Vesta Dunning, an actress, “was not pretty, nor gracious, nor gentle, nor sweet; she played the part of a young girl not as a tubercular flower, but as a steel knife. . . . She achieved the incredible: she was the first woman who ever allowed herself to make strength attractive on the screen.”
Yet for all her abilities as an actress, Dunning finds herself increasingly unhappy in her affair with Howard Roark. When she proves willing to compromise her artistic ideals for financial success, she loses Roark’s love and her own self-respect.
Because Rand edited Dunning out of The Fountainhead, her literary executor, Leonard Peikoff, advises that this excerpt should be read as an individual, self-contained piece: “If I may state the point paradoxically, for emphasis: these events did not happen to Roark — they are pure fiction!”