A Tragic Character

Trish Griffing
AP English
Oct. 5, 1998

Objectivism, a philosophy on life created by Ayn Rand, states that “man

must live for his own sake, with the achievement of his own happiness as the

highest moral purpose of his life.” In her novels, Ayn Rand illustrates men at

different levels of perfection according to her philosophy. Ayn Rand’s first novel,

The Fountainhead, contains many excellent examples of men that are not ideal

because they are not happy with themselves. The most tragic character in The

Fountainhead is Gail Wynand, a great newspaper publisher. Wynand is the most

tragic character in the novel because he is not happy with his accomplishments,

he makes himself suffer unnecessarily, and he is ashamed of himself.

Gail Wynand is not happy with his accomplishments. He is a self-made

man that came from the gutter and had to fight his way to the top by being

ruthless and persistent. Wynand has the potential to be a great man, but he lets

himself conform to society when he opens his first newspaper, the Banner. The

Banner gives people what they want; murder, arson, rape, and corruption. When

Wynand realizes that he is not happy with his accomplishments he decides to

destroy men that do have integrity. Wynand makes Dwight Carson, a young writer

devoted to the conviction of “the individual against the masses”, write a column

in the Banner about “the superiority of the masses over the man of genius.”

Carson becomes an alcoholic because of Wynand’s manipulations. Wynand’s

losing sight of what will bring him happiness makes him the most tragic

character in the novel.

Gail Wynand tortures himself unnecessarily when he realizes that his

success is based on corruption. Wynand marries Dominique Francon even though

he knows she does not love him; she does not even want his love. He had

refused to give his love to anyone all his life but tortures himself by giving his

love to the one woman who will never love him back. Giving his love to a

woman that does not appreciate it makes Gail Wynand a tragic character.

Gail Wynand’s tragic nature shows through when he allows himself to be

ashamed of his newspaper for trying to destroy Howard Roark. When Wynand

actually meets Roark he is impressed by his individuality and he respects him;

that goes against his nature in general. It is tragic that Wynand defends Roark

and destroys his life work, the Banner, in the process.

Gail Wynand is the most tragic character in The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand’s

first novel. Rand believes that men must seek their own happiness to be great.

Wynand loses sight of his own happiness, and it destroys him. Gail Wynand could

have been a great man but he is not happy with his accomplishments, he makes

himself suffer unnecessarily, and he is ashamed of himself.