The novel is a long one, so it took me a while to finish. The story revolves around Howard Roark, the idealistic architect who is determined to stick to his own standards of art, no matter the cost. His complete opposite is Peter Keating, an architect who is more than eager to follow other people’s wishes for his own benefit. Through other cast of characters like Dominique Francon, daughter of a famous architect; Ellsworth Toohey, a prominent critic; and Gail Wynard, a newspaper tycoon; the novel depicts a society where corruption is the norm and where one’s success is dependent on other people.
This is where Roark stands out. While reading the novel, I was dumbfounded as to why he would refuse to adjust his designs for a client and would rather starve than make changes in his sketch. Isn’t more practical to abide to a client’s wishes and be paid handsomely? It is a job, after all. But for Roark, it is not just a job. His art represents him as an individual. He believes that in letting other people control your art, you are essentially letting others take control of you. Eventually, your identity would be lost and you would only be a copy of an idea created by others.
This idea in particular stuck with me. Trying to produce good writing is hard enough, but what more to produce writing that everyone else thinks is good. And being a creative writer in our country isn’t exactly the most profitable job. You would be constantly faced with the choice of following the norm and have the chance for your work to become a bestseller, or standing by your own ideals and producing work that for you is good, never mind the meager profits.
Admittedly, I have a tendency to follow what other people say I should do, especially those with authority. Partly because I want to please other people and partly because I perceive them to know better. I’ve come to realize now that in creating something (whether it is music, art, or writing), no one would know better than yourself. Anyone can say that you must do this, you must change this and that. But as long as you have a good grasp of who you are, whatever you create is clear to you and nobody can change that.