Character Analysis Gail Wynand


Wynand is a powerful publisher of vulgar tabloids that oppose everything Roark stands for. But he also, like Dominique, loves man's noblest achievements, and owns a private gallery of great artworks. Wynand is a man of mixed premises. He rules his private life by means of his own judgment; consequently, it is filled with the items and persons that he, not his public, values. He loves Dominique, Roark, Roark's buildings, the beautiful art filling his gallery. Nobody — not his mother, Ellsworth Toohey, his public — tells Wynand how to conduct his personal life. Only his own thinking does this. But in his professional life, he is an egregious panderer. The Banner does not represent his values and thinking, but that of the most vulgar tastes of society. Ironically, the paper does not truly become Wynand's until he defends Roark in the Cortlandt case; only then does The Banner reflect Wynand's standards and values.

The story of Gail Wynand is tragedy. He is a man with the mind, talent, and initiative to do great things, but he brings disaster on himself by means of his own errors. Growing up in the harsh slums of Hell's Kitchen in New York City, he makes a fatal error, holding that, in this world, a man either rules or is ruled, conquers or is conquered. He believes that the majority of human beings are corrupt dolts — a mindless herd — and that the only way for the few intelligent and competent individuals to survive is by gaining power. He gives the public what it wants, attaining wealth and political influence along the way. But he betrays his own mind in the process.

Wynand is a man of exalted values, who panders to the debased standards of the crowd. Ultimately, the contradiction destroys him. When he defends Roark in The Banner, his thinking for the first time governs his paper's policy. He writes brilliant editorials defending the lone geniuses who stood against the men of their times, great individuals who, though persecuted by their societies, were vindicated by posterity. For the first time, Wynand uses his paper to defend the noble ideals he treasures. But he miscalculates. Those to whom he panders cannot appreciate a noble ideal, and those who can appreciate a noble ideal have long since stopped taking Wynand seriously. The paper comes back unread. Wynand had thought he had power. He believed that his papers molded public opinion. Bitterly, he discovers that his papers never belonged to him, but to the crowd — and that public opinion dictated his policies, not vice versa. Wynand discovers belatedly that, in seeking power, a man delivers himself to the very individuals he seeks to rule. He learns that a ruler must placate those ruled, and that his life is then dominated by the values of his subjects. If a ruler attempts to follow his own conscience — if he decides to flout the wishes of the herd — then the herd turns on him, throwing off his "authority" and turning to another. Wynand discovers that a power-seeker has no power — and that his own life was based on a lie.