Summary and Analysis
Part One - Peter Keating
As the novel opens, the hero, Howard Roark, has just been expelled for insubordination from the Architectural School of the Stanton Institute of Technology. Roark's designs are radically new, never before seen in the field of architecture, "sketches of buildings such as had never stood on the face of the earth." The Dean and members of the faculty are advocates of traditional designs; they want Roark to build in accordance with the established styles of the past. Roark, however, is a modernist designer and a man who thinks for himself. He does not accept the Dean's belief that the rules of architecture come from the thinkers of the past and should, therefore, be uncritically followed by modern designers. He tells the Dean that, in his judgment, there are three rules of design — the building's material, its site, and its purpose. All three rules necessitate an architect's rational assessment of the facts of a building's requirements; none of them can be applied by blind obedience to the work of the past.
Roark's independence extends to matters other than architecture. Even though he recognizes that the career path ahead of him will be arduous, he laughs at his expulsion from school. The school's action will make his future more difficult, but it cannot stop him. Roark's attitude is similar with strangers. People notice Howard Roark when he walks on the streets; he notices no one. In fact, he often arouses resentment in strangers, who somehow cannot explain what they feel when they see Roark. But Roark could walk the streets naked without concern; he has no regard for the evaluations of others.
Roark boards at the home of Mrs. Keating, whose son, Peter, graduates from Stanton with high honors on the same day that Roark is expelled. Keating is handsome, charming, and glib. He receives his high grades not by earning them, but by copying from the masters of the past, giving his teachers what they want and enlisting Roark's aid in solving structural problems. Keating is utterly dependent on others, and he is faced with a difficult decision. He has won a scholarship to the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. But he also has a job offer from Francon and Heyer, the leading architectural firm in the United States. Because either option will greatly impress people, he has no basis upon which to choose. He comes to Roark with the dilemma. Although he would never state it publicly, Keating realizes that Roark understands more of importance about architecture than do his professors, and that Roark loves the subject in a way that his professors do not. Privately, in his own conscience, Keating respects Roark's judgment more than he does the Dean's. Roark tells him that he has made a mistake, that he should not look to others for guidance regarding the decisions of his own life. He tells Keating that an individual must know what he wants in life. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Keating, who makes it clear that she does not want her son in Paris, an ocean away. The decision is made for him: He will go to New York to work for Francon and Heyer.
Roark and Keating pursue separate careers in architecture in New York City. Keating works for Guy Francon, a mediocre architect but a man who is possessed of all the social graces. Francon is the country's most successful and prestigious architect because of two qualities: He designs in the Classical style, giving the public the traditional buildings it is used to, and he wines and dines prospective clients at New York's most exclusive restaurants. Francon knows little about building, but a great deal about matching his ties with his handkerchiefs and his wines with his foods. He does not gain clients by the brilliance of his designs, but by the phony warmth of his smile. From Francon, Keating learns how to impress others, not how to build.
Keating has a girlfriend named Catherine Halsey, whom he met a year before in Boston, where she lived with her mother. She is plain and awkward with "nothing to her credit, but her lovely smile." Keating has dated the most beautiful, well-dressed girls, but it is the shy Katie that he prefers. Even though he forgets to call her for weeks at a time, Katie waits patiently for his attention. In the time since Keating met Katie, her mother has passed away and she now lives with her uncle in New York. Despite her proximity, he visits her only infrequently. But when he does, her sincerity compels him into an honesty that he exhibits nowhere else. When he finds that her uncle is Ellsworth Toohey, the rising star of architectural criticism, he tells her that, though he badly wants to meet Toohey, he will not do it through her. He makes an exception to his normal pattern of behavior when he is with Katie. Peter is disturbed to discover that Katie, who once planned to attend college, is now undecided due to her uncle's opposition. Keating is concerned that her uncle is acquiring too much control over her life.
While Keating slides up the corporate ladder at Francon's, Roark works for Henry Cameron, a brilliant architect and a man of unswerving dedication to his principles. Because Cameron is one of the first to design skyscrapers, his buildings are revolutionary. He is ahead of his time, and his designs are rejected by the public. Now sixty-nine, Cameron is a commercial failure and a bitter alcoholic, but also a genius and a man of great artistic integrity. Roark learns from Cameron the one thing of value: how to build.
Cameron is an important secondary character in the story. In the 1880s, he was the most successful architect in the country, personally designing every structure that came from his office, and building as he pleased. Clients took what he gave them without complaint. Although Cameron's work was ahead of its time, he proceeded in the full confidence of his own genius. His buildings were different, but this difference was not enough to frighten anybody. Other architects, in deference to tradition, attempted every visual trick to make their buildings look small and conventional. But Henry Cameron dispensed with all horizontal devices and flaunted his structure's lean vertical lines, erecting the first skyscrapers, buildings proud of their height. By 1892, his radical new designs began to win support, but the following year saw the opening of the Columbian Exposition of Chicago, a major turning point in Cameron's career.
The Exposition was a glorification of Classical architecture. Its designers copied every style of the Greeks and Romans, and all subsequent schools of history, eschewing all originality. The American public gaped at the Exposition and, in its architectural ignorance, was impressed. The Exposition's influence lent fuel to people's willingness to continue with the traditional things they were used to and to avoid the new and untried. Cameron refused to work for such an undertaking and called it names that were unprintable. When potential clients came to him with requests for banks or office buildings designed as copies of Classical structures, he became enraged; and even went so far as to throw an inkstand at a distinguished banker who had asked for a railroad station in the form of the temple of Diana at Ephesus.
The effect of the Columbian Exposition was to close the door on Henry Cameron's future in American architecture. When design became a matter of merely copying Classical structures, there was no room for the bold originality of Cameron's work. By the time Roark meets him thirty years later, Cameron is an embittered, hard-drinking, commercial failure. But Roark reveres him because of his unbetrayed architectural vision and chooses to work for him, knowing that this is the one man who can teach him what he needs to learn. Roark learns from Cameron the means to develop his brilliant architectural ability. Keating, on the other hand, learns from Francon how to polish his method of pandering to others.
Keating rises in Francon's firm by duplicitous means. He manipulates fellow employees, fawns over his superiors, and helps cause the death of Lucius Heyer, Francon's elderly partner, who stands in his way. Heyer, although not an architect, is a partner in Francon's firm for one reason: He comes from a wealthy, old-money background and is connected to the socially elite families who form the nucleus of Francon's client base. Because he is elderly, senile, and lonely, Heyer is generally treated with scorn at Francon's office. But Keating, realizing the value of a partner's patronage, fawns over the old man from his first day in the office. Because the only passion in Heyer's life is his porcelain collection, Keating studies the subject as a means of ingratiating himself with Francon's partner. After several years of meteoric rise, Keating is the firm's chief designer and ready for more. He looks to be Francon's partner, but Heyer blocks his path. Heyer has suffered a stroke and the doctors fear for his life. But his partnership in the firm gives his life meaning, and he stubbornly refuses to retire. Keating has reasons to want Heyer out of his way immediately. Francon believes in Keating and is confident that he will win the Cosmo-Slotnick competition. But despite the brilliance of Roark's plan, Keating believes he has no chance. He knows that the classical elements he has added to the design clash with the modernist nature of Roark's original; Keating is sure that his final result is a mongrelized mixture of contradictory styles, with no chance of winning. He must gain the partnership in Francon's firm before he loses the competition, while he still has Francon's trust. Keating, therefore, looks for a weapon he can use against Heyer. He discovers the slightest possibility of financial wrongdoing on Heyer's part, evidence too flimsy to stand up in court but perhaps sufficient in dealing with a sick old man. In private, he berates Heyer, verbally abusing him and demanding that he retire. The senile Heyer is puzzled and frightened that this friendly young man is screaming at him. The strain for Heyer is too much. He suffers the second stroke the doctors had feared and dies immediately. Keating, who calls for assistance in vain, receives sympathy at Francon's office, where he is perceived as the only friend Heyer had. He also receives a large inheritance from Heyer, who had no family. As the novel's first part concludes, Keating gains both the partnership he coveted and the wealth of Lucius Heyer's estate. He is, by conventional standards, an extremely successful man.
Keating's method of climbing the corporate ladder shows much about his character. A minor draftsman at the outset of his employment, his focus is not to improve his skills and rise through merit, but to exploit the weaknesses of his fellow employees and thereby remove them from his path. He discovers that Tim Davis is Francon's chief draftsman, and that Davis is engaged to be married. Keating ingratiates himself with Davis, seeking the more experienced man's trust. When Davis, who is apartment-hunting and planning his wedding, must be absent from work, Keating volunteers his assistance. He begins to do Davis' work when the older man must be away from the office. Over time, this becomes a permanent arrangement. Eventually, Francon notices that Keating is doing Davis' work and fires Davis, hiring Keating in his place. This was Keating's intention all along.
Claude Stengel is Francon's chief designer, doing all of the firm's creative work and getting none of the credit. His position is Keating's next step on the ladder. But Stengel is more perceptive than Davis and recognizes Keating's manipulative methods, rebuffing Keating's attempts at friendship. Stengel is ready to go out on his own and start his own firm; he just needs someone to give him his first commission. Keating understands the situation. By now, he has proven to be an apt pupil of Francon, charming prospective clients with suave urbanity. Francon puts him in charge of a potential account, expecting that Keating will deliver it to the firm. Instead, Keating surreptitiously convinces the client to hire Stengel. When Stengel takes the commission and departs, Francon is outraged at the perceived betrayal by Stengel, but does not suspect Keating, who slips into Stengel's vacated post.
At this point, Keating has created a problem for himself. Up until now his work has been limited to drafting — a sophisticated form of copying — of which he is eminently capable. But now he must design, producing creative work. At this, he is a failure. But Keating knows someone who is a superb designer. He brings the specifications for his first building to Roark, who helped him similarly with his college projects. Roark solves the building's structural problems and creates its plan. This arrangement establishes a pattern in the professional relationship of the two men: Roark often assists Keating with problems of design. Through Roark's help, Keating wins the Cosmo-Slotnick competition, a contest to design the "world's most beautiful building." At the end of Part One, though barely thirty, Keating is famous and a partner in the country's most prestigious firm.
Roark, by contrast, struggles. He endures poverty at Cameron's and faces rejection out on his own after the older man's retirement. Despite Cameron's genius, chances at commissions dribble only slowly into his office, and most do not materialize. Cameron does not have the money to pay either rent or salaries, but Roark remains. Their one hope is the potential commission for the Securities Trust Company building. Cameron and Roark work night after night, with a pot of black coffee to keep them awake. On the last day of their vigil, Cameron is on the verge of collapse. Roark orders him home after midnight. The next day, when Cameron enters the office, he finds Roark fast asleep on the floor. The drawings, finished, are on the table. But the board of directors awards the commission to another firm of Gould and Pettingill. Cameron is left with a check that does not cover the cost of preparing his drawings and an electric bill that he cannot pay.
In the last two years of Roark's employment, Cameron begins to disappear for weeks at a time. Roark cannot find him at home, but knows he is off on a drinking binge and waits, hoping for the older man's safe return. Eventually, Cameron loses the shame of his drunkenness and staggers into his office, openly drunk in the one place on earth he had always revered. But, still, Cameron and Roark fight on; they keep the office open though the commissions are merely drops from a pipe that is slowly running dry. They take what they can get — country cottages, garages, remodeling of old buildings. But then the flow stops completely. When Cameron finally collapses, Roark takes him home. The doctor he summons tells them that an attempt to leave his bed will be enough to kill Cameron. Roark closes the office, and Cameron goes to live with an elderly sister in New Jersey.
Though Cameron offers Roark a letter of recommendation, Roark refuses to accept it, telling the older man, "You're not going to ask them for anything. Don't worry about me." But Roark struggles. There are few opportunities for an architect with radically new ideas. Peter Keating gets him a job at Francon's, where he can give Roark orders and use him as an errand boy, but Francon fires him when Roark seeks to design in his own manner, rather than in the Classical style that Francon requires. Finally, Roark gets a job with the architect, John Erik Snyte, who employs an unusual method of design. Snyte is an eclectic, who hires specialists in several historical styles; he has a Renaissance designer and a Gothic specialist, among others. He hires Roark to be his Modernist. Snyte permits each of his men to design in their own style, then melds the plans together into a final product. Therefore, Roark has the freedom to design as he likes, but his buildings will not be erected as he designs them. When the newspaper columnist, Austen Heller, comes to Snyte, desiring to build a private home, life changes for Roark.
Heller is an individualist who refuses to contribute to charity but who spends generous sums to help free political prisoners around the globe. He repudiates the clashing hodgepodge that Snyte offers, but recognizes great potential in the drawing. When Roark presents his original plan, Heller immediately responds and hires him on the spot. Roark builds the Heller house in Connecticut, his first commission in private practice; he opens his own office. Though there are those who, like Heller, recognize the brilliance of Roark's designs and hire him, they are rare individuals. Most men choose the safe and the known, that with which they have been surrounded all their lives. Roark receives a mere three commissions after the Heller house. The first comes from Jimmy Gowan, an auto mechanic who, after fifteen years of hard work, is ready to go out on his own and open a service station. Gowan has seen the Heller house, and though most people don't know what to make of the building, he likes what he sees. Gowan hires Roark to build his gas station.
At the end of Part One, the difference in the respective fortunes of Keating and Roark is striking: Keating celebrates his ascension to partnership in the country's most popular firm, whereas the penniless Roark is on his way to a granite quarry.
Other plot elements are introduced in this section. Mrs. Keating opposes her son's engagement to Catherine Halsey and insists that he woo Dominique Francon. Dominique is the boss's daughter, and Guy Francon practically begs Peter to establish a relationship with her. How will it look, Mrs. Keating asks Peter, if he prefers Katie to Dominique? It will insult Guy Francon and cost Peter a chance at the partnership. Additionally, Mrs. Keating stresses the importance of choosing the right wife for a successful career. Because Katie is plain and dull, she impresses no one. But Dominique's beauty and poised elegance command the respectful attention of everyone she meets. Peter cannot rise into the rarified air of high society with a vulgar little guttersnipe for a wife. His success requires a high-class woman at his side.
In keeping with the wishes of both his mother and his boss, and despite his love for Katie, Peter proposes marriage to Dominique Francon. Dominique is beautiful, elegant, and haughty — everything Katie is not. A brilliant, free-spirited, outspoken woman, Dominique sees with her own eyes and understands with her own mind. She recognizes that Keating is a manipulative fraud and says so to his face. She responds to his proposal with the remark that if she ever wishes to punish herself for some terrible misdeed, she will marry Keating. Keating proposes for the same reason he becomes an architect in the first place — because Dominique's poise, grace, and beauty will impress others in a way that Katie never could.
Dominique writes a column, "Your House," for The New York Banner, devoted to architectural design and interior decorating. The Banner is a lowbrow, yellow-press tabloid, specializing in a combination of lurid and overly-sentimental stories aimed at those with the most vulgar tastes. The paper is owned by Gail Wynand, a brilliant man of consummate artistic judgment, but one who panders ceaselessly to the lowest tastes of the crowd in order to gain wealth and political influence. (This ambivalent quality in Wynand's character has great impact on later events of the story.) Henry Cameron, on his deathbed, warns Roark of the dangers represented by the Wynand papers and by the factors in human nature that make them possible.
At the end of Part One, Rand has introduced the five major characters of the book — Howard Roark, Dominique Francon, Gail Wynand, Peter Keating, and Ellsworth Toohey — although most of the characters have not yet met one another. As the conflict develops, the meeting of the characters occurs in subsequent chapters.
The conflict of The Fountainhead is presented immediately. The Dean of Stanton Institute believes that all great architecture has been done already by the masters of the past. The rules of design come from them; all that modern architects can do is copy. The Dean believes that truth is found in the beliefs of others and that an individual should follow the established route rather than forge a new path. The Dean is a conformist.
Peter Keating is a conformist even more fully than the Dean. He, too, copies from past architects. In addition, Keating grovels before all superiors, agreeing with them in order to win approval. He uses people, leeches off of Roark's work, and characteristically seeks to meet the expectations of others. He even chose architecture rather than the field he loves — painting — only to satisfy his mother. "Always be what people want you to be," he tells Roark, codifying his toadying policy into a principle. Keating is a man who refuses to think for himself; he follows, he copies, he obeys. He is utterly dependent on others for his convictions. He permits his life to be dominated by them.
Roark, however, thinks for himself — indeed, part of the book's meaning is that this phrase is a redundancy. If one thinks, it is necessarily by and for oneself; there is no other way to do it. Roark believes that architecture is a creative field, that it is important to innovate, and that new ideas have far greater value than copies of old ones. His defense of the freethinking mind is eloquent and to the point: "Why is it so important — what others have done? Why does it become sacred by the mere fact of not being your own? Why is anyone and everyone right so long as it's not yourself? Why does the number of those others take the place of truth? Why is truth made a mere matter of arithmetic — and only of addition at that?"
Roark upholds independence — the importance of a man thinking and acting for himself; in opposition to dependence — any form of an individual allowing his thought and life to be controlled by others. The essence of the book is the contrast and conflict between those who are independent and those who are dependent.
The conflict between the dependent and the independent takes place in different forms. One such form is the struggle between an innovator and the entrenched beliefs of a conservative society. Cameron and Roark have new ideas in architecture. They seek to build skyscrapers in an era when people have seen only two-story frame houses; they want to build with such new materials as glass, plastics, and light metals when people are accustomed only to wood and bricks. The battle Cameron and Roark fight against a society committed to following tradition is similar to the real-life struggle of such innovative modern designers as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.
But Ayn Rand's thesis applies more broadly to the world rather than simply to architecture. History abounds with examples of great thinkers with brilliant new ideas who were opposed by the very societies that most benefited from them. Socrates was executed for the "crime" of philosophizing. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake and Galileo threatened with torture for defending the heliocentric worldview in opposition to the geocentric view held by the Catholic Church. Darwin was attacked by religious Fundamentalists for his theory of evolution, and Scopes was jailed in Tennessee for teaching it. Inventors and discoverers of knowledge like Robert Fulton, Louis Pasteur, and the Wright brothers were denounced and their inventions rejected by many. Roark says, in his climactic courtroom address, that: "Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. . . . The great creators — the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors — stood alone against the men of their time. . . . But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid. But they won." At this level of meaning, The Fountainhead is an impassioned defense of the innovator against the tradition-bound society that rejects him.
The word fountainhead means original source, as in the fountainhead of a river. Expressed in one form, the theme of the book is that the independent, reasoning mind is the original source of all human progress and prosperity. It is only men with new ideas who discover a way to make weapons for hunting, who discover ways to grow crops and domesticate livestock, who build the first homes and cities. The men who follow established ideas aren't the ones who invent automobiles, electric lighting systems, or airplanes. It is not the social followers who cure lethal diseases; it is only men of independent judgment.
The novel's theme is implemented in other ways as well. One important way in which the theme of The Fountainhead is expressed involves a new understanding of the false alternative between conformity and nonconformity. A conformist is one who lives with blind acceptance of the convictions and values of others. The beliefs of other people serve as his standard of truth. The conformist's attitude is: "If you hold this to be true, then I believe it." He does not possess the courage to base his choices on his own thinking; instead, truth is social to him. The conformist permits the dominant beliefs of his family or society to control him, and he exists as a follower. The conformist refuses to use his mind, abdicating the responsibility of thinking and uncritically acquiescing to the opinions of others. The Dean and Peter Keating are examples of conformity. Guy Francon (who adheres rigidly to the Classical style), Ralston Holcolmbe (who copies Renaissance designs), and John Erik Snyte (who panders to the public taste) are also examples of conformists in The Fountainhead. Real life gives us a multitude of examples of conformists: the family who, "wanting to keep up with the Joneses," buys a new car or swimming pool because the neighbors have one; the teenager who knows drugs are dangerous but uses them anyway in order to gain acceptance from the peer group; the politician who surrenders his convictions because public opinion polls show they are unpopular; the student who aspires to study literature (or some other subject he loves) but gives it up because his family pressures him into medicine (or some other field it deems more appropriate). All of these, and numerous others, are conformists. The form in each case is different, but the essence remains the same. They all choose to follow others rather than be guided by their own judgment.
A commonly held belief is that the antithesis of a conformist is a nonconformist, but this is not the case. A nonconformist, too, allows others to dominate his life; that dominance merely takes a different form. A nonconformist lives in rebellion against the convictions and values of others. His attitude is: "If you hold this to be true, then I reject it." The fundamental issue remains the same. The nonconformist, too, refuses to use his mind. He also abdicates the responsibility of thinking; instead, he uncritically rebels against the opinions of others. For him, as well as for the conformist, truth is social: In the nonconformist's case, truth is the opposite of what his family or society believes. A nonconformist's starting point of knowledge is the beliefs of others; this is the ruling concern of his life. A good example of a nonconformist in The Fountainhead is Lois Cook, the avant-garde writer who rebels against the rules of grammar in her writing and against the rules of personal hygiene in her grooming. Real-life examples are those modern artists who rebel against beauty by deliberately making their works as ugly as possible, and the hippies of the 1960s who lived in rebellious opposition to the values of their middle-class families. A nonconformist is a variation on the same theme as the conformist: Both seek fundamentally to identify the beliefs of others — the conformist to obey, the nonconformist to rebel. Neither is concerned with living by the judgment of his own mind.
But Howard Roark is neither a follower nor a rebel. He is an individualist, a man who relies on his own thinking to form his own conclusions. Such an independent person is not concerned with what others think — neither to obey nor to defy them; rather, he is concerned with what he thinks. History abounds with innovators who are perfect examples: Copernicus, Columbus, Edison, and others were creative thinkers, discoverers of new knowledge, not men taking public opinion polls, concerned with ascertaining the beliefs of society and acting based on the results.
Conformists like Keating and nonconformists like Lois Cook are cognitive dependents, relying on others for their grasp of truth. Individualists like Roark are cognitively independent; instead of looking to society for truth, they look at the facts. Independent thinkers understand that truth is a relationship between an idea and reality, not a relationship between an idea and the number of its devotees. The Roarks of the world recognize that if many people hold an idea, that makes the idea popular but not necessarily true. Millions of people, perhaps all of human society, once believed the earth is flat — but, as we know today, they were mistaken. Truth is objective; it is not collective or inter-subjective. An independent thinker's devotion to the facts, not to the opinions of society, is what explains his ability to stand alone, often in the face of vehement antagonism. The conventional understanding that people are either conformists or nonconformists is inadequate. It overlooks the category of mankind's best members: the independent thinkers.
The independent man's unbreached commitment to the facts is shown in another important way. In response to the Dean's claim that the rules of design come from the architects of the past, Roark states his thinking on the subject. "'Rules?' said Roark. 'Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape.'"
Roark's first rule addresses the material out of which the building will be made. Each material has a definite nature, a specific physical makeup that enables it to do certain things but prohibits it from doing others. Wood, for example, is suitable for a single-story home or other types of small structures, but is inadequate for skyscrapers or suspension bridges. Steel and concrete, on the other hand, can be used for such purposes; their molecular structures are such that they can withstand the necessary stresses. Roark's point is that advancing technology creates new materials that never before existed. Such substances as steel, aluminum, plastics, and glass were unavailable to earlier architects and make possible new types of designs. What is the logic, Roark asks, of copying the limited forms that were appropriate to wood when the new substances make possible so much more?
Roark's second rule concerns the site. An architect must know the facts of the area on which he builds. The consequence of not doing so is best exemplified by a New York neighborhood built on a filled-in swampland. The architects did not take into consideration the marshy nature of the terrain; their foundations were neither deep nor sufficiently strong; the result has been a gradual sinking into the ooze. Today, the houses rest below the level of the street. A positive example of Roark's point are those builders in San Francisco (on the San Andreas fault line) who construct their foundations on giant rollers, so that in case of earthquake the building can move in the direction of the earth's shifting tectonic plates. This is an example of knowing the site. Copying designs of the past, Roark points out, does not address these issues.
Finally, Roark's third rule concerns the purpose of the building, its function. Roark argues that no two buildings share the same purpose. "An airline terminal does not serve the same purpose as the Parthenon." Form follows function, according to the modernist designers, which means that every feature of a building — down to the placement of the last light fixture and doorknob — must be designed to maximize the building's purpose. A hospital, for example, deals with life-and-death emergencies. It requires wider corridors than most buildings so that the gurneys bearing the severely ill do not get clogged in pedestrian traffic. Again, the copying of prior designs would be inappropriate. The building's nature must dictate its design. Roark argues repeatedly that "a building has integrity, like a man." This is what he means. Integrity is to be true to oneself. A building must be a consistent whole, with every part designed to optimize its capacity to perform its function.
The independent thinker is like a scientist; he looks to nature, to the facts of reality, for truth. By contrast, a dependent person is like an unprincipled politician, looking to society, taking public opinion polls, in order to discover what he thinks is true. The dependent man and the independent man have differing concepts of truth; so the independent man is enabled to create new knowledge, whereas the dependent man is limited to merely copying the beliefs of others.
Ayn Rand provides an illustration of an independent man's method of functioning at the end of Roark's meeting with the Dean. Roark leaves the building knowing that there is an important difference between his way of thinking and the Dean's. He knows the motivation of persons like himself; he does not understand men like the Dean. "There was an important secret involved somewhere in that question, he thought. There was a principle which he must discover." Roark knows there are many persons like the Dean in society, and that he must learn to effectively deal with them. But when he steps outside, he stops. He sees the sunlight on the gray limestone of a stringcourse running along the wall of the building: "He forgot men, the Dean and the principle behind the Dean, which he wanted to discover. He thought only of how lovely the stone looked in the fragile light and of what he could have done with that stone." Roark sees in his mind walls of limestone rising, cut by bands of glass permitting the rays of the sun to become part of the classroom.
Roark's distinctive orientation is toward the stone and the sunlight, toward nature, toward facts, toward reality — and toward the structures he could build. He is not oriented toward society, toward men, or toward the beliefs of men. Though society and those who are a part of it are important — Roark must learn how to live with them — they fade to insignificance when he is faced with nature and her possibilities. Roark's method of functioning is that which makes possible human survival. To build, to grow, to create require human beings to deal directly with the laws and facts of reality. The beliefs, opinions, and errors of society are an enormously secondary consideration. This theme is more-fully developed in the novel's subsequent sections.
frieze a sculptured or richly ornamented band on a building in classical architecture that is horizontal and rests on a column.
cornice a molded and projecting horizontal component at the top of a building.
volute a spiral, scroll-shaped ornament in Ionic and Corinthian architecture.
pediment a triangular space forming the gable of a low-pitched roof in Classical architecture.
pilaster an upright architectural member that is rectangular in shape and, though functionally a pier, serves primarily as a decoration.
facade the front of a building.
flying buttress a projecting structure arched over at the top to engage with a main wall. An important feature of Gothic architecture, lending strength to the main structure.
The Three Orders the schools of design in classical Greek architecture. These are the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The Doric was the most basic and least ornate, and was used by the Spartans. The Ionic consisted of higher and slenderer columns. The Corinthian was more ornate, more detail-oriented, and not as widely used as the other two.
Gothic a style of architecture dominant in western Europe from the mid-twelfth century to the early-sixteenth century.