The Fountainhead Essay Contest

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The Fountainhead, Individualism in One's Soul

What motivates a creative thinker?

Is it a selfless desire to benefit mankind? A hunger for fame, fortune, and accolades? The need to prove superiority? Or is it a self-sufficient drive to pursue a creative vision, independent of others’ needs or opinions?

Ayn Rand addresses these questions through her portrayal of Howard Roark, an innovative architect who, as she puts it, “struggles for the integrity of his creative work against every form of social opposition.”

Initially rejected by twelve publishers as “too intellectual,” The Fountainhead became a best seller within two years, purely through word of mouth, and earned Rand enduring commercial and artistic success.

The novel was also a personal landmark for Rand. In Howard Roark, she presented for the first time the uniquely Ayn Rand hero, whose depiction was the chief goal of her writing: the ideal man, man as “he could be and ought to be.”

Win Cash Prizes

1st Place - $5,000 - 1 Winner

2nd Place - $1,250 - 3 Winners

3rd Place - $250 - 5 Winners

Finalist - $100 - 25 Winners

Semifinalist - $25 - 50 Winners

Decide What to Write

Select ONE of the following prompts as the topic of your essay. Your essay must be between 800 and 1,600 words in length.

1Mallory says the following about Roark: “You know how people long to be eternal. But they die with every day that passes. . . . They change, they deny, they contradict—and they call it growth. . . . How do they expect a permanence which they have never held for a single moment? But Howard—one can imagine him existing forever.” Give examples of characters in the novel who change in the way Mallory suggests. In what respects is Roark unchanging through the book? Are there any respects in which his character develops? How do these issues of characterization relate to the theme of the novel?

2Toohey tells Keating the following: “I’m the most selfless man you’ve ever known. I have less independence than you, whom I just forced to sell your soul.” Drawing on Toohey’s own explanation and on his actions in the story, explain your understanding of what Toohey means by this. Does the author agree with Toohey’s assessment of his own motivation? Do you? Explain your answers.

3In The Fountainhead, we can see how Roark is guided by his own creative vision, whether in the way he develops his skills as an architect, in the terms on which he’ll work for employers, or in the standards he uses for accepting or rejecting new clients. Judging from examples of these aspects of his decisions and actions, do you think he would be a supporter or opponent of free-market capitalism? Explain your answer, being sure to define relevant terms.

Dates to Remember

Entry Deadline - April 27, 2023

Grading Phase 1 - May 2023

Grading Phase 2 - June 2023

Final Grading - July 2023

Winners Announced - August 2023

Enter by April 27 for your chance to win up to $5,000!

The Fountainhead essay contest is open to all high school students worldwide. If you are unsure about your eligibility status or have other questions about this year’s contest, please email us at

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We hope to see your essay among this year’s entries!