The Fountainhead Plot Summary
The novel begins as Howard Roark is expelled from Stanton and Peter Keating graduates. They both go to New York City to begin their careers - Keating to a firm with a good reputation, Francon & Heyer, and Roark to work with a man that he knows understands his mission, Henry Cameron. At first, Keating is the successful one; he climbs high in his firm by pushing out those whose positions he wants, and gains commissions for his firm such as the Cosmo-Slotnik Building. He makes his buildings for no other purpose than to please his clients and gain prestige, which he does completely, because not one of his clients is interested in quality. They are just interested in impressing their friends or the public. Ellsworth Toohey, a journalist who seems to be in charge unofficially of many organizations in the city, praises Keating highly. Roark, on the other hand, cannot get work because he refuses to compromise and put useless features on his buildings. His goal is tostick with his own design and strives to make structures more efficient. Broke, he must get a job in a quarry owned by Guy Francon, doing manual labor. There he meets Dominique Francon, his female equivalent, and starts a love affair with her that is painful for both of them; she wishes to destroy him because he represents her "ideal" and no one deserves to have him in their world. Roark cannot ask her to stop. Not only does she get jobs for Peter Keating that might have gone to Roark, she marries Keating, Roark's competitor, and later marries Gail Wynand, and joins his plot to destroy Roark, although their motivations are quite different.
Peter Keating begins to feel empty even though he is very successful. Toohey assures him that to be truly happy, one must do away with the desire to be happy. One must be completely selfless. Dominique meets with Gail Wynand, the owner of a very powerful chain of newspapers, to discuss a building he is planning. She gets the commission for Keating, and in the process marries Wynand, because he is even more an enemy to Roark. However, Wynand is not as shallow as Keating; he knows what is right, but has taken another road for the purpose of gaining power over people. When he decides to build a home for himself and Dominique, he asks Roark to be the architect and finds the one person he could not and would not want to corrupt. The two become friends. Dominique watches from a distance, not allowing herself to get close to Roark, knowing that nothing can change how they feel about each other.
Keating has lost his sense of how to design anything. He asks Roark to design the Cortlandt Homes project for him, and he accepts on the condition that he will have complete control over design and construction. However, the homes are not built as Roark wanted, so Roark dynamites the project as it is being completed. He stands trial and is found not guilty; he and Dominique come together and leave Wynand, giving Wynand a moral issue which he can use to boost circulation of his New York Banner, which has all but gone under. He closes the paper anyway, and asks Roark to build the Wynand Building, as they had discussed when they were friends. Howard Roark, the hero of the Fountainhead, triumphs.