Originally published in 1943, The Fountainhead is one of Ayn Rand's most important literary works and has sold more than six million copies worldwide. It is also the book that first brought her worldwide acclaim and helped her develop her revolutionary philosophy of Objectivism.
Its theme is that free minds, creativeness and individualism are better for the future than conformity and second-hand opinions. The main character, Howard Roark, is the embodiment of this theme.
He believes that the truth is not to be found in orthodox, old-fashioned ideas. He wants to build what he thinks is right and to create something new.
Toohey, another main character, is the archenemy of Roark's ideals. He clings to orthodox ideas, rejecting change.
The story of Howard Roark and Henry Cameron, the modernist architects of the novel, parallels the struggle to break free from Classical design in America in the 1920s and 1930s. The modern movement was a counter-culture to the traditional styles that had dominated American architecture for centuries.
The novel presents an eloquent exposition of a philosophical principle that has become essential to the individualist movement in America and elsewhere, namely, that man's ego is the foundation of human progress. It shows, too, that collectivism is a destructive force in the world.