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Common App #4 - Fictional Influence (Free Thinking)

Sesmo 2 / 2  
Oct 31, 2009   #1
Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

Free Thinking

Howard Roark once declared that "the world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrifice." It was instilled in me at an early stage of development that I should be living at the mercy of others. Unfortunately, I was never one to protest during childhood, so I grudgingly accepted the act out of some tenuous fear of rejection. I soon entered the phase of free thought. Long before I knew of Howard Roark, long before I knew of objectivism, I had begun formulating my own ideas about how I should be living life. I wanted to live for myself, but I had no practical knowledge of how to implement my semblance of "selfishness" into everyday life. I faced the challenge of balancing a necessary respect for myself with the relationships I shared with the people around me.

Roark is not some civil rights hero, nor is he some television superstar. Roark is the protagonist of The Fountainhead, a 1943 novel written by Ayn Rand. When I first began reading, I was intimidated by Howard Roark; he was the very embodiment of the objectivist philosophy, the idea that we should live for our own self-interests. I was afraid to venture out of my lifestyle, the one where I was dependent upon the free thinking of those whom I served. As the "quiet kid" in school, I sat wordlessly and expected other students to arrive at the answers during group discussions. Though I had thoughts zooming left and right, I was afraid to voice my opinions because of what they might think. I allowed for no personal liberties, instead bending to the will of those around me. Even on nights when I had a stack of work to complete, I felt guilty refusing friends' offers to take a break. I was the very thing Roark despised. Nevertheless, I looked to him for support when I made the decision to discontinue my submissive ways.

Howard Roark was not a man to deviate from his ideals, even in the face of violent criticism. I slowly began shaping my actions around the idea of objectivism - I often found myself asking, "What would Roark do?" Within the few months I have been acquainted with him, I have already discovered that a profound transformation has occurred. I no longer feel guilty when asked out for an evening of merriment and decline. I no longer worry about what society will think of my personal beliefs. I no longer bend to the every fancy of others. I have again begun thinking freely - a skill I convinced myself had vanished years ago - and I am happier with who I am becoming because of it.

The transition was difficult and is one I still face with some dithering today. While I am now able to speak my thoughts without a care as to what outsiders will think, I am still stricken with an inexplicable panic acting as the centerpiece in a group discussion. Though I maintain that sense of unease when living for myself, I am gradually evolving into the "heroic being" envisioned by Ayn Rand. She stated it best when she said that man has "his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life." Roark is my paladin; I easily sympathized with his plight because it was an objective I struggled to obtain for years due to internal inhibitions. He helped me realize that, being trapped in a single existence, I must make it my own. He showed me that rejection doesn't necessarily mean failure, and that true happiness is only achieved when living for your own self-interests. All I needed in order to perpetuate that idea was a catalyst, and that catalyst came in the form of Howard Roark.

Re-Open Thread Closed ✓

I've struggled with this one for weeks and cannot seem to get it right. Any and all help appreciated!
Liebe 1 / 542 2  
Oct 31, 2009   #2
Unless you are fairly familiar with the concept of Objectivism, writing an essay on Howard Roark will be challenging.

"What would Howard Roark do?" Within the few months of my relationship with him, I have already discovered that a profound transformation has occurred.

What would Howard Roark do? Well, he did rape that one girl.
Vulpix - / 71  
Oct 31, 2009   #3
The Fountainhead is a brave and somewhat dangerous book to choose due to the controversy surrounding the rape scene (as Liebe has already mentioned) and what it implies about the relationship between men and women. Also, there are many people who would disagree with Objectivism and Ayn Rand's ideals.

Other than that, your essay is well-written, but extremely abstract. It would be so much stronger if you could give some concrete examples or specific events showing what you were like pre-Fountainhead and post-Fountainhead. I can't really see that progression through your essay, and as a result, it's just not very convincing.

Also, this is sort trivial, but I find it slightly awkward that you always refer to Howard Roark as Howard Roark. Why not simply Roark, since he frequently goes by last name only throughout the novel?
OP Sesmo 2 / 2  
Nov 1, 2009   #4
Thanks for the suggestions Vulpix. My English teacher told me the same thing about the abstractness, but what I have here is only a slight improvement of what she told me I should rewrite. Haha. I'm thinking time frames are worth considering with the examples.

As for the "relationship" wording, I changed that. Thank you for pointing that out, Liebe. I can understand the concern about the rape scene (I was appalled), but I can only hope the admissions officers see that I'm discussing matters that don't infringe on other people. A rewording is definitely worth considering, though.

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