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Literature Study GuidesThe FountainheadPart 4 Chapters 17 18 Summary

The Fountainhead | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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The Fountainhead | Part 4, Chapters 17–18 : Howard Roark | Summary



Part 4, Chapter 17

The "We Don't Read Wynand" committee under the chairmanship of Webb rejoice at the defeat of Wynand. Toohey is not at all dismayed that his column is temporarily halted. He has filed suit with the board to be reinstated and tells the committee members in attendance that there's more than one way to skin a cat. "The skinning isn't important once you've broken its spine," he says.

Wynand, Roark, and Dominique have withdrawn each into their own internal battles. Wynand refuses to see Roark and broods alone in his office while Scarret runs the paper in Wynand's name. Roark sends him a message of encouragement and understanding what Wynand is fighting for and why. However, Wynand refuses to read it. Dominique has left for the country house and prepares for her final self-imposed test. "I've learned to bear anything except happiness. It's the only discipline I'll need from now on" she tells herself. She arrives at Roark's house he has rented for the summer at Monadnock Valley. They greet each other calmly, "the completed meaning of seven years behind them." Roark knows her intent without discussing it, making one appeal to her to wait a bit until Wynand recovers. However, she flatly states, "You know he won't recover." And with that, Roark and Dominique spend the night together. In the morning, Dominique calls the police. She tells them and the reporters that came with them that an expensive ring Roark had given her has been stolen. She makes it very clear that she is Mrs. Wynand who has spent the night at the home of Howard Roark. "That was a more thorough job of dynamiting than Cortlandt," he tells her.

The scandal hits the New York papers like a sledge hammer. Wynand allows Scarret to persuade him to have the papers for divorce drawn up. Wynand meets with Dominique at the country house and learns the truth of her affair with Roark. Under the heat of the scandal, Francon persuades Dominique to stay with him a while. Scarret finds a way to use the Banner to fan sympathy among the readers for Wynand's betrayal by his immoral wife Dominique.

Part 4, Chapter 18

A large gathering of spectators has been attracted to attend Roark's trial. Dominique sits with her father and Roark's supporters Mallory, Heller, Lansing, Enright, and Mike. The opposition is shaped like a comet with Toohey in front of "a tail of popular names stretched through the crowd." Roark has chosen the jury and appointed no lawyer to defend him. On the second day, Keating is called to the stand to testify. He states the truth that Roark designed the Cortlandt project to which Keating had put his own name. He read aloud the contract stating the terms to which he and Roark had agreed. "When Keating left the stand, the audience had the odd impression ... as if no person had walked out." Roark then takes the oath and the stand to make his statement, appearing to the audience "as he was: a man totally innocent of fear."

Roark begins his defense with an overview of how changes have slowly been made over history. These changes have been made by "the creator [who] served nothing and no one. He lived for himself ... such is the nature of achievement." Roark goes on to emphasize that there is no such thing as a collective mind and that service to others is an illusion. He says, "The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves." Roark draws a distinct line in the choice each person makes between "independence or dependence. The code of the creator or the code of the second-hander." He concludes with his explanation of why he blew up the Cortlandt project. He says that "the rule of the second-hander ... has reached a scale of horror without precedent ... it has swallowed Europe. It is engulfing our country." The issue is handed to the jury. Before Roark or anyone else can leave the room, they arrive at a verdict of "Not guilty."


Roark's statement at his trial about what a parasite is constitutes an accurate description of exactly what Toohey has always been. It also defines the tragedy of Toohey's creatures, one of whom is Keating. Keating provides a frank admission that he is a parasite living off Roark's genius as if it were his own. This is one of those rare moments when Keating is capable of honest self-assessment. However, having recognized his true self in this way does not make it possible for Keating to make any changes to reverse that condition. It is, as Roark has already told Keating, "too late." Keating is now a "has-been," whose only accomplishments have been arrived at "second-hand" from Roark. Keating, now alone and meaningless, can hardly even aspire to Francon's reputation in retirement.

In Roark's speech to the courtroom, it is likely that Rand was referring to socialism as the rule of the second-hander engulfing Europe. She suggests that it is threatening the vitality of a free-market trade in the United States following World War II.

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