I first read this book in 1986. It was the first serious piece of literature I read outside of school and it had a dramatic affect on me. I was struck by Howard Roark's unfaltering adherence to his values when society in general portrayed him as "dangerous" and a "failure." While society happily jumped on the latest bandwagon without a second thought, Roark continued on his own journey even in the face of personal and economic tragedy.
A self-proclaimed "non-conformist" at the time, this novel forced me to re-evaluate many of my beliefs. Was I truly marking my own path, or was I just conforming to a smaller group of outsiders? This novel does not attempt to prove that the "good guys win in the end" - so how far was I willing to walk my own walk?
To this day, I am still asking those questions. I re-read The Fountainhead last month and found it no less profound than I first did in 1986. I can't help but picture Roark as the subject of Robert Frost's prose, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."
In the end, whether or not one agrees with Ayn Rand's picture of man and his role in society, The Fountainhead will stimulate thought and discussion - and in that respect, this novel serves its social purpose.