The Fountainhead

Topics include: background material on Rand and the era in which she wrote the novel; an overview of the story; an analysis of the principal characters; detailed discussion of the main theme and a number of related sub-themes.

  • What principles does the hero of the story, Howard Roark, live by?
  • Is Peter Keating selfish? Or selfless?
  • What is Ellsworth Toohey really after in his relationships with the other characters?
  • Why does Dominique Francon oppose Roark’s career even though she loves him?
  • Why was Gail Wynand’s pursuit of power doomed to fail?

In many ways, The Fountainhead is a novel about the greatness of the independent, American spirit. It is a novel about a young architect who refuses to compromise his vision of what makes a magnificent building, while living in a culture that relentlessly criticizes him as naïve, unconventional, impractical, idealistic. And yet he still triumphs. This classic novel is Rand’s account of what it truly means to live in pursuit of your own life and values, and how America is the country of individualism.

This interactive, video lecture course is an introduction to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. High school students studying The Fountainhead will definitely find much value in the course. However, the material should be of value to anyone interested in learning more about the novel and Rand’s ideas.

Each unit of the course is a self-contained module. Students should feel free to take the whole course in sequence or to peruse the course outline and jump around to sections of interest. Teachers who wish to use the course for classroom instruction are welcome to select the unit or units most relevant to their instructional goals.


Course video available on your mobile devices and tablets.

Note that user interactions are not accessible on mobile devices. So watching courses on your smart phone or tablet is possible – but you won’t get the full experience and some check marks will remain unchecked until completed on a personal computer.

The Fountainhead

Course Outline
Unit 1: Ayn Rand and the Background to The Fountainhead

  1. An American Classic
  2. Ayn Rand’s Background
    1. We the Living
  3. Parallels Between Rand and Roark

Unit 2: Peter Keating

  1. Parallel Careers of Keating and Roark
    1. Part One: Keating’s “Success,” Roark’s “Failure”
  2. Keating’s “Selfishness”
    1. No Scruples
    2. Selfishness as a Necessary Evil?
  3. Is Keating Truly Selfish?
    1. Greatness in the Eyes of Others
    2. Keating’s Fundamental Lack of Self
    3. The Height of Keating’s “Success”
  4. Cortlandt Homes
  5. Unit 2 Knowledge Checks

Unit 3: Ellsworth Toohey

  1. Collectivism in Man’s Soul
  2. Toohey and Keating
  3. Toohey and Dominique
    1. The Stoddard Temple
  4. Toohey and Roark
    1. “But I Don’t Think Of You”
  5. Toohey’s Basic Motive
  6. Cortlandt Homes - Toohey and Wynand
    1. The Sanction of the Victim
  7. Unit 3 Knowledge Checks

Unit 4: Gail Wynand

  1. Wynand’s Conflict
  2. Wynand’s Potential for Greatness
    1. First-Hand Thinker
  3. Wynand’s Disillusionment
    1. Rule Or Be Ruled
    2. “A Man Who Sold His Soul”
      1. Wynand’s “Hobby
    3. Wynand’s Quest for Redemption
      1. Wynand and Dominique
      2. Wynand and Roark
    4. Cortlandt Homes – No Redemption for Wynand
    5. Unit 4 Knowledge Checks

    Unit 5: Howard Roark
    1. Parallel Careers of Keating and Roark
      1. Roark: Selfless Martyr to an Ideal?
    2. Roark’s Basic Motive – His Work, His Way
      1. Passionately Drawn to His Work
      2. Roark and The Dean
      3. Building the Heller House
    3. Is Roark a Selfless Martyr?
      1. The Moral Is the Practical
    4. Roark’s Independence
      1. “Only Down to a Certain Point”
    5. Cortlandt Homes
    6. Unit 5 Knowledge Checks

    Unit 6: Dominique Francon
    1. Dominique’s Conflict
      1. “I’m After Nothing At All”
      2. Roark: A Tie to the World
    2. Dominique and Toohey
    3. Dominique and Keating
    4. Dominique and Wynand
    5. Cortlandt Homes
      1. Free of the World
    6. The Roark-Dominique Sex Scene
      1. Dominique’s Conflict
      2. Roark and Dominique
    7. Unit 6 Knowledge Checks

    Unit 7: Themes of The Fountainhead, Part 1
    1. A Work of Literature and Philosophy
    2. “A New Code of Ethics”
      1. Selfishness in Its “True Spiritual Sense”
    3. The Conventional View of Selfishness and Selflessness
      1. Overturning the Conventional View of Selfishness
      2. Why Keating and Wynand Are Not Truly Selfish
    4. Overturning the Conventional View of Selflessness
      1. Selflessness as Spiritually Destructive
    5. A Moral False Alternative
    6. Unit 7 Knowledge Checks

    Unit 8: Themes of The Fountainhead, Part 2
    1. Individualism in Man’s Soul
    2. Roark’s Apparent Selflessness
    3. Roark’s Basic Motive – “My Work Done My Way”
      1. An Independent Innovator
      2. His Relationship to His Clients
    4. Roark’s Essence: His Independence
    5. Collectivism in Man’s Soul
    6. Contradictions of Altruism
    7. Toohey: The Arch-Exponent of Altruism
      1. Toohey’s Basic Motive: Power Over Men
      2. Toohey’s Versus Wynand’s Quest For Power
    8. Unit 8 Knowledge Checks

. . . by Ayn Rand

The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers, edited by Tore Boeckmann
An edited version of an informal course on fiction writing that Ayn Rand gave in her living room in 1958. This course draws many examples from The Fountainhead,/i>.

Letters of Ayn Rand, edited by Michael Berline
An edited collection of personal correspondence from Ayn Rand to a variety of individuals, which includes much discussion of The Fountainhead.

Journals of Ayn Rand, edited by David Harriman
An edited selection from Ayn Rand’s personal journals, which includes four chapters worth of notes capturing her thoughts on the writing and the themes of The Fountainhead.

. . . for Those Familiar with Ayn Rand's Writings

Essays on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, edited by Robert Mayhew
This is a collection of scholarly essays on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.