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Literature Study GuidesThe FountainheadPart 4 Chapters 7 8 Summary

The Fountainhead | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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The Fountainhead | Part 4, Chapters 7–8 : Howard Roark | Summary



Part 4, Chapter 7

Workmen have reduced Keating's office to a single floor, and he has resigned himself to the irrevocable and slow process of "going down." The World's Fair "The March of the Centuries" had opened and been panned in the papers. Toohey's statement about the fair is that "the centuries had passed by on horseback." This is despite the fact that Keating and his six other architects had worked very well together toward a modern style. One critic had called this style "coils of toothpaste when somebody steps on the tube or stylized versions of the lower intestine." But this is only one of several ominous signs Keating has been able to identify as the ground shifts under his professional feet. The AGA still exists, but has been more or less labeled as "the Old Folks Home." Whenever Toohey mentions a modern architect, it is Gus Webb. The narrator says, "At thirty-nine, Keating heard himself described as old-fashioned."

Depressed and defeated, Keating takes to drinking and asks his mother to come live with him, but rejects her attempts to cheer him up. Francon's words to him at Keating's wedding with Dominique haunt him. Francon had said, "I want you to feel proud of me, Peter ... I want to feel that it had some meaning." His mother suggests it might be a good idea for him to marry Catherine. Keating disappears for periods of time to a shack he's rented out and turns to painting pictures there. He hopes—but does not expect to get—the contract to design the Cortlandt Homes, a government housing project. It's an open secret that Toohey pulls the strings on that particular plum, and Keating reluctantly approaches Toohey for the favor of it.

When Keating meets with Toohey, he feels the need to assert to Toohey that he hasn't changed. This is despite the fact that Toohey observes that Keating is putting on weight and looking "peaked." Keating attempts flattery at the way Toohey manages to influence so much in society. Toohey says, "If you want something to grow ... you just spread a certain fertilizer. Nature will do the rest." Toohey knows Keating wants the Cortlandt project and toys with him about it, revealing his true intent in using Keating. This is all the more so because Keating is no longer of use to him. "Why did I put you where you were?" He asks Keating. He says, "To protect the field from men who would become irreplaceable. To leave a chance for the Gus Webbs of the world." "Why do you suppose I fought against ... Howard Roark?" he continues. Toohey enumerates Keating's failings in architectural design. He says that if he cares to submit drawings for Cortlandt, Toohey will consider it. But he warns Keating "What they want is a millionaire's kitchen for a sharecropper's income." Keating tells Toohey he doesn't understand how it is he slipped from the top. Toohey responds, "It wouldn't be so terrifying if you stopped to ask yourself whether there's ever been any reason why you should have been at the top." Keating gathers up all the information on the Cortlandt project that Toohey can give him. He works feverishly over them to come up with some drawings. He then makes an appointment to meet with Roark.

Part 4, Chapter 8

Keating brings his drawings to Roark. He confesses to him, "Howard, I'm a parasite ... I have taken what is not mine and given nothing in return." He then tells Roark he knows he's not up to designing the Cortlandt project and he wants Roark to do it. This is so that Keating can put his own name to it. The following evening, Keating comes to Roark's apartment in the Enright house Roark had designed to begin negotiating the terms. He offers money to Roark, which Roark refuses. The only thing that attracts Roark to do it is the problem-solving issue of low-income housing. He tells Keating, "You wish to know how to build a unit to rent for fifteen dollars a month? I'll show you how to build it for ten."

Roark then outlines his motivations in his work, not clients, not the building materials. He says, "Only the house itself. If it has to be built, it might as well be built right." He goes on to tell Keating he knows very well he'll never get past Toohey or the government. He says Keating might. "But you'll guarantee that it will be built exactly as I design it," Roark says. They sign a written agreement to that effect. Keating acknowledges that his own name will be on the designs and he will keep all the money for it, but Roark gets the better deal. In a final gesture, Keating shows Roark the paintings he has been doing in private, but Roark simply says, "It's too late, Peter." Keating leaves Roark with a sense of pity.


Keating's decline is the inevitable wave of public opinion moving on without him, and not even Toohey offers any comfort. Keating has one insight into his true situation when he tells Roark he's a parasite. But he's been very well helped along the way to it by Toohey.

Keating attempts to reclaim any shred of creative originality any way he can, including renting a meager space in which to paint. The only one to whom he shows these paintings is Roark. He sadly tells Keating in essence that they are every bit as stale and ordinary as Keating's architectural designs. Roark comments that it is too late for Keating to start. This comment has less to do with Keating's age. It has to do with the fact that Keating is again doing it for the wrong reasons. That is, to save himself.

Roark's motivation in helping Keating with building designs is neither money nor recognition. It is only that by putting a hand to Keating's inept work, the resulting building will at least be a better one than it would if he didn't.

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