My Favorite Conversation In The Fountainhead


43-1A conversation that ensues when Peter Keating, an architect tries to send his wife, Dominique Francon, to the newspaper publisher Gail Wynand’s  bedroom, for a building contract. Enjoy Gail Wynand torturing this architect:

“I’ve heard about your brilliant sense of humor, Mr. Wynand.”, Peter Keating said.

“Have you heard about my descriptive style?”

“What do you mean?”

Wynand half turned in his chair and looked at Dominique, as if he were inspecting an inanimate object.

“Your wife has a lovely body, Mr. Keating. Her shoulders are too thin, but admirably in scale with the rest of her. Her legs are too long, but that gives her the elegance of line you’ll find in a good yacht. Her breasts are beautiful, don’t you think?”

“Architecture is a crude profession, Mr. Wynand,” Keating tried to laugh. “It doesn’t prepare one for the superior sort of sophistication.”

“You don’t understand me, Mr. Keating?”

“If I didn’t know you were a perfect gentleman, I might misunderstand it, but you can’t fool me.”

“That is just what I am trying not to do.”

“I appreciate compliments, Mr. Wynand, but I’m not conceited enough to think that we must talk about my wife.”

“Why not, Mr. Keating? It is considered good form to talk of the things one has–or will have–in common.”

“Mr. Wynand, I…I don’t understand.”

“Shall I be more explicit?”

“No, I…”

“No? Shall we drop the subject of Stoneridge?”

“Oh, let’s talk about Stoneridge! I…”

“But we are, Mr. Keating.”

Keating looked at the room about them. He thought that things like this could not be done in such a place; the fastidious magnificence made it monstrous; he wished it were a dank cellar. He thought: blood on paving stones–all right, but not blood on a drawing-room rug….

“Now I know this is a joke, Mr. Wynand,” he said.

“It is my turn to admire your sense of humor, Mr. Keating.”

“Things like…like this aren’t being done…”

“That’s not what you mean at all, Mr. Keating. You mean, they’re being done all the time, but not talked about.”

“I didn’t think…”

“You thought it before you came here. You didn’t mind. I grant you I’m behaving abominably. I’m breaking all the rules of charity. It’s extremely cruel to be honest.”

“I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Wynand,” whispered Keating. His eyes were fixed upon the tomato aspic on his salad plate; it was soft and shivering; it made him sick.

Keating heard a voice saying: “Why are you doing this?” saw two faces turned to him and knew that he had said it.

“Mr. Wynand is not doing it to torture you, Peter,” said Dominique calmly. “He’s doing it for me. To see how much I can take.”

“That’s true, Mrs. Keating,” said Wynand. “Partly true. The other part is: to justify myself.”

“In whose eyes?”

“Yours. And my own, perhaps.”

“Do you need to?”

“Sometimes. The Banner is a contemptible paper, isn’t it? Well, I have paid with my honor for the privilege of holding a position where I can amuse myself by observing how honor operates in other men.”

Post Script: No author tortures her villains as much as Ayn Rand does. I have no doubt that this is why her readers hate her, and not so much because of her ideology or dogmatic personal style. But, they will never say this because they are ashamed of it, themselves. But, why do people identify so much with such villains? This is the most underrated fact about human nature. 

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