Never understood what does the title refer to. I thought there might be a Citizen Kane-like “Rosebud” moment. Nope, just endless soliloquies and not much plot.
What little plot there is ebbs and flows. It tells the story of our hero, Howard Roarke, a personification of the Objectivist Homo Economicus. Right away in architecture school, he’s being bullied and belittled for being too original, for not producing buildings similar to existing ones. This leads him to search for another iconoclastic architect that thinks like him, which sounds like a complete crank during the interview.
That older crank discourages our hero from pursuing a career, saying his older age make him appreciate the value of compromise and going somewhat with the flow. He also says our hero will end up like him, drunkenly buying and slashing newspapers with non-Modernistic buildings on the cover.
Our hero doesn’t care, and stick to his guns to the bitter end, where his mentor dies of old age, and he is financially ruined by lack of projects. This forces him to find work breaking rocks in a quarry.
On the quarry, she meets our female protagonist, a idle rich heiress who apparently writes some newspaper columns about architecture, as a hobby, simce she mostly fetches coffee for the boss (not exactly a Randian virtuous woman, no?). She lusts for our hero, but with massive guilt, for it is Objectively wrong to have emotions (and some meta feeling about the bad bad world). He knows she wrote in his defence but keeps mum.
Most of the attack came from a tabloid paper, run by a refined self-made man, which personally loves the modernist architecture, but publicly excoriates our hero, because that’s what sells. He’s as much a parasite as the other collectivists, and Ayn Rand hates him even more, wasting away his talents, caring about other people (but only as much as taking their money).
After a fling with other third-rate architect, and due to her Objective emotions, our female protagonist needs to marry someone else (female individuals, ma non troppo). She settles for the tabloid mogul, literally her boss, after he bullies and blackmails her into it.
Sometimes later, when against all odds, Roark’s career takes off anyway, our hero gets visited by his old third-rate architect buddy from school, which begs him to project the new big public housing project for him and let him take the credit. Since out hero is so “selfless” (the worst Randian insult), he accepts, as long as the houses are built to his exact specifications.
Meanwhile, his old rival wants him to build his personal home, somewhere in the sticks, but this distresses the wife, she will be forced to have a permanent memory of her true love (which is WRONG). She’s such a wet blanket, continuing to brood when our hero practically moves to their home too. A nice little polycule forms, since our hero and the paper mogul are friendly to the max (perhaps even more than friends).
Of course the evil collectivist break the third-rate architect and add balconies to the perfect design, the fiends! A cultural crime up there with the burning of the Library of Alexandria. Our hero cannot abide, so he waits for all the workers to go home, and dynamites the whole project, turning everything to rubble. He stays right there next to the detonator, taunting the police, waiting for the lawsuit. Good thing he’s not black…
The newspaper mogul ruins himself trying to revert the deluge of bad press that results from going all Timothy McVeigh on some buildings. The lawsuit does happen, being baselessly accused by another parasite, a state prosecutor. Out hero represents himself, he’s an individual, there’s no job our Marty Stu can’t do. The judge is very clear the jury should only care about the crime, not any violations of sacrosanct private property, that’s for a civil suit.
After some weaksauce attempts at manipulating the jury by the state prosecutor, out hero distills Randian philosophy like a boss, dropping truth bombs and portraying himself as a victim of a collectivist plot by COMMIES to sap a true American of his bodily fluids, or something. The twelve WASP male jurors are so moved by REASON, they must acquit.
The female protagonist basically orgasms at the thought the world is made whole again, when a domestic terrorist blows up several skyscrapers for the gall of allowing public housing to have balconies. Imagine the parasites being allowed leisure, a crime against self-made men! Private mansions have whole floors of leisure space, the poors will only get drab concrete AND THEY WILL ENJOY THEM! The rich will not be able to enjoy their balconies if they know parasites have them too. Collectivism is brutally defeated by Objective REASON, in a court of law.
This is perfect for our hero. After blowing up the buildings, he’s given more money to put them up again, this time without balconies. The female protagonist had been sexless for long enough, and gets back on our hero’s saddle. The newspaper mogul, his life meaningless, gives all his money to the hero and blows his own brains out. He’s the real loser, someone that chose power over ideals.