The Fountainhead | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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The Fountainhead | Part 1, Chapters 7–8 : Peter Keating | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 7

Knowing that Roark is out of a job, Keating insists to Francon that he must have Roark come work for him. Francon agrees to whatever Keating wants to do, then asks him, "Don't you think this is as lovely a snuffbox as you've ever seen?" Keating pays a visit to Roark and to his great surprise, Roark agrees very easily to come to work for Francon. But he will not go out for a drink with Keating because "That's not part of the job." Keating is unable to understand why Roark is so serious about his work. Roark appears the following Monday in the drafting room wearing "the prescribed gray smock like a prison uniform on his body." Roark struggles to cope with the mediocre work he is given to do, straining against the knowledge that if left to his own, he could do it much better. Keating often asks Roark into his office to ask him what he thinks of this or that design. Although Roark wants to "throw them at Keating's face and resign" he labors to improve them as much as he can. His idea is that at least "it would be a better building than it would have been if he refused."

Roark meets Mike the electrician on the site for a building inspection to which he has been sent. Mike is trying to bend conduits around a beam. After watching the struggle for a while, Roark makes a suggestion. He shows Mike that it would be easier to use a torch to cut a hole in the steel beam and pass the conduits through. Mike and the other workmen are amazed that an architect exists who can do a man's work handling a torch with skill. In time, Mike and Roark become friends and go out for a drink together.

Part 1, Chapter 8

Francon finds himself in a bind because Keating is off to Washington and a client wants a design done on the order of the Dana Building. It is one that Cameron had designed years ago. The client has already rejected everyone else's suggestions. Francon considers he is doing a great favor to Roark by giving him a chance to do it. Roark agrees until Francon gives him instructions to set it along the "more severe kind of Greek." He assures Roark that he and Keating will go over it afterward to make sure it's suitable. Roark asks Francon to allow him to design it the way he sees fit. But Francon is aghast that Roark should be so arrogant and sure of himself that he fires Roark on the spot. Roark makes no protest and leaves.

Roark survives through the summer and into fall, taking his drawings to every architect in the city he thinks might offer him a chance. None will take him. Gordon Prescott simply gives Roark a patronizing lecture. He tells Roark that "the public taste and the public heart are the final criteria of an artist." Labeling Roark's drawings as immature and adolescent, Prescott dismisses him.

Analysis

Keating is even more desperate to have Roark close at hand to consult than Roark is in need of a job—any job—that will keep him going. Francon is perfectly willing to go along with Keating's wishes because Francon's mind is more on his acquisition of a snuff box than on architecture (of which he has grown weary). Although Roark agrees to join Francon & Heyer, he won't go out with Keating for a drink. This makes it clear he has no wish to socialize with Keating. The way in which his position at Francon & Heyer confines Roark's potential is echoed in the gray smock he is required to wear like a "prison uniform." Roark puts up with as best he can, going out for a drink with the electrician Mike on the basis of mutual respect and on-the-job integrity. The difference between Keating and Mike for Roark is their attitude toward their jobs. It is not the prestige or lack associated with it. In other words, for Roark, the "man makes the work" not the other way around.

Roark very well knows his position at Francon & Meyer is temporary. He isn't particularly surprised when Francon fires him for refusing to submit his designs for revision by others. Roark doesn't argue or become angry, despite the refusal of every architectural firm in the city to hire him. He listens with silent patience to everything each architect has to say, including Prescott's patronizing and insulting words. All Roark cares about is to hang on until an opportunity to do his own work in his own way opens up. Cameron had warned Roark that such a life would be no end of hardship and suffering. But Roark embraces it as part of the process because he will own himself even at the cost of allowing Keating to put his own name to what Roark designs.

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