24 July 2010


Locus Focus: Take Eleven!

In case you haven't noticed on the sidebar, the August theme of "Nature Settings" has been changed to "Subterranean Settings".

That was me throwing a spanner into all your carefully made plans.

But as I told someone whom the change flummoxed into the kind of squeaking audible only (perhaps) to dogs, I only do that when I don't think that anyone has made plans--much less carefully made plans.

I'd change it back except that I think it would be worse to do so. But we could have another themed week in the middle of August, for all your Nature Setting posts, if you like. Tell me off in the combox. It's only right that I know how I've messed up your blogging.

As for now, here is another runner up which didn't get to be my featured Family Home for our first Themed Challenge--a setting which, truth be told, never had a chance. If it came to mind at all, that was because it was the perfect anti-Family Home.

The following post is full of spoilers, by the way . . .

The Wynand House
The Fountainhead
by Ayn Rand

Wynand watched her as she walked across the room, as she descended the stairs, as she stood at a window. She had heard him saying to her: "I didn't know a house could be designed for a woman, like a dress. You can't see yourself here as I do, you can't see how completely this house is yours. Every angle, every part of every room, is a setting for you. It's scaled to your height, to your body. Even the texture of the walls goes with the texture of your skin in an odd way. It's the Stoddard Temple, but built for a single person, and it's mine. This is what I wanted. The city can't touch you here. I've always felt that the city would take you away from me. It gave me everything I have. I don't know why I feel at times that it will demand payment someday. But here you're safe and you're mine. She wanted to cry: Gail, I belong to him here as I've never belonged to him.

This house, which is not quite a home, applies another meaning to the word setting. It turns the novel's heroine into a jewel to be both shown off and locked up--which is exactly why her husband commissioned the house in the first place.

When Gail Wynand meets with the architect to describe the sort of home he wants, he is very clear about that:

"I want this house because I'm so very desperately in love with my wife. . . I can't stand to see my wife among other people. It's not jealousy. It's much more and much worse. I can't stand to see her walking down the streets of a city. I can't share her, not even with shops, theatres, taxicabs or sidewalks. I must take her away. I must put her out of reach--where nothing can touch her, not in any sense. This house is to be a fortress. My architect is to be my guard . . .

"The house is to be a prison. No, not quite that. A treasury--a vault to guard things too precious for sight. But it must be more. It must be a separate world, so beautiful that we'll never miss the one we left. A prison only by the power of its own perfection. Not bars and ramparts--but your talent standing as a wall between us and the world . . ."

But Wynand doesn't know that Howard Roark, the architect he has hired to be his guard, is also desperately in love with his wife. And along with a wall that is put up between his wife and the world is a wall that comes up between his wife and himself. Thus, the Wynand House becomes the symbol of a love triangle so twisted that the Edward-Bella-Jacob tangle looks like the affront to high school Geometry that it is.

Now, Roark has already built a similar "setting" for Dominique Wynand: earlier in the novel, he designs the Stoddard Temple, meant to be a temple not for a divinity, but for the human spirit; and he commissions a sculpture of a naked Dominique to go with it. (Later, Wynand is so impressed by that sculpture of Dominique that he arranges to meet her and immediately asks her to marry him. He squirrels the statue away in his own private art gallery, filled with other works of art he is determined to protect from the world. You'll notice he has the same approach to the living woman.) Wynand clearly wants to build his own little temple with Dominique at the centre--not a public cathedral, but a private chapel. He explicitly says there are to be no rooms for children: even they are to be considered interlopers. This is supposed to be a point of contrast between the two men; but to me, they are never more alike than in the setting they choose for the woman they both love.

Perhaps that is why they also become such great friends--growing so close, in fact, that Dominique, who still also loves Roark, becomes jealous! And for good reason, really. I'm not the first one to think that the two men love each other more than they love her--and no, I don't mean that in the sense of what fans with no sense of irony call "Slash" or what some sectors of the Romance industry are trying to market as "M/M/F". Let's just say that if either of these two men had been a woman, the one who was still a man would have never looked twice at Dominique.

So when I read about Dominique's conflict of passions, such as in the following passage--

She accepted the nights when she lay in Wynand's arms and opened her eyes to see the shape of the bedroom Roark had designed, and she set her teeth against a racking pleasure that was part answer, part mockery of the unsatisfied hunger in her body, and surrendered to it, not knowing what man gave her this, which one of them, or both.

--I find it easy to imagine Wynand feeling the same way, wondering whether the greater source of his pleasure is the woman he is holding or the man who designed the setting he always wanted for her, or an insoluble mix of both.

One day, when I'm feeling masochistic enough, I will reread the second half of The Fountainhead as Howard Roark and Gail Wynand's love story. For at the end, when Dominique finally chooses Roark, his joy at finally having her is nothing next to his pain at suddenly losing Wynand. And when Wynand makes his last grand gesture of love, it is not for Dominique, but for Roark: Wynand gives his dearest friend, whom he knows he will never see again, the commission of his life--the contract for what is meant to be New York City's tallest skyscraper, and what Wynand imagines will also be its last. And he says:

"I told you once that this building was to be a monument to my life. There is nothing to commemorate now. The Wynand Building will have nothing--except what you give it. . . Build it as a monument to that spirit which is yours . . . and could have been mine."

And that is why the great symbol of love in The Fountainhead is not Wynand House, designed as a sterile prison, but the Wynand Building, conceived as the heart of a city and the centre of the world.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

EDIT: See this week's setting submissions without opening the linky in a new window.

E.B. White's Zuckermans' Farm (
Pearls Cast before a McPig)

Dorothy L. Sayers' 110 Picadilly (The
Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries)

Image Source: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand


Sullivan McPig said...

Wow! That sounds as one heavy read. I can understand about that friendship though. I've seen friendships like that between two same sex persons that are not sexual at all, but still so intense that no one can come in between.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, it is definitely heavy! My mass market-sized copy is almost 700 pages long! (Which accounts for my longest Locus Focus ever--LOL!) And this love triangle is only one aspect of the very complex story.

Birdie said...

Wow! I'm not sure what made you switch to subterranean loci, but I'm sure glad I read this before I posted this week. *puts draft of subterranean post in file cabinet*
Um, I guess now I'll do Lord Peter Wimsey's London flat at 110 Piccadilly. *trots off to find book*

Belfry Bat said...

What made her switch was, I think, the accidental drop of a hat.

I'll be sure to hold tightly to mine... and, btw, I don't really squeak like that in real life... really!

Enbrethiliel said...


@Birdie: Well, now I'm sure I've ruined everyone's plans. I'm sorry again! =(

@Bat: Oh, no! You let your hat fall as much as it wants to! This time I promise to be nice and ask before I change anything--if I'm still brave enough to change anything at all! =P

Birdie said...

NO! It's not ruining my plans! In fact, I'm really glad to know before I made the other post, because I really only have one subterranean "fave spot", unless I stretch it and count the caves in A Sicilian Romance.
I was not at all complaining!!!!

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, Birdie, I know you weren't! =D It's just that I've been feeling a little bad all this weekend about taking away Bat's Nature Settings day! LOL!

(Not that I'm blaming you, Bat! I really shouldn't have swapped my themed settings around like that. I promise never to do it again, so that we can all be happy friends once more. Okay?)