Purity, Addiction, The Fountainhead

I finished The Fountainhead about a week ago, and wanted to write something about it while it was fresh.

The surface rationale of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is preaching Objectivism. It’s a pretty straightforward belief system that has pros and cons. After thinking about it though, a few issues below the surface became visible to me.

All of Rand’s characters in the book had some very interesting qualities. All seemed to destroy themselves for some reason or another. Rand paints them as heroes, with immovable monolithic principles and standards. Confronted with a corrupt world, these standards almost become addictive vices, and act to destroy them.

Howard Roark rapes Dominique and Rand describes how terribly she hates him. However, Dominique falls desperately in love with Roark because he represents something so pure that he should not be allowed to exist in the world. Their relationship almost seems masochistic. They both punish themselves and each other.

Gail Wynand is a newspaper mogul, a William Randolph Hearst type character, who seeks power through exploitation. He sacrifices all that is pure as a way of punishing himself and stripping away remorse. Wynand marries Roark’s lover Dominique, effectively destroys Roark’s career, yet the lone architect maintains his friendship with his nemesis.

Howard Roark himself sacrifices any ounce of success for a pure ideal. In a sense he destroys himself. Often Howard Roark sits longingly by the windowsill, smoking cigarettes. Roark destroys himself by holding true to an almost unreachable goal. He willingly gives up Dominique and moderate success. He even destroys a building he designed but was altered by lesser architects. If his creation cannot be perfect, it must not exist.

The world is corrupt and destroys those who are pure. But this is the human story. In the same way, addiction destroys an innocent purity, but creates personality and depth.

Addiction is a way of consciously destroying oneself to create a perpetuating lifestyle, in a way that it appeals to familiarity. Those addicted to vices find ways to mold their lifestyle around their addiction, creating a cycle. Addiction is about repetition. Those who smoke cigarettes get the same brands, smoke in the same physical manner, and consciously destroy themselves in order to cope and seek meaning. Those who drink use the same type of liquor, the same chasers, and put themselves in a repeatable, familiar mood.

There is a nebulous relationship between human purity and addiction, two sides of a whole.

Addiction is a horrible thing, but a powerful thing. All who attempt to speak about it must experience it first hand. Creating an internal struggle is perhaps worth the physical risk.

Palahniuk and Brock, two poets skirting the edge: “I don’t want to die without any scars,” and “If it takes shit to make bliss then I feel pretty blissfully.”

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