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Monday, January 18, 2016

On the public figure who served as a reference for the character of Ellsworth M. Toohey

“In regard to villains and characters who are neither particularly good nor bad, I find it helpful to focus on some acquaintance or public figure—not on the details of this person, but only on the essence. In the case of Toohey, I had in mind four living journalists and writers. I did not think of any one of them in specific detail, nor did I study their writings or lives. But my total impression of them gave me valuable clues to the manifestations of certain basic premises. These figures were the concretes that helped me to hold it all in my mind. This was the preliminary gathering of material.

“Then, one day, some acquaintances invited me to a lecture by a liberal at the New School for Social Research. I felt that it would be immoral to go; but they insisted that the lecturer was not leftist, that he was a brilliant speaker, and that they had already brought the tickets, so I went. And there was Toohey in the flesh, in personal appearance and manner. [The speaker was British Labour Party politician Harold Laski.]

“When he spoke, that man projected infinitely more than the specific content of his ideas. It is true that he was not particularly liberal—that is, he was the most vicious liberal I have ever heard in public, but not blatantly so. He was subtle and gracious, he rambled on a great deal about nothing in particular—and then he made crucial, vicious points once in a while. My foolish acquaintances did not know what going on, but I did, and I thought: “There is my character.”” ~ Ayn Rand

(Source: 'The Art of Fiction' by Ayn Rand; Chapter - ‘Characterization', Page: 87)

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