Art and Objectivism

A brief discussion of Art, Life and Spirit in The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) and Faith of the Fallen (Terry Goodkind), in accordance with Objectivist ethics.

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The soul of an artist is revealed through his Art, and the soul of an individual is revealed through his response to Art. Dominique Francon of New York and Kahlan Amnel of the fantastical world of the Midlands (Aydindril) are characters created by different authors, existing on different planets, but are fictional representatives of the same entity – Life. Ayn Rand, in her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, explores the theory of objectivism – a theory she devoted her life to creating, developing and teaching. The influence of Rand’s revolutionary literature, particularly The Fountainhead, and the ethics of objectivist thinking are poignantly apparent in Terry Goodkind’s fantasy novel Faith of the Fallen – the sixth in the eleven-book ‘Sword of Truth series’. The parallel between the aforementioned female protagonists, is drawn through the artistic representation of the Spirit of each character.

In The Fountainhead, Rand explores the notion of Art in relation to objectivist theory, which states that Art is the recreation of one’s reality according to one’s values (self interest and reason). Dominique Francon’s countenance, as she poses for artist Steven Mallory’s sculpture, is described as follows; “her body standing before him straight and tense. Her head thrown back, her arms at her sides palms out, as she had stood for any days; but now her body was alive, so still it seemed to tremble , saying what he had wanted to hear: a proud, reverent, enraptured surrender to a vision of her own” (The Fountainhead p323). The statue of Dominique Francon is commissioned by architect Howard Roark who himself has been commissioned to design a “non-sectarian cathedral” (The Fountainhead p326). Rand leaves no room for religion in her objectivist thinking but honours and revels in the individual. Religion stands in opposition to the ideals of reason and capitalism, two of the core values of objectivism. Religion requires the individual to surrender to a higher power and in so doing negates the concept of individualism. Rather than the individual existing for the sake of God, Objectivism requires the individual to exist for his own sake. Ethically, man is an independent being who, in accordance with capitalist ideology, should be free to choose his own profession, to create and to achieve (as far as his abilities and reality allow) without interference from Government, or any such institution. Roark, thus creates a temple of the “Human Spirit” (The Fountainhead p308), which is an ode to Life, an ode to the individual – an ideal which is represented in the sculpture of Dominique Francon. Rand’s exultation of the individual is also reflected in Roark’s temple, which extends horizontally rather than vertically, boasting “not the lines reaching to heaven, but the lines of the earth” (The fountainhead p322). It is a place “where one would come to feel sinless and strong, to find the peace of spirit never granted save by one’s own glory.” (The Fountainhead p322). Howard Roark states, “No man can live for another. He cannot share his spirit just as he cannot share his body.” (The Foundation p666).

Goodkind draws on Rand’s representation of Life and Spirit in Faith of the Fallen. Protagonist Richard Rahl sculpts a statue of himself and his wife Kahlan whilst imprisoned by Sorceress Nikki. Life, the title of Richard’s sculpture, reveals his dedication to the sustainability of Life, an entity and ideal that he values above all else. Life is based on a smaller statue entitled Spirit that, earlier in the novel, Richard made for his wife Kahlan. She carries the figure around with her during her separation from Richard and and looks upon it to remind her of her strength and desire to live. How she, as Richard, values Life above all else. The statue, not meant to look like Kahlan, represents her spirit; “her robes flowing in a wind as she stood with her head thrown back , her chest out, her hands fisted at her sides, her back arched and strong as if in opposition to an invisible power trying unsuccessfully to subdue her, a sense of …spirit”(Faith of the Fallen p187). The statue represents Kahlan’s “individual nobility” (Faith of the Fallen p187) and “strength and vitality” (Faith of the Fallen p187) – that which all mankind should strive to achieve. Similarly to Steven Mallory, Richard is later commissioned to create a statue “to the glory of the creator…a monument to man’s evil nature, doomed to the misery of his existence in this world, wicked of character, cowering in humiliation, as His light reveals man’s hateful body and soul for what it is – perverted beyond hope.” (Faith of the Fallen p586). Richard, as Roarke and Mallory, rejects the Christian view that man is innately sinful and instead glorifies the essence of man as pure and noble – as dictated by objectivist ideals. He uses Spirit as the inspiration for Life which represents the essence of Kayhlan’s Spirit. Richard’s statue artistically embodies the core values of Rand’s characters in The Fountainhead – Dominique Francon and Howard Roarke, and in Rand’s subsequent novel Atlas Shrugged – primarily exemplified by Dagny Taggart, Francisco D’Anconia, Hank Rearden and John Galt. Life is described as follows: “The two figures in the center posed in a state of harmonious balance. The man’s body displayed a proud masculinity. Though the woman was clothed there was no doubt as to her femininity. They both reflected a love of the human form as sensuous, noble and pure. The evil all around seemed as if it was recoiling in terror of that noble purity. More than that, though, Richard’s statue existed without conflict; the figures showed awareness rationality and purpose. This was a manifestation of human ability, power and intent. This was life lived for its own sake. This was mankind standing proudly of his own free will” (Faith of the Fallen p651).

Both artists, Steven Mallory and Richard Rahl, are saved through their art. Mallory has been denied that which is most important to his being, to his life – his work, which is his ability to create according to the ethics of reason. Through Roark’s commission, Mallory is resurrected: “Mallory changed; there was no uncertainty in him, no remembrance of pain; the gesture of is hand taking the drawing was sharp and sure, like that of a soldier on duty. The gesture said that nothing ever done to him could alter the function of the thing within him that was now called into action. He had an unyielding, impersonal confidence” (The Fountainhead p317). Creating is essential to Mallory’s being, to Mallory’s existence. Life is attained through the act of creation as is suggested in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged whereby individuals, through the unyielding and absolute love of their work, create and thus exist – Hank Rearden creates a metal set to revolutionize industry, Howard Roark designs and creates buildings, Dagny Taggart creates railways, Fransisco D’Anconia is the ultimate entrepreneur – creating opportunities at every turn, John Galt creates a motor that converts static electricity from the air into kinetic energy. The process of art is creation and creation is life. It is the highest achievement of man. Roarke says that man faces a choice, and the decision will result in life or death: “The choice is independence or dependence. The code of the creator or the code of the second-hander. This is the basic issue. It rests upon the alternative of life or death. The code of the creator is built on the needs of the reasoning mind which allows man to survive. The code of the second-hander is built on the needs of a mind incapable of survival” (The Fountainhead p667). Richard Rahl too, creates to sustain life. As Mallory, Richard is required to create a statue reflecting the nature of mankind in relation to a higher being – known in the Midlands as ‘the Creator’. Richard attacks his task with “great violence” (Faith of the Fallen p602). He “knew precisely what he wanted to accomplish. He knew what needed to be done, and how to do it. He was filled with a clarity of purpose, a course to follow. Now that it had begun, he was lost in his work…This work was his singular purpose, in which he strove for perfection” (Faith of the Fallen p602). Richard’s Art allows him freedom within the confines of his entrapment. Richard represents the individual, who, through work, will achieve freedom within the confines of the values of a society which embraces the ideals propelled by socialism and communism in place of capitalist/objectivist ethics.

The statues of both Richard Rahl and Steven Mallory are rejected by “the Order”, which is symbolic of the evil inherent in society and the institutions that safeguard its ethics. Mallory and Roark’s respective representations of Life and Spirit are viewed as blasphemous attacks on religion because both temple and statue are seen as “a symbol of man’s quest for something higher than his little ego…It is not the house of God, but the cell of a megalomaniac” (The Fountainhead p318). Richard, before he even starts sculpting, knows that his representation of man’s relationship to the Creator will earn him a death sentence. As expected, Richard’s ode to Life is called a “wicked perversion” (Faith of the fallen p667). Rand entices her reader to reject religious principles in favour of glorification of the individual. Goodkind embarks on a similar quest. The protagonists in both novels struggle against an evil that threatens Life – the freedom to create, to excel, to achieve and to be happy. Happiness is achieved through independence, and independence is achieved through work as stated by Howard Roarke, “the degree of a man’s independence, initiative and personal love for his work determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man. Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value…His moral law is never to place his prime goal within the persons of others. His moral obligation is to do what he wishes, provided his wish does not primarily upon other men. This includes the whole sphere of his creative faculty, his thinking, his work” (The Fountainhead p668). Richard Rahl and Ayn Rand’s protagonists fight a war against mediocrity. They fight a war against religion and institutionalism, which limits and contains any form of individual thought and excellence. Roark states that “All that which proceeds from man’s independent ego is good, All that which proceeds from man’s dependence upon men is evil” (The Fountainhead p667). Rand claims that unless man embraces the doctrine of reason, and in so doing acknowledges a reality that exists objectively, he will only succeed in killing consciousness (the ability to think and reason) and in so doing man embraces evil. Richard Rahl functions according to reason and ultimately conquers the evil emperor Jagang with the use of this tool. Goodkind suports objectivist ethics by stating that good will triumph over evil if reason is used as the primary weapon. In The Fountainhead, Rand describes a society that is unable to think and reason and thus exists unconsciously. Rand’s protagonists will experience a moment of revelation which occurs when they realise that the evil nature of unconscious existence manifests in the form of killing (figuratively) those who choose to think. It is a drastic and intense realisation, the emotion of which is encapsulated in a scene from Faith of the Fallen when Richard’s statue is unveiled to sorceress Nikki, and she is faced with the innate knowledge of the truth of the ethics proposed by what is essentially objectivism, the ethics required to Live, the ethics of Spirit: “she collapsed to the floor in tears, in abject shame, in horror, in revulsion, in sudden blinding comprehension…In pure joy” (Faith of the Fallen p643). The greater point that both Ayn Rand and Terry Goodkind make is that only once this truth (the truth inherent in Ojectivist ethics) has been acknowledged, will an individual be able to live with integrity.

Art is a doorway to the revelation of truth. Through Art, an individual is able to reveal his soul and claim his soul. Art is Life and Spirit.

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