Character Analysis Gus Webb


Gus Webb is an avant-garde architect, another of Toohey's followers, whose buildings are mere collections of boxes piled on one another. He lacks all standards of design, even borrowed ones; his stacks of boxes disregard all questions of a building's function, its needs, its practical requirements. Like Lois Cook, Webb is a nihilist, a rebel against the best of other men's values. He doesn't bathe, he delights in uttering obscenities to well-bred ladies he passes in the streets, and his personality is that of a vulgar lout. He is a second-hander whose life is ruled by the middle-class individuals he loathes and defies.

Webb speaks of "the movement" and of the "workers' revolution"; his response to Roark's dynamiting of Cortlandt is revealing: "I wish he'd blasted it when it was full of people — a few children blown to pieces — then you'd have something. Then I'd love it. The movement could use it." Gus Webb is a fictional forerunner of the New Left of the 1960s. Whereas the Old Left of the 1930s, represented by Toohey, was a movement of cultured, highly educated intellectuals, the New Left scorned theory and intellect, opting instead for political activism. At a political level, Webb's character represents a prediction by Rand: Because Marxism stands for totalitarian dictatorship and suppression of the freethinking mind, it must necessarily lose all vestiges of cultured intellectuality. It must degenerate into a movement of unbathed, drug-addicted activists who physically occupy classrooms and shut down the educational process. In the character of Gus Webb, Ayn Rand predicted the existence and nature of the New Left twenty-five years before it appeared on the American cultural scene in the late 1960s.