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The Fountainhead | Symbols

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Stone

As a symbol of endurance, stone (granite and marble) stands literally for the materials out of which buildings are made. Stone also represents figuratively the state of mind of the characters. Roark is constantly thinking about stone and what it can be made to do. Instead of being distressed over his interview with the dean, Roark sees the stone on the side of the building. The narrator says, "He thought only of how lovely the stone looked in the fragile light and of what he could have done with that stone." Stone also represents an extremely hardened stance held by Dominique against her attraction upon first meeting Roark as he works in her father's quarry. She does not have the physical strength to do much more than damage the marble inset in her bedroom fireplace. However, when Roark arrives to take it out, he easily strikes it so that "The marble split in a long deep cut." Shortly thereafter, Roark also splits Dominique's marble-hard resistance to the compromise of her freedom her attachment to him requires.

Light

Light and the way it characterizes buildings and people provides an environmental and psychological frame of reference in The Fountainhead. The building of the Institute is described as a "lace [cathedral] splendor, a fragile defense against two great enemies: light and air." A very different light is seen by Roark as he walks away from his unsatisfactory meeting with Prescott. This image suggests unlimited possibilities of creation. The narrator says that "He saw a lighted triangle of concrete suspended somewhere hundreds of feet above the ground." The image causes him "to think of what he'd want to see there, what he would have made to be seen."

Paper

Paper is a frequent symbol in The Fountainhead. It is symbolic of the enduring continuity of years associated with a mass-media newspaper like Wynand's Banner. It is also symbolic of a disposable commodity once it has served its purpose. For example, the stacks of unsold newspapers that pile up outside Wynand's business are described as "white stacks of paper like marble slabs." The way in which Dominique disposes of the cablegram Wynand sent to fire her is mirrored by the way Catherine disposes of a napkin. Catherine wads it up and drops it into her teacup. In both cases, the gesture is dismissive and final, as if concluding any and all attachments. Dominique is as finished with Wynand as Catherine is of Keating.

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