Fountainhead - Ayn Rand - Analysis

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Fountainhead - Ayn Rand - Analysis

Postby brianeknoll » Jan 10, 2010 8:29 pm

A latecomer to this fascinating book by Ayn Rand, I believe it worthy of analyzing. If you haven't read this book, I'd recommend giving it a go. While weighty, it's delectable.

This is my attempt to select the StoryForm for the book -- I'd love to hear the opinion of others. And, if this post is in the wrong place, please let me know.

The Main Character, Harold Roark, is clearly a steadfast character, remaining steadfast despite financial peril, societal condemnation, and isolation.

This book is a great example of what Dramatica calls hand-offs, passing the Dramatic function from one character to another. In this book, there are many Impact Characters. And, a post in Hull's Storyfanatic blog explains how this is done well. Impact characters, when there are more than one, should never both be with the main character at the same time. In this case, both Dominique and Gail Wynand are impact characters. Because Roark is Steadfast, they are the ones impacted by Roark.

These characters break guidelines that Jim Hull sets out on his StoryFanatic blog (check out his awesome blog @ if you haven't already) -- such as the impact characters should not be with the MC at the same time. At first this troubled me: there are many times when BOTH impact characters are with Harold. That said, as I continued reading Jim's post, this was explained. If both impact characters are in the scene with the MC at the same time, one should be quiet. You'll notice that once Harold and Gail Wynand start hanging out together, Dominique becomes silent -- she doesn't speak, she doesn't get involved in the conversation, she merely sits and watches the two men. And, when Dominique and Wynand interact, they do so as Jim says works best: without the main character present. They talk about the MC -- Dominique understands the impact that Roark is having on Gail.

But -- I digress -- back to the Storyform. We've got a Steadfast MC who is waiting for something to Stop in his environment. He's waiting for society to stop getting in his way and allow him to do his thing: build beuatiful (a matter of opinion) buildings.

What about outcomes? As Ayn Rand herself states -- this is a complete and utter Triumph for the main character. So Story Outcome is Success, and Story Judgment is Good.

How many Storyforms does that leave us with? Quite a few! 2048. Clearly we've still got some work to do.

The story is an Optionlock, rather than a Timelock. There are only so many people who will hire Harold -- and after the last fiasco, it basically comes down to one person: Gail Wynand. He is ultimately the one who can condemn or free Harold. And he hires Harold to build a towering building in New York -- allowing Harold free reign to build it as he would like, in his own style.

Harold is a linear thinker. He researches architecture, finds an architect who he believes can teach him and goes to him seeking work. 512 forms left.

Harold is a Do-er. Does he change himself or the world around him? He changes the world. How does he do this? Harold is a builder -- Roark builds buildings -- it's all he wants to do. What other examples of his being a do-er are there? He goes to Dominque's and practically rapes her. (An alternative argument could be made: that Harold is a Be-er, changing the world just by his presence).

Driver: Action? Decision? Decision, as it's Gail's decision at the end to give the contract to Harold that ultimately cements Harold's victory. What about the Inciting Incident? Harold's decision to go seek out a certain architect to train him. If Harold had been expelled from school and given up, the rest of the story wouldn't need to happen. 128 SFs left! We're getting somewhere!

The MC Throughline is activity. Throughout the book, Howard is engaged in activities -- he's a builder or he wants to be building. It's all he wants to do with his life. He's seldom not doing something. He's a workaholic.

He's always DOING something. (And his doing seems effortless to other people -- this is noted many times -- and is a very particular characteristic that no one else in the story shares.) MC Concern is absolutely DOING. He doesn't care that his works of art -- which some consider sacred -- are defaced. He only cares that he's DOING something -- building more -- doing what he loves.

This gives us an OS Throughline of Situation. What's the situation here? A world being eaten alive by selflessness? A world that's a soulless carnival house of broken mirrors, defined by everyone elses' views, leaving nothing solid, nothing REAL. I'm comfortable with that interpretation.

Harold's unique ability is his Skill. He has the skill to do things no other architect can.

In regard to MC Issue, I'm torn between Wisdom and Experience. Harold HAS the wisdom -- he understands how things fit together in a way few others do, especially when it comes to architecture. That said -- he is having trouble getting the EXPERIENCE of building -- he has trouble getting people to hire him. His issue isn't really his wisdom.

For OS Problem: Hunch (vs. Theory). I just have this feeling, when choosing between these two options -- that the problem is the overall story is that people have a feeling -- a hunch -- that something is very wrong in the world. But they have no idea what it is. They're right - there is something very wrong going -- but they can't put together a Theory that will support that. Only Ellsworth Toohey (the antagonist) knows the theory and uses it to do evil subtle things (the slavering beast, was it?).

This brings us to one storyform! Find it attached.
Fountainhead StoryForm.JPG

It'll be interesting to see if I can decipher how the Throughline Signposts play out and see if this matches up well with the story. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone else who's taken on the task of analyzing this one.
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