Ellsworth Toohey speaks about how freedom and compulsion go hand-in-hand and says that "only by accepting total compulsion can we achieve total freedom." His host, Mitchell Layton, shrieks agreement. He talks about how society would be more beautiful if it were controlled like a "folk dance." Homer Slottern, who owns three department stores, comments that "it's spiritual values that count." The discussion continues with comments thrown in by Jessica Pratt, Slottern's sister-in-law, and Eva Layton, Mitchell Layton's wife. At one point they talk about art; the best artists express the ideal of collectivism.
Layton comments that the Banner is slipping and that it was a bad investment, but Toohey tells him to hold on just a little longer. Eventually Layton becomes almost hysterical as he complains that Wynand thinks he is great because he was born in Hell's Kitchen—but Layton has had to overcome much more than that, though nobody ever notices him. Toohey finally calms him down by telling him it is degrading for him to compare himself with Wynand. As Toohey walks home he wishes he could still talk to Dominique about his successes.
Peter Keating sits in his office as a painter departs. The firm of Keating and Dumont is now only one floor. The "March of the Centuries" failed, though Keating still does not know how. The committee of architects had worked well together, but the critics had hated the buildings. Still that did not explain why Keating was failing while other architects who had worked on the fair were doing so well. Gordon L. Prescott was the leading architect of the day and the head of the now powerful Council of American Builders. Keating does not understand, especially because he knows that Prescott and Gus Webb are such bad architects that even he cannot "suspend the evidence of his eyes."
He had lowered expenses by closing most of the office. He is now fat and very unattractive. At his request, his mother moved back in. One day his mother suggests that he marry Catherine Halsey and, practically crying, he tells her to drop it. About one weekend a month Keating sneaks away to a shack in the woods where he tries to paint, remembering his childhood dreams. He knows he is no good, but it feels good all the same.
Keating tries not to think of Toohey, who gave "March of the Centuries" such a bad review. But one day Neil Dumont forces him to think of Toohey, telling him that he needs to use his connections to Toohey to try to get Cortlandt Homes, a lucrative government housing contract. Unhappily, Keating agrees to see Ellsworth. When Keating arrives at Toohey's apartment, Toohey is dressed in a garish set of silk pajamas and a silk bathrobe, complaining about how tired he is. He comments that Keating is getting fat, and Keating insists that he has not changed since he built the Cosmo-Slotnick Building, but Toohey does not take the hint.
Keating turns to the other people Toohey has helped become successful. Toohey's responses continue to confuse Keating. He finally bursts out and asks why Toohey "dropped" him and why he always helps Gus Webb instead. Toohey replies that Keating never understood that Toohey is not an individualist. The whole reason he fought against Roark and for Keating was so that no one would be irreplaceable—so that there would be room for men like Webb. Keating snaps that he failed with regard to Roark. Toohey brushes this off, saying that he is still dealing with Roark. Keating bleats that Roark is designing Wynand's home and that they are the best of friends, but Toohey brushes this off as well.
At last, Keating shouts that he wants to design Cortlandt Homes. Toohey admits that he has already tried to get it for Webb and Prescott, but they cannot do what the project demands. If Keating can design rental units that can be rented for fifteen dollars per month, Keating will have the project. Keating goes to the office and shrugs off Dumont's help. He tries to sketch but can do nothing. Finally, he calls Roark's secretary and makes an appointment.
At Roark's office, Keating calmly tells Roark that he is a parasite and cannot change, but he has been given one last chance to hold on to his professional success, Cortlandt Homes, and he is asking Roark to design it and to let Keating put his name on it. Roark says he will think about it and that Keating should return the next night to hear the answer. Keating is shocked and full of gratitude, but Roark says not to thank him and sends him away.
The next day Keating comes to Roark's apartment in Enright House. Roark tells him that his first condition is that he has to try to understand Roark's reason for doing this. He tells Keating to give him a reason for doing it. First Keating offers him the fee, then the fact that Roark would be saving Keating, but Roark says these are not good reasons. Finally, Keating suggests, "Because you will love designing it"—and this is the right answer. Roark continues to help Keating understand that he wants to design the housing project not because he wants to help the poor but because it is an interesting project. He actually thinks that there is something wrong with the idea of building beautiful apartments and then saying that only the very poor can live in them, forcing the slightly less poor into even worse housing than they inhabited before. Anyway, all he really cares about is designing the building. Roark tells him that he wants this project but what he wants most of all is to see his design go up exactly as he has designed it. That is all that Keating can offer him; it is a "private, egotistical motive." Keating says he understands, and Roark cautions him that it is going to be a terribly difficult project.
Roark draws up two copies of a brief contract which they both sign; he explains that when the project is finished he will mail his copy to Keating and Keating may burn them both. Keating thinks for a few moments and then says, "You're getting more than I am, Howard." Roark is very happy that he understands this. Before he leaves, Keating asks Roark to do him one last favor. He takes six paintings out of his bag and shows them to Roark. Roark looks at them gently for a long time, and then he tells Keating that "it's too late." Keating nods and departs.
Wynand, Roark, and Dominique sit on the grass in front of Wynand's home, lazily discussing the house. Dominique has been living in the house for a month. Wynand noticed immediately that it is as if the house has been designed for Dominique, and it fulfills exactly what he desired for it. Dominique knows that she belongs to Roark more in this house than she did outside of it. Roark is the only person Wynand invites to their home. The weekend visits are the hardest for Dominique, but she survives them.
One morning she finally sees him alone, just for a moment. She rose early and was standing outside. He came out of the house, on his way to the lake for a swim. He saw her and they paused for a moment. He then continued on his way. Now, Wynand is telling Roark to go to sleep after dinner, suggesting that they get up early and go for a swim. Dominique suggests that Wynand should let Roark sleep. She wants Roark's early morning swim, their moment alone, to stay private and undiminished. That is all she wants, but Roark immediately agrees to Wynand's suggestion.
As Toohey looks over Keating's plans for Cortlandt, he is awed. Keating says only that it will rent for ten dollars a unit, if necessary, and Toohey congratulates him. The drawings are published in the Banner, and as soon as Wynand sees them he confronts Roark, insisting that they are his designs. Roark tells him to drop it, and he reluctantly agrees. Later, he shows them to Dominique, and she also recognizes them immediately as Roark's.
At the office, Wynand confronts Alvah Scarret about a strange editorial which argues that in the new world, mothers need to love everyone else's children as much as their own. Disturbed by Scarret's strange behavior, Wynand finally tells him to write something else. He thinks uneasily about the direction that the Banner has taken recently, one which stresses the honor of the poor and downtrodden, the importance of altruism, and the disgusting nature of the wealthy capitalist. But he is certain it is just a public trend, and he shakes off his worries. For a moment he considers firing Scarret, but that thought seems impossible. The times the Banner now makes him happy are whenever he can think of an ingenious reason for slipping in Roark's name. He tells Dominique how happy he is to finally have a chance to exercise his power for something he believes in—to sell Roark to the world. She comments that he could have been a "wonderful journalist." The public did not even notice, but the intellectuals who used to call Roark dangerous and disturbing suddenly started referring to him as Wynand's pet.
Wynand ignores this reaction and continues his campaign. He also gets Roark every commission that he can exert his influence over. One day Austen Heller tells Roark that he needs to get Wynand to stop his ridiculous campaign. Roark agrees that it might be hurting his career, but he tells Heller to mind his own business.
One night Wynand tells Roark he wants to show him something. He takes him to Hell's Kitchen and points out a city block, explaining that he owns it. He and Roark go into a diner to get some coffee, and he explains to Roark that it is the first property he bought, the place where he was born. He tells Roark that it is the future site of the Wynand Building and that he has been waiting for Roark. Roark visibly shows his excitement, admitting he wants this job pretty badly. Wynand says that he is still not quite ready to build it, but he wants it to be the tallest and greatest building in the city.
One night as Keating is walking to Roark's apartment to pick up some more drawings, he sees a woman standing outside a bookstore. A moment later he realizes that it is Catherine Halsey. Completely unperturbed, she smiles and greets him. She explains that she is in town from Washington for a business trip, and she remembers that he is doing Cortlandt. She is glad he is doing something with a social purpose. Keating is confused that she can speak to him so easily. She suggests they have a cup of tea together and leads him towards a cafe nearby. Catherine continues to speak of the general and the impersonal until Keating finally asks her how she felt the morning he did not come for her. She tells him calmly that she sobbed her eyes out, but that her uncle Ellsworth comforted her and that everything turned out for the best. Keating still does not understand how she can speak so unemotionally, but she explains that her problems are no different from or worse than anybody else's.
Keating tells her, stumbling, that the worst thing he ever did was not marry her, not because it hurt her but because it was the only thing he ever wanted. He asks her why it is so hard to do what you want and why everyone says you should do it. She replies that what he is saying is very selfish. Keating speaks about the past, remembering the day that he asked Catherine to marry him. She calls him a "sentimentalist," but he presses on. Finally he lets it go, realizing that Catherine is not putting on an act, or at least is putting it on all the time. He listens as Catherine speaks about her job, and when she gets up to go, she tells him she will call him the next time she is in New York. Dazed, Keating sits and watches her go.
In this section of the novel, both Peter Keating and Gail Wynand take steps towards redeeming their selves. Keating used to have the potential to be truer and realer than he was. Roark had recognized in Keating's drawings that sometimes he did good work. Keating's hidden worth was visible when he understood that the smallest compliment from Roark meant far more than the magnanimous words of Guy Francon. When Dominique confronted Keating about his lack of a self, his desire to be only what other people saw in him, Keating had a momentary chance to grasp at a better life, but that chance was dislodged by an unfortunate call from Toohey. Now, Keating lives up to his earlier potential once again when he not only understands Roark's motives for doing something but also why those motives are superior to the ones that have driven him for his entire life.
One of the few significant mistakes that Roark makes in the novel is his overestimation of Keating's ability to stand up to Toohey. Keating's continued exposure to danger is apparent from Toohey's role as gatekeeper to the Cortlandt project. Just as Toohey knows who really designed the Cosmo-Slotnick building, the reader must wonder how he would be expected to miss the fact that Roark has designed this building as well.
Keating's inability to recognize the danger of Toohey underscores the precariousness of his position. Even when Keating meets Catherine Halsey and sees how she has changed, it does not occur to him to wonder whether Toohey is responsible for her destruction. Halsey has become the model of a citizen of Toohey's better world. She does not feel rejected by Keating because she truly feels that she won the superior situation. One can imagine that Toohey comforted her over Keating's desertion by explaining, perhaps, that it did not matter, for no one is better than anyone else and that it is selfish of her to think she would make a better wife for Keating than Dominique would. Halsey should not pursue the life she wants, he might have told her; she should pursue the life where she can do the most good, which is the only way she will be happy. Toohey's predictions are incomplete lies. Keating must admit that Halsey seems to be as happy as she can possibly be. But Keating can also see that it is a cold, hard kind of happiness, just as this is a cold, hard kind of woman when compared with the girl he used to know.
Gail Wynand, so much stronger than Keating from the first, now moves on a parallel path. Like Keating, he attempts to do the work that he is capable of doing. He wants to sell Roark, just like he sold Lois Cook, Peter Keating, and every other two-bit hack in town. But, just like Keating, Wynand is blind to the dangers that surround him. He continues to fail to recognize that the Banner's current swill is different from the swill it used to sell. Though he vaguely senses that difference, he decides to ride the trend out rather than making an attempt to understand where it could lead. Wynand's narrowed vision suggests that Wynand is also avoiding turning his new insight onto himself. Wynand is acting upon a desire to use his power for something that he wants, making him a first-hander for the first time in his life. But he is setting himself up to learn that his power is meaningless for any kind of real work.
Toohey and Roark are most directly opposed to each other in this section of the novel. Both Wynand and Keating are caught between wanting to be like Roark and still being subject to the influence of Toohey. While Keating's subordination to Toohey is more direct, both men are equally unconscious of their almost total lack of control.