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by Ayn Rand
The Fountainhead has achieved the status of a modern classic because it dramatically
concretizes the theme of independence versus dependence, between following one’s
own ideas or following those of others. This is of particular importance to
high school students who are eager to assert their independence from their parents
and need a code values to guide them. The student needs to know to what extent
he must follow his parents, when it is his right to assert himself against them,
when and if he is being improperly influenced by peer pressure, and that it
is his right to resist it. He needs to discover that social pressures pushing
him toward unsatisfactory career and marriage choices are not irresistible forces
defining his life—that he can oppose them successfully and often should.
And he needs to discover that unthinking rebellion against the standards of
others—being different just to be different—is as abject a form of
dependence as is blind allegiance to others. The Fountainhead appeals strongly
to the young—and I have seen this appeal year after year, with my own high
school students—not only because its theme is independence but because
it presents “a noble vision of man’s nature and of life’s potential.”
(From Ayn Rand’s Introduction to the novel.) That Ayn Rand was able to
integrate these issues into a plot structure that crackles with conflict can
be explained only by the school of writing to which she belongs: Romantic Realism.
She is a Romantic in that she projects men as they might be and ought to be.