Character Analysis Dominique Francon


Dominique is Roark's lover and later his wife. An ardent idealist, she observes Greek sculpture, Roark's buildings, the music of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, and she understands the human potential. Dominique recognizes man's capacity for achievement, and this is the only thing she loves. Because she reveres man at his highest and best, she necessarily loathes most members of the human race, who fall below man's potential. When she sees the manipulative Peter Keatings, the power-hungry Ellsworth Tooheys, and the masses who prefer Keating's work to Roark's, it fills her with despair. Dominique believes that the majority of men have no interest in living up to man's highest nature, and that this unthinking herd wields the power in society. Dominique is consequently a philosophical pessimist, holding that the good have no chance in this world, that only the corrupt (Keating) and the evil (Toohey) will ultimately succeed. She is a major example in Ayn Rand's writing of what the author terms the malevolent universe premise, the belief that the world is closed to the aspirations of good men, that only evil holds power.

Because of Dominique's reverence for man's noblest and best, she must love Roark; but because of her pessimism, she must hold the despairing belief that he has no chance to succeed in a world utterly hostile to him. She joins forces with Toohey, in an attempt to wreck Roark's career, as an act of mercy killing. Roark must die at her hand — that of the one who loves him — rather than by the hand of a society that envies his greatness. "Let us say we are moles and we object to mountain peaks," she admonishes the court and gallery at the Stoddard trial, stating that the temple must be torn down in order to save it from the world, not the world from it.

Because of Dominique's fear that the world will destroy the noble men and works that she treasures, she refuses to pursue any values. Because the only worthwhile goals could never be reached, Dominique refuses to pursue any goals. She withdraws from active involvement in the world, pursuing neither career nor love, until the events of the story, over a period of years, convince her that Roark's benevolent universe premise is true. Only when she sees the good succeeding on its own terms, and the evil powerless to stop it, does she realize that she has been mistaken regarding the world. Then she is free to help Roark and take her place by his side.

It is important to understand that, despite the error of her pessimistic philosophy, Dominique is independent in the use of her mind. The obvious examples of her first-handed functioning are her evaluations regarding architecture. Dominique understands that, despite some positive qualities, her father's career is essentially phony and not worthy of admiration — and she is not reticent about stating her beliefs openly. She displays the same ruthless honesty regarding her father's protégé and eventual partner, Peter Keating. Her independent judgment is equally apparent in regard to positive architectural appraisal — for despite society's rejection of Henry Cameron and, later, Howard Roark, she understands that these outcasts are the greatest builders in the world. Perhaps the most telling piece of evidence supporting Dominique's first-handedness is her assessment of Ellsworth Toohey. Though society regards Toohey as a paragon of moral saintliness, Dominique recognizes him for what he is — a viciously evil power-seeker.

The less obvious example of Dominique's independence is how she changes her mind regarding her pessimistic worldview. She observes the lives of Howard Roark, Gail Wynand, Peter Keating, and Ellsworth Toohey. She sees that despite every obstacle that society places in Roark's path, it cannot stop him. She witnesses the life of Gail Wynand, observing that, in the end, Wynand's pandering brings him destruction, not joyous success. She sees that Keating's career does not merely collapse, but does so because of his lying manipulativeness, which leads to his public exposure as a fraud. She notes that Toohey's power-seeking is utterly defeated in the two major attempts of his life: He can neither gain control of Wynand's Banner nor prevent Roark's artistic and commercial success. Dominique observes that the facts of these men's lives contradict her belief that the good will inevitably fail and the evil triumph. Based on the facts, she changes her mind, realizing that Roark's benevolent assessment of life's possibilities is true and her own malevolent view is mistaken. Her ability to change a fundamental component of her worldview is both rare and a testimony to her independence. She is committed to the facts, to truth, to her mind's most honest judgment — not to the opinions of others. Dominique is a thinker. The willingness to think for herself is what enables her to change her life, and demonstrates that though independence is not a guarantee of arriving at the truth, it provides an individual with a self-regulating method of correcting her errors.