In the closing pages of Thomas Mann’s novel, Death in Venice, Aschenbach, the main character, condemns the role of the artist and the artistic impulse: ‘‘the training of the public and of youth through art is a precarious undertaking which should be forbidden. For how, indeed, could he be a fit instructor who is born with a natural leaning towards the precipice?’’ In The Great God Brown, O’Neill offers a more sympathetic view of his main character than does Mann, but he communicates a similar portrait of the artist ‘‘leaning towards the precipice.’’ Dion...
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