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Holgrave's attitude toward his art

Nina Baym also comments on Holgrave's attitude toward his art as well as his attitude toward his power.

The optimist Holgrave, while he recognizes that he operates in a repressive society, refuses to turn his art to twisted purposes. He believes that the world is making strides toward a Utopia where Eros will have a place above ground, and he means to participate in that movement. Art in the interim, as he conceives of it, can have a liberating and constructive effect through its power to expose the truth. His daguerreotypes, taken with the help of the sunlight that is his friend and ally, show Pyncheon's true nature, illuminating his villainy and identifying him with his persecuting ancestor. His tale of Alice Pyncheon, developed with the help of the moonshine that for Hawthorne always accompanies romance, exposes the depravity of the Maules. Art, thus practiced, can be an agent of progress and reform. The story of Alice Pyncheon demonstrates Holgrave's understanding of his own situation; his refusal to succumb to the opportunity which Phoebe's response gives him demonstrates his moral worthiness. He withstands temptation, and not only Phoebe but art itself is saved by his forbearance. (589-90)

. . . True transcendentalist that he is, Holgrave has no attachment to the works he has made, and no particular fondness for any one medium. Clifford is associated with beauty, to be sure-that is certainly what has led to the frequent misinterpretation of him as an artist-but the artist is associated with energy. Clifford indeed exhibits a set of characteristics that resemble materialism, the opposite of artistry. This presumably is why Hawthorne made him a Pyncheon. He loves things; he wants to possess them; he is satisfied by forms not of his own making. Such distinctions show that Hawthorne is thinking about the connections between art and the infantile and is rejecting the idea that art is a preserve of infantilism in the adult personality. There is no art until the infant is left behind. At some point in its development, the child moves from a fascination with and dependence on forms to the desire to create them; after this, forms become dependent on him. If development is arrested before this point, the artist remains unborn. Art is the product of an informing spirit (theoretically all men are potential artists) associated with the maturing of the personality, a progressive force which confronts reality rather than a regressive activity which tries to evade it. The artist is a continual danger to the social structure, but not because of his desire to recreate infantile patterns of pleasure in the workaday world. It is rather that the continual flux of his energies operates against the stability and permanence required by institutions. Even if he were not consciously striving to destroy restrictive forms, the artist would be, albeit inadvertently, destructive, because form to him has no meaning in and for itself. (592) (courtesy of University of Illinois Press




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