Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A central thread in the story is the theme of the artist’s precariousness in the world, a world that in its mysterious history turns on itself and devours the riches of human culture that artists such as Gaudier-Brzeska create, or, in Gaudier-Brzeska’s case, which destroys the maker himself. The story, however, is more than a tirade against stupid people who kill geniuses. As Gaudier-Brzeska recognized, art and contention have a mysterious linkage. Stone Age people filled caves with drawings of animals as a result of daily conflicts with real animals. Gaudier-Brzeska, known for his intense absorption while in the act of sculpting, found shooting at Germans similarly stimulating: “We shot at each other some quarter of an hour at a distance of 12 to 15 yards and the work was deadly. I brought down two great giants who stood against a burning heap of straw.” The war paradoxically heightens his sense of life: “I have been fighting for two months and I can now gauge the intensity of life.” That intensity took for Gaudier-Brzeska a vision of life persisting unabated by the stupendous destruction of modern war, which set out to blast every square foot of soil held by the enemy. Life ignored the bombardment. Gaudier-Brzeska explained in the manifesto he wrote in the trenches that the outline of the hills did not change as a result of the barrage of exploding shells. Life does not alter, but people alter and are altered. Gaudier-Brzeska’s medium, stone, required...

(The entire section is 513 words.)