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Howard Roark as a Free Thinker: Meeting Rand’s Famous Architect

written by: Sarah Degnan Moje • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 11/12/2013

Howard Roark is an embodiment of Rand's Objectivism philosophy and a famous fictional free-thinker. How does he compare with other free-thinkers throughout history?

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    Howard Roark as a Free Thinker: Meeting Rand's Famous Architect Howard Roark may very well be one of the most famous fictional free thinkers. His destruction of his own building to defend it from what he terms, philistines, is extraordinarily similar to Jesus’ destruction of the Temple in the Bible. However, how does Roark measure up when compared to some of society’s greatest thinkers of different ages? This is a great novel to guide students through the research process to learn more about some of the so-called “movers and shakers" in history.

    Lesson Procedure:

    Before you engage your students in a discussion about Howard Roark himself, ask them to compile a list on the board of other people who have changed the way society and/or the world think. They can list people who had a positive influence, like Ghandi or Martin Luther King, or people who have had a negative influence, like Adolf Hitler or Osama Bin Laden.

    Have students examine their own thoughts on the responsibility that goes along with being a “thinker" in society. Ask them to try and ascertain what separates the “good" thinkers; those who change society in some way for the better, and the “negative" thinkers, those whose trains of thought leave devastating consequences on the world as a whole. Then, introduce them to Roark and ask them, if he were a real philosopher, what category would he fall into? Whatever category they place him in, explain to them that really, they are placing Ayn Rand in that category, because Roark is the creative manifestation of her Objectivist philosophy.

    Use the power point to introduce students to Roark’s character and philosophy while they are reading the novel. Then, as an interesting assignment, give students the following task:

    Throughout history, there have been inventors and free thinkers who have moved mankind forward. They have used their creative and independent thinking to change society. Choose one person from the list and explain how they changed the way humans thought about things: Columbus, Galileo, Saint Thomas More, Charles Darwin, The Wright Brothers, John Glenn, Mark Zuckerburg are all examples of new, innovate thinkers. Using Roark’s method of thought as a guide, discuss how one of these men changed society in general.

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  • Still from the flm The Fountainhead by Warner Bros., 1949.

The Fountainhead

"The Fountainhead" was published in 1943 by Ayn Rand. The book is an illustration of Rand's philosophy which is known as Objectivism. This unit is suitable for High School students and includes downloadable power points and quizzes.
  1. Ayn Rand and Objectivism: An Introduction To "The Fountainhead"
  2. Howard Roark as a Free Thinker: Meeting Rand’s Famous Architect
  3. Peter Keating, Man of the Masses: Meeting the Anti-Roark
  4. Are You An Objectivist? Assessing Student Understanding of "The Fountainhead"