Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Artist of the Beautiful

The artist’s temperament in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Artist of the Beautiful is a classic story with language that is sometimes difficult to get past. I skipped the lengthy sentences but got the gist of the story. An artist who endowed spiritualism into his work and worshipped a human being as a deity. This part makes you realize that this man is of delicate temperament and understands beauty from a very different realm. As the author continuously contrasts Owen’s thoughts and reactions with that of Peter, his former boss and watch maker, who is represented as worldly and believing only what he sees. Uncompromisingly disbelieving anything he could not see, stands out and defines the man.

The blacksmith on the other hand, Robert, is a perfect foil to the sensitive and fragile Owen. Their crafts are also described in the same tone as their characters. A blacksmith is all brawny, down to earth and extroverted. The artist is ephemeral and constitutionally and mentally weak, and sometimes seen as a mad.

But the artist’s repeated attempts even after massive failures and each time these instances happen due to either Peter or the lady herself coming in and destroying the months of toil. One gets an idea of the very delicate mechanics behind what the artist is creating and the repeated emphasis of brining the spirit into his creations tells you that what the artist is setting out to create is something out of this world.

Sadly, even after many attempts at destroying his art work (Peter, the lady and Robert in succession), and the artist giving up and moving towards other pursuits—and sometimes, descending into the underbellies of the earth—the final piece that he reveals in a meeting at Annie’s house is stupendous and indescribable.

Even when the toddler is introduced in the story, the fact that the child might be the one who eventually destroys the art is known. At the end you respect Owen for the way he handles the destruction of his piece. It was almost like he created it only for Annie’s viewing and her reaction to the beauty of it sufficed.

By then, having faced the travails of one human being after another destroying his creation, he seems ready to accept that even this piece will last only few minutes and be destroyed. He ends up becoming stronger but also more self-reliant and normal, making us respect him not just for his work but for the change of sensibilities.

The world is always pictured as being against the artist. And this contrast is represented with the artist on one side, and all other players on the opposite side. His world in that sense is alone.

(The man who wrote The Scarlet Letter and the House of the Seven Gables has explored the dark side of human nature. His ancestry is connected with the Salem witch trials and apparently something he wanted to rid himself of and therefore changing his name.)

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