Literature Study GuidesThe FountainheadPart 4 Chapters 19 20 Summary

The Fountainhead | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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The Fountainhead | Part 4, Chapters 19–20 : Howard Roark | Summary

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Summary

Part 4, Chapter 19

Enright buys the site of the ruined Cortland Housing project from the government and sets Roark to rebuild it. Its rental is opened to anyone who wants to pay the rent. In late August, Wynand is granted his divorce from Dominique and is forced to reinstate Toohey on the Banner. Toohey is ordered to report for work before nine o'clock in the evening. Toohey arrives, smiling, and takes a victory lap around the building to the congratulations of everyone happy to see him back. He goes up to his office to find Wynand waiting there for him. A bit uncertain, Toohey takes his place at his desk, but Wynand doesn't move except to look at his wristwatch. Toohey finds he can't seem to do anything. He feels the vibrations under his feet of the presses running, "a comforting sound, dependable and alive." Toohey moves his pencil, drawing "a water lily, a teapot, and a bearded profile." He inserts a page of paper into his typewriter, but before he can collect himself to start the keys, "The presses stopped." Wynand, who hasn't moved, tells Toohey that he is now out of a job because the Banner has ceased to exist. Before Toohey can protest, Wynand informs him that he has bought everyone's interest in the paper out and shut it down. The narrator says, "Toohey picked up a paper clip ... observing ... the finality of the law that had not permitted it to remain on his downturned palm."

It doesn't take Toohey long to be hired by another newspaper. Roark is asked to meet with Wynand, who now runs "a third-rate afternoon tabloid." Wynand hands Roark a contract to build the Wynand Building to house all the offices of the Wynand Enterprises. According to the contract, Roark can build it exactly and only as he himself sees fit. "This will be the last skyscraper ever built in New York," Wynand tells Roark. "The last achievement of man on earth before mankind destroys itself." When Roark protests against such a dire prediction, Wynand abdicates all association with it personally. He tells Roark, "Build it as a monument to that spirit which is yours ... and could have been mine."

Part 4, Chapter 20

Eighteen months have passed, and the Wynand Building is in the process of construction. Dominique arrives at the site and asks for Mr. Roark. The superintendent allows Mrs. Roark to ride up the side of the building on an outside hoist, which is a plank suspended by two cables. As she is lifted, "Skyscrapers raced her and were left behind." The last words of the novel conclude with what Dominique sees as she is lifted upward. "Then there was only the ocean and the sky and the figure of Howard Roark."

Analysis

Toohey's removal from the Banner can only be accomplished by demolishing the Banner itself. Toohey has no difficulty in finding another post elsewhere from which he can presumably continue his activities enmeshing people in his brand of human equality. However, neither Roark nor Wynand can be numbered among Toohey's conquests. Roark can occupy himself with redoing the Cortlandt the way it was intended in the first place. He'll build for Wynand "the last skyscraper" in New York. Wynand's fate is left somewhat uncertain. The statement that he runs a tabloid suggests that he may have lost his fight to gain his own integrity—at least for the time being. It remains to be seen whether or not Wynand's thirst for power and control over others will continue. However, now he recognizes that power and control is an illusion. It is questionable whether or not this realization of the truth will destroy him as much as it has destroyed Keating. It is possible Wynand will be able to separate his public and private self in a way Roark is not. Wynand's final words to Roark suggest a sense of defeat, but there is a hint that Roark does not accept this finality for Wynand.

Rand ties the beginning and the end of The Fountainhead with the image of Roark between earth and sky. One of the first glimpses of Roark given in Part 1, Chapter 1 states "His body leaned against the sky." It is the last glimpse of him the reader has through Dominique's eyes, "there was only the ocean and the sky and the figure of Howard Roark." The height suggested is both physical and psychological, as through any and all momentous obstacles and defeat Roark triumphs in the end. Failure here is only failure when a person gives up. The point is that Roark never gave up.

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