Your friend, Steven Mallory

Dedicated to my friend, who inspired me to write this blog post

Steven Mallory is perhaps my favourite secondary character from The Fountainhead. We first met Steven Mallory through Peter Keating’s contempt for him, Ellsworth Toohey wrote that “Mr. Mallory’s human figures (his sculptures) would have been very fine were it not for the hypothesis that God created the world and the human form. Had Mr. Mallory been entrusted with the job, he might, perhaps, have done better than the Almighty, if we are to judge by what he passes as human bodies in Stone.” Eventually Steven Mallory attempted to kill Ellsworth and he claimed he didn’t know why. If Howard Roark was “The man who should be and is”, then Steven Mallory would be his younger brother- “The man who should be and not yet”. Like Howard Roark and Henry Cameron (Roark’s mentor) Mallory was an individualist who would not compromise for his work because it is good, despite most of the society rejected him.

When Roark finally met Mallory for the first time, Mallory has become cynical and depressed due to many rejections from his previous commissions and infamy. From this point, we learn that unlike Roark, Mallory was affected by the opinions of others at an emotional level, his resentment from the criticisms left his bitter. Roark wasn’t about to give up on Mallory when he recognized a talent who is going through the same struggle he has experienced.

“You mean you saw the things I’ve done, and you liked them—you—yourself—alone—without anyone telling you that you should like them or why you should like them—and you decided that you wanted me, for that reason—only for that reason—without knowing anything about me or giving a damn—only because of the things I’ve done and … and what you saw in them—only because of that, you decided to hire me, and you went to the bother of finding me, and coming here, and being insulted—only because you saw—and what you saw made me important to you, made you want me? Is that what you mean?”

“Just that,” said Roark.

What Mallory’s reaction to Roark’s genuinely liking of his work was shock, as he later claimed, he spent his past 2 years trying to get used to the fact that what Roark was trying to him didn’t exist.

Roark walked over to him, lifted his chin, knocking it upward, and said:

“You’re a God-damn fool. You have no right to care what I think of your work, what I am or why I’m here. You’re too good for that. But if you want to know it—I think you’re the best sculptor we’ve got. I think it, because your figures are not what men are, but what men could be—and should be. Because you’ve gone beyond the probable and made us see what is possible, but possible only through you. Because your figures are more devoid of contempt for humanity than any work I’ve ever seen. Because you have a magnificent respect for the human being. Because your figures are the heroic in man. And so I didn’t come here to do you a favour or because I felt sorry for you or because you need a job pretty badly. I came for a simple, selfish reason—the same reason that makes a man choose the cleanest food he can find. It’s a law of survival, isn’t it?—to seek the best. I didn’t come for your sake. I came for mine.”

Mallory then cried, he has never cried before. He looked up at Roark, he saw the “calmest, kindest face- a face without a hint of pity. It did not look like the countenance of men who watch the agony of another with a secret pleasure”. Roark told Mallory to lie down, just for a while to allow him to get some rational thoughts again. When Mallory was well rested, Roark pulled a chair and sat next to him.

“Now,” he said, “talk. Talk about the things you really want said. Don’t tell me about your family, your childhood, your friends or your feelings. Tell me about the things you think.”

Mallory looked at him incredulously and whispered:

“How did you know that?”

Roark smiled and said nothing. “How did you know what’s been killing me? Slowly, for years, driving me to hate people when I don’t want to hate…. Have you felt it, too? Have you seen how your best friends love everything about you—except the things that count? And your most important is nothing to them, nothing, not even a sound they can recognize. You mean, you want to hear? You want to know what I do and why I do it, you want to know what I think? It’s not boring to you? It’s important?”

“Go ahead,” said Roark.”

The Steven Mallory sub-plot happened to me recently. I have a friend who was struggling at home, long story short, he decided to move out so that he can continue his artistic pursuit. We weren’t always close but I’ve always recognized his unusual character. Like Mallory, my friend was slandered and attacked, ended up being despised by many people, but he did not dwell on those setbacks. So the other day he needed a place to stay and I invited him to stay over. We talked non-stop about everything, I mostly let him tell me about his work, his vision, his life (as Howard Roark did). Then I preached Objectivism to him, turns out he was already one but just didn’t realise that’s what this philosophy of living on Earth is called! In a way, I’ve gained an ally, a brother and a lifelong friend. Now he’s having the time of his life, and I cannot be happier for him.

You may be a Howard Roark, confident and in moderate success. Now, if you see your friend struggling for life, what would you do?

Help them, let them know they are valued for their ownership of their life.


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