[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.