Collectivism and Individualism in The Fountainhead
Ayn Rand’s controversial novel The Fountainhead thematically addresses the concepts of collectivism and individualism. The characters in the novel are dramatic representations of Rand’s philosophy related to these two beliefs; however, unless the reader fully comprehends the differences between these two philosophical concepts, the actions of the characters lose their significance. While both concepts are philosophical belief systems for guiding behavior, the reader will define the terms by examining their differences.
The reader may understand the terms initially by examining the differences in the literal and interpretive definitions of each term. The literal definitions reveal significant differences in meaning. Merriam Websters dictionary states that individualism is, “a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests.”(Merriam Webster). According to this same dictionary, collectivism is defined as being “a political or economic theory advocating collective control especially over production and distribution.
Only $13.90 / page
”(Merriam Webster). These definitions only show the political aspect of the book, however the novel is further based on one’s mind and soul. The interpretive definitions highlight compelling differences between these two beliefs. Throughout the novel the individualist is one who saw nothing wrong with his beliefs and did not think that anyone was inferior to him. Despite the reaction of others in the beginning of this novel thinking that he cared for no one but himself, by the closing people were able to see that he was “[. . .] a man totally innocent of fear” (678). On the other hand collectivism is defined as people being influenced by the whole to become a “socially accepted” person. Only changing and conforming to fit in and feel as if they fit in.
The reader may solidify his understanding of the two belief systems by examining the differing effects each produces. The effects of collectivism on the individual and society clearly define the philosophy. Collectivism depicted in the novel is shown by stating that the mass works together for a greater cause and to become equal. This collectivism causes “ A world where no man [. . . ] hold[s] a desire for himself, but [. . .] satisf[ies] the desire of his neighbor”(639). The effects of individualism elucidate the meaning of this belief system. Ayn Rand illustrates individualism as being a person who achieves their goals, despite the draw backs that are forced upon them and “[. . .] its glory began with one [person] and that one paid for his courage”(679). The Foutainhead presents the concept that the individualist always had to struggle throughout history and although some paid with their life,”[. . .] they won”(679). And although the works of these great people are outstanding, collectivist believe that no one should be made responsible and no one person should be rewarded for these consummations. What they infer is that every idea is the reproduction of someone elses concluding that no one idea is one of greatness.
The differences in the meaning of these two terms are evident throughout the novel, both create an equal balance to inform the reader of what the underlying issues are. Before I read this book I believed that individualism was the act of selfishness and that collectivism was the art of people joining together to become better. However through careful reading and in class discussions I feel that individualism is no more than a person going after what they think to be right and help create an end product for the people, which is very unselfish. And I also believe that collectivism is a sort of brainwash solution that gives no credit to those who truly deserve it. Both collectivism and individualism have there downfalls. Today in my opinion no one is a true individualist, but also I see no collectivist to degree that is depicted in the novel. My opinions on these two theories have changed thoroughly throughout the novel and my final view is that, not everyone is perfect and not everyone can be the person who they truly want to be.