Student from Ireland Wins $10,000 in ARI’s The Fountainhead Essay Contest

Matthew Long was perusing the aisles of his local library when he came across a copy of a book by Ayn Rand. He glanced at the back cover and a mention of ARI’s essay contest caught his attention. The idea of writing an essay about a novel seemed interesting to him, so he decided to give it a try. He never imagined that only a few months later his essay would win the first-place prize and with it $10,000 in cash.

Long, a 12th-grade high school student from Blackrock College in Dublin, Ireland, was already familiar with Rand’s work before learning about the contest—he had read Atlas Shrugged and Anthem, as well as The Fountainhead. Nonetheless, writing an essay on The Fountainhead still proved to be a challenge.

“I think it’s quite difficult at first to find enough to say about something so specific,” he says in reference to the essay question he chose to answer. Long was asked to explain the practicality of Dominique Francon and Howard Roark’s uncompromising approach to life. Here’s an excerpt from his winning essay:

Rand offers a definite verdict as to whether the uncompromising approach to life is practical through the corresponding fate that each character meets. The tangible physical pain that Howard experiences pales in comparison to the years of drawn-out torment that await Keating as he tries to pick up the pieces of his shoddily constructed life. Although Roark could count every muscle in his body by the number of “separate, different pains” (210) after his grueling months in the quarry, it is only towards Keating that I feel the most despicable emotion of all: pity.

The complete essay can be read here.

Aside from being awarded thousands of dollars, Matthew says he also found value in rereading the novel because, unlike other books he has read, The Fountainhead contains philosophical ideas that he considers worth studying. “I recommend that people have a go at it [the contest], not only for the prize but because being able to understand the themes in the novel can be rewarding in and of itself. It’s just good to learn different things and ideas and even challenge them at times,” he adds.

Since its institution in 1985, more than 350,000 people from around the world have entered ARI’s three essay contests on Ayn Rand’s novels Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. This school year, ARI will award more than $93,000 in prize money. The 2017 The Fountainhead essay contest is now open for submissions. Learn more.