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Passages Related to Alienation in "The Artist of the Beautiful"

Passages Related to Alienation in "The Artist of the Beautiful"

Andy's Butterfly Altered (photography by Andrew Martinez)
  • In this excerpt artist Owen Warland's contemporaries assess his fascination with the beautiful and with art as mere madness. Hawthorne observes that such a judgment is "soothing to the injured sensibility of narrowness and dullness," a judgment as harsh in its own way as the one made of Warland. Hawthorne goes on to suggest that the artist or intellectual has always been judged this way: "From Saint Paul's days, down to our poor little Artist of the Beautiful, the same talisman had been applied to the elucidation of all mysteries in the words or deeds of men, who spoke or acted too wisely or too well."
  • Even Annie, the love of Warland's life, has a secret scorn for his pursuit of the beautiful, but Warland, understanding that Annie is a woman belonging to a coarser world than the one he inhabits, remains unaffected by her judgment, for Warland has found something finer in the pursuit of his art than any other person might give him.

  • In this passage Hawthorne suggests the kind of aspirations that drive all artists, not just Owen Warland, and may here be revealing something of his own artistic ambition.

  • The conclusion of the tale leaves little doubt that Owen has transcended any attachment to the actual physical butterfly and has caught, in the act of creation, something much more valuable and rare than the likes of Peter Hovenden will ever see.

  • Peter Hovenden, representative in Hawthorne's view of a large portion of mankind, shares the popular perception that artistic creation is morally suspect, the province of evil spirits, a perception not altogether rejected by Hawthorne himself. The passage also illustrates Hovenden's mercantile blindness, his inability to raise his sight above the "dusty" prizes one might find "along the highway." It is no surprise, then, that Hovenden is represented as Owen Warland's nemesis.

  • In a passage remarkable for what it reveals about the loneliness of one devoted to artistic or intellectual pursuits, Hawthorne groups poets, prophets, reformers, and criminals. Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter comes immediately to mind as well as numerous other characters from his stories and novels, individuals blessed and tortured with imagination or aspirations that take them out of the mass of mankind.

    Full text of "The Artist of the Beautiful"

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