What is the inciting moment in "The Artist of the Beautiful" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a few moments when Owen Warland is incited (encouraged or inspired) to take up his artistic work again. Near the beginning of the story, Owen has an epiphany that his artistic toil has all been for Annie. Owen seems convinced that his desire to create something beautiful (to give life to machinery) has been and continues to be inspired by his love for Annie:

Annie! dearest Annie! thou shouldst give firmness to my heart and hand, and not shake them thus; for if I strive to put the very spirit of beauty into form and give it motion, it is for thy sake alone.

However, later in the story, Annie inadvertently destroys the minute spiritual machine and Owen falls into a melancholy state during which he drinks wine to excess. His second inciting/awakening moment occurs when he sees a butterfly. At this, he goes to the fields to revel in nature is declared mad (crazy) by some of the towns-people. Heartbroken, upon hearing of Annie's engagement to Robert Danforth, Owen smashes his spiritual machine, once again ruining months of work.

But once again, Owen is incited to renew his creative impulse to create something beautiful. In the end, Owen renews his work more out of desperation and anxiety; he wants to accomplish his task before he dies. His fear of death becomes his final inciting moment.

Yet, strong as he felt himself, he was incited to toil the more diligently by an anxiety lest death should surprise him in the midst of his labors.

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The Artist of the Beautiful

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