Cameron vs Roark
By Douglas Rintoul
3. In a single, unified essay, compare and contrast one of the following pairs of characters, their approach to life, and their basic motivation.
Howard Roark and Henry Cameron
As two representatives of Ayn Rand's ideals, Howard Roark and Henry Cameron share many qualities, particularly in the strength of their characters and the unimpeachable integrity with which they live their lives. It seems clear that the two men are made in very similar molds; neither man will settle for anything less than the achievement of his individual vision. Despite the cost to their professional success, each refuses to compromise, refusing to besmirch either their artistic or their human integrity. Each man is motivated by the desire to assert his individual vision through creation in the world around him. Maintaining their bodily life and physical freedom often takes second place to this desire, as is clear from Cameron's willingness to waste away physically as he sinks into poverty, and from Roark's willingness to risk his freedom in destroying Cortlandt. Nevertheless, there are several distinct differences between the two characters, as is clear from their attitudes toward their customers and society in general, their perceptions of what it means to be successful, and their differing balances of career and their personal lives.
While Cameron and Roark agree that one should not compromise one's integrity for the approval of the masses, they have an entirely different point of view regarding the people who make up that dubious group. Cameron, while he has never bent to the will of others, is uncertain as to whether this is the right path to achieving one's goals. Roark, on the other hand, has not only never bent to another's will; he has never considered it, or wished that he had so little integrity as to do it. Though Cameron has asserted his will, despite the masses' disapproval, Cameron is, nevertheless, afraid of the society around him, afraid of people, filled with a sense that they have somehow destroyed, not him, but the future for him which could have been. Thus, Cameron is jaded regarding the ability of a truly individualistic and independent, original architect to succeed. Roark is, in this particular area, a perfect contrast to Cameron. Cameron sees the people outside, and feels that they are oppressing them; Roark does not even see them, besides the mere sensory perception of his eyes. The defining difference between their attitudes toward society could be summarized thus: Cameron considers other people to be a form of threat to his career, his peace of mind, and his very life, while Roark would probably say that he 'does not consider them.' Perhaps a greater difference between the two men is their attitudes toward their customers: Cameron often imperious and insulting, Roark straightforward but generally respectful. Cameron is, unlike Roark, a highly volatile and impulsive man, referring to his clients using unprintable names and often driving people away with his arrogant, aggressive personal style. Roark, it seems clear, displays a significant degree of respect for, and sometimes even forms friendships with, those clients who are capable of understanding his work; Cameron, on the other hand, seems almost to attempt to drive even Roark away at their first meeting. While Roark is able to deal with individual clients calmly, and even persuasively, Cameron famously lacks the capacity to communicate through any medium other than orders.
It's clear from their first meeting that, as in his attitude toward people, Cameron differs somewhat from Roark in his attitude toward his career. Having experienced great professional success in the past, Cameron has felt the downward tumble that his business has taken, every day that he's come to work. Roark not only lacks Cameron's perspective, but also seems to be willing to undergo the trials Cameron has undergone, and claims that if he was, at the end of his life, what Cameron is, he would be honored. Cameron believes that Roark should not martyr himself for his career, although, ironically, if Roark did sacrifice everything else in his life to his architecture, it would be consistent with both of their approaches to their work. Cameron sees his own career as something of a failure, because his business and style have faded into obscurity, and his architectural expertise is no longer in demand. Roark, on the other hand, would only see himself as a failure, not if his work was no longer demanded, but only if he was no longer capable of supplying it. Roark would only consider himself a failure if he was actually unable to continue his efforts, while Cameron finds the fact that his efforts seem so ineffective to be a mark of failure. Nevertheless, as he lays in his death bed, speaking his final words to Roark, Cameron finally admits to both Roark and himself that his previous words were not entirely true, and that despite his pain, and the feeling that his career plummeted because of his convictions, it was all worth it in the end. This demonstrates the great similarity between their attitudes toward their careers, as each finds that the true measure of his success is in the joy and integrity of his experience, not in popularity or wealth.
Interestingly, while Roark lives on both through his own body and through his buildings, Cameron seems almost to live entirely through his buildings. Roark is an egotist who lives purely for himself, as he attests repeatedly throughout The Fountainhead, building structures for the sake of imposing his personal vision upon the world. Cameron is not quite as complete an egotist, and does not care about his own life, only about the structures his life enables him to build. Unlike Roark, who enjoys his life even outside of architecture, Cameron's existence revolves completely around his profession, and he lacks any type of personal life. Roark is able to function even outside of architecture, returning to the building trades when he needs to raise money, while Cameron's ability to function outside of his professional life is comparatively weak, as he turns to drink and sinks into despair with the decline of his career. While Roark is psychologically capable of taking a few months off to relax on a yacht with Gail Wynand, Cameron is known to have constantly worked like a dog, rarely sleeping, even at the height of his success, showing a more unhealthy, self-disregarding commitment to his work. Roark finds time in between his work to maintain a long-standing relationship with Dominique Francon, while Cameron is never mentioned to have loved any woman, and dies with only Roark and his sister to mourn him, demonstrating how little time he allowed himself for such activities as making friends. Nevertheless, while Roark does involve himself with some of his clients, Cameron also does have one meaningful relationship: his employer-employee, almost father-son, relationship with Roark himself. It is important to note, however, that this single important relationship takes place alongside Cameron's work, so it could never truly interfere, perhaps indicating that Cameron does not shift his focus from his work to his personal life.
As two representatives of Ayn Rand's ideals, Howard Roark and Henry Cameron demonstrate unusual strength of character. It seems clear the two men are made in very similar molds, as each is uncompromising in the achievement of his individual vision. Each man moves forward for the purpose of asserting his individual vision through creation in the world around him. Nonetheless, there are several distinct differences between the two characters, as is clear from their attitudes toward their customers and society in general, their perceptions of what it means to be successful, and their differing balances of career and their personal lives. These differences define them as individualists and egotists, still independent in identity despite their closeness in spirit.