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The Rape Scene in The Fountainhead


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#1 Victor Pross

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 11:57 PM

The Rape Scene in The Fountainhead: Why it was not rape


**

NOTE FROM MSK (June 14, 2007): There is a serious problem with cribbing from David Hayes with a large part of this article. Please see Disclaimer and Source Identification for further information.

EDIT (June 26, 2007): The article has been removed for plagiarism.

OL extends its deepest apologies to David Hayes.

Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly, 26 June 2007 - 08:50 PM.

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#2 Brant Gaede

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 12:07 AM

All I can say is that Dominique is the only woman I ... (censored) :)

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede, 16 April 2007 - 08:05 AM.

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#3 Chris Grieb

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 05:56 AM

Brant; Tell us how you really feel? Victor; You and Andrew Bernstein of ARI seem to be on the same page about the "rape scene". I think your post is actually a better job then Bernstein's essay.

#4 Victor Pross

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 08:09 AM

Brant; Tell us how you really feel? Victor; You and Andrew Bernstein of ARI seem to be on the same page about the "rape scene". I think your post is actually a better job then Bernstein's essay.


Thanks, Chris. I have seen Bernstein speak in Toronto, but not on this subject. But I would like to read his essay.

Victor

Edited by Victor Pross, 16 April 2007 - 11:31 AM.

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#5 Chris Grieb

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 01:55 PM

Victor; I'll lend the book to you when you have your US citizenship ceremony. Maybe we can meet before then.

Edited by Chris Grieb, 16 April 2007 - 05:06 PM.


#6 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 02:23 PM

Essays on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead edited by Robert Mayhew

Know thyself...


#7 Victor Pross

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 10:24 PM

Chris, thanks, that is very kind of you. I suppose you are speaking of the book that MSK posted, just above? If so, that book does sound interesting and I would love to read it. The Fountainhead, if you don’t know, is my favorite of Rand’s fiction, much more than Atlas. As for meeting, I rather like the prospect of that. Once I move to the states, I see it as being very feasible. I suppose it would be double the pleasure to meet both Angie and me? :) (How far is Washington from California?)

-Victor

Edited by Victor Pross, 16 April 2007 - 10:25 PM.

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#8 Ciro

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 11:56 PM

I think that Ayn Rand -apart her philosophy- wrote the book also with the intent to make a lot of money from its sales. Rape scenes, are included today, in almost every book or movie--especially in old movies. The majority of men, love to watch a woman being raped. Rape scenes, is a tactic that every writer and filmmaker uses when making movies or writing books.

And thus, I don't think that there is anything of philosophical in the scene where Roark raped Dominique, it was written that way for the only purpose to sell more copies, I think.


Now days a Martini is more appropriate.

Ciro



#9 Chris Grieb

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 04:03 AM

Ciro; You're wrong! This is a great plot device. Miss Rand was more interested in the drama. Miss Rand had this strange idea that if you have a good story people will read the book. And you know what they have.

#10 Chris Grieb

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 04:06 AM

Victor; Washington DC is has far from California has NewFoundland is from British Columbia but we will meet.

#11 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 06:24 AM

Ciro,

LOL...

I have to agree with you. Rand was capitalist enough to know her audience (and, after all, she was working in the center of the universe of hype—Hollywood).

But let's call it integrated interests between hitting a public button and making a good obstacle for her hero. Rand's fiction is all about conflict and things being the opposite of what they seem.

Michael

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#12 Barbara Branden

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 12:40 PM

Chris and Michael, I strongly disagree with both of you. Rand didn't write The Fountainhead rape scene for commercial reasons. If that had been her motive generally, she would never have written about ideas so out of step with the mainstream as hers. She would have presented altruism as a moral ideal and religion as essential to the good life. Clearly, she wanted to present her ideas; that was her primary goal.

And yes, the rape scene does contain a philosophical idea -- a concept of romantic love and of sex that was Rand's from her earliest understanding of the relationship between the sexes. Whether one agrees with it or not, the rape scene is perfectly consistent with the philosophy of romantic love she later presented more fully in Atlas Shrugged.


Barbara

#13 Reidy

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 12:51 PM

I find Ciro's assertions about movies and books bizarre. Another martini is just what I wouldn't recommend.

Rand did not write the book in Hollywood. She moved to New York before she started it and back to California the year after it was published.

#14 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 02:28 PM

Barbara,

My focus (and I think this is at the root of what Ciro said) was that Rand consciously used devices in popular culture—entertainment cliches. I would have to look it up (probably in The Romantic Manifesto), but Rand equated a lack of proper entertainment value in an art work with a mind-body dichotomy. Her complaint was that truly artistic works did not have to be boring and entertainment (excitement and adrenaline is another way of saying that) are not indications of lack of seriousness.

In making her plot of The Fountainhead, she factored in the rape, steamy promiscuous love scenes (Wynand on top of the building with curtains open and gorgeous women), a building complex exploding, a murder (Keating), an attempted murder (Mallory), nudity (the sculpture), trial scene, embezzlement scheme, contemplated suicide, more than one drunk, and so forth.

All of these are standard entertainment cliches and were so (some more than others) at the time she wrote. I have no doubt that she was aware of this aspect of them. I even remember reading her say somewhere something to the effect of starting with a standard cliche and putting a new spin on it. I think she mentioned a love triangle in that article.

People like to read about and see these things, in addition to the speeches and character clashes. I have no doubt at all that Rand was aware of their intrinsic attention value.

I strongly admire Rand's genius in taking entertainment events and cliches and making important messages with them. From that angle, I speculate, but I think Rand would have been flattered with Ciro's comment.

I can see where you object, but the angle you saw was not what was meant. (I don't think we were clear, either.) I don't think either Ciro or I tried to say that Rand was being superficial and prostituting her art by including something non-integrated with the message. Or that she was trying to write down to an audience by including vulgarity qua vulgarity for shock value so she could make money. Or that she was writing primarily to milk a specific audience (other than establishing universal appeal for the public in general). One of her early letters even cautioned against taking this approach. I don't speak for Ciro, but I think he would agree with me that we were not trying to say Rand compromised her artistic integrity by cutting out parts of her message, and including others she did not believe in, according to what the public was consuming at the time.

But the fact is that nobody produces entertainment (or uses entertainment values) without thinking about audience appeal. Audience appeal is the very reason for the existence of entertainment.

(I think Ciro expressed himself poorly by saying there was nothing philosophical in the rape scene. I saw both philosophy and entertainment.)

I will try to find quotes and post them later.

Michael

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#15 Victor Pross

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 02:49 PM

If one searches hard, one can find formulaic clichés in any genre and medium—motion pictures or novels, and it is no less true with Ayn Rand’s art. As an illustration, let’s take the initial meeting between Roark and Dominique as a standard of when “boy meets girl”: the male is usually aloof or sarcastic. These postures are reflected by the girl, who is bitchy or standoffish, brazenly indifferent to his appeal. The first act is devoted to their huffs and sneers and cat and mouse games as they trade put-downs or toss curtain lines over their shoulders. What brings the girl around eventually is simply the fact that she is the weaker of the two: not the weaker person but the weaker sex. Rand preferred “man worship” but she only regarded women weaker physically (for the most part) and in the sex drive.

Rand does employ these standards but she gave it her own highly unique twist as the “courtship” between Roark and Dominique is much more explosive and hastened.

But Ayn Rand by no means prostituted her art. In fact, if one reads The Letters of Ayn Rand, we find her quite upset and disappointed that most of the advertising for The Fountainhead played up the steamy romance, and not the book’s actual theme: individualism versus collectivism (in man’s soul).

-Victor

Edited by Victor Pross, 17 April 2007 - 04:02 PM.

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#16 Brant Gaede

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 04:13 PM

It'd be kinda strange if there wasn't sex in an Ayn Rand novel. "Living on earth" means lets do what's apropos. She didn't vulgarize it, although there were some interesting twists. The "rape" scene is too strong for modern sensibilities. Even if was by "engraved invitation," and it was, Roark behaved too much like a rapist during and after and Dominique too much like a rape victim immediately afterwards. I think the key is Dominique's unreal characterization which needed an unreal sex scene to get her going with Roark.

She was not depicted as suffering negative psychological consequences we would understand in a true rape victim.

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#17 Jeffery Small

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 05:04 PM

This discussion is fascinating in that it highlights, like no other discussion I have seen, how radically different the approach to Rand and Objectivism can be. I agree completely with Barbara that Rand's desire for including the scene between Roark and Dominique was for personal and philosophical reasons. Now, my interpretation has neither more weight nor is it necessarily more accurate than Ciro's observation, but, based upon my understanding of Rand's psychology, I find it inconceivable that she would ever be thinking about including this, or other elements, in the novel to titillate the reader with "steamy promiscuous love scenes". My view is that her creative efforts were operating on a much higher plain with significantly more important objectives. I realize that no one is arguing against that, but I don't believe that a person operating at that level can, at the same time, deal with issues as they are being described here. In fact, I remember many years ago reading a short story that Rand wrote about this topic. I believe it was called "The Easiest Thing in the World" (Barbara, do you remember the exact title?) It was about an author that wrote complex romantic fiction, but could not get it published. To be able to pay his bills, in despair, he decides to write a "commercial" pot-boiler which would have all the popular elements that are being discusses here. Despite his best intentions, the author finds that he is incapable of thinking at that level, and every attempt to write mainstream trash ends up morphing back into the complex psychological plots which he cannot sell. Ultimately, an artist must be true to themselves and this discussion shows that there is a wide range is how different people interpret Rand's true artistic nature. There is no criticism here. I just think it is very interesting.

Regards,
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Jeff

#18 Barbara Branden

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 05:11 PM

Barbara,

My focus (and I think this is at the root of what Ciro said) was that Rand consciously used devices in popular culture—entertainment cliches...In making her plot of The Fountainhead, she factored in the rape, steamy promiscuous love scenes (Wynand on top of the building with curtains open and gorgeous women), a building complex exploding, a murder (Keating), an attempted murder (Mallory), nudity (the sculpture), trial scene, embezzlement scheme, contemplated suicide, more than one drunk, and so forth.

All of these are standard entertainment cliches and were so (some more than others) at the time she wrote. I have no doubt that she was aware of this aspect of them...People like to read about and see these things, in addition to the speeches and character clashes. I have no doubt at all that Rand was aware of their intrinsic attention value.


Michael


Michael, I disagree again. From all of my knowledege of Rand, I cannot conceive of her saying to herself, "In plotting The Fountainhead, I must find a way to insert a murder, a rape, nudity, gorgeous women, and trial scenes." This had nothing to do with the manner in which she approached her novels. She began with a theme, then chose those events she believed would best dramatize that theme -- and often she chose, as means, what you call "standard entertainment cliches" not because she thought they would sell her work, but because they fitted her personal sense of the dramatic.

And one of the "cliches" you mention is not a cliche at all, and if anything was likely to so enrage the critics that their denunciations would harm the sales of her work -- which in fact is precisely what happened. It is scarcely a cliche to have a hero blow up a housing project!

My intention is not to denigrate commercial writing, but only to say that the methodology you suggest is the methodology of hacks, not of serious writers.

Barbara

#19 Barbara Branden

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 05:15 PM

Jeffrey, our posts crossed. I agree with you completely, and "The Simplest Thing in the World" is an excellent illustration of how Rand's mind worked and how it did not work; indeed, of how any creative person's mind works and does not work.

Barbara

#20 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 07:37 PM

Barbara,

Of course I am not suggesting that Rand was a hack or used the methods of hacks to tell hack stories. I stated she used typical elements of entertainment as her situations.

Let's look at that story, "The Simplest Thing in the World," (which is in The Romantic Manifesto). The problem was with the message, not with the actual situation. Here are the 3 situations Henry Dorn imagines, starting with a cliche.

1. (From the story):

... a middle-aged millionaire who tries to seduce a poor young working girl...


Rand exchanges the young girl for a young man to remove the seduction, adds motivations and alters the cliche.

2. (From the story):

... a young girl who lives on a rooftop, in one of those storerooms above a loft-building, and she's sitting there on the roof, all alone, it's a beautiful summer evening, and suddenly there's a shot and a window in the next building cracks open, glass flying all over the place, and a man jumps out of the window onto her roof.

Rand gives motivations to the characters and makes the man her dreamed-about love instead of a menacing presence.

3. The murder mystery. (Notice here she even cites the cliche as a cliche. She says "always done.")

There must be two villains in a mystery story: the victim and the murderer—so nobody would feel too sorry for either of them. That's the way it's always done. Well, you can have some leeway on the victim, but the murderer's got to be a villain . . .

In adding motives to the characters, she turns the villain into the hero. She inverts or alters the cliche.

In all 3 cases, she more or less developed her idea from a cliche, but she did not take the story in the direction that a hack would. Does this mean she was unaware that she was using a cliche? I don't think so. I think she was illustrating a writing technique.

Here is an interesting comment about love triangles from her notes to The Fountainhead where she inverts the cliche (Journals, p. 233):

p. 233:
Roark's attitude toward Wynand is a deep understanding; in a way—respect; and the only pity he has ever felt for any human being. As to Dominique, she sees the situation, resents it and is frightened by it. To her, there is no other reality and no other concern but Roark. She is jealous of Wynand, of any feeling Roark might have in response to Wynand's adoration of him. It is a triangle—in which the husband and wife are both in love with the same man.

p. 234-235:
Dominique finds herself suffering in a strange triangle—jealous of her husband's devotion to the man she loves.

From what I read in her comments about the love triangle, she did this on purpose. She didn't merely create the characters and their motivations and it simply popped out that way because it best represented her message. She did the love triangle and inverted the cliche at the same time she was making character notes and theme notes.

Rand wrote a letter to Kenneth MacGowan (film producer and director) dated May 18, 1934 where she gave a general outline of her approach, and I believe she stuck to that method in all her fiction. At least, I see the elements present. Here are some of her comments (the letter is too long to reproduce and be fair use). Notice that she is very much aware of audience appeal right from the beginning:

p. 6
In brief, my theory relates to making motion pictures appeal to all types of audiences. I know that it has been tried. I know also that it has not been tried successfully.

. . .

p. 6-7
There is only one common denominator which can be understood and enjoyed by all men, from the dullest to the most intelligent, and that is plot.

Everybody goes into a theatre to enjoy primarily what they are going to see and not how it is going to be presented to them. If they are not interested in what they see, they do not care how it is shown. The best manner of presenting nothing still makes it remain nothing.

That much is not new. The novelty of what I propose to do—and I believe it is a novelty, for I have never seen it done deliberately—consists in the following: in building the plot of a story in such a manner that it possesses tiers or layers of depth, so that each type of audience can understand and enjoy only as much of it as it wants to understand and enjoy, in other words so that each man can get out of it only as much as he can put into it. This must be done in such a manner that one and the same story can stand as a story without any of its deeper implications, so that those who do not care to be, will not be burdened with any intellectual or artistic angles, and yet those who do care for them will get those angles looking at exactly the same material.

If the plot of a story is simple and understandable enough to be interesting, alone, by itself, to even the lowest type of mentality, if it has the plain elements that can appeal to all, and if, at the same time, that plot carries a deeper meaning, a significance which can be reached only by the highest, then the problem is solved. I must emphasize once more that it is not merely a matter of a plain story—for the sake of the "lowbrow"—artistically presented for the sake of the "highbrow." It is a matter of the plot, the story, the very meat of the film arranged ingeniously enough to satisfy both. Is there any reason why a story cannot be built in such a way that it is convincing and interesting to those who cannot analyze it and yet just as convincing to those who can?

. . .

p. 8
This is a principle which I have applied to every story I have written so far, but I have never developed it as plainly and obviously and, if I may say so, as skillfully, as in Red Pawn. Also, I've never had a chance to attempt to explain my theory to anyone, as I have done it here.

. . .

p. 8
I have not the slightest doubt that this story will be made eventually, and that it will be one of the greatest hits ever made, and that it will give an entirely new field to motion pictures.

Here is a quote from The Art of Fiction, p. 57:

At the start of my career, I had a valuable conversation with Cecil DeMille. It was my first year in Hollywood, I was twenty-two, and I had already developed a strong plot sense; but although I could recognize a good plot story, I had not consciously identified what characteristics made it good. DeMille told me something that clarified the issue for me.

He said that a good story depends on what he called "the situation,'' by which he meant a complicated conflict [a plot-theme], and that the best stories are those which can be told in one sentence. In other words, if the essential situation (not the whole story, of course) can be told in one sentence, this makes for a good plot story.

She went on to emphasize conflict (which was the point of this discussion), but look how much conflict is inherent in the standard entertainment cliches I mentioned. Even a simple car chase (which, thank goodness, never became a part of Rand's fiction, although a plane chase did) has an element of conflict built into it. Rand's technique was usually to invert it or alter it to put the conflict in an unexpected place.

But there is more. I just spent a great deal of time trying to find a quote on the Objectivism Research CDROM about the plane crash and could not. After I relaxed and mentally drifted a bit, I remembered it might have been by NB. Then I found it in "The Literary Method of Ayn Rand" in Who is Ayn Rand? (p. 73-74 of the Paperback Library edition):

To those who subscribe to the soul-body dichotomy in literature, Atlas Shrugged is a mystifying anomaly that defies classification by conventional standards. It moves effortlessly and ingeniously from economics to epistemology to morality to metaphysics to psychology to the theory of sex, on the one hand—and, on the other, it has a chapter that a ends with the heroine hurtling toward the earth in an airplane with a dead motor, it has a playboy crusader who blows up a multi-billion-dollar industry, a philosopher-turned-pirate who attacks government relief ships, and a climax that involves the rescue of the hero from a torture-chamber.


For the life of me, I cannot imagine Rand conceiving of rescuing the hero from a torture-chamber as anything but a cliche, except she completely inverted it. She had her torture scene (which is interesting in itself, as is seen in countless stories). But she integrated it with all the other elements in the novel and she made the bad guys torture the good guy in order for him to lead them.

As a further use of the plane crash, Rand even added symbolism. Here is a quote from The Art of Fiction, p. 173:

When, at the end of Part II of Atlas Shrugged, Dagny follows Galt into the sunrise, that is symbolism. It is even a trite symbol, but so appropriate that it was legitimate. Literally, she is following his plane late at night, and by the locale of the action he has to go east (which I carefully planned long in advance). Symbolically, she has been in the dark during all of the story, but now she is about to see the sunrise—and the first light comes from the wings of Galt's plane.

Using the sunrise, or any form of light, as a symbol of the good or the revelation is a bromide, but it is a bromide of the kind that love is: it is so wide and fundamental that you cannot avoid it. What will make your use of it a bromide or not is whether or not you bring any originality to the subject.

I learned a long time ago as a song lyric writer that a great source of inspiration was to invert cliches or put a new spin on them. I see this approach all over Rand's writing. She even put a new spin on Greek mythology.

To be clear, my point is that Rand did not avoid cliches. She embraced them, but turned them around to serve her message. She had other options in creating her stories, yet they are loaded with inverted or altered cliches.

I see nothing wrong or demeaning about this. I wonder if part of the reason so much that is stilted in writers trying to imitate Rand (or follow her school of writing) is due to their complete avoidance of cliches for fear that it smacks of second-handedness. They are literally left without too much action, so they imitate her in order to be safe.

As a complimentary comment, I read somewhere by NB that Rand liked to shock people. I tried to find this quote, but I couldn't, so I need to add it later. A good example, but not what NB wrote, is Rand's comment to a question asking what she thought of feminism and she responded that she was a male chauvinist. This is the entertainer in her. I see this coming through all over in her writing and I see nothing wrong or demeaning about this, either. To me, an artist who does not want to entertain is not much of an artist. There is nothing second-hand at all in thinking about the audience as one of the elements you consider. (But, of course, I believe there is plenty wrong if it is an imbalanced concern.)

I hope this makes what I have been trying to say a little clearer.

Michael

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