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The Fountainhead

Summary Part III: Chapters 1–4
Summary Part III: Chapters 1–4

Analysis: Chapters 1–4

Wynand is the only character in The Fountainhead who does not fit neatly into a category, and the only truly tragic one as well. Wynand resembles Roark; both men are self-made, dynamic, and gifted. Unlike Roark, however, he became disillusioned after his early idols turned out to be shams. Like Toohey, Wynand sells himself to the public for power and devotes his life to proving his conviction that no one with true integrity actually exists. Wynand thus belongs to both Roark and Toohey’s world, and Dominique has a mixed reaction to Wynand because of his dual nature. Wynand’s contempt for beauty repels Dominique, but his strength attracts her. Wynand’s secret art gallery suggests the tragedy of a split identity. The art gallery is Wynand’s prosthetic spirit, a substitute for the private soul he gave up during his rise to power. The beauty of the works in the gallery inspires and nourishes Wynand, but also pains him. He knows that he will never put his love for beauty over his shallow public self.

Rand times Wynand’s entrance into the narrative to maximize his importance to the novel’s characters and events. We feel Wynand’s power and influence from the beginning, but until now the man himself has not appeared. When Wynand finally enters the story, we are as surprised as Dominique to find that this shadowy figure possesses some of the virtues The Fountainhead idealizes. The story of Wynand’s lost idealism suggests that an encounter with Roark will stir up old feelings in Wynand, especially because we see Roark’s sway over other strong figures. Upon meeting Roark, the sculptor Mallory, for example, changes his mind and decides that incorruptible men do exist. Similarly, Dominique’s meeting with Roark causes her to reevaluate her worldview. This evidence of Roark’s power makes us anticipate an explosive first encounter between Roark and Wynand.

Keating’s fireside conversation with Dominique in Chapter 2 demonstrates his ability to think honestly and purely. At times, Keating is able to understand that a void is inside him, although he never finds the strength to fill that void. Keating sees Roark’s existence as an insult to his world and its standards, but he also understands Roark’s greatness. Keating has always hated Roark, but this hatred is just a redirected contempt for Keating’s own weakness. Although Keating does not redeem his flaws, his knowledge of his crimes and his grudging admiration of Roark make him less despicable than many of his colleagues, who remain happily ignorant of their shortcomings. Keating becomes a pitiable figure, completely overmastered by Dominique. Although Keating provokes our contempt, it seems that Dominique treats him with more cruelty than he deserves.