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The Fountainhead

Summary

Part I: Chapters 1–5

Summary Part I: Chapters 1–5

Summary: Chapter 5

Keating becomes chief designer at Francon & Heyer by getting Stengel to leave. Keating is assigned his first design job, but he is unsure of himself, and he takes his sketches to Roark. Roark takes Keating’s jumbled designs and reworks them to give them unity and grace. Ashamed but grateful, Keating takes Roark’s sketches and calls them his own.

Analysis: Chapters 1–5

Ayn Rand admitted that she was mainly interested in using her novels to convey her philosophy. She intentionally crafts simplistic prose and characters in order to avoid distraction and keep the focus on her philosophy. She writes simple sentences, and does not use figures of speech that most writers use. This stark style makes her sentences sound didactic or instructional rather than entertaining. Like the novel’s protagonist, Roark, the language of The Fountainhead is absolute and unwavering. Rand portrays her characters’ qualities very bluntly so that we can evaluate the characters accurately from the outset, and we become aware of her feelings toward them as soon as she introduces them. In short, she presents the world as basically black and white—composed of those, like Roark, who subscribe to her philosophy and those, like Keating, who don’t.

The four men whose names serve as the titles for the four parts of The Fountainhead—Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey, Gail Wynand, and Howard Roark—are the main characters of the novel, but Roark is the undisputed protagonist. While in each part the omniscient narrator focuses on the individual after whom that part is named, Roark remains a fundamental presence in all of them. Thus Keating, Toohey, and Wynand function as either Roark’s rivals or his foils (a foil is a literary character whose attitudes or emotions contrast with, and thereby accentuate, those of another character). The superficial similarities between Roark and these men serve first to emphasize the fundamental differences between him and them and second to give us a clearer idea of Roark’s character. Each of these characters represents one value or belief. Roark, for example, stands for inspirational strength, and follows his convictions without ever weakening. Keating, on the other hand, serves as a foil for Roark. He stands for plagiarism and sycophantism. Roark’s self-confidence and lack of concern for what others think of him contrast with Keating’s insecurity and desire for praise, a contrast that drives much of the novel.

The first five chapters illustrate Roark’s and Keating’s personalities, underscoring the great difference between the two men. Rand makes it obvious that their different personalities do not arise from a difference in their recent circumstances by starting them off at exactly the same point. At the beginning of the novel Roark and Keating attend the same school, work in the same field, and move to New York at the same time. Rand presents Roark as a natural being, his own man. We first see Roark standing naked among granite cliffs, which suggests that he is as clean and pure as the elements that surround him. Rand presents Keating, in contrast, as self-absorbed and unable to think for himself. We first see Keating wrapped in a graduation robe, constantly reevaluating himself based on the opinions of others. Whereas Roark thrills to a future he will carve out himself, Keating lacks the ability to plan his own future. The Fountainhead alternates between scenes of Roark’s moral success and financial failure and Keating’s moral failure and financial success.

Foreshadowing fills the first five chapters of The Fountainhead. Rand uses Roark’s and Keating’s employers to suggest what her main characters will become. Like Keating, Francon is a fake who takes credit for the work of others and enjoys great economic and social success. Like Roark, Cameron is strong, stubborn and idealistic. Cameron even likens himself to Roark, and warns Roark that the conservative world will crush Roark just as it crushed Cameron years before. Right away we get the impression that Francon and Cameron are the older counterparts of Roark and Keating.