How would you characterize the "rape scene" between Roark and Dominique? Is it really rape or perhaps consensual or "rape by engraved invitation"? How does her fictionalized aesthetics differ from her ethical philosophy? What can we take away from this scene and apply to our own lives?
asked Feb 21 '11 at 22:37
For those who may not already know, the scene in question is part of an interconnected series of scenes presented in Part II, Chapters 1 and 2. A very casual reader might well read those scenes and conclude that the kind of universe depicted by Ayn Rand is one in which deeply conflicted women smack their men in the face with horse riding crops and then get raped in response.
Some readers, for whom even that much of a connection is too much, might simply look at the alleged "rape" scene by itself, out of context, and conclude that Roark is a criminal. If they read a little more closely, however, they might begin to wonder why Dominique didn't scream or call for help (her servants were within earshot), why she didn't try to run away, etc. And a great many other "why's" emerge if one reads the whole series of scenes going back to the beginning of Chapter 1. Ayn Rand does a masterful job of showing the reader what Dominque was feeling about Roark and about life in general throughout Chapters 1 and 2 (and the rest of the book, as well).
The characters and story in The Fountainhead assuredly are "larger than life." The Fountainhead definitely is not naturalism; it is not a photographic depiction of life as it is. It is romanticism -- "life as it might be and ought to be," not on a concrete level, but very abstractly, in broad principles. The character of Dominque expresses an idealistic view of what is possible to man, along with deep pessimism about whether or not it can ever be achieved in today's world. Dominique's approach to sex and romance suffers severely because of her inner conflict, but through Roark she eventually learns. And she represents a great enough value to him to make his sustained waiting worth the effort and the pain she causes to him.
For a condensed summary of the characters and story in The Fountainhead, one can refer to the Cliffs Notes bootklet written by Andrew Bernstein. There is also additional information in Journals of Ayn Rand, especially p. 208 regarding the essence of Dominique. Yet another excellent reference is Andrew Bernstein's seven-page paper titled, "Understanding the 'Rape' Scene in The Fountainhead," published as Chapter 9 in the book, Essays on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, Edited by Robert Mayhew.
Anyone tempted to take a "concrete bound" approach to The Fountainhead should visualize a very large disclaimer written across scenes like the "rape" scene, saying: "Don't try this yourself unless you are very certain that it's what your partner really wants. If you guess wrong, you will be prosecuted." Most women are not Dominique, and most men are not Roark. In real life, women and men have myriad ways of their own to signal their desires and intentions.
Some readers might see the implicit communication between Roark and Dominique as impossible mind reading. But again, Ayn Rand masterfully shows how and why it isn't, what the evidence is, why it truly is "life as it might be and ought to be," given Dominique's wrenching inner conflict.
One can also learn from Ayn Rand's novels that no matter what happens in one's life, one should never abandon one's own awareness and vision of what is possible to man under appropriate conditions, nor abandon one's own search for appropriate ways to express it when opportunities arise, nor let life's opportunities for intense personal happiness pass by for the sake of some stifling social standard (as Peter Keating did, both in regard to art and in regard to Catherine Halsey).