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A Furnace

The Fountainhead includes a remedy of Rand’s very wrong passage in We the Living (1936). Andrei had told Kira that we cannot sacrifice the masses for the sake of the few. She replied: “You can! You must. When those few are the best. . . . What are your masses but mud to be ground under foot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it [deserve life]? What is the people but millions of puny, shriveled, helpless souls that have no thoughts of their own, no dreams of their own, no will of their own, . . . And for those you would sacrifice the few who know life, who are life?” (WL 1936, quoted in Sciabarra 1995, 101; Mayhew 2004, 211; cf. BGE 258, 265). I remarked in the preceding installment that even if this talk were only of metaphorical burning, say the burning of lifetimes in manual labor for factory owners or mine owners, these were and are words for the trash can.

Speaking to Dominique, Gail Wynand says “‘One can’t love man without hating most of the creatures who pretend to his name’” (GW IV 476). That hatred is a distant relative to Kira’s hatred, but not distant enough for Rand 1943.

During the Banner’s campaign against Roark’s newly completed Stoddard Temple of the Human Spirit, Roark is interviewed by reporters. “He spoke without anger. He said: ‘I can’t tell anyone anything about my building. If I prepared a hash of words to stuff into other people’s brains, it would be an insult to them and to me’” (ET XII 365). The Banner reports the interview, twisting Roark’s view into one contrary to his. Their account is a report of precisely what Roark did not think: “‘Mr. Roark . . . stated that the public mind was hash’” (ibid.).* To a distinguished and ignoble literary critic in the circle of villain Toohey, Rand gives the line “I have a right to wish to impress my own personality upon people” (GW VI 503). Rand’s respect for the mind(s) of the public expressed by Roark was also expressed by the sympathetic character Sasha in We the Living (II, §II).

The editor of the Banner is Alvah Scarret. Of this character, Rand writes that he “had never hated anything, and so was incapable of love” (GW I 437). In this statement about Scarret, the author is stating a general proposition she holds for all human beings. Perhaps this proposition is true. (Leave out of view just now whatever science has yielded on the developmental psychodynamics of love and hate.) I have some doubt that the contrast concept-class hate is necessary for the concept-class love. There are other contrast classes for love within the superordinate class emotion. Wynand states one of those other contrast classes. He says that “love is reverence, and worship, and glory, and the upward glance. Not a bandage for dirty sores. . . . [Not] some sort of feeble stew out of sympathy, compassion, contempt and general indifference . . .’” (GW IV 476).

For the sake of argument, grant Rand’s general proposition that there could be no capability for love without a capability for hatred. It remains that there is no entailment that men eliciting one’s hatred be numerous, let alone be a majority of men. Moreover, there is no necessity that one hate men who do not live up to the title man. Kira, Wynand, and Dominique hate them. Howard Roark does not.

Here is the Fountainhead passage in which Rand supersedes her grievous passage in We the Living (1936). There is metaphorical feeding of bodies into a furnace, but without sacrifice of one spiritual class of people to another. At his office, Roark never speaks to his employees, except of their work. “The place seemed cold and soulless like a factory, until they looked at him; then they thought that it was not a factory, but a furnace fed on their bodies, his own first” (ET VI 268).


Mayhew, R. 2004. We the Living: ’36 and ’59. In Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living. Lexington.

Nietzsche, F. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil. J. Norman, trans. 2002. Cambridge.

Rand, A. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill.

Sciabarra, C. M. 1995. Ayn Rand – The Russian Radical. Penn State.

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Everyone / No One

To the title Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche added the subtitle A Book for All and None. “When I came to mankind for the first time, I committed the hermit’s folly, the great folly: I situated myself in the market place. / And when I spoke to all, I spoke to none. . . . / . . . / You higher men, learn this from me: in the market place no one believes in higher men (Z IV “On the Higher Man”).

Howard Roark is given a scene in which “He was addressing everyone. He was addressing no one” (PK XIII 172). Nathaniel Janss of the Janss-Stuart Real Estate Company had come to Roark seeking an architect for his new thirty-story office building to be built on lower Broadway. Roark persuades him that this building should break with traditional styles and ornamentations. It should be like the human body whose every muscle has a purpose. The building should be free of useless accouterments. It should have sense and purpose, like the human body, where “‘there’s not a line wasted; . . . every detail of it fits one idea, the idea of a man and the life of a man’” (PK XIII 171).

Janss worries that the public will want forms and details traditionally taken for beautiful. Roark observes that such things do not make beauty when attached to a modern, steel office building. Roark avers that “‘most people take most things because that’s what’s given them, and they have no opinion whatever’” (ibid.). He urges Janss to simply be guided by his own judgment, rather than by what the public expects him to think they think (PK XIII 171–72). Janss is persuaded, but it is the board of directors who must decide.

Roark’s words to the board reach no individual hearing. They strike no note of independent response from any of the twelve members. “He was addressing everyone. He was addressing no one” (PK XIII 172). In the wider public, however, Roark knows that there are individuals who will respond to his approach to modern architecture. “‘You must only be patient. Because on your side you have reason, . . . and against you, you have just a vague, fat, blind inertia’” (ibid.).

Like Kira Argounova (WL II, §VII), Howard Roark has occasions of passing buildings under construction and feeling barred from ever entering that exhilarating work, his life’s work. After expulsion from architectural school, after the death of his esteemed mentor Henry Cameron, after uniform refusals for employment in architectural firms, Roark walks through New York, passes a construction site, and thinks of what he would like to see erected there. “Then he thought suddenly that now, in this moment, according to the city, according to everyone save that hard certainty within him, he would never build again, never—before he had begun” (PK VIII 103). He shrugs at the things happening to him, regarding them as “only a kind of sub-reality, unsubstantiated incidents in the path of a substance they could not reach or touch” (ibid.).

Roark opens his own firm, builds a couple of houses, a service station, and a department store. Then, no clients appear. He walks past buildings under construction and feels “the few steps on the sidewalk that separated him from the wooden fence enclosing the construction were the steps he would never be able to take. . . . It’s true, he would tell himself; its not, his body would answer, the strange, untouchable healthiness of his body” (PK XIV 183).

Like Andre Taganov (WL II, §III), Howard Roark is one for whom every waking hour of life has a purpose, and he knows his own (PK VII 88). Plato drew analogies between city and soul; Rand draws analogies between building and soul. Her Roark is a designer of buildings whose shape is determined by the building’s site, material, and purpose. The day he leaves school, Roark tells the Dean: “‘Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose’” (PK I 18). A building should seem alive. Its design should be a clean, clear-cut unity (PK X 129).

Roark designs a building for the Manhattan Bank Company. The company will accept his proposal, provided a Classic motif is added to its façade. Roark explains to the board of directors “why an honest building, like an honest man, had to be of one piece and one faith; what constituted the life source, the idea in any exiting thing or creature . . . . why the good, the high and the noble on earth was only that which kept its integrity” (PK XV 205).

In their architectural careers, in bringing forth designs, creators like Cameron and Roark are following and finding truths within themselves. Rand speaks of Cameron, after long years of struggle, reaching the goal of his life work, finally giving shape “to the truth he had sought” (PK III 41). These creative discoveries are similar to Nietzsche’s commission “become who you are” (GS 270, 335). Roark is not taking up this Nietzschean commission.

Taganov and Roark are characters “living past” old moralities (BGE 262). But these are men of fixed moral character. Andrei learns things about himself from his relationship with Kira. The two of them had believed in life, a word “‘that awaken the kind of feeling that a temple does, or a military march, or the statue of a perfect body’” (WL II, §III). It was for that feeling that he fought against the Czar. His own existence had been “‘only the fight and the future. You [Kira] taught me the present’.” Andrei had “‘lived a life where every hour had to have a purpose, and suddenly I discover what it’s like to feel things that have no purpose but myself, and I see suddenly how sacred a purpose can be, . . . and I know, then, that a life is possible whose only justification is my own joy’” (ibid.). That is a substantial self-discovery and self-transformation. It does not fit, however, Nietzsche’s call to be of somewhat variable moral character (GS 296), to continually examine oneself, overcome oneself, and recompose oneself, as if creating one’s next work of art (GS 290; Z II “On Self-Overcoming”).

The youthful Roark says “‘Every man creates his meaning and form and goal’” (PK I 18). He laughs in the opening of the novel, because—notwithstanding what had just happened to him and notwithstanding the obstacles ahead in his life-purpose—“the plan had been set long ago and because he wanted to laugh” (PK I 9). The set plan refers both to his life-purpose, architecture, and to the constitutional plan of Roark’s soul.

For Cameron and Roark, architecture is “‘a crusade and consecration to a joy that justifies the existence of the earth’” (PK VI 80). Roark has no question of this nor any interest in questioning this. What he esteems is set. He pursues that, not questioning and revising his values and person. Roark does not change, not his sense of lightness, his ease in motion and action, his thought (GW V 495). He is not losing himself as his days go by. He is as an immortal in his unchanging entity (GW V 485). By the constancy of his character, he is no Nietzschean ideal.

We have seen the notion of “a joy that justifies the existence of the earth in Rand’s earlier works We the Living and Anthem. I take the primary intended sense of earth here to be as I took it to be in those earlier works. That is, earth as the entire abode of human existence. Roark’s creations bring him and others a joy that can justify the life of man and a man on earth. This joy is the spring of value in the world for man. This joy, however, is not had in just any way.

Gail Wynand thinks the foremost moral failing to be “ascribing futility to the wonderful fact of existence and seeking justification beyond [oneself]” (HR V 595). He is proud, looking back on his five decades of life, to be able to say to himself “I do not cry like all the men of my age: but what was the use and the meaning? I was the use and the meaning, I, Gail Wynand. That I lived and that I acted” (ibid.).

Nietzsche can agree with Wynand in that outline. Nietzsche countered nihilism, which he saw as weakness and sickness of will (GS 347). Given that “God is dead,” how shall all human desire not fail? (GS 125, 343; Z II “The Soothsayer,” IV “The Song of Melancholy” 2). If nothing of value to us lies ready as value beyond ourselves, how shall we have anything worthy of our esteem? (BGE Preface).

You [wisest ones] still want to create the world before which you could kneel: this is your ultimate hope and intoxication. / The unwise, to be sure, the people—they are like a river on which a skiff floats; valuations are seated in the skiff, solemn and cloaked. / Your will and your values you set upon the river of becoming; what the people believe to be good and evil reveals to me an ancient will to power. / It was you, you wisest ones, who placed such guests into the skiff and gave them pomp and proud names—you and your dominating will! (Z II “On Self-Overcoming”).

In Nietzsche’s view of reality and human existence, the revered moral values set upon the skiff are not values necessitated as uniquely and unchangingly correct by reality. “Good and evil that would be everlasting—there is no such thing! They must overcome themselves again and again.” The living “must always overcome itself.” It is perpetually “struggle and becoming and purpose and the contradiction of purposes” (ibid.).

Howard Roark and his buildings do not embody these doctrines of Nietzsche. Fountainhead character Gordon Prescott takes the pliability of reality and moral values to an extreme well beyond Nietzsche. He says that what are called rooms are emptiness. Architecture puts up emptiness. “‘The architect is a metaphysical priest dealing in basic essentials, who has the courage to face the primal conception of reality as nonreality—since there is nothing and he creates nothingness. If this sounds like a contradiction, it is not proof of bad logic, but of a higher logic, the dialectics of all life and art’” (ET VIII 3ll). Thus spoke Gordon at a meeting of Toohey’s Council of American Builders (also in the case at court over the Stoddard Temple; ET XII 376). The members of Toohey’s Council of American Artists were so-called individualists who “rebelled against the tyranny of reality and of the objective” (ET IX 326).

Roark says to Austen Heller “‘A house can have integrity, just like a person’” (PK XI 140). Another client of Roark’s, Kent Lansing says to Roark: “‘Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea. That presupposes the ability to think’” (ET X 333).


“Will to truth” you call that which drives you and makes you lustful, you wisest ones? / Will to thinkability of all being, that’s what I call your will! / You first want to make all being thinkable, because you doubt with proper suspicion, whether it is even thinkable. / But for you it shall behave and bend! Thus your will wants it. It shall become smooth and subservient to the spirit, as its mirror and reflection. / That is your entire will, you wisest ones, as a will to power; and even when you speak of good and evil and of valuations. (Z II “On Self-Overcoming”)

Reality does not lie before us simply susceptible to rational thought and rational valuation, not in Nietzsche’s view. So far as reality is thinkable, it has been made so by us; likewise for value. Hence his diminution of the objective character of what is physical health, which we have noted earlier. Nietzsche knows that living requires constraint. But he sees and wants too much of the constraint to have been set by human will (e.g. BGE 188, 211). With such constraints being set so much by us, their necessity is undermined, and the possibility of their perpetual reconstitution is opened.

Nietzsche’s diminution of the extent to which the natural world provides constraints for truth and value in human existence is part of the reason Thus Spoke Zarathustra is “a book for all and none.” Human beings and what will best preserve them will not satisfy Nietzsche’s impetus to value (Z IV “On the Higher Man” 3). Rather, his inspiration is towards a being beyond the human, a superhuman being able to embrace these words: “Whatever I may create and however I may love it—soon I must oppose it and my love, thus my will wants it. / And even you, seeker of knowledge, are only a path and footstep of my will; indeed, my will to power follows also on the heels of your will to truth!” (Z II “On Self-Overcoming”; also Z I “On a Thousand and One Goals”).

Objectivity is not a durable liberation or inspiration to Nietzsche’s mind (BGE 207). Reason has some authority, but deep down, moral judgments are irrational (BGE 191).

In response to Roark’s defense of integrity in a building’s design, the chairman of the board of the Manhatten Bank Company says: “‘In practical life, one can’t be always so flawlessly consistent. There’s always the incalculable human element of emotion. We can’t fight that with logic’” (PK XV 205). Toohey says to Dominique: “‘Reason can be fought with reason. How are you going to fight the unreasonable? The trouble with you, my dear, and with most people, is that you don’t have sufficient respect for the senseless. The senseless is the major factor in our lives’” (ET XII 368; cf. Z III “Before Sunrise” and early Nietzsche.

The constraints on buildings designed by Roark are the site, the materials, and the function of the building. The building shall have integrity. That is a constraint. By the building-soul analogy, those are the constraints in the soul of Roark. His buildings are different one to the next, and the souls of good men are different one to the next. “‘Every building is like a person. Single and unrepeatable’” (GW V 495).

All Roark’s buildings have another character too, one discerned by Wynand: “‘Your buildings have one sense above all—a sense of joy. Not a placid joy. A difficult, demanding kind of joy. The kind that makes one feel as if it were an achievement to experience it. One looks and thinks: I’m a better person if I can feel that’” (HR II 560; see also Dominique, ET XII 306; further, Roark, HR IV 582–83.)

A day at the site of the house Roark is building for Wynand, Roark tells him the meaning of life is your work—not your strength—your work, “‘the material the earth offers you and what you make of it’” (HR V 596). Roark loves the earth. That he has in common with Zarathustra. However, Roark’s dedication is to ever-remaking the earth for the physical and spiritual needs of man, not to ever-remaking his values and soul.


Nietzsche, F. 1882 & 1887. The Gay Science I–IV & V. J. Nauckhoff, trans. 2001. Cambridge.

——. 1883–85. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A. Del Caro, trans. 2006. Cambridge.

——. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil. J. Norman, trans. 2002. Cambridge.

Rand, A. 1959 (1936). We the Living. Signet.

——. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill.

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Leo means lion. Leo of We the Living laughs in his first encounter with Kira. It is a cold and empty laugh (WL I, §IV). His laugh is not that of Nietzsche’s laughing lion, the overman (Z IV “The Welcome”). Leo is the sort of character Nietzsche might well call a higher man. Zarathustra is the physician and teacher of such men. In Leo’s second encounter with Kira, we are told he is a man come down to one desire: to learn to desire something (WL I, §IV). In the end, Leo is spiritually defeated. The hero in his soul has perished (Z I “On the Tree on the Mountain”).

The Fountainhead has two principals who fit the Nietzschean designation of the higher human: Gail Wynand and Dominique Francon. Like the higher men of Zarathustra, they are spiritually convalescent. They are learning their way towards recovery in the course of the novel.

In June 1938 Rand wrote the opening of The Fountainhead. “Howard Roark laughed.” In final form (1943), the text continues “He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. . . . The stone had the stillness of one brief battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion” (PK I 9). Below him the lake into which he will dive reflects the sky. “So that the world seemed suspended in space, an island floating on nothing, anchored to the feet of the man on the cliff” (ibid.). Earlier that morning, he had been expelled from architecture school. He laughed at that and “at the things which now lay ahead. / He knew that the days ahead would be difficult. There were questions to be faced and a plan of action to be prepared. He knew he should think about it. He knew also that he would not think, because everything had been set long ago, and because he wanted to laugh” (ibid.).

Roark is not without roar. Is Howard Roark Nietzsche’s laughing lion? No. Roark is not the overman, not the higher man, and not Zarathustra.

I stated in the preceding installment that what “had been set long ago” was (i) Roark’s life-purpose, architecture (since age nine), and (ii) the constitutional plan of his soul. Is his soul and course of life set in a predetermined way by his body?

Roark’s body is center of the opening scene. Later, during a period of his struggle in which he has no contracts he passes by a construction site in New York and thinks he will never be entering such a site for a building of Howard Roark, architect. “It’s true, he would tell himself; it’s not, his body would answer, the strange untouchable healthiness of his body” (PK XIV 183).

Years later, when Roark has become successful and Peter Keating’s success has died out, Keating meets with Roark to hear Roark’s decision on Keating’s proposal for winning the big Cortlandt contract. Keating thinks to himself of Roark: “It’s in his whole body, that look of a creature glad to be alive. And he realized that he had never actually believed that any living thing could be glad for the gift of existence” (HR VIII 630). That was part of Roark’s laughter in the opening scene of the novel. He wants to laugh partly from the joy of his existence.

In Zarathustra laughter is often emblematic of Nietzsche’s campaign against “the spirit of gravity” (Z I “On Reading and Writing;” IV “On the Higher Man” 16, 18, 20; “The Awakening” 1). There is some of the laughter against the spirit of gravity in the laughs of Roark. However, in laughter against the spirit of gravity, Nietzsche includes laughing at oneself and indeed at anything serious (Z IV “On the Higher Man” 15; “The Awakening” 1; GS 1, 382; BGE 294). This is something Rand speaks against in Fountainhead.

Roark seldom laughs (ET IV 253). He laughs as the face of an associate reveals a dawning comprehension of something in Roark’s motives (PK XV 202). He laughs over the prospect, when he has to close his architectural practice, that his enemies will gloat over him being reduced to tradesman work (PK XV 207). He laughs soundlessly at turns in his first bedding of Dominique (ET II 225, 230). He laughs soundlessly upon learning, from Joel Sutton, that Dominique is the one who has persuaded Sutton to decline Roark as his architect and that Dominique told Sutton to tell Roark she was the one (ET VII 288). He laughs softly when Keating finally comprehends that to be able to say “I built Cortlandt” is a gift possible only from oneself and is worth more than any money, fame, and honor that one might receive from others on account of the accomplishment. That soft laughter “was the happiest sound Keating had ever heard” (HR VIII 630).

Robert Mayhew observes that right after Roark’s laughter at the opening of the novel, there enters something arresting of attention and laughter. “He did not laugh as his eyes stopped in the awareness of the earth around him. . . . / He looked at the granite. To be cut, he thought, and made into walls. He looked at a tree. To be split and made into rafters” (PK I 9–10; Mayhew 2007b, 210). When it comes to his work, his life-meaning, and his essential person, Roark does not laugh.

Rand gives to villain Ellsworth Toohey the idea that an ability to laugh at oneself, and at anything one holds to be important, is a good thing (ET III 242, 246–47; IV 251, 257; IX 326; XIII 385). Shortly before Roark’s soliloquy in the courtroom for the Cortlandt destruction, Rand gives Toohey a soliloquy, which includes the following: “‘Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer. It’s simple. Tell them to laugh at everything. Tell them that a sense of humor is an unlimited virtue. Don’t let anything remain sacred in a man’s soul—and his soul won’t be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you’ve killed the hero in man. One doesn’t reverence with a giggle’” (HR IX 636).

Rand was not the first to note that laughter can be used to kill. Nietzsche has the ugliest human (he who had been the object of pity for his ugliness and who had taken revenge for it by murdering God, who had super-pitied him) say to Zarathustra “‘But I know one thing—it was from you yourself that I once learned, oh Zarathustra: whoever wants to kill most thoroughly laughs. / “One kills not by wrath, but by laughter”—this you once spoke’” (Z IV “The Ass Festival” 1). But Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, unlike Toohey, has not the slightest intent to kill, by laughter or otherwise, the truly sacred in men’s souls, the hero in man. It is an earlier writer who observes the thoroughly vicious use of laughter we find admitted in Toohey’s soliloquy.

In The Man Who Laughs (1869), Hugo’s Gwynplaine takes his stand for humanity in a speech in the House of Lords, and these his most serious, most sacred words are laughed into dust. When the mountebank Gwynplaine had been in shows, performing as a freak, laughter had applauded him; but here, on solemn matters of real life, elevated to Lord and addressing his peers, “here it exterminated him. The effort to ridicule is to kill. Men’s laughter sometimes exerts all its power to murder” (VII 610–11).

Zarathustra’s disciples interpret a dream of his. They put it to him this way: “‘Like thousandfold children’s laughter Zarathustra comes into all burial chambers, laughing at these night watchmen and grave guardians, and whoever else rattles about with dingy keys. / You will frighten and lay them low with your laughter . . . . / And even if the long twilight comes and the weariness unto death, you will not set in our sky, you advocate of life! / You allowed us to see new stars and new splendors of the night; indeed, you spanned laughter itself above us like a tent’” (Z II “The Soothsayer”). The grave guardians of whom Zarathustra’s disciples speak are they who have renounced life.

We have seen that Kira counter poses belief in God to belief in life. Similarly, Roark counter poses belief in God to love of the earth (PK III 45). This much Rand coincides with Nietzsche. “My brothers, remain faithful to the earth and do not believe those who speak of extraterrestrial hopes! . . . / They are despisers of life . . . .” (Z I “Zarathustra’s Prologue” 3).

We learn eventually that Zarathustra’s disciples had gotten his place in real life wrong in their dream interpretation. The sun that he heralds also sets. He is herald of no everlasting ascent from the spirit of gravity and no everlasting ascent from the human to the overman. He reports what he has seen in a vision. In a “cadaver-colored twilight,” he climbed a hard mountain, forcing his foot upward, upward “in defiance against the spirit that pulled him downward, the spirit of gravity, my devil and arch-enemy” (Z III “On the Vision and the Riddle” 1). On his shoulder sat a dwarf monster murmuring in his ear “‘You stone of wisdom! You hurled yourself high, but every stone must fall!’” (ibid.).

Zarathustra lightens the load by stopping the climb, having the little monster off his shoulder, and spelling out what is the deep abyss drawing down his spirit: The present moment, and every present moment, is connected to an infinite past and an infinite future. Whatever occurs now must have occurred before in such an infinite past and must occur again in such an infinite future. Over and over, it goes (Z II “On the Vision and the Riddle” 2). “The knot of causes in which I am entangled recurs—it will create me again! I myself belong to the causes of the eternal recurrence. / I will return . . . not to a new life or a better life or a similar life: / —I will return to this same and selfsame life, in what is greatest as well as what is smallest . . . . / . . . / to once again teach the eternal recurrence of all things” (Z III “The Convalescent” 1).

Zarathustra is teacher of Nietzsche’s doctrine of the eternal recurrence (GS 341). This idea is false if taken literally (and I suppose Nietzsche took it literally; contra Williams 2001, xvi) because not all infinities are equally large. The fire in the fireplace yesterday is one among an infinite potential of particular fires-for-a-day. That infinity is larger than the infinity of infinite time. That fire need never occur again, even in an eternity. Indeed the chance of it is nil. But Nietzsche is under the gripping spell of the eternal recurrence. Let us follow his thought under this spell.

In Zarathustra laughter is not only emblematic of Nietzsche’s general campaign against the spirit of gravity. It is emblematic more particularly of reconciliation with the chains of determinism and more particularly still with eternal self-returning determinism. There is a laughter to be longed for, the laughter of one “no longer human,” a being “transformed, illuminated . . . . / Never yet on earth had I heard a human being laugh as he laughed!” (Z III “On the Vision and the Riddle” 2; contrast my treatment of this passage in relation to Roark with the treatment in Milgram 2007, 31–32.) That laughter was only in a vision, in which a shepherd in the field wakes to find a snake has entered his mouth and lodged its bite in the his throat. The shepherd bites off the head of the snake, spits it away, and laughs the laugh beyond the human, the laugh so much to be hoped for.

It was the laugh of a character in a vision, not the laugh of an actual overman. It was not Zarathustra’s laugh either. The abysmal thought of the eternal return continues to gnaw at him. “I have not been strong enough for the lion’s final overreaching and cheeky mischief. / [Abysmal thought,] your gravity alone was always terrible enough for me; but one day I shall yet find the strength and the lion’s voice to summon you up!” (Z III “On Unwilling Bliss;” further, Z IV “The Sleepwalker’s Song” and “The Sign”).

In a still hour before sleep, Zarathustra has been told, by the clock of his life, when it drew a breath, that the one who is needed most by everyone is “‘the one who commands great things.’ / And I answered ‘I lack the lion’s voice for all commanding’. / Then it spoke to me again like a whispering: ‘The stillest words are those that bring the storm. Thoughts that come on the feet of doves steer the world’” (Z II “The Stillest Hour”). Later in the adventure, Zarathustra: “Here I sit and wait, old broken tablets around me and also new tablets only partially written upon. When will my hour come? / . . . / This is what I wait for now; signs must come to me first that it is my hour—namely the laughing lion and the swarm of doves” (Z III “On Old and New Tablets” 1).

At the close of Zarathustra, his higher men have begun to learn to laugh against the spirit of gravity, and he has given them his song “One More Time.” His hour has come. His midnight of joy deeper than the deep pain of the world wants it all again, wants deep, deep eternity.

Zarathustra lastly rises glowing and strong in the morning. His signs have come. His doves are a cloud of love about his head. His lion has come and chased off the higher men. Zarathustra’s last sin, his pity for the higher men, is gone. His lion is near to him. His day and work begin.

The ringed determinism binding the human will is a very hard one in Nietzsche’s understanding. “If ever a breath came to me of creative breath and of heavenly necessity that forces even accident to dance astral rounds: / If ever I laughed with the laugh of creative lightning that follows rumbling but obediently the long thunder of the deed: / . . . / Oh how then could I not lust for eternity and for the mystical ring of rings—the ring of recurrence! / . . . / For I love you, oh eternity!” (Z III “The Other Dance Song” 3; see also I “On the Three Metamorphoses;” II “On Redemption.”) Nietzsche, loving life and the world, reaches yet for joy even with all the pain and heavy chains of necessity (Z IV “The Sleepwalker’s Song” 8–10; cf. BGE 9).

When Howard Roark laughs at the opening of The Fountainhead, shall we say determinism—determinism binding his life course by nature and his body—is among the objects of his laughter? Does the author see a need for her hero, by his laugh, to be biting off the head of that snake?

It is likely Rand had always rejected the Marxist doctrine of economic determinism (Milgram 2004, 12; Ridpath 2004, 91). “The mode of production of material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence determines their consciousness” (Marx 1897 [1859]). In Fountainhead, Rand gave to Toohey the proclamation “there was no such thing as free will, since men’s creative impulses were determined, as all else, by the economic structure of the epoch in which they lived” (PK VI 77).  To the villains, too, goes proclamation of the type of determinism accepted by Nietzsche. Toohey says “‘we are merely the creatures of our chemical metabolism and of the economic factors of our background . . . . There are, of course, apparent exceptions. Merely apparent. When circumstances delude us into thinking that free action is indicated’” (HR VII 615).

A writer in Toohey’s circle writes a novel whose point is that there is no such thing as free will (GW I 421). A distinguished critic in Toohey’s circle remarks “‘talent is only a glandular accident” (GW VI 503). Nietzsche, of course, would not make small of the creative individual. He would elevate in spite of the chains of determinism.

I suggest that Rand’s stress on the untouchable healthiness of Roark’s body is a matter of conferring an esthetic integrity on him and a way of saying that the base of life given to man by the earth is good. Roark is one who keeps that goodness. So do other Fountainhead characters, such as Heller or Lansing, so far as we are told. The character Roark is styled to reflect innocence never lost. After viewing Roark’s drawing for the Stoddard Temple of the Human Spirit, the conversation includes Mallory saying to Roark: “‘Do you know what your secret is? It’s your terrible innocence’. / Roark laughed aloud, looking at the boyish face. / ‘No’, said Mallory, ‘it’s not funny. . . . It’s because of that absolute health of yours. You’re so healthy that you can’t conceive of disease. You know of it. But you don’t really believe it’” (ET XI 352).


Hugo, V. 1869. The Man Who Laughs.  Translator unknown. 2006. Norilana.

Marx, K. 1997 [1859]. Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. N.I. Stone, translator. 1904. Charles H. Kerr.

Mayhew, R., editor, 2004. Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living. Lexington.

——. 2007a. Essays on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Lexington.

——. 2007b. Humor in The Fountainhead. In Mayhew 2007a.

Milgram, S. 2004. From Airtight to We the Living: The Drafts of Ayn Rand’s First Novel. In Mayhew 2004.

——. 2007. The Fountainhead from Notebook to Novel: The Composition of Ayn Rand’s First Ideal Man. In Mayhew 2007a.

Nietzsche, F. 1882 & 1887. The Gay Science I–IV & V. J. Nauckhoff, trans. 2001. Cambridge.

——. 1883–85. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A. Del Caro, trans. 2006. Cambridge.

——. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil. J. Norman, trans. 2002. Cambridge.

Ridpath, J. 2004. Russian Revolutionary Ideology and We the Living. In Mayhew 2004.

Rand, A. 1959 (1936). We the Living. Signet.

——. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill.

Williams, B. 2001. Introduction to The Gay Science. Cambridge.

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At the end of Book IV of The Gay Science (1882), Nietzsche introduces the character Zarathustra. He has stayed in the mountains the last ten years, enjoying “his spirit and solitude” (GS 342). He has decided to leave his cave in the mountains and to descend, to “go under,” back to humans for whom his happiness may shine. The same setting out from the mountains is repeated as the opening of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883; Z I “Zarthustra’s Prologue” 1). Like Prometheus and the Christian God-the-Father, Zarathustra loves man and brings gifts to him (Z I “Zarathustra’s Prologue” 2).

“My disciples: like me you strive for the bestowing virtue. . . . / This is your thirst: to become sacrifices and gifts yourselves, and therefore you strive to amass all riches in your soul. / Insatiably your soul strives for treasures and gems, because your virtue is insatiable in wanting to bestow. / . . . / Indeed such a bestowing love must become a robber of all values, but holy and hale I call this selfishness. / There is another selfishness, one all too poor, a hungering one that always wants to steal; that selfishness of the sick, the sick selfishness.” (Z I “On the Bestowing Virtue”).

Howard Roark bestows gifts by his creations. He is life-giving. He does not, however, need to take away old virtues of others to give them his gift. Moreover, he does not aim primarily, by his creative work, to be a one who bestows gifts. He aims to bring about the creations.

Hopton Stoddard tells Roark the Temple of the Human Spirit shall be to “‘the human spirit as the creator and the conqueror of the ideal. The great life-giving force of the universe. . . . What I want in the building is your spirit. Your spirit, Mr. Roark’” (ET X 340).

Henry Cameron had said to Roark: “‘May God bless you—or whoever it is alone to see the best, the highest possible to human hearts’” (PK XI 137). Roark is one who pursues the best in his creations. He needs others of a certain character in order to create his buildings. He needs men of independent judgment, of honesty, of courage—men of integrity (PK XIII 166). For his buildings, Roark tracks down the best sculptor, one who is capable of showing in sculpture what men could and should be. Rand 1943 takes seeking the best, the highest, as a law of healthy, selfish life (ET XI 349). This law she calls a first law, this law to seek the best (ET XI 352; cf. Summa Theologica XIII Q94 A2).

Unlike Zarathustra and his hoped-for superhuman children of the future, Roark is not in the business of breaking people’s old tables of good and evil and finding new, more noble virtues. Roark does not take an interest in persons on account of their need of value-reformation. There are fellows of Roark’s spirit, having integrity in the full-bodied sense characterized in The Fountainhead (PK XI 140–41; ET X 333; GW I 442; GW IX 532). These are Roark’s brothers (ET X 332; GW III 576).

At his firm, Roark looks for and rewards only competence. Those who last a month are with him for life. “It was not loyalty to him, but to the best within themselves” (ET X 329). The way of life working at Roark’s firm and the way of life working under him on the Monadnock construction project is contrary the way of the world in general (HR I 547–49). Workers in step with Roark are in a crusade, although, unlike the disciples of Zarathustra and Jesus, the crusade is not the center of their aim.

By the designs of his buildings, Roark bestows life on the spirit of others—on clients and users (PK XI 141, HR II 550, 723) and viewers (ET VIII 305, X 327, HR I 543–45)—and on his own spirit (PK XI 138, ET II 231–32, XI 359). By his buildings and within the social process of their execution, Roark is life-giving. He is also life-giving in personal relations. Austen Heller says to Roark: “You’re the coldest man I know. . . . [Yet] I always feel, when I see you, that you’re the most life-giving person I’ve ever met” (PK XIII 166–67).

Roark is shown as life-giving by personal assistance to the talented young sculptor, Steven Mallory, who is fallen into drink and despair, who is without commissions in a world sot with vulgarity. Kent Lansing, a client of Roark’s and champion of his works, once remarked to Roark: “Men are brothers” (ET X 332). Between Lansing and Roark is the brotherhood of integrity in their intersecting commercial works (also, Wynand and Roark, HR III 576). Roark sees the sculptor Mallory as a spiritual confederate hurt in battle. Finding this man in despair, Roark’s eyes “were serene and they looked at Mallory quietly, a hard, clear glance of understanding—and respect” (ET XI 350). In that face, Mallory saw “the calmest, kindest face—a face without a hint of pity” (ET XI 350; cf. Roark and Wynand at site for future Wynand house, HR III 568–70).

In Fountainhead Rand uses the term pity interchangeably with compassion (ET XI 350). She uses both to designate a feeling towards those in need, but a feeling sour with disrespect. Through the voice of Dominique, Rand states that within her meaning of compassion there is a letting go from holding up one’s heart or spirit, that the antipode of compassion is admiration, and that there is something unsound in adopting compassion as the greatest virtue, given that compassion presupposes suffering (ET VIII 301).

Rand acknowledges that there is a lot of suffering in the world, though she would not make it a central concern of Roark to relieve suffering. Cameron says to Roark that Roark’s steps of success are going to be “a challenge in the face of something so vast and so dark, that all the pain on earth—and do you know how much suffering there is on earth?—all the pain comes from that thing you are going to face” (PK XI 137).

The idea that all the pain on earth comes from human behavior is puzzling (cf. last two paragraphs). I understand Rand’s thought when she describes Dominique’s climax in bed with Roark as taking pain and suffering, inverting them, and sweeping them “into a denial of all suffering, into its antithesis, into ecstasy” (ET VIII 301). That denial is a momentary sanctuary against suffering in life, all suffering, whether caused by humans or nature. That denial, of course, is not a denial of the existence of suffering outside the iron gates of the sanctuary.

Howard Roark suffers a great deal. He designs the Temple of the Human Spirit. He and Dominique walk without words through the completed silent temple on a night before its opening. The temple does not get opened for its designed purpose. It is to have its design modified and botched. Its purpose is rededicated, as a home for subnormal children, where twisted wealthy patrons will visit to enjoy a feeling of superiority. Roark says to Dominique, concerning the destruction of his creation: “I don’t believe it matters to me—that they’re going to destroy it. Maybe it hurts so much that I don’t even know I’m hurt. But I don’t think so. . . . I’m not capable of suffering completely. I never have. It goes only down to a certain point and then it stops. As long as there is that untouched point, it’s not really pain” (ET XII 366). Roark’s buildings each have their own personality, but all of them reflect his soul at its core. They are “innocent of pain” (HR I 544); they are a demanding joy (HR II 560).

Cameron was definitely speaking of pain and suffering such as what Roark has to endure in the fate of the Temple. Dominique asks Roark where does the pain stop. He replies: “Where I can think of nothing and feel nothing except that I designed that temple. I built it. Nothing else can seem very important” (ibid.). Dominique says that he should never have built such a thing to be delivered to such desecration. Roark: “That doesn’t matter. Not even that they’ll destroy it. Only that it had existed” (ibid.).

Hmmmm. Where have we heard that thought before? It was at the close of We the Living. Walking away from the country of death and tyranny, Kira has been shot, in the snowy wilderness, in her wedding gown. She rises and staggers on, whispering the name Leo, whom she had loved. She falls for the last time. She knows she had known something “deep under the little hole that dripped red drops into the snow, deeper than that from which the red drops came. . . . Life, undefeated, existed and could exist.”

Something wonderful had existed. Though it is ending, it had been. It is a fact nothing can change. That is one sanctuary of great emotional suffering. This refuge is also set out for Keating, in his memory of his first and only moments of true love, moments “of wonderful anticipation just before spring is to begin” (HR X 650).

Now in Rand’s story The Fountainhead, Roark’s pain and suffering in the course of his creative projects are due to wrongness in the minds and characters of some members of his society. The same is cause of the suffering he endures when Dominique leaves his arms and marries Keating (ET XV 399–400) and the pain he must carry the rest of his life over the friend he was not able to save (HR IX 749). Unlike in the novel, not all human pain and suffering stems from wrong ideas and choices. The best resolution I can make of Cameron’s statement is to see it as restricted by context in its meaning. Rand was referring, in Cameron’s statement, only to all the physical and emotional pain and suffering brought about in the world by wrong ideas and choices. There is plenty of it. Within that large ambit is the pain and suffering Roark will have to endure in the story.

Dominique is thoroughly revolted by the smallness, the smuttiness, of what most of humanity selects for their enjoyment. When it comes to humanity’s suffering, well, “as a matter of fact, one can feel some respect for people when they suffer. They have a certain dignity” (PK XII 49). One development from Dominique’s self-punishing marriage to Peter Keating is his painful realization of the void he is, of the nothingness of his self apart from his reflection of others (GW II 449–55). She says softly and honestly to him in this suffering over his hollow marriage and life, “I never wanted to take revenge on you, Peter. . . . / I don’t want you to suffer—I can’t feel anything else—but I feel that much” (GW II 456–57).

Peter later squarely faces the fact that virtually all the merit of his buildings has come about by his parasitism on Roark and past creators like Roark. He confesses this sincerely, with dignity, to Roark. Rand’s ideal Howard Roark tells Peter that no forgiveness from him is needed since he has not been hurt in any important way by Peter’s betrayals. Roark has no drive to punish Keating (HR VIII 623). If the terms egotist and kindness do not sit well together, then one needs to rethink these concepts, for Roark is man most egoistic and most kind (HR VIII 631).

Then Peter shows to Howard something he has in his briefcase, something not shown to anyone else. Peter has been doing a work entirely alone, purely because he wants to do it. Howard looks at the landscape paintings Peter has made in solitude and now has pulled from his case. He sees sadly what Peter had really already known: it is too late in life for Peter to develop the skills needed to bring what he feels in a scene onto the canvas (ibid.).

“When Keating had gone, Roark leaned against the door, closing his eyes.

He was sick with pity.

He had never felt this before . . . . This was pity—this complete awareness of a man without worth or hope, this sense of finality, of the not to be redeemed. There was shame in this feeling—his own shame that he should have to pronounce such judgment upon a man, that he should know an emotion which contained no shred of respect.

This is pity, he thought, and then he lifted his head in wonder. He thought that there must be something terribly wrong with a world in which this monstrous feeling is called a virtue.” (HR VIII 631–32)

Contrast that feeling with Roark’s spontaneous feeling towards Mallory, “a desire to lift him in his arms and carry him to safety” (ET XI 351). This feeling does not go by the name pity or compassion in Fountainhead.

When Dominique first sees the face of Roark, at the granite quarry, she sees “the cold, pure brilliance of the eyes that had no trace of pity” (ET I 217). That is a statement about his standard countenance, whether or not it is also something peculiar to his immediate attitude in first looking at her, seeing her and her glance. What is in his face responsive to seeing Dominique is a look of ownership, which is to say, the sexual pronouncement, Yes! (HR IV 582). Perhaps there is also some related sexual lack of pity, as in partners who play rough.

Eventually, at the end of their months-long love affair, Rand makes another mention of Roark’s lack of pity towards Dominique. This mention is a flag staked against the idea that bestowing love—including romantic love—entails loss of self and flows from pity on the object of love. It is a banner against unselfish love. Roark says to Dominique in the heart-rending scene in which they separate: “I love you, Dominique. As selfishly as the fact that I exist. As selfishly as my lungs breathe air. . . . I’ve given you, not my sacrifice or pity, but my ego and my naked need” (ET XIV 400).

It is a commonplace to say that romantic love needs to be unselfish and entails sacrifice. I am not aware of anyone ever saying that it requires or entails or is even compatible with pity. Nor compassion. It does entail concern for another, but presumably Rand was not challenging that in her challenge to romantic love tied to pity. Perhaps Rand was letting pity here stand for mere concern for another by way of challenging the idea that that concern is more basic to romantic love than is concern for oneself. Then again, perhaps Rand was relying on readers knowing romantic love does not rest on pity and hoping that would fortify her proposal of pity-free love in general.

In Roark romantic love and brotherly love are variations of a god-like, bestowing love. They are loves flowing from the needs of his own life, not from pity (unlike God-the-Father) or sacrifice (unlike Jesus).

Howard Roark is a kind person, in a certain sense (HR VIII 631). Ellsworth Toohey poses the question: “What is kinder—to believe the best of people and burden them with a nobility beyond their endurance—or to see them as they are, and accept it because it makes them comfortable?” (ET VIII 296). Roark is not kind in that second sense. His brotherhood is not fastened to kindness in that second sense. He expects something of human beings. So there are some human failings that can outrage him (GW IV 475), such as Mallory being driven down to bric-a-brac (PK III 35) or Cameron being destroyed (PK V 72–75; VI 78–80; XIV 185–86; HR V 593), though sometimes he brushes depravity aside and gets back to work (HR I 551–52). Roark is not contemptuous of humanity (ET XII 365; HR XIX 751). And his standing kindness does not entail pity.

Peter Keating is a lucky man. He gets to sell his soul three times over. Rather than marry the woman he loves, he sells his soul by marrying a woman who can bring him career advancement and the envy of men (PK IV 51–55; VI 82–84; HR X 650–51). He sells his soul in selling his wife to Wynand for a contract (GW III 468–72). He sells his soul to the control of Toohey in return for contracts, prestige, and consolation. The final installment of this sale is Keating giving over to the soul-breaker Toohey his generous friend Roark, by handing over his secret Cortlandt pact with Roark (HR XIV 686–89, 694).

In his best seller Sermons in Stone, Ellsworth Toohey predicts “a better world to come, where all men would be brothers” (PK VI 77). In his newspaper column, he speaks of anonymity and uniformity of brotherhood (ET III 238). This brotherhood is not a brotherhood of nobility or sainthood. It is a brotherhood of comfort, for people who are spiritually nothing by themselves (ET V 261; VIII 296). Saintly spirits, such as Dominique and Roark, are a threat to Toohey’s type of “humanitarianism” in which relations between people are more important than people (ET VIII 297; XIII 387).

Toohey is openly unkind to most every particular person he deals with. He preaches otherwise. “Kindness. That is the first commandment, perhaps the only one. . . . We must be kind to everybody around us. We must accept and forgive” (ET IX 312). Contrast with Roark’s first law (ET XI 349, 352). Contrast with the First Commandment.

In his early high school years, while still religious, Toohey talked about God and the spirit, but “he read more books on the history of the church than on the substance of faith” (ET IX 317). He excelled in original oratory and brought his audience to tears on the theme “The meek shall inherit the earth” (ibid.). Boys who were “suffering or ill-endowed” became his friends and spiritual wards. He consoled them with doctrines on the goodness of suffering, its moral superiority to happiness, the blessedness of belief over understanding, and the superiority of being a slower, less-inquiring student (ET IX 318).

At sixteen Toohey let go of religion and turned to socialism. Instead of God and the nobility of suffering, he talked about the masses. He preached love of the masses and profound self-sacrifice for them. He argued “that religion bred selfishness; because . . . religion over-emphasized the importance of the individual spirit; religion preached nothing but a single concern—the salvation of one’s own soul” (ET IX 319).

In a personal letter in 1946, Rand related her idea of Jesus as proclaiming “the basic principle of individualism—the inviolate sanctity of man’s soul, and the salvation of one’s soul as one’s first concern and highest goal; this means—one’s ego and the integrity of one’s ego.” One great corruption of that individualism in Jesus’ teachings comes with the code of ethics put forth as the means of saving one’s soul: “One must love or help or live for others.” Who put forth this second doctrine? “Jesus (or His interpreters).”

One of the first books Rand bought after coming to America was Nietzsche’s The Anti-Christ. Within this work, Nietzsche sets down differences he sees between the exemplar to be read from the life of Jesus and morality proclaimed by institutional Christianity. One difference is Christianity’s exaggeration of the amount of pity needed in the world. “Christianity is called the religion of pity.  . . . Pity makes suffering into something infectious; sometimes it can even cause a total loss of life and of vital energy wildly disproportionate to the magnitude of the cause (—the case of the Nazarene). . . . Pity wins people over to nothingness! You do not say ‘nothingness’: instead you say ‘the beyond’; or ‘God’; or . . .” (AC 7; further, 17, 18, 26, 32, 33, 39–43).

There are several views of Nietzsche expressed in this work that Rand maintained in The Fountainhead, while leaving aside other Nietzchean doctrines, such as those I have replaced with ellipses points in the preceding quotation. Rand’s sensitivity to the possibility of incongruity between Jesus’ life and teachings, on the one hand, and Christianity, on the other, may have been taken home from The Anti-Christ. The particular doctrines in conflict in Rand’s eye, stated paragraph before last, are not among those in Nietzsche’s eye in Anti-Christ, but there is a prelude to the particular opponent-doctrines Rand stresses in Daybreak (132).

Notwithstanding Toohey’s omitting talk of God, his socialist sayings are generally warmly familiar to the religious. Hopton Stoddard found everything Toohey preached “in line with God’s law: charity, sacrifice, help to the poor” (ET X 335). Toohey continued to preach the blessedness of belief over understanding, belief over thought (ET X 388; GW VI 507; HR XIV 692). Mysticism and dialectical materialism, Toohey says, “are two superficially varied manifestations of the same thing. Of the same intention” (HR VI 600). Toohey is speaking for Rand when speaking of the continuity of religion and socialism. This idea was big with Nietzsche. “Who do I hate most among the rabble today? The socialist rabble . . . . The anarchist and the Christian are descended from the same lineage . . . . / Christians are perfectly identical with anarchists: their only goal, their only instinct is to destroy” (AC 57–58; see also D 132; Z IV “The Last Supper” 16; BGE 202).

Notice that Rand does not take religion to be uniformly against thought. Like Leibniz before her, Rand is pleased with the story and idea of humans being created in the image of God, specifically, in their capability for reason. “‘Man’s first frown is the first touch of God on his forehead. The touch of thought’” (HR XIV 693). Though he would not say it publicly, Toohey in no way intends to carry that value forward: “‘We’ll have neither God nor thought’” (ibid.).

Near the end of Fountainhead, Toohey is safe finally to bare entirely his true aims and methods and his true self to Keating. In the world Toohey works to bring about, he would “let all sacrifice and none profit. Let all suffer and none enjoy” (HR XIV 694). Catherine Halsey had been drawn to a career as a social worker because she wanted to help people (ET XIII 387), because she enjoyed helping the helpless and unhappy (ET IV 251–52). Catherine seeks her Uncle Ellsworth’s approval in all her choices. Once she developed a friendship with another girl who was a social worker. This girl was “intelligent, capable, gay and loved the poor” (ET XIII 383). Toohey did not approve of the friendship, and Catherine drops the girl. As time goes by, Catherine succeeds in giving up all her selfish desires (ET XIII 387). She comes to hate the poor people she serves (ET XIII 386).

Toohey reveals to Keating that altruism is a great tool for bringing people around to being ashamed of saying “I want,” thereby killing their joy in living (HR XIV 691). “Preach selflessness. Tell man that he must live for others. Tell men that altruism is the ideal” (HR XIV 690).

Catherine and Peter were truly in love when they were young. Peter jilted her for the social advantage of a marriage to Dominique. Six years later, Catherine has a government job in DC. By chance Peter runs into her in New York, and they have lunch. He tries to look back together with her on the true, first love they had and on the suffering he caused her by dropping her. Catherine responds, without feint: “‘Yes, of course I suffered. All young people do in such situations. It seems foolish afterwards. I cried, and I screamed some dreadful things at Uncle Ellsworth, . . . and then weeks afterward I fainted on the street one day without reason, which was really disgraceful. All the conventional things, I suppose, everybody goes through them, like measles’” (649). Peter thinks to himself. “He had not known there was something worse than a living memory of pain; a dead one” (ibid.).*

Self-pity is widely spurned in the world. It is spurned as well by Rand’s Roark (ET I 214–15). In popular culture, one sometimes sees pity upon another spurned as disrespectful by the one who is object of the pity. It is spurned by Joyce Heath in the movie Dangerous (1935) and by Police Chief Gillespie in the movie In the Heat of the Night (1967).

American Heritage Dictionary states two related meanings of the term pity:

  1. 1.Sorrow or grief aroused by the misfortune of another; compassion for suffering.
  2. 2.Concern or regret for one considered inferior or less favored.

It is that second one that is sometimes portrayed as disagreeable and is sometimes be discouraged in popular culture. American Heritage lists the following synonyms having in common that they designate grief or concern felt for someone in misfortune: pity, compassion, commiseration, sympathy, condolence, and empathy. It goes on state the differences in the usage of theses terms. “Pity implies a disposition to help but little emotional sharing of the distress. Compassion always favorably connotes broad or profound feeling for the misfortunes of others and a desire to aid them. Sympathy is as broad as pity but connotes spontaneous emotion rather than considered attitude. Empathy, with literary and psychological overtones, is a conscious involvement with a person’s situation in the sense of vicarious identification” (1976).

The preponderance of translators of Nietzsche into English render his Mitlied as pity, rather than as compassion. Josefine Nauckoff’s translation of The Gay Science alone plunks for compassion over pity.

Nietzsche wrote against the elevation of Mitlied, against making it a virtue, such as had been done by Christianity and by Schopenhauer (D 132–33, 142; GS 251; Z IV “The Cry of Distress”; AC 7). Major translators of Schopenhauer, E.F.J. Payne and R.E. Aquila, render his Mitlied as compassion. David Cartwright (1988) has argued that Mitlied in Schopenhauer should be rendered compassion and that in Nietzsche Mitlied should be rendered pity.

I should mention something about Nietzsche that I have left only implicit for too long. His call for ever-new tables of good and evil exempts the virtues of courage and intellectual honesty. His charges against good and evil are not charges against the noble and base. (I am indebted to Prof. Pippin for that point.) Courage and intellectual honesty belong to the essence of the noble. Pity does not.


* Rand has tucked a personal image as a sign of true love into her literature. In his appeal to Catherine to share in the memory of how they were, Peter speaks of a precious moment when they were alone together sitting on a bench in Washington Square. It was snowing. He speaks of her woolen gloves. “‘I remember—there were drops of water in the fuzz—round—like crystal—they flashed . . .’” (HR X 651, PK VI 85). On the night Roark will first come to Dominique and take her, just before she hears his steps, “a spilled drop of perfume remained on the glass of the dressing table, a drop sparkling like a gem” (ET II 229). In We the Living, Leo and Kira meet a second time, on a snowy night, in front of the deserted mansion. As they part, he takes off her mitten, raises her hand to his lips, and kisses her palm. He departs, “while she was still standing motionless, her hand outstretched, until a little white flake fluttered into her palm, onto the unseen treasure she was afraid to spill (WL 75). In Atlas Shrugged, after John and Dagny first make love, on the sandbags in the Taggart tunnels beneath New York: she saw him stretched out beside her, in the granite vault, “as if his body were fluid in relaxation, she saw the black wedge of her cape flung across the rails at their feet, there were beads of moisture twinkling on the vault” (AS 957).


Aquinas, T. d.1274. Summa Theologica. A. C. Pegis, trans., V2, 1997 (1945). Hackett

Cartwright, D.E. 1988. Schopenhauer’s Compassion and Nietzsche’s Pity. Schopenhauer-Jahrbuch 69:557–65.

Nietzsche, F. 1881. Daybreak. R.J. Hollingdale, trans. 1997. Cambridge.

——.1882 & 1887. The Gay Science I–IV & V. J. Nauckhoff, trans. 2001. Cambridge.

——. 1883–85. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A. Del Caro, trans. 2006. Cambridge.

——. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil. J. Norman, trans. 2002. Cambridge.

——. 1888. The Anti-Christ. J. Norman, trans. 2005. Cambridge.

Rand, A. 1959 (1936). We the Living. Signet.

——. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill.

——. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.


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It’s Mine

Gail Wynand is introduced in The Fountainhead in the voice of Guy Francon chatting with Peter Keating. We are told of a costume party Wynand has given for his latest mistress. Francon reports “‘Wynand dressed as Cesare Borgia—wouldn’t he, though?’” (PK VIII 99).

Cesare’s father became Pope Alexander VI, the most notorious of Renaissance popes, in the year some of my ancestors had waved to Columbus from the shore. Cesare was a womanizer and a ruthless, cunning man of action. With Alexander on the throne, Cesare led the military campaigns reestablishing the Pope’s control of the papal states of central Italy, which had come to be under the control of semi-independent papal vicars. Cesare pursued power single-mindedly. His motto was “Either Caesar or Nothing.” Cesare was the model for the ideal prince in Machiavelli’s The Prince. Cesare aimed to win for himself the position Prince. He was feared and loathed all over Italy. The death of his father pulled the rug out from under him.

Nietzsche saw the Renaissance as “the revaluation of all Christian values, an attempt using all means, all instincts, all genius, to allow the opposite values, noble values to triumph” (AC 61). He delights in a fantasy: “Cesare Borgia as Pope . . . . That would have been the victory that I am the only one demanding these days—: with this, Christianity was abolished!” (AC 61). Nietzsche took Cesare as natural, strong, and vital, a man of prey (BGE 197; TI 37). He saw him as a “higher man,” indeed, “as a type of overman” (TI 37).

Nietzsche and Rand note that the age of the Italian Renaissance was an aristocratic age. Kiki Holcombe’s husband is a distinguished architect specializing exclusively in the Renaissance style. Her grand home is Renaissance. “Three crystal chandeliers blazed over her Florentine ballroom” (ET VI 271). She basks in the height of the ballroom’s ceiling, untouched and dominate, far above the sea of her guests.

“‘There is nothing as useless, my dear Kiki’, said Ellsworth Toohey, ‘as a rich woman who makes herself a profession of entertaining. But then, all useless things have charm. Like aristocracy, for instance, the most useless conception of all’” (ET VI 270). Kiki liked the comparison to aristocracy.

Aristocrats are widely taken to be unproductive parasites. Rand gives Wynand character of aristocracy, but with earned wealth, rather than inherited wealth (GW I 418; 428–29; IX 531). Toohey would find no modern worthwhile employment at all for the concept aristocratic. Toohey is a social leveler.

Nietzsche and Rand are one in their opposition to the modern trend towards egalitarianism, a trend embodied in Toohey. Nietzsche and Rand concur that there are substantial differences among people in their spiritual independence and in what they are capable of accomplishing and appreciating. They concur that one should not aim to love all people equally, all children as much as one’s own (GW IV 475; HR IX 638).

Unlike Nietzsche, Rand does not value the stereotypical unproductiveness of aristocracy. She will confine that element in the notion aristocratic to Wynand when he is on a vacation cruise on his yacht, a temporary relaxation from work (GW IX 531).

One night, before Dominique and Roark come into his life, Gail Wynand the self-made commercial Caesar, alone in his penthouse, is reading. He stops. He has no desire to continue reading or to do anything at all any further. He has lost the root of desire, “the desire to desire” (GW I 426). He prepares for bed, sees his pistol in his dresser drawer, and feels no shock at the thought he will kill himself. That lack of shock convinces him he should. “The thought seemed so simple, like an argument not worth contesting. Like a bromide. / Now he stood at the glass wall [overlooking the city], stopped by that very simplicity. One could make a bromide of one’s life, he thought, but not of one’s death” (ibid.). He decides to reflect on his life and “find either the will to live on or the reason to end it now” (GW I 427).

Nietzsche: “The best became weary of their works. / . . . / We harvested well, but why did all our fruits turn foul and brown? What fell down from the evil moon last night? / . . . / ‘Oh where is there still a sea in which one could drown?’—thus rings our lament—out across shallow swamps’” (Z II “The Soothsayer”). “All of you who suffer from the great nausea like me, for whom the old God died and no new god is lying yet in cradles and crib clothes . . . . / . . . / I know you, you higher men” (Z IV “The Song of Melancholy 2).

Wynand reviews the course of his amazing life, but stops with a sense of dread over further examination. Seeing that he still fears something, he knows suicide is out, at least for the present evening. “As long as he still feared something, he had a foothold on living; even if it meant only moving forward to an unknown disaster” (GW I 443).

He goes to his study to get a drink before bed. Beside his desk stands an unopened gift. He opens its crate. Inside is a nude statue of Dominique, whom he does not know, though she formerly worked for his newspaper. The sculptor is Steven Mallory, the one whose works have a magnificent respect for the human being, the one whose works are of what humans could be and should be.

Wynand soon meets Dominique. He observes that the same elements compose opposite themes: Everything about her in the statue goes to exaltation. Her own theme is suffering (GW III 468).

Dominique had been thoroughly disappointed by humankind, from wealthy slumlords to irresponsible, poor parents (PK XII 145). She did not want to desire anything, for the net of connections to shallow, revolting people who would crush what is precious to her. She wanted perfection or nothing (PK XII 148–49).

She meets Roark and desires him and has him, feverishly, helplessly. She sees his buildings as bright, bold, and sacred, and she is pained to see them given to a world dark, dingy, and small (ET VII 283; XII 378–79; GW V 498). Dominique sees the suffering the world causes Roark, and she expects he will eventually be destroyed. She cannot bear it. She severs her personal relationship to Roark. She chooses suffering; she marries and promotes Roark’s successful, incompetent classmate Keating.

“Perfection or nothing” could also be a motto for Roark. He does not, however, expect humanity to destroy itself nor the best within him. He expects the rightness with the earth that is his to never be lost among men.

I said that Dominique Francon and Gail Wynand fit the Nietzschean designation of higher humans. Like the higher men of Zarathustra, they are in spiritual convalescence in the course of the book. (Nietzsche would exclude women as hopeless, but this is error we kick away; Z IV “The Awakening” 1.) Given Rand’s conviction of free will, there is no need for Dominique to say Yes to an eternal recurrence of all suffering and joy. There is a need for Dominique to free herself of overwhelming disgust and contempt.

“‘Does this town not steam with the reek of slaughtered spirit? / Do you not see the souls hanging like limp dirty rags?—And they even make newspapers out of these rags! / . . . / . . . They are all sick and addicted to public opinion’” (Z III “On Passing By”).

On her way to Reno to divorce Keating, so she can marry Wynand, Dominique stops to see Roark building a department store in Clayton, Ohio. It is just a small town much like one will find anywhere in America today. Dominique and Roark talk on the stoop of a vacant house (as Kira and Leo a world and yesterday away). They stand, to walk to the station for her to take the next train west. She asks: “‘Until—when, Roark?’ / His hand moved over the streets. ‘Until you stop hating all this, stop being afraid of it, learn not to notice it’” (GW V 499). Early in the story, Roark tells Cameron that though people in the streets may fear or hate him, though such people can bring him suffering through his love of his work, he does not notice them (PK IV 61).

Dominique is going on, to marry Wynand. On Cameron’s deathbed, he had told Roark he did not hate anyone any more, except Gail Wynand, whose newspaper is symbol of the world’s overbearing vulgarity. Roark carries as near-hatred that token from Cameron, until he actually meets Wynand, husband of Dominique (HR II 556, V 593).

Hatred in Fountainhead is mainly given to “those who love to crawl,” those who see man as puny (GW IV 478). Theirs is hatred of competent individuals who love their work and whose person and life is sufficient unto itself. Rand reasons that they hate the independent individual because the only existence and self-esteem these haters know is through others. In the independent man, they do not exist, and he is a reproach to them (PK IV 61; ET XII 379; HR XI 659).

Yes, there are people who love to crawl—at least in their manifestos—people who resent the achievements and wealth of others, and who would level society. However, I have no experience of people hating me on account of my competence or love of my work or on account of self-sufficiency. People generally lightened if they noticed those things, no doubt they sometimes thought I was foolish or tragic in those things, but I never sensed that anyone hated me on those counts. They hated me because of my sexual orientation or my atheism or because of an intense rivalry. They were sometimes jealous of personal traits I had, but that is not hatred. In fact I have found the two traits, competence and love of work, to be subversive of people’s hatred of me based on other grounds. (For Rand’s picture of Keating’s jealousy, hatred, and love of Roark: PK XI 134; PK XV 202–3; ET IV 253–54; VI 278; GW II 456; HR VIII 626.)

“‘We want to exact revenge and heap insult on all whose equals we are not’—thus vow the tarantula hearts. / ‘And “will to equality”—that itself from now on shall be the name for virtue; and against everything that has power we shall raise our clamor!’” (Z II “On the Tarantulas”). Nietzsche’s concern is for uncommon humans, against whom there is much hatred. The hated humans of his concern, of course, are not industrious and existentially productive (GS 329).

Gail Wynand is hated for the power he wields. He is hated by some for the vulgarity of his newspaper, the Banner, which is enormously successful. For sport Wynand goes after certain individuals who have done nothing against him. He gets men to forfeit their integrity in return for money. Wynand has sold his own soul for money, the means to luxury and power. He continually wants to show himself that there are no men of incorruptible integrity. He says to Dominique “I have paid with my honor for the privilege of holding a position where I can amuse myself by observing how honor operates in other men” (GW III 472).

Wynand works mightily on his business enterprises. When he is drained of strength and will, he visits his private collection of art locked in the lower, windowless floor of his penthouse. These treasures are not to be pawned. Leaving those rooms, he has a look of suffering. He wants to share them with Dominique right after meeting her. She is the cleanest person he had ever seen (GW IV 479).

Gail worships Dominique. They marry. His values are hers. But he loves his child, the Banner, which is a daily pandering to the puny in people, a daily treason against the values of Gail and Dominique, against exaltation of man on earth. Dominique’s marriage to Gail is a daily treason to the spirit of the Stoddard Temple (GW 526–30).

In their second cruise on Gail’s yacht, Dominique enjoys the sight of him relaxing in a deck chair, a state so much not his natural one. “She wondered about him; Gail Wynand, famous for his extraordinary capacity; but this was not merely the force of an ambitious adventurer who had created a chain of newspapers; this—the quality he saw in him here—the thing stretched out under the sun, like an answer —this was greater, a first cause, a faculty out of universal dynamics” (GW IX 531).

Rand’s talk here of “a faculty out of universal dynamics” is probably an allusion to the force Nietzsche had come to think the fundamental essential force in all biological nature, even in all nature. That force for Nietzsche was will to power. He imputed to all organisms the drive for power he saw as the fundamental determinant of relations between human beings. Rand plays out what Nietzsche calls bourgeois drive for power in her characters Keating, his mother, and Catherine Halsey. She plays out more masterful drives for power in her characters Wynand and Toohey. Like Rand’s readers, Nietzsche would take all these characters as ignoble, excepting the mixed case of Wynand. He is noble in his honesty and courage, and in his self-regard and self-containment. Also, in his will of life and sense of gallantry (GW VII 517; IX 536).

Nonetheless, Rand’s magnificent morality tale is a reproof of the necessity of will to power in human relations. Her Roark is devoid of it. Nietzsche would say Roark is profoundly impossible. Moreover, Nietzsche would detest all the framing in terms of good and evil, which Rand first brought expressly into her fiction in The Fountainhead. Rand bonds the good to the noble by the concept of integrity crafted in this book. I think her concept is sound, and I see no way to break the bond.

Rand 1943 was not beyond speculating “a faculty out of universal dynamics.” But she sees human creation as fundamental and essential to human existence, and she sees creators like Roark as an original “life force” that is not a drive to power over others (HR XVIII 737). Wynand, too, had an abundance of that fundamental life force to which his will to power was inessential, dispensable. The character Wynand will not be able to redeem his treason. His love of Dominique and friendship with Roark do liberate him. Then too, the tallest skyscraper in New York will be built, in the pure spirit of Roark, as a monument to Wynand’s life, as if he had been forgiven (HR IX 643).

Dominique does not need to learn to say Yes to all suffering and joy ever-returning. Also unlike Zarathustra, she does not need to learn to overcome pity. She needs to learn to stop hating the world that is opposite Roark and to be not so afraid for him. When Dominique severed her relationship with Roark, she said to him “When I think of what you are, I can’t accept any reality except a world of your kind. Or at least a world in which you have a fighting chance and a fight on your own terms. That does not exist. And I can’t live a life torn between that which exists—and you’” (ET XIV 399; also HR I 551–52).

While Roark is building the home for Gail and Dominique, he is a frequent guest at their penthouse. Dominique learns to say Yes to the reality that is Roark in the real world, Roark as best friend of her husband, the three of them perfectly real in the city she dreads beyond the windows, as real as the three of them at the isolated, completed home (HR V 597; IX 636). She waits.

Long ago she had walked through Roark’s Enright House under construction. “The girders and the conduits and the sweeping reaches of space were his and could not have been anyone else’s in the world; his, as his face, as his soul, . . . in every line of steel, a man’s self, hers for this moment, hers by the grace of seeing it and understanding” (ET VIII 306).

Years later Roark had said to her and Gail. “‘What you feel in the presence of a thing you admire is just one word—“Yes.” The affirmation, the acceptance, the sign of admittance. . . . The ability to say “Yes” or “No” is the essence of all ownership’” (HR IV 582).

She waits. Roark enters her home and enlists her aid in his plan to dynamite Cortlandt, in the name of all creators and all real integrity. She is ready to fight.

She is alone, driving the roadster along the East River to the site. “She laughed and thought: No, this is not New York, this is a private picture pasted to the window of my car, all of it, here on one small pane, under my hand, I own it, its mine now—she ran one hand across the buildings from the Battery to Queensborough Bridge—Roark, it’s mine and I’m giving it to you” (HR XII 668).


Nietzsche, F. 1882 & 1887. The Gay Science I–IV & V. J. Nauckhoff, trans. 2001. Cambridge.

——. 1883–85. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A. Del Caro, trans. 2006. Cambridge.

——. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil. J. Norman, trans. 2002. Cambridge.

——. 1888. The Anti-Christ. J. Norman, trans. 2005. Cambridge.

——. 1888. Twilight of the Idols. J. Norman, trans. 2005. Cambridge.

Rand, A. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill.

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