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Literature Study GuidesThe FountainheadPart 4 Chapters 11 12 Summary

The Fountainhead | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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The Fountainhead | Part 4, Chapters 11–12 : Howard Roark | Summary



Part 4, Chapter 11

Roark and Wynand are out together on Wynand's yacht, having left Dominique alone behind while they take off for a couple of months. Wynand thinks of himself as bound to Roark instead of the other way around. He stands on the deck of the boat. Roark floats in the water, "holding a power greater than that of the engine in the belly of the yacht ... because that is the power from which the engine has come." Wynand and Roark discuss what it is that motivates people to act the way they do and the nature of selfishness. Roark states that it is this he could not understand about other people, "They have no self. They live within others. They live second-hand," he says. Roark goes on to say that it is the example of Keating that has helped him to understand this. Keating wanted only "greatness—in other people's eyes ... he borrowed from others ... to make an impression on others ... precisely the absence of a self." He goes on to state that money is not in itself at fault. The problem is in the use to which people put it "to show, to stun, to entertain." Roark continues to explain the differences in ego, selfishness, and selflessness in the actions of others which most people don't understand. Wynand is intrigued when Roark tells him, "You weren't born to be a second-hander." But Roark doesn't tell him that "the worst second-hander of all [is] the man who goes after power."

Part 4, Chapter 12

Roark and Wynand return from their trip in April. Roark reads in the newspapers that not only is Keating's name attached to the Cortlandt project, but also Prescott and Webb. He goes to have a look at its construction. He finds it has been modified to a "Bronx Modern" style. The narrator says it has "the skeleton of what Roark had designed with the remnants of ten different breeds piled on the lovely symmetry of the bones." Toohey had informed Keating that Prescott and Webb had been added for the reputation and told him "Don't be a hog." Keating fights against each change as hard as he can. Without Toohey's support, the entire thing goes on, and Keating is unable to sue the government for breach of contract. He begs Roark to forgive him. Roark answers, "It's I who've destroyed you, Peter. From the beginning. By helping you." He continues, "Now we'll both pay for it. It will be hard on you, but it will be harder on me." Roark goes to Dominique, asking for her help. He gives her instructions to drive out to the Cortlandt project at a specific time, pretend to run out of gas, and wait. She agrees, and feeling light and free is able to do as he has told her. Then "the sound was the crack of a fist on the back of her head." She stands up instead of lying flat in the trench as he has told her to do. Sprayed by exploding glass and bits of metal, she runs for the car, where she falls unconscious, "a few minutes' worth of life left in her body."


The phrase "second-hand lives" is one Rand considered for the title of The Fountainhead in its early phases as a manuscript. According to this definition, a "second-hander" is one who does not actually produce anything. In a parasitic attachment to others, it manages to take some credit for their achievements. So distinctive is Roark's design for the Cortlandt that Toohey isn't fooled by Keating's name on it. Toohey is the ultimate "second-hander" all the more so that his efforts go into pulling whoever he can reach down to that same level. Wynand believes Roark's estimation of him that he does not need to be a "second-hander" of the worst kind or the one who goes after power to control others. Wynand is addicted to his own success in controlling many people. It is going to take clear and forceful proof that his power is an illusion to release Wynand from it. Only then will he be free to reconstruct himself on the same terms of self-mastery Roark has so painfully and determinedly pursued.

Roark's motivation in dynamiting the Cortlandt project is simple and straightforward. It is a consequence of the fact the terms of the contract he signed with Keating have been violated. For Roark, it is not as important that a building he has designed is ever used or endures. It is only that it was created and that it did exist. He doesn't blame Keating for being unable to keep these terms in place. However, the simple fact that his terms were not upheld gives Roark the moral right to destroy the buildings.

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