The Fountainhead: Stalking Equals Love

The Fountainhead: Stalking Equals Love January 26, 2018


The Fountainhead, part 2, chapter 6

While Roark is working on the Enright House, he has a passing thought of Dominique Francon:

He wanted her. He knew where to find her. He waited. It amused him to wait, because he knew that the waiting was unbearable to her. He knew that his absence bound her to him in a manner more complete and humiliating than his presence could enforce. He was giving her time to attempt an escape, in order to let her know her own helplessness when he chose to see her again.

With this passage, Rand is attempting to ratchet up the tension, romantic-novel-style, except… has Roark forgotten that Dominique doesn’t know who he is? He never told her his name, where to find him again, or anything about himself.

Dominique isn’t staying away from him because she’s “attempting an escape”, it’s because she can’t do anything else! Roark has no grounds to believe that she thinks of their encounter as anything other than two ships passing in the night. As it happens, she is pining to see him again, but he has no way to know that and no reason to believe it, other than a Randian male hero’s conceited certainty that sex with him is the Best Sex Ever.

However, while the lovers longing for each other across great distances is a standard romance trope, Ayn Rand just couldn’t help putting her own weird, disturbing slant on it:

She would know that the attempt itself had been of his choice, that it had been only another form of mastery. Then she would be ready either to kill him or to come to him of her own will. The two acts would be equal in her mind. He wanted her brought to this. He waited.

Roark… wants… Dominique to want to kill him? He finds that sexy? He’s aroused by the thought of reducing her to a state of homicidal rage?

Roark’s violent rape of Dominique was the first big clue that their relationship isn’t going to be the usual slap-slap-kiss romance. It’s violent, in every sense of the word. They take delight in torturing each other, and not in the fun, kinky way: each one tries – genuinely tries – to crush the other’s spirit, make them suffer and break them emotionally. One can only imagine what kind of psychosexual undercurrents were motivating Rand to write something like this.

That December, Austen Heller invites Roark to a black-tie soiree. Roark’s response is typical (“Hell, no, Austen”), but Heller presses him, saying that many wealthy potential clients will be there. In particular, one of the guests is a businessman named Joel Sutton, who’s on the verge of giving Roark a big commission and just needs to be sweet-talked a little more. Even at that, Roark refuses, saying he doesn’t believe that anything worthwhile ever comes from an event like this. Until:

“Why not go, just once?” said Heller. “It won’t be too awful. It might even amuse you. You’ll see a lot of your old friends there. John Erik Snyte, Peter Keating, Guy Francon and his daughter — you should meet his daughter. Have you ever read her stuff?”

“I’ll go,” said Roark abruptly.

Just so we’re clear, this is arguably a form of stalking. For all that Roark knows, Dominique is going to have a panic attack if she sees him again, or erupt in anger, or be terrified. He has no basis for believing she ever wants to see him again. His contriving to encounter her in a public place, where she can’t react without making a scene that would surely be blamed on her, can’t be seen as anything but a malicious act on his part. It’s one of the common signs:

…stalking victims most commonly report being followed, spied on, or watched at home, at work or at places of recreation. (source)

In fact, the text confirms that his motives were sadistic. When Roark and Heller arrive at the party, they catch sight of Dominique, and as the cliche goes, they lock eyes across a crowded ballroom:

Roark turned; he saw Dominique standing alone across the room. There was no expression on her face, not even an effort to avoid expression; it was strange to see a human face presenting a bone structure and an arrangement of muscles, but no meaning, a face as a simple anatomical feature, like a shoulder or an arm, not a mirror of sensate perception any longer… He felt a violent pleasure, because she seemed too fragile to stand the brutality of what he was doing; and because she stood it so well.

Roark thinks that what he’s doing to Dominique is “brutality” (not, say, a pleasant surprise or a funny prank), and that pleases him. She doesn’t run away in terror or burst into tears, but he apparently expected her to (“she seemed too fragile”).

“Miss Francon, may I present Howard Roark?” said Heller.

He had not raised his voice to pronounce the name; he wondered why it had sounded so stressed; then he thought that the silence had caught the name and held it still; but there had been no silence: Roark’s face was politely blank and Dominique was saying correctly:

“How do you do, Mr. Roark.”

Roark bowed: “How do you do, Miss Francon.”

She said: “The Enright House…”

She said it as if she had not wanted to pronounce these three words; and as if they named, not a house, but many things beyond it.

Roark said: “Yes, Miss Francon.”

If Roark was hoping to provoke an emotional outburst, he doesn’t get it. They exchange polite chit-chat about Roark’s clients, neither one letting on that they’ve encountered each other before – “flawlessly obedient to every convention of deference”. But Dominique knows perfectly well what he’s doing:

She thought that this was his form of mockery, after what he had not forgotten and would not acknowledge. She thought that he wanted her to be first to name it, he would bring her to the humiliation of accepting the past — by being first to utter the word recalling it to reality; because he knew that she could not leave it unrecalled.

Because Rand lets it pass unmentioned, let me point out the classic double standard that acknowledging that he raped her would be a humilation for her, not anything that reflects badly on him.

At this point, Roark’s old boss John Erik Snyte sees him and comes over to say hello, breaking up their conversation before it comes to a head. For the rest of the night, Roark deliberately avoids her:

He did not look at Dominique again for the rest of the evening. She watched him in the crowd. She watched those who stopped him and spoke to him. She watched his shoulders stooped courteously as he listened. She thought that this, too, was his manner of laughing at her; he let her see him being delivered to the crowd before her eyes, being surrendered to any person who wished to own him for a few moments. He knew that this was harder for her to watch than the sun and the drill in the quarry.

The text wants us to believe that Dominique is upset because seeing Roark pay attention to other, lesser human beings, instead of her, is another form of torture. I think it’s more plausible that this is a more refined form of stalking. He showed up at the party and interacted with her just enough so she knows he’s there, but then deliberately left her immediate vicinity so she’s never sure where he is or what he’s doing at any given moment. If he wanted to cause her fear and anxiety, this is how to do it. And in Rand’s emotional lexicon, feeling afraid of someone is equated with love and romance.

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