Howard Roark, the hero, a maverick architect apparently modeled on Frank Lloyd Wright. He refuses to compromise with mediocrity and conventional fashion, insisting on pursuing his personal vision whatever the cost. The story follows Roark from his architectural school days to the novel’s climax, his trial for dynamiting a public housing project whose builder had compromised his design. Roark’s credo is, “I don’t build to have clients; I have clients so I can build.”
Peter Keating, Roark’s classmate in architectural school. The two are antithetical personalities. Keating rises in the architectural profession through manipulating people rather than through creative design. His yearning for commercial success leads him to play up to anyone who can assist his career, and several times he begs for Roark’s assistance. The result is the atrophy of what talent he had to begin with. By the novel’s end, he has become an empty shell.
Ellsworth M. Toohey
Ellsworth M. Toohey, the influential columnist on architecture for the Banner newspaper and the novel’s villain. Toohey’s ambition is to advance his power by exploiting the weaknesses of others. Without any talent of his own, he exploits his position to stir up popular hostility against the superior few in the name of “selflessness.” Accordingly, Roark becomes his number one target....
(The entire section is 525 words.)