In 1935, a young man who is discouraged by life bicycles through the woods. He sees a resort designed by Howard Roark, and its design gives him enough courage to last a lifetime.
We learn the story of how Roark came to design this resort: Roark hears of a group of developers hoping to build a resort in Monadnock Valley for people of moderate income. Roark does not think the board will give him the project, but he goes to see them. He argues that resorts should make people feel sheltered and unique. To his surprise, the board gives him the commission. They are almost too eager to be true, but Roark’s work so engrosses him that he hardly notices. He employs all his old allies, including Stephen Mallory. They live idyllically together in shacks in the valley. As the opening date approaches, it seems as if the company wants to keep customers away, but people still rent every house in Monadnock Valley. It turns out that the developers were hoping to cheat their investors by making the resort fail, and picked Roark because they thought he was a bad architect. This angers Mallory, but Roark reminds him that none of it matters because the resort has been built.
In 1936, Roark receives a call from Wynand asking for a meeting.
Wynand and Roark immediately connect with one another. Wynand does not know about Roark and Dominique’s affair and Dominique does not know the two men are meeting. Wynand asks Roark to design him a private home. Some buildings, says Wynand, are cheap showoffs, but Roark’s buildings all share a sense of joy. Roark is surprised that Wynand understands him so completely. Wynand says he wants the house to be a fortress that shields his wife from the world. Roark accepts the project. After Roark leaves, Wynand reads every article the Banner has ever printed about Roark.
Wynand and Roark walk for hours on the proposed site of Wynand’s house. They discuss their similarities, and how both overcame tough circumstances and achieved success. Roark does not nurse any grudges over the Banner’s earlier criticism of him. After completing the initial sketches, Roark visits Wynand’s office. Wynand tells Roark he will only build the house if Roark agrees to become Wynand’s personal architect and design all future buildings in whatever style Wynand wants. If Roark refuses, Wynand will destroy him. Roark makes a quick sketch of a traditional house and asks Wynand if that is what he wants. Wynand recoils from the drawing, and Roark tells Wynand not to bother him with orders or suggestions. Wynand laughs because this is proof that Roark is a truly incorruptible man.
Wynand shows Roark’s drawings to Dominique without telling her who drew them. Dominique recognizes that the house was designed as tribute to Roark’s love for her. Roark arrives at their apartment and he and Dominique act as if nothing has happened between them. Dominique sees the familiarity between Wynand and Roark and realizes that Roark’s purity has led to Wynand’s redemption. Later, Wynand calls Toohey to his office and forbids him from ever mentioning Roark’s name in his column. Toohey agrees.
Wynand begins to feel disgusted when he is at work. Whenever this happens, Wynand telephones Roark and asks to see him. Meanwhile, it tortures Dominique to know that Roark is so close to her and yet impossible to reach. She understands that Roark is still testing her. She tells herself over and over again that she would do anything for him.
Keating’s weakness has made him fade in importance, and Wynand takes over Keating’s earlier role as a foil for Roark. Wynand’s presence clarifies the novel’s definition of strength as a quality that comes from independence, not power and dominance. Roark has true strength, and Wynand does not. Rand emphasizes that the men themselves, not circumstances, shaped their personalities. She gives the men the same background to argue that if Roark could transcend his early years, then Wynand could have done the same. Like Keating, Wynand comes from a poor family, makes his own fortune, and understands the importance of beauty and integrity. But whereas Roark chooses to ignore the corrupt outside world, Wynand lowers himself to the level of that world, grabbing as much power and control as he can. Neither man wants to compromise, but Roark correctly believes that even small compromises corrupt a man. Wynand mistakenly believes that compromising along the way is acceptable, for he aims to win so much power that he will never again have to compromise. Wynand does not understand that strength lies in independence and self-reliance, not control.
When Wynand and Roark finally meet, Wynand immediately recognizes that Roark completes him. He decides he must redeem himself by changing his relationship with the world. Like Dominique, Wynand first tests Roark by trying to corrupt him, offering him work on condition that Roark relinquish artistic control. Once Roark passes the test by refusing the offer, Wynand realizes that Roark is a truly principled man. Wynand had founded his cynical worldview on the idea that incorruptible men like Roark do not exist, so when Roark resists Wynand’s offers and threats, Wynand has to change his worldview. Although Wynand welcomes the change, he finds it difficult to enact, for it involves dismantling the ugliness Wynand has spent a lifetime creating.
Toohey’s influence spreads and grows, but the power of Roark’s work intensifies, which suggests Rand’s belief that art can combat evil. Roark’s work begins to attract a national audience. The Monadnock resort is a triumph for Roark, for despite the fact that the project is set up specifically to fail, he manages to create a place of beauty that people love instinctively. Roark reaches both the masses and individuals through his work. Rand believes that art saves souls and lives, and, in Part IV, Chapter 1, his Monadnock resort does indeed save a young man. This young man feels alienated and resigned to a lifetime of desperation and need, but a simple glimpse of Monadnock rejuvenates his spirit. Rand wants to bring solace to readers with The Fountainhead just as Roark brings solace to the young man with his resort complex. The Fountainhead is an anthem for the indestructible spirit of humankind. Roark embodies the joy and spirit of humankind and his creations are proof that perfection is possible in this messy world.