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Important Quotations Explained

When they lay in bed together it was—as it had to be . . . an act of violence. . . . it was the moment made of hatred, tension, pain.

This quotation, from the eighth chapter of the novel’s second book, describes the early relationship between Dominique and Roark. Their passion feeds on force and struggle. At this point in the novel, Roark and Dominique are both lovers and antagonists—they sleep together at night and Dominique tries to destroy Roark by day. She wants to test him to see whether he is truly the principled man he seems. The novel abhors compassion and warmth, and the violence of Roark’s relationship with Dominique turns the fuzziness of love into something hard and tough, and therefore, for Rand, admirable. This quotation evokes the violence of their first sexual encounter, a highly idealized rape that Rand endorses for its cold brutality. Rand contrasts this love between two strong personalities with the whiny and comfortable love between Katie and Keating. Katie and Keating’s cuddling leads to painful codependence, but the tough, combative love of Dominique and Roark produces power and free thought.

[Y]ou’ve gone beyond the probable and made us see the possible, but possible only through you. Because your figures are more devoid of contempt of humanity than any work I’ve ever seen. . . . I came for a simple, selfish reason . . . to seek the best.

Roark gives Stephen Mallory this pep talk in the eleventh chapter of the novel’s second book. Here Roark shows that when evaluating people, he considers only ability and honesty. Personality and status mean nothing to Roark, who only connects with “the best”—people who do original and inspiring work. The visit is “selfish,” for despite Roark’s perfection, he feels enriched by his connections with good people. The first half of this quotation sums up Roark’s ethos. He calls the achievements of artists like himself and Mallory the “possible,” a hopeful contrast to the boring, plodding, “probable” everyday world. But he stresses that these achievements can come “only through you”—that is, only through the individual artist. Roark feels that worthwhile art must come from the artist alone, with no input from society.

He was not the corrupt publisher of a popular empire. He was an aristocrat aboard a yacht. He looked, she thought, like what one believes an aristocrat to be when one is young: a brilliant kind of gaiety without guilt.

Rand uses physical characteristics to illustrate her characters’ personalities. This quotation from the ninth chapter of the third book of The Fountainhead shows a physical symbol of Wynand’s redemption. Dominique looks at Wynand sitting on his yacht and muses that his gestures and carriage reveal his true self. She thought him an evil publisher at first, but now sees that he has become an idealized aristocrat. Like Roark, Wynand is tall and carries himself with confidence. He moves quickly, showing his vibrancy. He is on a yacht, surrounded by luxury that would overwhelm most people, but his “brilliant kind of gaiety” overwhelms his surroundings. The once-suicidal Wynand has changed his worldview, becoming optimistic, and his new personality is so forceful that it overwhelms the facts. Technically he is still a “corrupt publisher,” but his good intentions so overwhelm that technicality that the quotation says Wynand “was not the corrupt publisher.”

Howard, I’m a parasite. I’ve been a parasite all my life . . . I have fed on you and all the men like you who lived before we were born. . . . if they hadn’t existed I wouldn’t have known how to put stone to stone. . . . I have taken that which was not mine and given nothing in return.

Peter Keating admits his failing to Howard Roark in Chapter 8 of the novel’s final book. Roark calls men like Keating “second-handers” because they do not create original work, but steal the work of others. After years of chasing fame and money, Keating finally looks inside his soul and sees the pointlessness of his existence. Too late, Keating tries to save himself by admitting his failure and humbly asking Roark for help. The passage employs ruthless images to show the fallacy of Keating’s life. Keating describes himself as a “parasite,” something less than human. He fed on Roark pointlessly, failing to acquire his life force. Keating is exhausted now, while Roark thrives. Keating bares his soul in this monologue as Roark and Toohey do in their own monologues. Together, the three men voice Rand’s worldview.

Tell man that he must live for others. . . . Not a single one of them has ever achieved it and not a single one ever will. His every living impulse screams against it. But don’t you see what you accomplish? . . . He’ll obey. . . . Use big vague words. ‘Universal Harmony’—‘Eternal Spirit’— ‘Divine Purpose’—‘Nirvana’—‘Paradise’—‘Racial Supremacy’—‘The Dictatorship of the Proletariat.’

Toohey makes this speech to a terrified Keating in the fourteenth chapter of the last book of The Fountainhead. Here Toohey reveals his true nature for the first and only time. Everything else he says is purposefully empty of real meaning, so only here do we see the sinister inner workings of Toohey’s mind. When Toohey defines “big vague words,” he uses concepts from real-world ideologies and religions. The moment is an unusual one in the novel, for usually Rand writes about a hypothetical, imagined New York, using allegory to reveal the flaws she sees in society. In this passage, however, she steps from the allegorical world into the real world, telling us exactly which groups she abhors, and exactly which groups she means to pillory with her allegory. Rand wants us to condemn every concept the arch-villain Toohey support. He uses the religious phrases “Eternal Spirit,” “Divine Purpose,” “Paradise,” “Nirvana,” and “Universal Harmony,” suggesting Rand’s low opinion of organized religion like Christianity and Buddhism. “Racial Supremacy” and “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat” refer to and condemn, respectively, Nazism and Communism. Rand thought almost all kinds of social engineering restricted individual liberty, and makes this point in the novel by having her arch-villain refer to these catchphrases as his tools.

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