Fountainhead notes: Cheating

[Spoilers ahead]

Peter Keating’s a beaten man because he never listened to his own voice. He only did what others told him to do.

He approaches Roark and asks him to do the plans for a project. The project is huge. It’s a government job and many architects have tried and failed to get the commission. Keating heard of it through Toohey and instead of trying to do the project himself, he instead goes to Roark to do it. He asks Roark to do it for him because Keating has no ideas of his own. Roark agrees, but lays down exactly why even though he’ll receive none of the credit, Roark will have achieved a greater thing than Keating. Keating will have done nothing more than carry out his plans. People will think Keating did it, but the truth is that he didn’t, and Keating must live with knowing he didn’t do the things people say he did.

The passage illustrates why cheating never gets anyone ahead: It robs someone of accomplishing something on his own. As Roark explains to Keating, “You’ll get everything society can give a man,” but Roark will get something that comes only from within a person in knowing that he did the project. Society has plenty of rewards to confer, but it can never give the feeling of accomplishing something on one’s own. Keating comes to understand and notes that yes, Roark will receive the greater award. Of course Roark will. Roark’s the one who won’t have to lie to himself, for he’ll have been the one who drew the plans and will have ultimately built the project. He wins in the end and Keating knows it.

To recap: Roark and Keating’s exchange shows cheating’s detrimental effects: It allows people to take credit for things they never did and robs them the satisfaction of accomplishment.

Rand’s message of cheating isn’t anything groundbreaking, but she does show in vivid detail exactly how it works and how it only hurts the people doing it. There’s the saying about cheaters never winning, and they usually don’t in the end. To connect The Fountainhead to Korea, the Konglish word for cheating (ie, the word the students know as cheating) is cunning. How this happened, I don’t know, but it’s an interesting change, especially when cheating translates perfectly into the Korean pronunciation: Chi-ting. (치팅) Cheating and school are major issues over here thanks to parents’ crazed ambitions to send little Min-su to Seoul National University. It’s the Harvard of Korea, a venerable institution. Students will go quite far to get there, for entering those universities essentially guarantees employment for life. And if the cheaters succeed in getting there, they’ll only have cheated themselves in the end because they didn’t actually work to get there.

I’ll be posting more about The Fountainhead in the future.


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