy, but obedient to men like Toohey, obedient against Roark's will. Toohey wanted to torture Roark by not allowing him to exercise a fully functioning mind and talent and goodness of soul and to know it--and Toohey wanted this awareness to endure day after day after day.

People who Toohey broke like Keating ultimately bored him. Roark excited him.

Ron Merrill said that Toohey was the closest Rand ever came to presenting a pure Satan. I agree with that. The devil collects souls through temptation and tortures them for eternity. Eternity aside, that's what Toohey did in the book. And if he couldn't get the soul through temptation, force would do and do so much better. Just so long as Toohey ruled. But the torture, the making earth a place of spiritual pain and despair for all except him and his kind, the removal of hope for a good life on earth, was his inner motor. That was his end game. That's what he wanted to do with his power.

Michael

Right, I largely agree.  We can't overlook that Rand's theme for TF was "Individualism versus collectivism, not in politics, but in man's soul". Her statement is peripheral, but that surely comes across to readers. I certainly was focused on "broken" as with broken in spirit - not in body - which mostly fits with what you say. Toohey wanted Roark's mind still ably functioning - so that he could be fully aware that his freedom to act was taken away permanently, and that he could never build again - is torture enough.

There is also a strong element of punishment for Roark's refusal to sanction any power over him.

I included altruism as the main driver for power. I don't think that's off, from everything else we read from Rand. And altruism and collectivism seem to me always one unit, in practice and theory, if in differing quantities, . Altruism, "self-abnegation, surrender of the mind" (AR), must constantly have those who collect on and/or demand your surrender of your mind and therefore whatever material things go with it.

"The devil collects souls..." 

John Galt: "It's your minds they want".

We have before slightly disagreed on "power", Michael, its premises, causes and purpose. As you write here:  "That's what he wanted to do with his power". Quite rightly, I think you see power as 'a means to an end'. It is that, and of course, there are good reasons and 'ends' for power - but for Toohey and all other sacrificers, I am certain that power is also "an end in itself". Perhaps it could be said its purpose is "binary" to him. Toohey is the puny, empty soul which craves to be filled with others' - in order to find endorsement and gratification. Which it will never. (What I think of, as 'ultimate altruism'). And he recognized Roark for his great soul, and needed to gaol it, control it (possess it?) more than any other lesser one.

No argument with Merrill, Toohey was my pick for most evil character of all. He ~knew~ what he was doing and he understood man's spirit better than anyone.

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anthony    0
On 7/27/2017 at 3:27 AM, Wolf DeVoon said:

shakes head

You are correct to disagree. :) Although some more explanation could be given, and my remark was snipped short of context. I was over-compensating, in the context of a young writer who's perhaps influenced by Rand's works. Or any fine novelist. Yes, there is every requisite for an author to have in mind a theme before he writes and while he is writing. "Theme" is abstract, and can sometimes run along the lines of : " My theme is man as heroic being". Fine, and my reply would be, how are you going to ~show~ this, and not ~tell~ it? The plot, action, dialogue and characters must speak for themselves, otherwise such a grand theme and a novel could die an early death, as floating abstractions often do. Worse, the written novel is prescriptive and artificial. Find the theme that is achievable within your experience and imagination, and put pen to paper is my advice. I'll be keen to hear your's.

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2 hours ago, anthony said:

Quite rightly, I think you see power as 'a means to an end'. It is that, and of course, there are good reasons and 'ends' for power - but for Toohey and all other sacrificers, I am certain power is also "an end in itself".

Tony,

In Rand's fiction, I never see power being an end in itself. It's always pursued for a reason.

In reality, I've known many people who believe they are entitled to rule others merely because they were born superior to others--and for no other fundamental reason. For these people, I agree that power is an end in itself. To them, it is their just due as part of what the universe and other people are supposed to provide them, sort of like water is for normal human beings. 

I have not found these types of people in Rand's fiction.

In fact, you find money, sex and power in Rand's fiction. But they are never fundamental reasons for people to act as they are in more traditional stories.

Michael

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anthony    0

"Power lusters" I believe Rand said? To me that indicates love of power, in and of itself. I will probably think of more examples, and we know that much in Rand is "implicit", "psychological" or "psycho-epistemological". I believe this concept can be detected in and out of her fiction. Man, as an end in himself - also serves a warning to those who'd desire power over a man's mind. 

A reason can be a good one, and "a reason" may be corrupt. One deals with others by reasoned persuasion not by (implicit or explicit) power.

I don't know how else to read "It's your minds they want" - other than, people or States seeking power over minds, for its own sake - as end in itself - plus - as a means to an end. You get the first, the rest follows. A slave must be mentally conditioned to be so, otherwise he will always be free in his mind  - and who knows, may rebel?

Michael, there are those who feed on minds to fill their personal voids. An independent mind is an affront and fear to them.

 

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anthony    0

Men were taught to regard second-handers—tyrants, emperors, dictators—as exponents of egoism. By this fraud they were made to destroy the ego, themselves and others. The purpose of the fraud was to destroy the creators. Or to harness them. Which is a synonym.

From the beginning of history, the two antagonists have stood face to face: the creator and the second-hander. When the first creator invented the wheel, the first second-hander responded. He invented altruism.

The creator—denied, opposed, persecuted, exploited—went on, moved forward and carried all humanity along on his energy. The second-hander contributed nothing to the process except the impediments. The contest has another name: the individual against the collective.

“The Soul of an Individualist,”FNI.

------

Appropriate to Roark and Toohey, altruism-collectivism, power, etc., I thought.

AR had her characters in mind, it seems: "...to destroy the creators. Or to harness them. Which is a synonym".

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Tony,

What I mean is that the power seekers in Rand's novels never seem to enjoy their power. They always use it to cover up some deep insecurity or to evade thinking about something or even whine or things like that.

The power-mongers I have known soak it in and relish it as power qua power like a fine wine. I've known lots of alpha males like that.

Granted, Rand did use the term power-luster a lot. She said it, but she didn't show people satisfying that lust the way lust is usually satisfied, with pleasure.

There's a scene in The Fountainhead that comes to mind, though, where she came awfully close.

Toohey is talking to Peter Keating (when Peter, dejected and feeling lost, went to see him about his divorce from Dominique). After letting Peter in and having him sit down, instead of dealing with the issue, he asked for a moment, then called Gus Webb. He knew Peter was devastated and knew his conversation with Webb was nothing more than gossip, but he toyed with Peter by making him wait. In my mind, I see him savoring Peter's suffering, feeding off of it out of the corner of his eye. 

As an aside, this scene contains the most awkward line Rand ever wrote (Toohey talking to Webb): "How are you, you walking advertisement for contraceptives?"

:)

This reminds me of when Richard Nixon, trying to be one of the boys, asked David Frost backstage, "Did you fornicate last night?"

:)

Who the hell talks formally like that while trying to be cool? :) 

Anyway, I just fired up my trusty Objectivism CDROM, so here is the passage:

Quote

That evening he dragged himself to Ellsworth Toohey's apartment. When he entered, he felt dimly glad of his self-control, because Toohey seemed to notice nothing in his face.

"Oh, hello, Peter," said Toohey airily. "Your sense of timing leaves much to be desired. You catch me on the worst possible evening. Busy as all hell. But don't let that bother you. What are friends for but to inconvenience one? Sit down, sit down, I'll be with you in a minute."

"I'm sorry, Ellsworth. But... I had to."

"Make yourself at home. Just ignore me for a minute, will you?"

Keating sat down and waited. Toohey worked, making notes on sheets of typewritten copy. He sharpened a pencil, the sound grating like a saw across Keating's nerves. He bent over his copy again, rustling the pages once in a while.

Half an hour later he pushed the papers aside and smiled at Keating. "That's that," he said. Keating made a small movement forward. "Sit tight," said Toohey, "just one telephone call I've got to make."

He dialed the number of Gus Webb. "Hello, Gus," he said gaily. "How are you, you walking advertisement for contraceptives?" Keating had never heard that tone of loose intimacy from Toohey, a special tone of brotherhood that permitted sloppiness. He heard Webb's piercing voice say something and laugh in the receiver. The receiver went on spitting out rapid sounds from deep down in its tube, like a throat being cleared. The words could not be recognized, only their quality; the quality of abandon and insolence, with high shrieks of mirth once in a while.

Toohey leaned back in his chair, listening, half smiling. "Yes," he said occasionally, "uh-huh.... You said it, boy.... Surer'n hell.... "He leaned back farther and put one foot in a shining, pointed shoe on the edge of the desk. "Listen, boy, what I wanted to tell you is go easy on old Bassett for a while. Sure he likes your work, but don't shock hell out of him for the time being. No rough-house, see? Keep that big facial cavity of yours buttoned up... You know damn well who I am to tell you... That's right... That's the stuff, kid... Oh, he did? Good, angelface... Well, bye-bye—oh, say, Gus, have you heard the one about the British lady and the plumber?" There followed a story. The receiver yelled raucously at the end. "Well, watch your step and your digestion, angel-face. Nighty-night."

Toohey dropped the receiver, said: "Now, Peter," stretched, got up, walking to Keating and stood before him, rocking a little on his small feet, his eyes bright and kindly.

"Now, Peter, what's the matter? Has the world crashed about your nose?"

That comes very close to what I mean by what power looks like when it is sought as an end in itself.

Michael

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anthony    0
19 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

What I mean is that the power seekers in Rand's novels never seem to enjoy their power. They always use it to cover up some deep insecurity or to evade thinking about something or even whine or things like that.

The power-mongers I have known soak it in and relish it as power qua power like a fine wine. I've known lots of alpha males like that.

Granted, Rand did use the term power-luster a lot. She said it, but she didn't show people satisfying that lust the way lust is usually satisfied, with pleasure.

There's a scene in The Fountainhead that comes to mind, though, where she came awfully close.

Toohey is talking to Peter Keating (when Peter, dejected and feeling lost, went to see him about his divorce from Dominique). After letting Peter in and having him sit down, instead of dealing with the issue, he asked for a moment, then called Gus Webb. He knew Peter was devastated and knew his conversation with Webb was nothing more than gossip, but he toyed with Peter by making him wait. In my mind, I see him savoring Peter's suffering, feeding off of it out of the corner of his eye. 

As an aside, this scene contains the most awkward line Rand ever wrote (Toohey talking to Webb): "How are you, you walking advertisement for contraceptives?"

:)

This reminds me of when Richard Nixon, trying to be one of the boys, asked David Frost backstage, "Did you fornicate last night?"

:)

Who the hell talks formally like that while trying to be cool? :) 

Anyway, I just fired up my trusty Objectivism CDROM, so here is the passage:

That comes very close to what I mean by what power looks like when it is sought as an end in itself.

Michael

1

Yes, Toohey is very much relishing his power over Peter, like the nasty bastard he (also) is. He is consolidating his power status over him. (Why do I treat you with contempt? Because I can.)

For all that Roark knew how weak Keating was, one senses he'd have granted Keating a lot more consideration than this. So-called Alpha males do come to mind. In a social situation especially, I've often heard one displaying his power in some 'put-down' - to someone whom he's found won't talk back and challenge him. A psychological bully is a power luster. The "elitist", only another of that type, although pretending at intellectual or class superiority. Broadly, I think second-handers, all of them, Michael. 

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anthony    0

The "second-hander" concept (subsumed under altruism-collectivism - ultimately under mysticism) could become diluted or discredited with over-familiarity and use. The polarity between a Roark and a Toohey  is further accentuated here:

Second-Handers

Isn’t that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of a self. Look at them. The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he’s honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he’s great in the eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison . . . . They’re second-handers . . . .

They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They’re concerned only with people. They don’t ask: “Is this true?” They ask: “Is this what others think is true?” Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egoists. You don’t think through another’s brain and you don’t work through another’s hands. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. To stop consciousness is to stop life. Second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation—anchored to nothing. That’s the emptiness I couldn’t understand in people. That’s what stopped me whenever I faced a committee. Men without an ego. Opinion without a rational process. Motion without brakes or motor. Power without responsibility. The second-hander acts, but the source of his actions is scattered in every other living person. It’s everywhere and nowhere and you can’t reason with him. He’s not open to reason.

“The Nature of the Second-Hander,” For the New Intellectual

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anthony    0

"Second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation--anchored to nothing."

Imagine what Toohey could have accomplished in a new era of people existing "somewhere in that [cyber]space" with mass communication, the Internet/social media. ;)

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anthony    0

So, I was thinking: Is Howard Roark "elite"? . 

elite: n. THE choice part, THE best (of). [F, = choice]

There's no doubt that his creator designed him to be "elite" and "choice". But no ways, "elitist". "Elitism" is not mentioned in my dictionary, and I assume it's a recently made-up concept, perhaps an anti-concept? The only way I see to define it, is by how and of whom it is used. 1. we see it mainly refers to 'a group' (even to call someone "an elitist", presumes a group he identifies with). 2. it always infers some inferior group/s to be superior over.

An individual may well be objectively superior to another, but a collective, never. Abstractly: an idea, or culture, or Constitution - or philosophy - can certainly be superior - however, a person outwardly being a member or adherent of any of them, can't accept and claim for themselves automatic superiority over others. His consequent actions are what count.

Objectively I think the elitist concept can be ignored as intrinsicist, collectivist, unearned and second-handed.

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