Study Help Essay Questions


1. In what sense is Howard Roark "selfish"? In what sense are Ellsworth Toohey and Peter Keating "selfless"? Discuss the revolutionary nature of Ayn Rand's thinking on this issue.

2. Explain what is meant by the terms "first-hander" and "second-hander." How does the conflict between men of these clashing methods form the novel's theme?

3. Ayn Rand describes her philosophy as one of "man-worship." Explain what she means by this.

4. Conventionally, conformity and nonconformity have been considered opposing methods of conduct. Explain Ayn Rand's reasons for considering them similar.

5. Analyze the character of Dominique Francon. What erroneous premise does she hold, and by what means does she correct it?

6. Explain the way in which Gail Wynand's attempt to combine the contradictory methods of first-handedness and second-handedness leads to his destruction.

7. In asking Roark to design Cortlandt, Keating says he would sell his soul for Roark's help. Roark replies, "To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That's what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul — would you understand why that's much harder?" Fully explain the meaning of this scene.

8. Analyze positive minor characters like Steven Mallory, Austen Heller, Mike Donnigan, or those of your choosing and explain how each is a variation on the book's theme. Then do the same with such negative characters as Lois Cook, Gus Webb, and Hopton Stoddard.