Howard Roark is expelled from architectural school because he has no respect for copying the past. Peter Keating, one of the favorite students at the school, frequently persuades Roark to help him with his assignments. Roark decides to go to New York City to work for Henry Cameron, a once-respected but now renegade architect who shares Roark’s ideals. Keating takes a job with the firm of Guy Francon, a powerful and influential architect who believes in copying classic buildings. After Cameron’s business fails, Keating hires Roark, but the job does not last long. Francon fires Roark for his failure to draft an adaptation of one of Cameron’s buildings; Roark continues to refuse to copy others’ work.
Dominique Francon, Guy’s daughter, visits the office. Her beauty immediately impresses Keating, and he remains interested in her even after discovering that she wrote a newspaper column in Gail Wynand’s Banner in which she criticized one of his building designs. They later begin dating. Keating’s longtime girlfriend, Catherine Halsey, announces that she wants to get married immediately; however, she agrees to wait. Keating knows that Halsey is the niece of Ellsworth Toohey, a Banner columnist who writes about architecture and many other topics. He refuses to use his relationship with Halsey to gain influence with Toohey.
Roark takes a job with another firm but learns that his designs will be combined with those of others. His employer uses most of Roark’s drawing in a draft presented to one client, who says that it is the best of many designs that he saw but that it is somehow wrong. Roark seizes the drawing and marks over it, restoring his original work. The client hires Roark, inspiring Roark to start his own firm.
In an attempt to cement his position, Keating attempts to blackmail Lucius Heyer, Francon’s partner, who does almost no work in the firm and is not respected by the employees. Heyer dies, leaving Keating his share in the firm because Keating once was kind to him. Keating wins a worldwide design contest, after getting Roark’s assistance. He attempts to bribe Roark to remain silent about working on the design, but Roark says that Keating will be doing him a favor by not mentioning his assistance.
Roark’s business fails because he is too selective in accepting commissions; he prefers not to work at all rather than to design buildings he does not believe in. He takes a job in a granite quarry owned by Guy Francon. Dominique sees him working in the quarry and is struck by his beauty and by the way he approaches his work. She purposely damages a piece of marble in her house and has him assess the damage. She then hires him to come back and repair the damage; however, he sends another worker. Later, he returns and rapes her. Soon thereafter, Roark receives a letter of inquiry from Roger Enright about designing a...
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The Fountainhead’s major theme is the need for integrity and independence as exemplified in the career of Howard Roark. Roark is the fountainhead, or productive force, in the novel. To develop this theme, Rand places Roark in contrast with three other men, Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey, and Gail Wynand.
The novel begins with a jarring contrast. Howard Roark is expelled from the Stanton Academy on the same day that Peter Keating graduates with honors. Roark is the true architect, making a building’s design fit its purpose, while Keating’s practice of architecture seeks to please other people. In New York, Roark works for Henry Cameron, a brilliant, unconventional architect whose career and body are in decline. Cameron becomes Roark’s mentor, but he is also a foreboding image of how the world may destroy Roark.
After Cameron retires, Roark begins working for a series of architects but keeps getting fired because he will not bend to mediocrity. Roark designs in one style—-his own—-and ignores architectural fashions and traditions. Keating, meanwhile, advances in his career. Every time he has to design a building on his own, however, he turns to Roark for help. In this way Rand dramatizes the nature of the “second-hander.” Keating cannot produce because he worries about how his buildings will be received, while Roark, the fountainhead, can think on his own.
While working at one firm, Roark meets the intellectual Austen Heller, who appreciates the young architect’s work. Heller gives Roark his first commission and the money to open his own architectural firm. A string of commissions comes in but then peters out. Roark eventually closes his offices and finds works cutting stones in a quarry in Connecticut.
There Roark meets...
(The entire section is 733 words.)