The original shape of the building remained discernable. It was not like a corpse whose fragments had been mercifully scattered; it was like a corpse hacked to peices and reassembled.
In September the tenants of the Home moved in. A small, expert staff was chosen by Toohey. It had been harder to find the children who qualified as inmates. Most of them had to be taken from other institutions. Sixty-five children, their ages ranging from three to fifteen, were picked out by zealous ladies who were full of kindness and so made a point of rejecting those who could be cured and selecting only the hopeless cases. There was a fifteen year old boy who had never learned to speak; a grinning child who could not be taught to read or write; a girl born without a nose, whose father was also her grandfather; a person called "Jackie" of whose age or sex nobody could be certain. They marched into their new home, their eyes staring vacantly, the stare of death before which no world existed...
...Catherine Halsey was put in charge of the children's occupational therapy, and she moved into the Home as a permanent resident. She took up her work with a fierce zeal. She spoke about it insistently to anyone who would listen. Her voice was dry and arbitrary. When she spoke, the movements of her mount hid the two lines that had appeared recently, cut from her nostrils to her chin; people preferred her not to remove her glasses; her eyes were not good to see. She spoke belligerently about her work not being charity, but "human reclamation."
The most important time of her day was the hour assigned to the children's art activities, known as the "Creative Period." There was a special room for the purpose - a room with a view of the distant city skyline - where the children were given materials and encouraged to create freely, under the guidance of Catherine who stood watch over them like an angel presiding at a birth.
She was elated on the day when Jackie, the least promising one of the lot, achieved a completed work of imagination. Jackie picked up fistfuls of colored felt scraps and a pot of glue, and carried them to a corner of the room. There was, in the corner, a slanting ledge projecting from the wall - plastered over and painted green - left from Roark's modeling of the Temple interior that had once controlled the recession of the light at sunset. Catherine walked over to Jackie and saw, spread out on the ledge, the recognizable shape of a dog, brown, with blue spots and five legs. Jackie wore an expression of pride. "Now you see, you see?" Catherine said to her colleages. "Isn't it wonderful and moving! There's no telling how far the child will go with the proper encouragement. Think of what happens to their little souls if they are frustrated in their creative instincts! It's so important not to deny them a change for self-expression. Did you see Jackie's face?" - Ayn Rand, excepted from The Fountainhead, p397-398
Friday, March 07, 2008
The Compassion of Ayn Rand
While we're on the subject of Randian ethics, it's worth noting that there has been considerable campaign of late to relegate Rand's Nietzschean influences to her early years; as merely "a phase" she grew out of by the time of her major works. A regularly cited example of this "phase" is her swooning in her early twenties over the multiple murderer William Hickman in her notes, and her proposed use of him as the basis of the hero in her planned novel, "The Little Street" (see regular ARCHNblog commenter Michael Prescott's fascinating essay on Rand and Hickman, "Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer" for more). However, this is simply not the case. A Nietzchean contempt for the weak, and for "subhumans" in general is, while less overt, still clearly visible in her later work. For example, her breakthrough novel "The Fountainhead" contains a fascinating episode where the hero, architect Howard Roark, is forced to have his Stoddard Temple of the Human Spirit remodeled by his arch-enemy, Ellsworth Toohey. What is the most awful fate Rand can concoct for this building, the greatest antithesis of her hero's values, ethics, and aesthetics? Perhaps a politician's office? A trade union hall? A branch of the Inland Revenue Service? No, the most vile, disgusting insult Rand can find for Toohey to besmirch the Objectivist Human Spirit with is to make it a home for intellectually handicapped children.