The Fountainhead

by: Ayn Rand

Part IV: Chapters 11–15

Summary Part IV: Chapters 11–15

Analysis: Chapters 11–15

Roark’s bombing of the Cortlandt building is the novel’s climax, as the opposing forces in the novel come into all-out conflict. The bombing marks the first gesture of defiance by the talented few against the mediocre majority. Although Roark is the one who actually bombs the building, all of the major figures are involved: Keating officially designs the building, Toohey corrupts it, and Dominique aids and watches Roark’s destruction of it. Roark never before reacts to Toohey’s provocations, but never before does Toohey physically alter Roark’s work. When Roark reacts, he does so in characteristic fashion, taking firm, irrevocable action that leaves no room for counter-arguments. A less ideal man might have filed a lawsuit or even, like Stephen Mallory, made a futile attempt to kill Toohey, but Roark takes final action to destroy the blasphemy against his design.

Roark reacts differently to the Cortlandt building than to the Stoddard Temple because the temple is completed according to his specifications and altered later. He does not care what the world does with his finished buildings but insists on finishing his buildings as he wishes. The Cortlandt complex perverts Roark’s ideas before they have been implemented. Unable to tolerate this kind of compromise, Roark must destroy the mediocrity to maintain his integrity.

The bombing seals Dominique and Roark’s love. Dominique has been unable to abandon the world completely and has been torn between society and Roark. Now she signals her renewed allegiance to Roark by helping him bomb the building. Dominique has always been stimulated by violence, and the bombing sets her free and makes her ready to resume her relationship with Roark. Her lifelessness following the explosion is part of her rebirth; with the annihilation of the Cortlandt comes the annihilation of her resistance to the world. We later learn that when Dominique cuts herself in the car, it is her final act of masochism. The violent destruction of the Cortlandt building heals Dominique and reconciles her with the man she loves.

In the chapters before and after the novel’s climax, Rand sums up the ideology of the novel by giving both Roark and Toohey two lengthy philosophical monologues. These two monologues serve the same role as closing arguments in a courtroom, a last chance for each side to make its point. Rand employs setting and tone to indicate that we should prefer Roark’s monologue. Roark, the novel’s idol and savior, discusses his beliefs on the importance of the ego in the serene setting of a luxury yacht trip. He speaks to Wynand, his close friend, and his speech is calm, amicable, and reassuring. Toohey goes on his tirade in Keating’s claustrophobic, shabby apartment. He expresses his philosophy of selflessness as he terrorizes the pathetic, beaten-down Keating. By giving Roark’s monologue such a serene tone and Toohey’s such a fearful one, Rand does not so much ask us to choose a side as remind us that Roark’s has always been the correct one.