The Artist of the Beautiful Summary
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Start Your Free Trial

The Artist of the Beautiful Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Download The Artist of the Beautiful Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Even as a child, Owen Warland enjoyed carving intricate figures of birds and flowers and showed mechanical ability. Hence, he is apprenticed to Peter Hovenden, a master watchmaker, with whom, his relatives hope, he will be able to make practical use of his delicate talents.

Peter, however, is not impressed with Owen’s character. He recognizes his apprentice’s considerable talents but senses that Owen does not care to apply them in a conventional way. When failing eyesight forces Peter to surrender his shop to Owen, the young man confirms his master’s fears. Owen’s business declines because his customers do not appreciate the way he trifles with their beloved timepieces, which he tends to embellish fancifully.

Far from regretting this lack of customers, Owen rejoices in the free time he now has to pursue his goal of creating an object so like its natural original that it will be indistinguishable from it. The first attempt fails after Robert Danforth comes to deliver a small forge ordered from the blacksmith. Danforth’s brute strength so disturbs Owen that he carelessly demolishes the artifact.

For some months Owen returns to watchmaking, abandoning any artistic pretense. Slowly, however, he recovers his interest in his project and is about to begin again when Peter visits him. His former master’s skepticism toward anything lacking utilitarian value so upsets Owen that he relinquishes his dream.

In the summer he once more takes up his task but again he is frustrated, this time by Annie Hovenden, who has come to his shop to have her thimble repaired. Owen loves her and wonders whether she might be a worthy partner for him. She provides the answer by touching Owen’s delicate device, thus ruining it. Enraged and disappointed, Owen sends her away and resigns...

(The entire section is 464 words.)