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deedlebee
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The Fountainhead will be the second book I have read by Miss Rand. I read articles on various sites when I have the opportunity and I greatly enjoyed The Voice of Reason. Of what I understand about Objectivism so far, I greatly admire. It fits well with my own sense of life and values and I enjoy the discussions that arise between Objectivists (and students thereof).

I also like the idea of Howard Roark as a character... as a hero. I even considered architecture as a career several years ago. But ultimately, I can't seem to "get" into the book. I've found this to be an awkward and possibly troubling problem.

I've started and restarted maybe 4 times now. I keep putting the book down feeling acutely annoyed. I will admit that I do not have the same tastes as Miss Rand when it comes to the hair color of men, but I don't think that's the prime source of agitation. After the introduction of Roark, as the auxiliary characters are presented one at a time, I find myself ... I suppose sneering. I think I find them so distasteful that it's hard to maintain an interest in the story as a whole, much less the hero. There are so many of them, and they're all such awful people that I immediately want to distance myself.

In my personal life, as it has been for as long as I can remember (even in elementary school) I never wasted my own time with people whom I decided were wasting mine. As an adult, if someone has crossed my line of personal decency (what values they choose to act upon and why, not obscure social standards of behavior) I immediately dismiss him from my life and move on without looking back. And I do this without remorse or regret.

I'm well aware that I enjoy non-fiction much more for my reading habits. I rarely pick up novels, as I'd rather be learning about something. Still, I love great stories. My question is simply this: has anyone else here experienced something similar while reading these novels?

If not, I gladly welcome any suggestions for this odd situation.

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I suggest you stick with it. The Fountainhead does start out a little slow. But once you get about halfway through the second part (Ellsworth Toohey) it starts picking up. The final two parts (Gail Wynard and Howard Roark) are spectacular.

I have to admit my bias though, The Fountainhead is my favorite book :nuke:.

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I just finished the chapter about the Stoddard Temple and I don't see myself putting this book down until I am done. I didn't find it slow at all in the begining. I found all the characters being introduced amazing. I loved looking at them and understanding what made them either men of virtue or men of vice.

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Deedlebee, have you got as far as Henry Cameron? He's not that far into the story, and he is a fiercely admirable man. However, you might ask yourself what you think about Ayn Rand's style of writing. Do you like it, or not like it, and why?

Also, try being specific about what you don't like about certain characters; how are they similar, how are they different? Do they suggest people you know in real life?

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Deedlebee,

I wrote a response all out but didn't log on before sending it and now I got to start all over. I'll try to do as good:

The Fountainhead was the first Rand novel I read. It was also the first romantic novel I read. It was a very slow read though I was fascinated by Roark very early and finished because I needed to know what happened to this guy. This is actually the first big question that I can think of: Roark gets expelled from the best school of architecture, seeming to be madly in love with the profession but he gets expelled in a most surprising way--will this guy make it in the end, or will be prove to be merely arrogant and wrong?

Plus, Romanticists have a distinguishable method and style of writing. For example, Victor Hugo. I usually start his novels quite slow, though I've read Rands fiction about 15 or so times. But though I am usually interested in Hugo's heroes, and after introducing him in a most fascinating way, he will soon deviate to introduce other principle characters. For me it is only when I can see the struggle begin, when I see how the characters threaten or benefit each other, when enough surprises arise, then I can fly through the rest.

Look at an enjoyable drama on t.v. It doesn't get me usually until somewhere near the middle. Romantic writers write novels of several hundred pages. But the bubbling and the explosion is usually worth it. Romantic novels require effort: an active mind: asking questions, see relationships, making predictions, acknowledging the dissapointment of one's failed prediction yet noticing the author's virtuosity.

For the Fountainhead I will just say this: If you like Roark already, then pay attention to him, take interest in his life. If he falls in love, pay attention to that person. He seems to be very passionate in a unique way--how will he treat his other values. Watch what and who go against him if they do--or will the 700 pages be the story of a smooth ride up a mountain on a clear sunny day?

That's it,

Americo.

P.S. The water blast From the fountain of this particular novel will be worth it and leave you, as it left me and others, with a cleansed effect after a great thrill!

Edited by AMERICONORMAN
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Those distasteful and awful people are exactly the same as the people around you in real life. Unless you are spending your days sneering, or you are in a faraway utopia which I've never heard about, you should be used to them by now.

The only characters you might not have met yet in real life are those of Howard Roark, Dominique Francon, and Gail Wynand. The rest are just "average" people, in sharper focus.

It's kind of like trying on a new pair of glasses. You see so much better it may be disturbing. But you can't just give it up, can you?

Edited by erandror
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It's kind of like trying on a new pair of glasses. You see so much better it may be disturbing. But you can't just give it up, can you?

Well obviously I can ;> Four times over. This was basically my point. Reading this novel is like a warped view of real life. The beautiful are stunning and the ugly burn my eyes. I particularly loathe Keatings' mother.

Those distasteful and awful people are exactly the same as the people around you in real life. Unless you are spending your days sneering, or you are in a faraway utopia which I've never heard about, you should be used to them by now.

I don't exist in a utopia, nor do I run gleefully towards people with whom I want no association. I spend a great deal of my days smiling. It's only when I have to deal explicitly with nonsense, such as a professor claiming moral equivalency between peaceful protesting and armed robbery (this really happened) that the sneers or stern stares come out.

In response to what seems to be a common view regarding Roark and really wanting to know what happens to him, my impression is this. He strikes me as having a character that should be perceived as normal (not as a mathematical average). When I read his introduction I think, "this is how a normal, rational person acts". He doesn't let little things bother him. Nor should he.

With Roark, I actually don't feel an immediate need to find out what will become of him. I don't equate the approval of others with the approval of one's self. I don't feel any particular sorrow because he's been kicked out of school for thinking like an individual should. Whatever will happen to him in the book, be it good or bad, it still won't change how Roark views himself.

Right?

I don't view him as some sort of stoic monk. He is obviously passionate, but only towards important matters. I should state though, that I'm uninterested in stories of "heroes" that are embedded into plots that simply reveal a weakness of character (Spiderman comes to mind), or some horrible flaw that somehow makes them better because of the shortcoming, not because they improve themselves (Big Fish fits here*).

In my most recent attempt I have read to page 52. I could comment on the writing style, but I'm more than willing to put styles aside to read a great story.

Still, thank you all for your encouraging and thoughtful comments.

*While this is not the appropriate forum to discuss movies, I will say that while Big Fish was visually lovely I found the story to be rather disturbing and am surprised I have met Objectivists who like it. Romanticizing a habitual liar who is incapable of having a conversation with his son... doesn't seem very noble to me.

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If you want to read the book for the benefit of understanding the philosophy contained in the book, but find the negative characters bothersome, then perhaps take a different perspective. Read the novel while remaining conciously aware of the fact that these are all fictional characters, and that each one represents a certain philosophy and/or psychological state. Identify the archetypes as such, and turn it into a philosophical exercise.

I think you may benefit from introspecting further about why you don't feel motivated to read The Fountainhead. I noticed you commented that "rarely pick up novels, as I'd rather be learning about something." I guarantee that if you read The Fountainhead, you'll be "learning about something."

I don't want to be too harsh, but glancing at your background, I would recommend that if you want to understand Objectivism, reading and writing posts here is infinitely less fruitful than reading The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, say, twice each, and then following up or mixing this with Ayn Rand's non-fiction. Reading the Voice of Reason and 60 pages of The Fountainhead is, quite simply, insufficient to form an integrated understanding of the Objectivist philsophy. And reading posts here, where it is generally assumed that all readers are familiar with the events and characters of the novels (and many other things), has probably already resulted in multiple plot spoilers that could further reduce your enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels.

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If you want to read the book for the benefit of understanding the philosophy contained in the book...

I want to read the book for the sake of enjoying a good story. While it may be a philosophical exercise throughout, fiction holds an additional bonus for being purposefully enjoyable. Your advice on looking at it as an intellectual exercise is helpful to a student of Objectivism. In good conscience, I cannot claim to be a student of Objectivism just yet. This is not because I do not want to be, but because I do not have an appropriate amount of free time with which to pursue this vigorously. I remain very interested in the philosophy and as much in agreement as one could be considering these facts.

I don't want to be too harsh, but glancing at your background, I would recommend that if you want to understand Objectivism, reading and writing posts here is infinitely less fruitful than reading The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, say, twice each, and then following up or mixing this with Ayn Rand's non-fiction. Reading the Voice of Reason and 60 pages of The Fountainhead is, quite simply, insufficient to form an integrated understanding of the Objectivist philosophy.

While I understand what you're saying, it strikes me as off topic. It seems as if you are suggesting that I think the best way to go about learning about Objectivism is to post on a forum and read bits of a book or two. What I have said is that these are things I *have* read so far. I did not couple it with "and I expect to know all about Objectivism from this limited context". I am not expecting to fully integrate this philosophy from these sources. I do, like most other people on these boards (and elsewhere), have other things of concern in my life. As I've said, I'm reading The Fountainhead for the sake of enjoyment first and finding that lacking for reasons stated above (which do not include "trying to decide if Objectivism is for me").

From a more personal context, I am not interested in Objectivism because I think it might help "get me away from other bad philosophies". (I know you did not say this. I'm strictly using it as an example) I am interested because it seems that the values which I hold are very similar to this philosophy.

I noticed you commented that "rarely pick up novels, as I'd rather be learning about something." I guarantee that if you read The Fountainhead, you'll be "learning about something."

This was poorly phrased on my part. I did not intend to imply that one cannot learn from a work of fiction. I will try to restate this more clearly. I find works of non-fiction incredibly engrossing. I gain both intellectual and emotional satisfaction from non-fiction. As the *first* (not only) goal of a fictional work is to be entertaining, I tend to lean more towards non-fiction first.

And reading posts here, where it is generally assumed that all readers are familiar with the events and characters of the novels (and many other things), has probably already resulted in multiple plot spoilers that could further reduce your enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels.

I'm well aware that I can (and have) run into spoilers. This does not persuade me from reading a book. Seeing one little portion of a 700 page book discussed in minute detail is more like a trailer for a movie (for me anyway). If anything, these discussions have encouraged me to pick up the book and find that enjoyment. That I know something is going to happen doesn't mean I can't enjoy it when I arrive knowing the full context. If this were true, I would not read books a second time, an activity I thoroughly enjoy.

Deedlebee, if you want to read a great story in three or so hours, pick up "Anthem".  I note that you said you sneer or stare at those you consider irrational. But do you have intellectual ammunition with which to speak up and defend your values when appropriate?

First, I don't believe I made the comment that I'm finding The Fountainhead to be unenjoyable because it's long. Secondly, I most certainly do. My point in saying I react to certain events with sneers or stares was not intended to imply that this is my only action. Additionally, my statement that I remove myself from the presence of those who waste my personal time was not intended to suggest that I run away from intellectual challenges. It simply means that I do not let the wants of others direct my time.

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As the *first* (not only) goal of a fictional work is to be entertaining

I think this premise is the root of your problems. Miss Rand held (and I wholeheartedly agree) that the purpose of art is to portray man as he can and should be. When you approach a novel expecting it to entertain you, you are missing the point: What you can expect from it is a lot MORE than just a couple of hours of fun! The book will help you find out about the nature of evil, the nature of good, and about how good overcomes evil. You can learn from it a lesson that will stay with you for the rest of your life, and guide your actions like a star guides the captain of a ship. The Fountainhead is about YOUR survival!

I didn't like reading about Keating's shenanigans myself, but I muddled through them because I was eager to get to the parts on Roark, and I knew that those negative characters would become relevant later. It is good for you that you surround yourself with virtuous people, but the problem with evil men is that they might insert themselves into your life unsolicited--by various means, such as workplace intrigue, legislation, or planes flown into buildings--and you'll have to know how to overcome them. It is not Miss Rand's fault that you have to read about unpleasant characters; it is because they exist and they won't like you if you are like Howard Roark.

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Deedlebee, if you want to read a great story in three or so hours, pick up "Anthem".  

     I note that you said you sneer or stare at those you consider irrational.  But do you have intellectual ammunition with which to speak up and defend your values when appropriate?

Or also read something short like Cyrano DeBergerac but not Objectivist and fall in love with the method of presenting an interesting plot. You'll have to come back to Ayn Rand because, I will declare, that she is a master of plot. The master. And part of it has to do with her unique philosophy that challenges everything. Everything. So that it is an immediate conflict. One may be confident in the ultimate power of Objectivism to win against its foes ... but there are many philosophies that give us a great challenge, even though their fight against "us" is futile.

Americo

Edited by AMERICONORMAN
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I think this premise is the root of your problems. Miss Rand held (and I wholeheartedly agree) that the purpose of art is to portray man as he can and should be. When you approach a novel expecting it to entertain you, you are missing the point: What you can expect from it is a lot MORE than just a couple of hours of fun! The book will help you find out about the nature of evil, the nature of good, and about how good overcomes evil. You can learn from it a lesson that will stay with you for the rest of your life, and guide your actions like a star guides the captain of a ship. The Fountainhead is about YOUR survival!

I didn't like reading about Keating's shenanigans myself, but I muddled through them because I was eager to get to the parts on Roark, and I knew that those negative characters would become relevant later. It is good for you that you surround yourself with virtuous people, but the problem with evil men is that they might insert themselves into your life unsolicited--by various means, such as workplace intrigue, legislation, or planes flown into buildings--and you'll have to know how to overcome them. It is not Miss Rand's fault that you have to read about unpleasant characters; it is because they exist and they won't like you if you are like Howard Roark.

Capitalism Forever,

I think you're wrong by your first sentence. The purpose of fiction IS to make it entertaining. However, it is "could be" and "should be" that makes it so. (Now I will read the rest of this post of yours). Philosophy--and Rand's philosophy--should be entertaining to all folks.

However, unfortunately, there are many for whom one has to make them see the nature of a good story, no matter if the hero's convictions are communist.

Americo.

Edited by AMERICONORMAN
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The purpose of fiction IS to make it entertaining.  However, it is "could be" and "should be" that makes it so.

"entertainment" according to Merriam-Webster:

something diverting or engaging: as a : a public performance b : a usually light comic or adventure novel

The Fountainhead is certainly engaging, so in that sense I might go along with your use of the term, but I think what deedlebee has been looking for (he'll correct me if I'm wrong) is a "diverting," "light" novel that entertains by being "comic" or describing "adventurous" events. Although there is a lot of excellent humor in The Fountainhead, the lightness is not its primary attraction; it is just the icing on the cake. I have always thought of reading Ayn Rand's works, fiction and non-fiction alike, as work, in the best possible sense of the word--that is, not the kind of work you do but don't really like, but the kind of effort you are eager to expend because it will improve your life.

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I had a similar reaction to Atlas Shrugged when I first tried reading it; bogged down after 40 pages or so, just couldn't get into it at all. Then I read a book which included key passages extracted from Atlas, Fountainhead and We, the Living. (I think its title was For the New Intellectual, but it's been a long time and I'm not certain.) Then I went back to Atlas and couldn't put it down.

Reading the excerpts might not have been what provided the actual stimulus. At the time, I was desperate for intellectual ammunition. Richard Nixon had just imposed his wage/price controls, and I was horrified. I would scream to anyone and everyone about how wrong it was, but didn't have the intellectual framework in place to argue coherently. Reading Rand took care of that little problem.

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I also find I sometimes have trouble reading the Fountainhead because of the fact that I still, after reading it three times through, cannot understand some of the characters. I can understand Roark, Gail, Henry Cameron, Austen Heller, Mike, Ellsworth, ect. But when it comes to reading about three people I just get an extreme feeling of confusion, those characters being Peter Keating, Catherine, and Dominque. Thier actions just never seem to quite make any sense to me whatsoever.

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I also find I sometimes have trouble reading the Fountainhead because of the fact that I still, after reading it three times through, cannot understand some of the characters.  I can understand Roark, Gail, Henry Cameron, Austen Heller, Mike, Ellsworth, ect.  But when it comes to reading about three people I just get an extreme feeling of confusion, those characters being Peter Keating, Catherine, and Dominque.  Thier actions just never seem to quite make any sense to me whatsoever.

Dominique is a woman of great integrity. She suffers from a philosophy of extreme malevolence. That is, this is her conscious principled beliefs. She doesn't believe that a man like her lover is possible, according to her philosophy. But her sense of life is the opposite. Because she follows her conscious convictions, she ends up attempting to destroy what she is most passionate about. This commitment to principles and values is what she and her lover have in common. The story is about Roark understanding the principle behind the dean. It is also about Dominique understanding the principles behind her lover (s).

Americo.

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Dominique is a woman of great integrity.  She suffers from a philosophy of extreme malevolence.  That is, this is her conscious principled beliefs.  She doesn't believe that a man like her lover is possible, according to her philosophy.  But her sense of life is the opposite.  Because she follows her conscious convictions, she ends up attempting to destroy what she is most passionate about.  This commitment to principles and values is what she and her lover have in common.  The story is about Roark understanding the principle behind the dean.  It is also about Dominique understanding the principles behind her lover (s).

Americo.

Thank you, at the moment of reading your post I had to smack myself and think to myself "Now why didn't I think of that" :P That explains a lot for me... I always thought that she held the same beliefs as Roark, which I realize now was a mistake, so her actions wouldn't make much sense in that case. This puts a whole new light on it, thank you. :D

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I HAD TO EDIT THIS BECAUSE WHEN I INITIALLY WROTE IT I HAD NO REGARD FOR THE TOPIC STARTER, WHO IS STARTING THE BOOK. SO I MUST WARN THAT THERE ARE CERTAINLY SPOILERS.

I also find I sometimes have trouble reading the Fountainhead because of the fact that I still, after reading it three times through, cannot understand some of the characters.  I can understand Roark, Gail, Henry Cameron, Austen Heller, Mike, Ellsworth, ect.   But when it comes to reading about three people I just get an extreme feeling of confusion, those characters being Peter Keating, Catherine, and Dominque.  Thier actions just never seem to quite make any sense to me whatsoever.

Keating is interesting too, though a pitiful specimen. It is hard for me to admit that when I first read The Fountainhead there were some aspects of Keating that I related too. Thank God for the book! But since he is a tragic hero, there would be no catharsis if one didn't see some potential of good in him. Very early he shows some signs of living like Roark, but he keeps on making terrible mistakes ... anD he pays for them. He had a genuine love for Roark. But he was a scared dependent. The tragedy is made more pitiful when we see him trying to pick up his true love, painting, but realizing it is too late. We have to like him when he make his last deal with Roark and tries to fight for Roark and himself. But then, since he is a villain, we must show him in the end bare naked ... we see him on the stand and we see him before Ellsworth, crying on the floor.

How many of you wished that the mother never walked in on Roark's and Keating's opening conversation?

Americo.

Edited by AMERICONORMAN
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"entertainment" according to Merriam-Webster:

The Fountainhead is certainly engaging, so in that sense I might go along with your use of the term, but I think what deedlebee has been looking for (he'll correct me if I'm wrong) is a "diverting," "light" novel that entertains by being "comic" or describing "adventurous" events. Although there is a lot of excellent humor in The Fountainhead, the lightness is not its primary attraction; it is just the icing on the cake. I have always thought of reading Ayn Rand's works, fiction and non-fiction alike, as work, in the best possible sense of the word--that is, not the kind of work you do but don't really like, but the kind of effort you are eager to expend because it will improve your life.

To be fair, I must reveal that I hold the experience of the artist, the creator, as of paramount importance and value. It is the seat of sacredness forme. It is Tte fountainhead of any work of art. That the artist enjoyed the initial creation, and the experience of the final unity, is a necessary condition of a good work of art. Thus, an artist is first seeking to "entertain" himself through the act of creation, and thus, he hopes that there will be viewers who can understand and enjoy the process he went through, or at least the final outcome. And in Romanticism the goal is to project what should be and could be ... but this is only because one wants to entertain oneself (coincidentally, the artist is a unique worker because his work involves self-enjoyment ... even ecstasy). A conscious artist knows that enjoyable art is done by projecting the maybe's and oughts of life.

Americo.

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I HAD TO EDIT THIS BECAUSE WHEN I INITIALLY WROTE IT I HAD NO REGARD FOR THE TOPIC STARTER, WHO IS STARTING THE BOOK.  SO I MUST WARN THAT THERE ARE CERTAINLY SPOILERS.

Keating is interesting too, though a pitiful specimen.  It is hard for me to admit that when I first read The Fountainhead there were some aspects of Keating that I related too.  Thank God for the book!  But since he is a tragic hero, there would be no catharsis if one didn't see some potential of good in him.  Very early he shows some signs of living like Roark, but he keeps on making terrible mistakes ... anD he pays for them.  He had a genuine love for Roark.  But he was a scared dependent.  The tragedy is made more pitiful when we see him trying to pick up his true love, painting, but realizing it is too late.  We have to like him when he make his last deal with Roark and tries to fight for Roark and himself.  But then, since he is a villain, we must show him in the end bare naked ... we see him on the stand and we see him before Ellsworth, crying on the floor.

How many of you wished that the mother never walked in on Roark's and Keating's opening conversation?

Americo.

Keating is not a tragic hero. He is not a man who is predominately virtuous and having a flaw in his character which he does not, or chooses not,

to change. He does not "show some signs of living like Roark, ever. And we do not have to like him when when he makes his deal with Roark. I certainly didn't.

A better choice for Keating, at that point, would have been to have gone out and gotten himself an honest job and to live as honestly as he could.

Keating's mother not interrupting the conversation would have made no difference in Keating's character. He was the cause of him, not she.

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(he'll correct me if I'm wrong)

she'll correct you, as you are wrong :P

but I think what deedlebee has been looking for ...  is a "diverting," "light" novel that entertains by being "comic" or describing "adventurous" events.

Certainly not. If I want something that is "comic" or "light", I turn on [adult swim] for 15 minutes. What I said prior, I still hold to. A work of fiction is first a piece of entertainment. That is not its only function. Nor does "entertainment" imply need for a simple mind or simple matters. Entertainment has a wide range, all the way up to what could be called the sublime. Fine art is also entertainment in that it puts a tangible face on philosophical ideas. It's first goal is "to think for you" (to phrase it poorly); to present ideas in a way that should capture the audience's attention. Whether those ideas are complex and meaningful or simple and unimportant is up to the author. The Fountainhead is certainly the former and is designed to be a good read and thought-provoking.

I do not find The Fountainhead to be difficult to read. I am simply having trouble engaging myself with distasteful characters. I would like to mention though, that after having read a book for one of my courses (Industrial America) called "Looking Back". I now have a great desire to read Atlas Shrugged. So I may do that for a bit and then come back :)

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Keating is not a tragic hero.  He is not a man who is predominately virtuous and having a flaw in his character which he does not, or chooses not,

to change.  He does not "show some signs of living like Roark, ever.  And we do not have to like him when when he makes his deal with Roark.  I certainly didn't.

A better choice for Keating, at that point, would have been to have gone out and gotten  himself an honest job and to live as honestly as he could.

    Keating's mother not interrupting the conversation would have made no difference in Keating's character.  He was the cause of him, not she.

AGAIN, THERE ARE SPOILERS:

You are right, Wynand is THE tragic hero. However, out of all the villains, Keating is the least evil, and struggles, has a glimpse of what a better man he can be. I recognize Keating as a villain. I wanted to isolate him from the other villains. But you're wrong, there are moments when Keating does "the right thing". We don't have to like him for that as a whole, but that one action is noteable. One would lose out on the drama of this principle character if he has no choice, and his nature has determined that he will reach the depths of evil. There has to be "ways out" which is why we despise Keating at the end BECAUSE he made the wrong choices.

Just like Roark had tempations and made choices that paid off to his advantage in the long run, so Keating, had the opportunity to do good, and because he made the wrong choices, he loses in the end.

My comments were directed to a questioner who was bewildered by Keating. I think my comments might help him. Keating lost me, even at my first reading, when he gave up Dominique. In comparision to Toohey, Keating is much more "likeable" which is why Roark is able to tolerate him. Dominique even points out a moment, when she likes him. And when Roark makes the deal with him, he is reaching to Keating's "better self", and it is this "better self" by which Keating makes the honorable choice.

Just look at Wynand: it is only when he has a chance to praise Roark in journalism, that he reaches his opportunity for redemption. I don't mean, that his redemption will be that he reaches the stature and happiness of Roark, but if he follows the right course, he will reach HIS best.

Americo.

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However, out of all the villains, Keating is the least evil, and struggles, has a glimpse of what a better man he can be.
I would disagree with that, I personally found Keating far more repulsive than Toohey, and I believe that someone who has consciously chosen evil in an intelligent fashion is preferable to someone who has drifted through life with little thought about what goes on around him. Most of the problems in the world are caused by the Keatings, not the Tooheys. Edited by Hal
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