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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 482

It is the surest test of genuine love, that it brings back our early simplicity to the worldliest of us.

Kenyon says this in response to Hilda's disbelief that the sophisticated Miriam could fall in love with someone as "rude" and "uncultivated" as Donatello. Kenyon counters her response by saying...

(The entire section contains 482 words.)

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It is the surest test of genuine love, that it brings back our early simplicity to the worldliest of us.

Kenyon says this in response to Hilda's disbelief that the sophisticated Miriam could fall in love with someone as "rude" and "uncultivated" as Donatello. Kenyon counters her response by saying that Donatello and Miriam complement each other, his sunny disposition a counter to her dark side and his uncomplicated "natural feeling" and acceptance of life a balance to her intellect. He then asserts in the above quote that Miriam's love for Donatello seems real and true exactly because it helps Miriam find the simpler self beneath her sophistication. This celebration of the simple is a deeply Romantic notion.

That pit of blackness that lies beneath us, everywhere. The firmest substance of human happiness is but a thin crust spread over it, with just reality enough to bear up the illusive stage-scenery amid which we tread. It needs no earthquake to open the chasm.

Miriam, typical of her often gloomy spirit, says this as she, Hilda, and Kenyon are touring Italy, standing at the edge of precipice. Kenyon wishes they could look into a chasm like the prophetic chasms the Ancient Romans saw. Miriam replies that we have such chasms of gloom inside ourselves that open at our moments of "deepest insight." In the quote above, she continues to describe the dark chasm that exists in the human soul. Hawthorne, with his Puritan heritage, alludes to Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermon here, with the reference to what a thin crust of life we walk on. In Edwards's vision, hellfire lurks beneath life's thin crust. Hilda makes this hell internal, typical of her way of understanding the world. This statement also eerily foreshadows the murder that will occur:

“There is comfort to be found in the pillar,” remarked Miriam, “hard and heavy as it is. Lying here forever, as it will, it makes all human trouble appear but a momentary annoyance.”

“And human happiness as evanescent too,” observed Hilda, sighing; “and beautiful art hardly less so! I do not love to think that this dull stone, merely by its massiveness, will last infinitely longer than any picture, in spite of the spiritual life that ought to give it immortality!”

The relationship of art to life is an important part of this novel, especially as the Americans are unused to the amount of art and history they encounter in Italy—and the faun-like Donatello seems to mix art and life. Here, the usually sunny Hilda mourns that art in the form of pillar is not immortal, and expresses the wish it should be because it contains the spirit of its artistic creator. Often, Romantics, such as John Keats, saw art as immortal in contrast to the fleetingness of human life: here Hilda is stating that art too will pass.

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