Monday, May 19, 2008

Novels: Fountainhead by Ayn rand and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Comparative study identifying similarities and differences in the story-pattern, cultural backgrounds, graphs of main characters, style, mood etc.

About Fountainhead: It is a book that has lasted an unforgettable imprint in the minds of millions of people with its theory of objectivism. The story narrates the journey of an intransigent young architect and his battle against conventional standards. The fountainhead deals with the timeless, fundamental, universal values of human existence. It creates and projects an image about the things not as they are, but things as they might be and ought to be. The fountainhead, in its essence, is the projection of an ideal man.

About The Alchemist: The book which has changed the life of millions through a simple yet striking magical story has become the favorite of many across the globe including me. Very few fables have the capacity to have some kind of mystic influence on your life through words that reach your soul and this book is surely one of them. The author Paulo Coelho indeed knows to convey his message to the world and motivate people to follow their dreams in a beautiful and an effective way. The story has some true hidden pearls of wisdom that has helped it achieve the status of a ‘modern classic’.

Similarities and differences in the story pattern:

The underlying idea behind both the novels remain the same that an individual’s dream are most important in his or her life and that no one cant stop him or her from achieving the same. Both the books have strong profound philosophies which are woven under a beautiful structure of story. Both, the Fountainhead as well as the Alchemist are an eye opener about the purpose of our life, our objective of our being and the essence of a dream in our life. The books do not directly preach any didactic moral lessons; however they surely inspire us to follow and tread on to the path of our ambition and will, which we lay for ourself. Both the books make an individual believe in one-self and invigorate our faith in us. The books lay stress on passion and ambition and its upshot in ones life.

However as we consider the differences in the story line, we realize that a complete different treatment is given to the two books. The background, number of characters, the setting etc is quite different. Fountainhead involves a lot of characters in the story and the book makes a reader realize the importance of human’s reasoning mind. It portrays people with diverse personas. The book challenges one to think against the old hackneyed morals and principles created by the society. At the same time Alchemist is a book that edifies us about the basic understanding of listening to our hearts. Alchemist truly reflects on to the old adage ‘work is worship’. He feels that the quest of a dream and its journey gives one that heavenly experience to feel God. What makes Alchemist different as a book is the use of stunning metaphors, striking symbolisms and remarkable imagery to narrate a simple story. Fountainhead is more of a reality book where as Alchemist is book one dreams to be in. Both the books teach us to follow our dreams in such different yet striking manner.

Similarities and differences in cultural backgrounds portrayed in the books:

The cultural background is an important part of a book. Each individual has an identity, and the cultural background is a part of a person's search of their true identity. While fountainhead is typically based in the backdrop of the New York City; Alchemist is a story of a shepherd wandering around the countryside of Andalusia in southern Spain. Hence both the books surely differ in the cultural backgrounds.

Fountainhead is a book that is commonly perceived as rebellious in opposition to cultural practices and moral values of the society. The book preaches the significance of individuality and own creativity. Fountainhead, with the help of a story, lets people know that one does not need to fear society and let its flaws hinder the integrity of a person. That one should not compromise on ones own work for the sake of society. The American culture in the book very much surfaces on the ground when Dominique is ready to sleep with Gail Wynand only if he gives a building project to her husband, Peter Keating. Also the denunciation of the Stoddard temple (it bearing a nude sculpture of Dominique) shows how culture plays an important role in the society.

The word Alchemist refers to a person who practiced alchemy. Alchemy was an early form of discipline of the exploration of nature, philosophy and spiritual sect in a metaphysical manner. Hence the cultural references to the ancient parts of Egypt in olden days are found in the book. The deserts and the pyramids of Egypt and the tribal village are some of the hints to the culture of those places. The Arab that believes in good omens, the gypsy fortune teller, the tribal wars, the reference to Allah (God) etc all these depict the Arabic or the ancient Egyptian culture.

Similarities and differences in graphs of main characters:

The book fountainhead has some very strong characters. In fact the book is divided into four sections each dedicated to a particular character namely; Howard Roark, Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey and Gail Wynand. Howard Roark is a character that has impressed and influenced millions of people. The character is idyllic is all sense. Roark is a man that does not compromise on his ideas, creativity and will. He lives his dreams passionately and does not sacrifice them for anyone or anything. Roark is a character with a sense of enormous expectations from self. In the book Alchemist, the main protagonist Santiago too gives up shepherding to follow his dreams very much like Roark. In both the books, the character of Roark and Santiago have many similar traits. Even though Roark is an aspiring architect residing in the west and Santiago is only a small time shepherd living in the far countryside of Andalusia, Both Santiago as well as Roark are not just hardworking towards their goals but they also live life with passion. Both Santiago and Roark enjoy a certain kind of lonliness in their life and yet they remain helpful to people they meet acroos in life. In the case of Roark, he remained helpful to Peter Keating and Santiago helped the crystal merchant.

Similarities and differences in Style:

Both the books differ drastically in the way the story is narrated to the reader. Alchemist is a book that is based on fate, dream, love and spirituality whereas Fountainhead inspires people to follow their ambitions passionately. Alchemist is beautifully written with a lot of metaphors and symbols. For example the good omens play a key role in Santiago’s fate and the philosopher’s stone or the Elixir of life representing the soul of the world. Coelho’s writing indeed is beautifully poetic and soothes to ones senses. On the other hand, Fountainhead is a book written so effectively that its philosophy stays with the reader life long. Fountainhead and its language style is wordy and yet so terse. It tends to answer questions like what is our basic objective, what is rationale behind our existence etc. The way Ayn Rand has presented the book; it has been an eye opener about the purpose of our life and objective of ones being. Fountainhead is truly a celebration to ones senses.

Even though both the books differ in their narration, plot, setting and style, the essence or the core of following ones dream against all odds remains the same. The Alchemist as well as Fountainhead, both books have had a life enhancing impact on millions of people across the world!