The Fountainhead | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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The Fountainhead | Part 1, Chapters 3–4 : Peter Keating | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 3

The offices of Francon & Heyer in New York present an impressive façade to Keating when he arrives for his first day of work. He approaches the building feeling inadequate because everyone he sees around him is most fashionably dressed. As soon as he walks into the reception room, he notices its classical architectural features. The features make it look "like a cool, intimate ballroom in a Colonial mansion" replete with "Ionic snails." Keating feels as if he is standing on a conveyor belt. He feels it smoothly moves him through the reception room into the drafting room. There Keating is bundled into the Francon & Heyer uniform of a gray smock and put to work. He is uncomfortable until he notices the others in the drafting room. He sees them "cautiously at first, then with curiosity, then with pleasure, then with contempt." He estimates he has nothing to fear from these draftsmen and returns to his work with confidence.

By noon Keating has laid the groundwork for friendships among his coworkers. He admires the work in front of a boy, on the erroneous assumption that it has been done by Francon himself. The boy responds that Francon "hasn't designed a doghouse in eight years." Late in the afternoon, Francon arrives at his office and Keating is sent up to see him with the work Keating had done that morning. He finds Francon's office "liquid with mirrors melted and poured over every object" and filled with antiques. Francon himself is under the weather following a party the night before and addresses Keating as "Kitteridge." Keating does not correct the great man. He skillfully navigates his way through a brief discussion of the design he has brought up for Francon's approval. Francon easily approves Keating's suggestion for a minor adjustment. Then he tells Keating he would look much better in his smock if he wore a burgundy-colored tie.

Henry Cameron was, during the 1880s, the premier architect of New York. He understood "structures began to rise ... as arrows of steel shooting upward without weight or limit." He maintained that "no building must copy another." By the time Roark arrives, Cameron has taken a dingy three-room office. From the office, he can see the top of one of the buildings he designed through a window. Roark climbs the six flights of stairs to Cameron's office. He is transfixed speechless in front of a design on the wall of a "skyscraper that had never been built." Cameron has a look at Roark's drawings. He asks Roark why he wants to be an architect. Roark replies, "I don't like the shape of things on this earth. I want to change them." Realizing that Roark means exactly what he says—no more and no less—Cameron curses and hires him.

Part 1, Chapter 4

One month later, Keating and Francon are very pleased to read a glowing a glossy magazine article. It is about one of the buildings designed under Francon's name written by trend-setter and influential writer-about-town, Ellsworth M. Toohey. Keating has learned a good deal about his boss. For one thing, Francon displays a preference "for designing buildings of gray granite." He owns a quarry of this granite in Connecticut "which did a thriving business." On a personal note, Francon is alone with only a daughter away at college, but Keating is puzzled that Francon has little to say about her. The other partner of the firm, Lucius Heyer, who "did not have hemophilia, but looked as though he should have it" seems to have nothing to do.

Keating has easily become popular with everyone in the drafting room and is particularly friendly with a young man about his own age. Keating finds him unhappy he can't get away to go out on a date with his girlfriend because he has to work overtime "for the third time this week." Keating offers to complete the work for him and he is much relieved and grateful. When Keating finishes the work that evening, he decides to pay a visit to his own fiancé Catherine, who is simply glad to see him. "He did not know why the victory he came here to share had faded ... her presence always lifted him from a pressure he could not define ... he was himself." When Keating finds out Catherine's uncle is Ellsworth M. Toohey, he tells her he wants more than anything to meet him. What Toohey writes "could make me" but not through her. He says, "I'm the kind that uses people. I don't want to use you."

Roark has been with Cameron for a month, having made no friends on the staff. On or off work Roark hardly speaks to anyone. At the end of the day, Cameron summons Roark to his office. He begins by telling Roark he's fired—not because he does poor work, but because he's too good. The future for him as an architect is, from Cameron's experience, going to be filled with nothing but pain, disgrace, financial ruin, and disappointment. He tells Roark, "It's no use wasting what you've got on an ideal that you'll never reach, that they'll never let you reach." Cameron asks Roark if he wants to end up like this. Roark replies, "If ... at the end of my life, I'll be what you are today ... I shall consider it an honor." Cameron is unable to frighten Roark away from the years of ridicule and disappointment he has lived under himself. He gives up and tells Roark he'll show him the modifications he wants to be done on Roark's design for a building tomorrow.

Analysis

Rand sets up a parallel of contrasts between how Keating and Roark begin their respective careers in these chapters. Keating joins the respected and prosperous firm of Francon & Heyer, housed in a stylish building with an effortlessly ascending elevator that allows everyone to move through the workstation as smoothly as if on a conveyor belt. The entire process of getting to work requires little or no effort on Keating's part. It is as if he is a mass-produced object being put through the polishing touches in a factory being attractively packaged and sent to the marketplace. The "Ionic snails" of the office ornamentation refer to the coiling, scroll-like capital, or top of one style of ancient Greek columns favored by traditionalists. A colonial-style ballroom is anything but "intimate," as it encompasses enough space for crowds of waltzing dancers to move without colliding with one another.

Keating also joins a group of draftsmen where he is liked and has every chance of gaining the prestige and fame he desires. He wastes no time in making himself useful by undertaking to finish work started by someone else. This indebts the young man in a way that will make it possible for Keating to use and to eliminate anyone who might be a potential competitor. Keating is quite well aware of his ability to do this. This is evidenced by his statement to Catherine that he "uses people" but doesn't want to use her as a means to become acquainted with her uncle, Toohey. Because Keating finds he can be himself only with Catherine, he knows not only that she loves him, but that he loves her. The tragedy becomes, however, that despite knowing this, Catherine is not the kind of wife Keating should want to help him advance his career.

What Keating learns about Francon's granite quarry and daughter are telling of Francon's dubious business practices and uneasy personal relationships. Keating learns that Francon hasn't personally designed anything for many years. He also finds out that Heyer acts as if he has hemophilia(abnormal blood clotting, one symptom of which is extreme fatigue). This tells Keating what he needs to know to begin plotting his upward climb in the firm. He will eventually get rid of Heyer to become Francon's partner and then inherit the firm when Francon eventually retires.

Roark's career track is completely different than Keating's. He has not been invited to join Henry Cameron. But he persists in persuading Cameron to take him at low pay and dismal working conditions despite the elder architect's verbal abuse. In his first month with Cameron, Roark makes no friends and wears no snappy gray smock. He works in a dingy office up six flights of stairs. Cameron isn't interested in Roark's personal life. Roark is interested in not knowing anything about Cameron except the evidence of his designs in the few buildings with Cameron's name on them. Roark expects none of the trappings of success that has so dazzled Keating and gets none. All aspects of Keating's rise are effortless and as smooth as glass. But Roark's rise is by his own personal and physical effort. This is a key distinction between the two young men defining how they will go about establishing their respective careers.

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