The Fountainhead | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Fountainhead Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 Apr. 2018. Web. 25 May 2022. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2018, April 7). The Fountainhead Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2018)



Course Hero. "The Fountainhead Study Guide." April 7, 2018. Accessed May 25, 2022.


Course Hero, "The Fountainhead Study Guide," April 7, 2018, accessed May 25, 2022,

The Fountainhead | Motifs


A Product Is Achieved Either through Self-Sufficiency or Indebtedness

The direct relationship between different methods of achieving a result is one of the prime issues of The Fountainhead. This is exemplified by the four main characters of Roark, Toohey, Wynand, and Keating. As Roark states in Part 4, Chapter 6, "The choice is independence or dependence." The only difference among these men is in the quality and endurance of the product each produces according to the process the work takes. For example, all four men work hard. Roark's hard work and single-minded purpose conclude in designs that gain a slow and steady acceptance originating with Roark's core self-sufficiency. This method does not allow him to accept help from anyone else. The resulting product of his buildings has a unified cohesiveness and integrity. This is as unmistakable to the observer (whether or not the design pleases) as Roark himself. Keating's hard work, on the other hand, does not come from his own self-sufficient confidence and surety of purpose. Instead, his motives are split. There is the reaching for an ideal he repeatedly fails to recognize in himself. And there is his constant need or "indebtedness" to others who provide him with at least the appearance of realizing those ideals. The only buildings with Keating's name on them expressing direct purpose are those Roark has worked on for him. Roark unwittingly becomes a crutch for Keating's self-esteem without which Keating is unable to live. Keating is therefore indebted to Roark in a way Roark would never be to anyone. Wynand also approaches but never gains true self-sufficiency on a par with Roark because his goal is to "own" others. In opposition, Roark seeks only mastery of himself. Keating is deluded in believing his self-worth comes from others. Wynand is deluded into believing those in his employ and those who read his newspapers "belong" to him. He thinks of them in very much the same way he thinks he "owns" Dominique when he marries her. Wynand may finally realize the leash of indebtedness he holds in his hand to control others "is only a rope with a noose at both ends" (Part 4, Chapter 16).

The opposite of Roark is not Keating, but Toohey. His "product" consists entirely in acquiring and using the indebtedness he generates in others to his own advantage—notably Keating. In this sense, Toohey is the ultimate "second-hander" or a parasite who generates no product of his own. He manages to control others in exchange for offering them a peace and happiness in which they no longer need to suffer. For example, Toohey's words assured his readers that they didn't have to concern themselves with originality. That is because the masters have already accomplished the full potential of architecture. Keating is able to work in this way because "He did not have to wonder, to fear or to take chances: it had been done for him" (Part 1, Chapter 4).

A Man's Work Is an Expression of the Self

Roark tells Mallory how he sees Mallory's sculpture. He says, "Your figures are not what men are, but what men could be—and should be" (Part 2, Chapter 11). The statement is a comment about the kind of artistic product Mallory creates. However, the comment also is a recognition that the man himself is what men could and should be. Mallory's sculpture of Dominique for the Stoddard Temple is made possible only because Mallory catches a glimpse of her inner power when she looks at Roark (Part 2, Chapter 11). That glimpse resonates clearly with Mallory. So much so that he can make the statue resonate with both his own being and hers. He does it so forcefully that people fearful of what the statue reveals deface it and have it removed from the temple. Wynand determines to meet her when he sees the statue of Dominique that Toohey has sent to him as a gift (Part 3, Chapter 1).

In contrast, Wynand produces a mass-media newspaper the Banner. Wynand has created a "machine" designed to serve him in his quest to exert control over the mobs of sensation-seeking people. These are the same unthinking people who take such columns as Toohey's "One Small Voice" as gospel truth. But what Wynand discovers as events unfold is that his control works "both ways." As soon as he attempts to defend Roark, he fails to exert his control. He finds himself as much forced as forcing. The only way he can shake himself free of Toohey and own himself is to destroy the Banner.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Fountainhead? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!