The novel’s hero, a brilliant architect of absolute integrity. Roark has friends and colleagues, but relies on himself alone. He is tall, gaunt, and angular, with gray eyes and distinctive orange hair. Born to a poor family, Roark supports himself throughout high school and college by working odd jobs on construction sites. He brings the same fiery intensity to whatever job he does, whether it is manual labor or architecture. He loves the beautiful Dominique Francon with violent passion. He is the novel’s idealization of man, bringing innovative and joyful buildings to the rest of the world.
The villain of the novel, and Roark’s antithesis—a man with a lust for power but no talent. Since his boyhood, Toohey has despised the achievements of others, and he dedicates himself to squelching other people’s talents and ambitions. He is a small and fragile-looking man, but his persuasive voice and knack for manipulation make him a formidable opponent. He encourages selflessness and altruism to coax others into submission. His philosophy is a blend of religion, Fascism and Socialism, and he at times resembles the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.
Daughter of the prestigious architect Guy Francon, her fragile appearance, pale gold hair, and gray eyes belie her capability and bluntness. Dispassionate, cynical, and cold, Dominique nurses a masochistic streak. Although she loves Roark and his beliefs, she initially tries to destroy him before the rest of the world can. Eventually, to punish herself for her behavior, she marries Peter Keating and then Gail Wynand.
A ruthless media tycoon who sells his integrity for power. Wynand comes from New York’s slums and is an entirely self-taught, self-made man. He had sought power so he could rule the incompetent and corrupt, but in acquiring wealth he becomes like them. His faith in humanity is restored when he meets Roark, who is incorruptible, and he becomes Roark’s great ally and friend before finally betraying him.
A classmate of Roark’s who lives only for fame and the approval of others. Keating is good-looking and commercially successful, but he steals his only original ideas from Roark. In order to rise to the top, Keating flatters, lies, steals, kills, and even trades his wife, Dominique, for the opportunity to work on a promising project. His fall is even more rapid than his rise. He realizes the error of his ways too late and lives the rest of his life in frightened misery.
Roark’s mentor, an intractable and aggressive architect who is in the twilight of his career at the onset of the novel. Like Roark, Cameron suffers greatly at the hands of the world because he loves his buildings, but he does not have Roark’s strength and lives a frustrated and anguished life. Ruined physically and financially, Cameron dies still fighting the world.
Toohey’s niece and Keating’s on-again, off-again fiancée. Halsey is not beautiful, but her innocence and sincerity provide Keating with a refuge from himself. Although Keating loves Katie, he abandons her, and her uncle Toohey slowly destroys her spirit.
Dominique’s father and Keating’s employer and business partner. Francon rises to fame nearly as swiftly as Keating, but he has no real talent of his own. Nonetheless, Francon is a fundamentally honest and decent man, and eventually he finds salvation through his love for his spirited daughter.
A gifted but disillusioned sculptor who feels alone and misunderstood until Roark rescues him from his drunken doldrums. Mallory’s statues portray a heroic vision of man, but the world rejects his work. Mallory tries to kill Toohey, whom the artist blames for the failings of the world. Eventually he regains his self-confidence through his work on Roark’s buildings.
Wynand’s editor-in-chief. Scarret clings to Wynand out of habit and inertia. He believes every article and column printed in the Banner. Because Scarret’s beliefs reflect those of the masses, Wynand uses him to measure public opinion.
Keating’s forceful and manipulative mother. Mrs. Keating’s preoccupation with money and success prompt Keating to make all the wrong choices. Mrs. Keating devoutly believes that financial success is the surest indicator of a person’s quality.
A tough, phenomenally ugly electrician who admires talent in any form. He instantly recognizes Roark’s ability and becomes a staple on the construction sites of the buildings Roark designs.
The Dean of the architecture school, a staunch traditionalist who frowns on any deviation from the architectural canon. The Dean believes everything worthy has already been designed and views Roark as dangerous.
A supposedly progressive architect who is in fact the ultimate plagiarizer. He has a group of five designers who make their own version of each design and then puts together all of the five designs to create the final sketch.