“…Roark, I can accept anything, except what seems to be the easiest for most people: the halfway, the almost, the just about, the in-between. They may have their justifications. I don’t know. I don’t care to inquire. I know that it is the one thing not given me to understand. When I think of what you are, I can’t accept any reality except a world of your kind. Or at least a world in which you have a fighting chance and a fight on your own terms. That does not exist. And I can’t live a life torn between that which exists —-and you. It would mean to struggle against things and men who don’t deserve to be your opponents. Your fight, using their methods—and that’s too horrible a desecration. It would mean doing for you what I did for Peter Keating: lie, flatter, evade, compromise, pander to every ineptitude–in order to beg of the a chance for you, beg them to let you live, to let you function, to beg them, Roark, not to laugh at them, but to tremble because they hold the power to hurt you. Am I took weak because I can’t do this? I don’t know which is the greater strength: to accept all this for you— or to love you so much that the rest is beyond acceptance. I don’t know. I love you too much.”
He looked at her, waiting. She knew that he had understood this long ago, but that it had to be said.
“You’re not aware of them. I am. I can’t help it. I love you. The contrast is too great. Roark, you won’t win, they’ll destroy you, but I won’t be there to see it happen. I will have destroyed myself first. That’s the only gesture of protest open to me. What else could I offer you? The things people sacrifice are so little. I’ll give you my marriage to Peter Keating. I’ll refuse to permit myself happiness in their world. I’ll take the suffering. That will be my answer to them, and my gift to you. I shall probably never see you again. I shall try not to. But I will live for you, through every minute and every shameful act I take, I will live for you in my own way, in the only way I can.”
He made a movement to speak, and she said:
“Wait. Let me finish. You could ask, why not kill myself then. Because I love you. Because you exist. That alone is so much that it won’t allow me to die. And since I must be alive in order to know that you are, I will live in a world as it is, in the manner of life it demands. Not halfway, but completely. Not pleading and running from it, but walking out to meet it, beating it to the pain and ugliness, being first to choose the worst it can do to me. Not as the wife of some half-decent human being, but as the wife of Peter Keating. And only within my own mind, only where nothing can touch it, kept sacred by the protecting wall of my own degradation, there will be the thought of you and the knowledge of you, and I shall say ‘Howard Roark’ to myself once in a while, and I shall feel that I have deserved to say it.”
—Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead