Literature Study GuidesThe FountainheadPart 2 Chapters 3 4 Summary

The Fountainhead | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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The Fountainhead | Part 2, Chapters 3–4 : Ellsworth M. Toohey | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 3

Keating has attained the long-awaited partnership with Francon, and he enters his office to see a neat pile of newspapers he expects will be praising him. Keating discovers an envelope on his desk, which contains an unpublished article by Toohey praising Keating and his design for the Cosmo-Slotnick Building. "Thus a single man comes to represent ... the multitude of all men together, to embody the reach of all aspirations in his own," Toohey writes.

After reading it for the third time, Keating notices a hand-written invitation by Toohey for him to come to his office to meet him. He phones at once to make an appointment the next day. Before Keating can meet with Toohey, the brilliant and impoverished sculptor Steven Mallory has shot at Toohey, offering no explanation for the attack. Keating asks, "If he's dead does that mean they won't publish his column tomorrow?" But no one is able to give Keating any further details, and Mallory offers no reason for shooting at Toohey. In time, it is known that Toohey is unhurt. Keating finally meets Toohey in his office and in very short order Toohey tells Keating, "You and I, we're going to be great friends, Peter." He suggests to Keating that he would like to make Keating chairman of an informal group of architects. He also says that Lois Cook "the greatest literary genius since Goethe" (as Toohey describes her) wants a house built. Toohey says he thinks Keating would be the best architect to design it for her. Keating is beside himself to declare this an honor and tells Toohey that he is planning to marry his niece Catherine. Toohey makes no objection and states, "I've always loved the tale of Tristan and Isolde ... next to that of Mickey and Minnie Mouse."

Part 2, Chapter 4

Keating has been reading Lois Cook's latest book when he sees in the newspaper the distinctive design Roark has come up with for the Enright house. Keating and his mother have moved into a much more fashionable place which like Mrs. Keating herself was "conspicuously expensive." Keating leaves to attend a tea at Toohey's new apartment with Catherine. He finds himself wishing that Catherine would not sit "on the edge of her chair, hunched, her legs drawn awkwardly together." Catherine pours, but she spills the tea. Toohey asks Keating when they will be married but there is no definite answer. Instead, Keating demands that Catherine give up her job working as a day nursery attendant at a settlement house. But Catherine doesn't understand why Keating should feel that way about the work she does. She describes it with such feeling that "her voice seemed to shine, as if she were speaking of great beauty." Keating brings up the fact that Roark's design for the Enright house was in the papers. He is somewhat taken aback by Toohey's intense interest in everything Keating can tell him about Roark.

Keating meets with Lois Cook about the house she wants to have built and finds himself uncomfortable in her presence. He tries to tell her how much he has admired her latest book but she just tells him "It's so commonplace ... to be understood by everybody." When Keating praises Toohey, Lois just laughs in his face. The narrator says "Her words did not disturb him as much as her smile ... making her look like a sly, vicious imp." She then informs Keating she wants him to design for her the ugliest house possible because "the beautiful is so commonplace." After some hesitation, he accepts the commission and it ends up looking like "a structure from an amusement park." Toohey reassures Keating's feelings on the matter by saying, "One must never allow oneself to acquire an exaggerated sense of one's own importance."

Analysis

Toohey has made his presence felt for the first time in the story in Part 1, Chapter 4. He gives his glowing endorsement of the architectural achievements of Francon & Heyer even before Toohey has been engaged by Wynand's paper the Banner. This heightens the growing interest Keating has in meeting and cultivating a sturdy relationship with Toohey. This relationship promises to secure for Keating an unassailable reputation strong against any possible competitors as the up-and-coming young architect. Keating betrays his interest in being publicly praised by Toohey (now that Toohey is the paramount authority on architecture and public opinions about it). He is not worried about the attack by Mallory, but whether or not what Toohey has written about Keating will get published.

In a sense, Keating wants to have his cake and eat it too, or to have it work both ways for him. On the one hand, he clings fervently to the slowly fading ideals he imagines he carries out in his own work. This is despite the fact he constantly hands his work off to Roark whom he secretly worships. Keating uses Roark to feed him by taking his flawed drawings and making of them something more than they otherwise would become. At the same time, Keating is equally absorbed in guarding and augmenting his reputation as an architect. It almost wouldn't matter if he were an architect or something else—all Keating is after is constant public affirmations of his awesomeness. By borrowing Roark's feathers and passing Roark's work off as his own, Keating doesn't realize he willingly participates in the erosion of his own shaky self-confidence.

Keating's idealism about architecture comes to a crisis when he is set up by Toohey with an eccentric client. He is confronted with Cook's insistence that what she wants is the ugliest building he can manage to design. Keating has the option of turning her down—which is certainly what Roark would have done. But Keating consistently tries to pull together two opposite forces that cannot coexist. On the one hand, he really believes in the ideals of beauty, truth, and honor. Some artists (including Cook) use these ideals to distinguish themselves as experimentally modern to the farthest extreme they can muster. What Keating misses is that these people do this in order to see how far they can go and still make the public accept it. Cook's requirement that the house must be "ugly" is simply because she says that the architecture everyone else is after is "beautiful."

Keating accepts Cook's conditions and designs an ugly house for her. In doing so, he reveals to others (even as he himself denies it) just how far he is willing to go to please a client at the expense of his ideals. What Keating thinks, in other words, cannot be borne out in his actions. Roark is the complete opposite. If he had been presented with Cook's requirements, there is no doubt he'd send her to someone else. The Cook house can be viewed as a test Toohey has set for Keating in order to gauge exactly how far Keating can be drawn into Toohey's influence. Toohey is gratified to learn that Keating is ripe to swallow Toohey's brand of philosophy. It is expressed in the idea that no one should take himself so seriously as to believe in his own individual self-importance. This soothing thought entraps Keating into taking the easy way out of every difficulty. It is the absolute antithesis of Roark's fierce independence and individualism, which is opposed at every step of the way.

Toohey's comment compares Tristan and Isolde to Mickey and Minnie Mouse as examples of true love. This shows how Toohey levels all art to the same lowest common denominator. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are cartoon characters in a mass-media entertainment. But the story of Tristan and Isolde is the topic of a dark and complex Wagnerian opera of doomed love. Toohey makes a point in putting these two very different expressions next to each other. It is that love is love regardless of the pair of lovers or how their story ends.

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