The Fountainhead | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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The Fountainhead | Quotes


It merely seemed to Keating that the gentleman was doing all of that.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 3

It is Keating's first day with the firm of Francon & Heyer. Just as he is leaving the office, he sees an employee escorting a woman who is likely a wealthy potential client. Keating observes the deference this employee is showing to the woman as if scraping and bowing to fan the importance and honor she confers by her presence.


Can't you ever be comfortable—and unimportant?

Peter Keating, Part 1, Chapter 7

Keating makes this comment to Roark as an observation of the intensity of his personal being that drives not only Roark's creativity but also his personal vitality and strength of purpose. There is no off switch to Roark's creative force the way there is for Keating and most other architects. Roark isn't interested in distracting hobbies like collecting porcelain or snuff boxes. He is only completely absorbed in being what he is—an architect. Because this is who he is, Roark does not change over time and will never retire from a job that has been separate from himself.


Everyone else is ... so many different pieces that don't fit together.

Dominique, Part 1, Chapter 10

The comment is made by Dominique as an estimation of what she sees in Toohey, who is to her a wonder of perfection in a solid, driving force. This is not actually an expression of admiration for someone Dominique likes. He is rather someone of whom Dominique knows she needs to be most careful. Nevertheless, she can admire Toohey's consistency as a force avenging her against all the fools who get in her way. The comment is one of several indications that this same integration of purpose she finds in Toohey (who she will be very careful not to allow to get too close to her real feelings) is what she finds in Roark. This is one way Rand pits Roark (the completely integrated individual) against Toohey (the complete opposite who brings everyone down to the same level).


My friends tell me I have the Elizabethan personality.

Mrs. Wayne Wilmot, Part 1, Chapter 13

This is one of many examples of the way clients dictate to an architect the style of house they think they should have based on the opinions of their friends and acquaintances. While Keating would find no objection to providing this wealthy woman with the style of house she requires, Roark is in no way able to do this kind of work, which slavishly imitates and copies only what has done before to flatter the outward appearances (rather than the inward self) of the client.


The city on the edge of the sky held a question.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 15

This particularly lyrical passage describes the New York City skyline as Roark is leaving for his job at Francon's quarry in Connecticut. The question in Roark's mind is whether or not he will ever have a chance to design his own skyscrapers, a work that seems remote in the future. The suggestion is that the city itself is calling to him to return and place the imprint of his spirit into new configurations of the city.


A selfless young spirit ... enriched by the gentle brilliance of its own talent.

Ellsworth Toohey, Part 2, Chapter 3

This is a piece of what Toohey has written about Keating as an architect before the two men meet. By this point in the story, what Toohey has to say about architecture and architects in his newspaper column at the Banner is read as gospel truth by its readers. This is a big deal to Keating, who is above all anxious to generate an unassailable standing in the profession. When Keating hears that Toohey has been shot, his first concern is whether or not this praise will get published in the paper, making public Toohey's influential endorsement of Keating's work. This appetite for fame is exactly the basis by which Toohey rather easily entraps Keating, uses him, and then throws him away.


Gordon L. Prescott was very masculine as a grain elevator.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 11

The comment is something of a joke illustrating the foolishness of the glittering social circles into which many of the architects of the city attach themselves in order to gain contacts with wealthy clients. In this case, a costume party has been set up by Kiki Holcombe such that each architect comes dressed as one of the buildings he has designed. It is also mentioned that people were disappointed that Roark did not attend because they expected him to come dressed as the Enright Building. This description is one of several Rand makes in the book that reads something like a newspaper column reporting on the event.


To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I'.

Howard Roark, Part 2, Chapter 14

This quote is one of the more well-known from The Fountainhead and is an important aspect of Rand's views on individualism in relationships. The important thing to know first is for the person loving is to know and love the self before being capable of recognizing the I of another person. While love reflects back and forth between the two people so engaged, Rand's view of love was that it is a completely self-generated emotion. It can't exist without first knowing the self.


He will be very glad to help you too, because he's a very human person.

Dominique, Part 3, Chapter 2

Keating is balking at meeting yet another rich and powerful client who Dominique puts before him to further his career. She had prefaced this statement with a crude reference to what Keating and so many other architects like him do in order to please the client and get the commission. By adding what seems to be praiseworthy about this contact being helpful because of his humanity, Dominique is actually parroting Toohey's words of entrapment. A "good and helpful" person is also human. But to Dominique, such a person is as contemptible and hollow as the people he helps, including Keating. It is this kind of person Dominique wants to keep away from Roark, for whom she cares.


To be happy is the most dangerous thing.

Ellsworth Toohey, Part 3, Chapter 8

Toohey means this in the sense of individual and personally generated satisfaction or happiness, which is something no one has the right to expect. For Toohey, the I that experiences any emotion should not exist. It is his mission to eradicate all sense of any I by distracting anyone over whom he has any influence (such as Keating) with feelings of pity, guilt or compassion, for those who are poor and downtrodden. The absence of personal happiness also means a corresponding absence of struggle and pain that most people avoid. Since Toohey expects everyone in the world to adhere to the same leveling, a person like Roark is dangerous as an exception to the rule.


In giving himself what he wanted, he gave me a great experience.

Howard Roark, Part 4, Chapter 4

Roark here attempts to explain to Wynand how it is everything an artist creates is both a part of the creator and those few who experience it in a way that makes it a part of themselves as well. The creator from whose own self the product has come has a direct connection of love with whoever loves the work, but both experience it privately. In this case, Roark is telling Wynand about a symphony he loves. The implication is that the house Roark has designed for Wynand and Dominique creates a bond of love between Wynand and Roark because Wynand owns it.


A typewriter ... presupposes the hand that punches its keys.

Ellsworth Toohey, Part 4, Chapter 6

Toohey has very few obvious talents going for him. His voice—both spoken and written—is one talent he uses with incredible skill to establish himself as the hidden power driving the world he seeks to rule. When someone reads something written out on a typewriter and then published in a newspaper, they don't see or think about the person who punched the keys to bring about what is being read. They see only the effect to which they respond. This is exactly as Toohey has arranged it, for he himself as a human being does not exist as completely as possible so that there is no interference with the effects of his words. He is also said to be "pulling the strings" that move people he controls, and his words are also likened to a "drug."


We just charge it off to experience and go on from there.

Catherine Halsey, Part 4, Chapter 10

This is Catherine's ultimate dismissal of everything Keating had once meant to her. It is all the more devastating to him when she tells him this because there is no anger or expression of overt revenge in it—she simply states it as an established fact of her life. Under her Uncle Toohey's guidance, the disappointed and jilted Catherine has moved away from her own feelings entirely to devote herself to a work which Keating himself had demanded she cease doing as a condition of making her his wife. Catherine's tragedy is that she has indeed moved on and doesn't need Keating's support in any way. Keating's tragedy is that he is incapable of doing so. Having lost Dominique, he finds himself in need of what Catherine once was to him.


It's only a matter of discovering the lever.

Ellsworth Toohey, Part 4, Chapter 14

Toohey recognizes how simple it is to destroy a complicated machine by knowing exactly which lever to pull, creating a domino effect cascading to drive the machine to self-destruct. The analogy is apt since the running of the Wynand empire is compared to just such a machine. Once Toohey finds himself in direct opposition to Wynand himself, he sets about to destroy Wynand through his long-term association with the Banner. And while Toohey's hand is never directly seen pulling any levers, the conditions he sets up by which Wynand is forced to disintegrate the Banner entirely to get rid of Toohey have been set methodically and with great calculation. Toohey is so pleased with himself he has to at least tell Keating exactly what he's done, even though no one else may be aware of it.


A leash is only a rope with a noose at both ends.

Gail Wynand, Part 4, Chapter 16

This observation is one step in the progress of Wynand's realization that while he has for many years believed that he controls public opinion through his mass-media newspapers. But the moment he attempts to switch purpose from feeding the readers with the pulp sensationalism that has made him wealthy, he finds that the "leash" he thought he held around the neck of the public to direct its attention wherever he wishes is also held at its other end around his own neck. The only power Wynand has ever had over his public is that he is able to lead it where it feels most comfortable to be led. But as soon as he attempts to lead it in a direction that is neither easy nor emotionally stirring, it has the strength (through readership and advertising that pays for the printing) to pull back.

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