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Dominique Francon’s Conflict

Ayn Rand’s main characters in The Fountainhead represent a set of human values based on the conflict of rationalism and individualism versus collectivism. Any abandoning of one’s individuality or action that is influenced by other people is collectivist and immoral to Rand. From Rand’s point of view, no sublime work of art or technological invention has been achieved through collectivist principles. She illustrates this view with the “March of the Centuries” exposition, an architectural project designed by several successful architects in homage to Classical, Renaissance, and other styles.

The exposition flops. Rand’s protagonist and hero, Howard Roark, had offered to design the expo alone and in his own style. Rand believes in an absolute, rational person. Physically described as hard and unchanging, like an architectural drawing, Howard Roark embodies Rand’s individualism. Although enemies like Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey, Gail Wynand, and Dominique Francon try to destroy him, Roark focuses on his work rather than consider their motives.

Ultimately Roark achieves professional success, designing the tallest building in New York City, funded by his former enemy, Gail Wynand. Roark never compromises or collaborates, and he always designs his buildings according to his personal aesthetics. He loves his work more than anything in the world. Dominique Francon once bought a beautiful sculpture. She admired it so much that she threw it down an elevator shaft and shattered it, so nobody else could see it. Fiercely and coldly beautiful, Dominique lives rationally and by her own standards.

Rand depicts Dominique as being trapped in a conflict between individualism and collectivism: her love for Roark and rational versus her fear and disgust with a petty, uninspiring world. Dominique simultaneously loves Roark as an architect and man but hates him for sharing his work with a world she despises. She wrote that one of Roark’s buildings was unfit to exist on earth, lamenting that housewives would ruin it by hanging their laundry outside. Although she cannot destroy his buildings, Dominique focuses her energy on convincing upper-society patrons not to grant commissions to Roark.

Dominique bases her feud with Roark on rational principles. She wants to defeat him by removing his love and passion: the opportunity to design buildings. Her actions in the feud exploit collectivist tendencies of the building patrons. Because she is beautiful, intelligent, and rich, she can easily influence people who will spend money in order to win her favor. Dominique charms these patrons and convinces them not to choose Roark. It is easy to do: all she has to tell them is that Roark is great but unpopular.

Irrational clients want a safe architect to design an unoriginal building that an ignorant public will respect. Meanwhile Dominique and Roark spend intimate, passionate nights together, isolated from society and her moral conflict. She tells Roark about commissions she has stolen from him even as they lie together in bed. As Dominique loves Roark, she also wants to save him from a world that she feels does not deserve him or his buildings. Roark lands a commission to design the Stoddard Temple with instructions to build a nondenominational testament to the human spirit.

Rand considers organized religion to be a form of collectivist or irrational thinking, causing the subordination of one’s will to the needs of the religious group. She describes traditional church architecture as large and intimidating to make humans feel meek and submissive. Roark, however, builds a low, stretching structure that makes people feel strong and proud when they walk inside. A violent conflict ensues, painted by the media as Roark’s vulgar temple versus traditional, decent religion.

Roark loses a lawsuit and has to pay for the temple’s conversion into a home for children with disabilities. Dominique cannot bear to see Roark constantly smashing himself against an unreceptive world, believing Roark will be destroyed. At the Stoddard trial she says that the temple needs to be destroyed in order to save it from other people. She leaves Roark and marries Peter Keating, a man she loathes, needing to embrace an irrational world if she cannot live in Roark’s world. Roark instructs Dominique to learn not to be hurt by that irrational world, identifying her internal conflict.

Dominique and Roark do not see each other for years, while Roark slowly resuscitates his bad reputation from the Stoddard Temple. Commissions come to him from rational clients that disregard public opinion and want the best architect reflective of their individual tastes. Rational patrons will choose Roark regardless of any appeal Dominique could make. Roark can have a successful, full career as an architect without comprising any of his individualism: he is proving Dominique wrong. Roark then re-enters social conflict with society: he dynamites a version of his Cortlandt Homes housing project.

Other architects had changed his simple, efficient design by adding irrational adornments. By assisting Roark in the dynamiting, Dominique eliminates any former alliance with society and reaffirms her individualistic and rational views. Roark wins this trial, and designs the Wynand Building, the tallest building in New York. Dominique realizes that Roark has won, and she returns to him. Although Dominique fought against Roark and her disgust with the world, all of her collectivist and irrational actions still lead her back to Roark, the rational individual.

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