Cosmo-Slotnick Pictures plans to build an enormous skyscraper and holds an international competition to select an architect. Francon encourages Keating to submit a design in the firm’s name. Keating knows his messy design cannot win the contest. Shamefaced, he goes to see Roark, who works all night reshaping Keating’s design. After months without work, Roark’s money begins to run out. One day, Cameron’s sister tells Roark that Cameron is dying. Roark hurries to New Jersey to see Cameron. As he dies, Cameron tells Roark to ignore his earlier warnings and pursue his goals without ever compromising.
Keating asks Katie if they can put off their marriage until the results of the Cosmo-Slotnick competition arrive. If Keating wins, he will become a partner in the firm and win a secure salary. Keating spends most of his time with Dominique and tries to kiss her one night. Indifferent to his passion, she tells him she believes herself to be completely frigid. Keating again feels panic and fear but remembers Dominique is Francon’s daughter and asks her to marry him. The proposal surprises Dominique, but she promises him seriously that she will marry him if she ever needs to punish herself.
Keating grows anxious about the outcome of the Cosmo-Slotnick competition. Lucius Heyer is dying, and his position at Francon & Heyer will soon become vacant. If Keating does not win the competition, Francon may decide to offer the partnership to someone else. Keating has evidence that Heyer once inflated construction estimates and goes to Heyer’s home to blackmail him into retiring before the results of the competition are announced. While begging Keating not to expose him, Heyer suffers a second stroke and dies. To his shock, Keating discovers that deep inside he wanted to kill Heyer. A few days later, Keating discovers that Heyer left him his entire estate and that he has won the Cosmo-Slotnick competition.
Keating becomes an overnight celebrity, but frets over the fact that Dominique despises him and that Roark actually created the prizewinning design. After Dominique leaves to spend the summer at her home in Connecticut, Keating decides to go see the penniless Roark. When Keating arrives, Roark is waiting for a phone call from a bank, which is his only prospective project. Keating writes Roark a check for five hundred dollars to keep quiet about his help on the Cosmo-Slotnick building. Roark returns the check on the condition that Keating never mention Roark’s involvement with such a mediocre structure. Keating reels at this insult and breaks down. Before Keating leaves, he vows to break Roark. A few days later, the bank that is Roark’s only potential customer tells him that they will hire him to design a simple Greek façade in keeping with its image as a sound financial institution. Roark refuses to compromise and refuses the contract, even though it means shutting down his office. Roark asks Mike for a job and Mike refers him to a granite quarry in Connecticut.
With each decision they make, Roark and Keating solidify their personalities and walk farther down the paths they have chosen. Rand sets up a particularly sharp contrast between the two men by putting them in identical situations, setting them down by the bedside of dying men who are also their architectural elders. Roark rushes to the dying man he respects. From his deathbed, Cameron confirms all of Roark’s most deeply felt beliefs. In complete contrast, Keating rushes to the bed of a dying man in order to threaten him with humiliation. His cruelty kills Heyer, and Keating understands his own murderous impulses for the first time.
We already know that by nature Roark is determined and independent, and he demonstrates that his nature cannot be swayed by adversity. He confirms his strength by refusing to compromise his principles no matter what the cost. In a particularly impressive gesture, Roark rejects the bank commission even though it means sacrificing his business. His rejection of the commission is all the more striking in that the commission would have required only a small compromise. The other clients Roark refuses differ fundamentally from his vision, but the bankers request only a small change in his design. While Roark reveals the extent of his strength, Keating reveals the extent of his repellant personality. Keating combines seemingly irreconcilable character flaws. He is at once the cringing mama’s boy who cannot think for himself and the murderous bully who kills Heyer with his scare tactics. Keating becomes more loathsome with every appearance.
While Keating lusts for recognition, Roark abhors it. Keating wants to become partner in the firm not because he craves money or power, but because he thinks this position will make others look on him as a genius. In contrast, Roark makes a point of avoiding recognition. Although Mike works on Roark’s houses and Cameron and Heller recommend him to clients, Roark never solicits these kindnesses. Roark knows that the kind of men who admire him are, like him, hardworking and uncompromising. They would not appreciate pandering even if he were inclined to pander.
Dominique has elements of both Keating and Roark, as her frigidity shows. Dominique accepts Keating’s advances with stoicism. She does not resist him despite her clear lack of interest. The world interests Dominique so little that passing judgment or mustering a strong opinion seems strange to her. Like Roark, she reacts with bored dispassion to personal encounters that would provoke rage, misery, or embarrassment in most people. Dominique is frigid because she has never experienced truly arousing passion. In this respect, she resembles Keating, who does not know what he wants from life because he has never had any experiences worth mentioning.