The United States has had a perverted perspective on Ayn Rand’s epic characters. They have been explained as capitalist heroes whose selfish pursuits reached the level of nobility. However, looking specifically at the famous protagonist in The Fountainhead, Howard Roark, I see a person who transcends capitalism.
Howard Roark possessed a special talent for architecture. His creative skills made the world a better place. However, Howard had no concern for money or fame. His only focus was to maximize his potential as a person.
Meet Pearl. Pearl has set out to transcend tradition and freely express his potential. Pearl and his incredible garden are exhibits of the human spirit unlimited by preconceived notions of beauty, style, race, socioeconomic status, or formal education. Further, Pearl’s garden is a perfect example that the highest attainment of individual potential remains outside the bounds of economic philosophies and systems.
Many people misunderstand Rand’s protagonists as justifying the extremist brand of capitalism which has manifest in contemporary society. However, I see Rand’s Roark as the Platonic ideal of the real man Pearl: sharing his gifts not for the lust of a bonus or elevated status among peers, but for the invaluable satisfaction and happiness which accompanies self-knowledge and personal accomplishment.
Next time you see or hear people waiving around Rand’s books while proclaiming the virtues of individualism, ask them what they do every day to be more like Howard Roark … or better, Pearl. In a world full of Roarks and Pearls, communist and capitalist crooks stand out like ugly weeds in a wonderful garden.
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