The hero of The Fountainhead, Howard Roark is portrayed as an ideal man: independent, strong, and free.
Howard Roark's classmate at the Stanton Institute of Technology, Peter Keating represents the average man with an imperfect idea of success. Peter Keating relies on coercion and manipulation to make his way in the world, and at the same time he allows himself to be guided by the opinions and advice of other people. Keating will never truly be happy because he will never be able to free himself from the trap of middle-class society.
Howard Roark's mentor, Henry Cameron was once the epitome of a successful architect. He becomes a drunk and a so-called failure, but he refuses to let go of his ideals. Cameron dies a relatively happy death, demonstrating that a man who does not compromise himself is happier even if he is penniless and scorned by society.
Ellsworth M. Toohey
The villain of The Fountainhead, Toohey seeks to destroy the spirit of individual achievement in New York City, followed by that spirit in the world. He hates men like Howard Roark, who show that outstanding achievements encourage the growth of everyone around them, for Toohey seems to be incapable of outstanding achievements himself. Instead, he spreads the beliefs that all men are equal, that a desire for individual achievement is selfish, and that true happiness can only come from total sacrifice of ego to the common good.
A master electrician, Mike loves to see mastery in others. He becomes completely devoted to Roark and to the kind of achievement he represents.
Extremely educated and from an old and wealthy family, Austen Heller is now a widely respected social activist who fights coercion in all forms.
A young girl who grew up in Stanton but moves to New York after the death of her father to live with her uncle Ellsworth Toohey. Catherine passionately wants to marry Peter Keating and to help people, but she does not think he is capable of any great action, making her an ideal target for her uncle.
Guy Francon's daughter, Dominique Francon values freedom above all things. She refuses to do anything because it is easier, or because it is sensible, or even because she wants to do it, because she takes all of those motivations as forms of coercion.
Peter Keating's mother. After her husband dies, she takes in boarders in order to pay for her son's schooling. She convinces Peter to go into architecture because it is a practical art as well as a fine art.
The Dean of Stanton
The Dean of the Stanton Institute of Technology, he represents the fear of originality and change, which men like Howard Roark are fighting against.
Another draftsman at Francon and Heyer, Tim Davis allows Peter Keating to help him, ultimately putting himself in Keating's power.
Guy Francon's chief designer when Peter Keating comes to work at his firm, he designs most of the buildings that maintain Francon's fame.
The son of a longshoreman, Gail Wynand grew up on the streets of Hell's Kitchen in New York. He becomes a newspaper man and by the age of 36 controls an empire of newspapers and other media outlets. His paper, the Banner, appeals to the lowest common denominator, and it makes no attempt to do anything beyond satisfying the desires of the mob. Gail Wynand's ultimate goal is to acquire power over as many people as he can, but he does not realize that his power only exists while he is telling the people what they want to hear.
The leading architect of his day, Guy Francon's phenomenal success comes from his ability to persuade millionaires to put up skyscrapers.
A sculptor who grew up in the slums, Stephen Mallory wants nothing more than to do his work. Stephen Mallory sees and fears the slow spread of mediocrity and collectivism overtaking society.
Gail Wynand's right-hand man, Alvah Scarret is the "perfect barometer" of public opinion, because he always agrees with the public. When their minds change, his mind changes accordingly. He cares about nothing but the success of the Banner.
John Erik Snyte
An architect who believes that the more designers the better the design, Snyte designs his buildings by having each of his men submit a design and then combining the different versions into one.
A professor of design at the Stanton Institute of Technology who insisted on Howard Roark's expulsion.
A classmate of Peter Keating at the Stanton Institute of Technology, he was Keating's toughest competition.
Guy Francon's partner, he contributes nothing architecturally--but he is from an important family and has good social connections.
A potential client. Peter Keating convinces Mrs. Dunlop to give the commission to Stengel, allowing him to leave Francon and Heyes and set up on his own.
Henry Cameron's sister, she takes him in after he becomes ill.
Peter Keating's friend and a designer in his firm, he becomes Keating's partner when Francon retires. Like Lucius Heyer before him, he is of high social status and possesses very good connections.
Fabulously wealthy and even more fabulously angry about his wealth, Mitchell Layton has a reputation for being a communist, but in reality he wants to be admired and respected for more than his money. He finds what he believes he is looking for in Ellsworth Toohey.
A rich man who owns three department stores, Slottern is also one of the major advertisers in the Banner. He is one of Toohey's men. He believes that the public wants collectivism so he should give it to them. He also believes that he has neglected to pay attention to the state of his soul, so he should try to do something for others.
Mitchell Layton's wife, she is very beautiful and believes that she can "get away with anything." All she cares about is being at the "vanguard" of trends.
A playwright with no talent who becomes a huge success after being plugged by Jules Fougler, Ike knows that he is a bad playwright, but he believes that he has no less right to be a successful playwright than a man like Ibsen.
A bestselling author who writes human-interest stories and memoirs and who was made famous by Ellsworth Toohey.
An author made famous by Ellsworth Toohey. Lois Cook's books are stream-of-consciousness collections of words that have no literary merit whatsoever. Their overall message is to honor mediocrity.
A leftist architect.
A Drama Critic for the Banner and one of Toohey's men. He believes that there is nothing impressive about selling a good play to the public, so he would rather turn a failure into a hit.
A one-time Banner reporter who is fired for trying to publish an interview with Dominique after she has become Mrs. Gail Wynand.
The Fountainhead Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Fountainhead is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.