The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 11

As the construction of his house proceeds, Austen Heller finds that he’s becoming fast friends with Howard Roark:

Within a week, Heller knew that he had found the best friend he would ever have; and he knew that the friendship came from Roark’s fundamental indifference. In the deeper reality of Roark’s existence there was no consciousness of Heller, no need for Heller, no appeal, no demand.

That is… not what friendship means.

If you’re indifferent to someone’s presence or absence, don’t need them, don’t care about them, and in fact aren’t even really conscious of their existence, then whatever you are to them, you’re not their friend. “Friendship” and “indifference” are antonyms, however much this book might insist otherwise.

We’re told that Heller appreciates it when Roark praises one of his articles – “the strangely clean joy of a sanction that was neither a bribe nor alms” – but that’s not friendship, that just means that they agree on some aspects of their political ideology. Friendship means that you enjoy a person’s company and desire to spend time with them.

Granted, Rand was fuzzy on the difference. She assumed that people who have one thing in common would automatically and naturally agree about everything else too. Because Heller and Roark have the same sense of aesthetics that made Heller prefer Roark’s modernist design, it was inevitable that he and Roark would also have the same political leanings. The flip side of this is how all the evil socialists and conformists in the novel like Greek and Roman-inspired houses.

We saw this facet of Rand’s worldview more jarringly, in Atlas Shrugged, in the secret valley of Galt’s Gulch. It’s populated by the fiercest individualists and most ruthless take-no-prisoners businessmen in the world… all of whom, once they’re living in the same place, start behaving with the instinctive unanimity of a school of fish.


Contunue reading: Patheos