Arch-villain of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. The character of Toohey was constructed as the diametric opposite of Rand's ideal, protagonist Howard Roark. Thus, while Roark embodies the ideals of the libertarian Objectivist philosophy, Toohey represents Rand's perception of the ideal socialist. As Rand was very anti-socialistic, Toohey is not only portrayed as contrary to Objectivist values, but is ultimately revealed to have other motivations that Rand apparently believed to be the driving force behind socialist leaders.

Plot-wise, Toohey is an architectural critic working for the New York Banner, a newspaper owned by tycoon Gail Wynand. Toohey uses this position to advance socialistic causes, promoting architects and other artists of various sorts who represent "the people" (in other words, those artists whose work lacks individual spirit), while doing everything in his power to degrade individualists like Roark. He does similar things with other positions of power: converting his sincere-intentioned niece into a bland social worker; manipulating a rich friend in a complex scheme to destroy Roark's reputation; organising a strike against the Banner for defending Roark; and other such things. Physically, Toohey is described to have large ears and slicked-back hair, giving him the appearance of a rodent. His facial appearance is also given some Hitlerish characteristics.

The basic premise behind Ellsworth Toohey is that he is (in Ayn Rand's definition) a rational character; that is, a character who understands the significance of theObjectivist ideals (individualism, selfishness, rationalism, integrity, et cetera; see Objectivism). In other words, Toohey could not be said to be an oblivious character, as is the case with Peter Keating along with most of the book's minor characters (and, as Rand argues, most of society). However, unlike the book's other rational characters (Howard Roark, Gail Wynand, Dominique Francon, et cetera), Toohey works against the Objectivist causes. Rather than trying to exalt himself individually (the goal of Ayn Rand's rationalists), Toohey instead seeks to degrade the individualism of others; for he knows that he could never be a worthwhile individual on his own, but can at least emerge at the top of society if he subverts the population into a soul-less collective.

Such is Ayn Rand's portrayal of Toohey, as it is also her belief about all institutions and philosophies that are in any way oriented toward altuism or collectivism: religion, socialism, communism, labour unions, et cetera. It is for this reason that Rand described Toohey as, "the worst of all possible rats."

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