The Artist of the Beautiful by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1844)
Owen Warland is a young watchmaker who devotes his life to the creation of a beautiful mechanical butterfly which he presents to his friend Annie as a wedding gift. Annie and her family are not artists and they are unable to appreciate the beauty of Owen’s butterfly or to understand why he wasted so much time making it when he could have been doing something more useful. Each character in the story represents a different side of human nature and it’s interesting to see how Owen’s butterfly reacts differently to each of them.
This is a beautifully written story with the message that not everything in life needs to have a purpose – some things are worth doing just for the sake of doing them. Despite being ridiculed by the other townspeople, Owen doesn’t let other people’s opinions stop him in his pursuit of spiritual happiness.
“Yes, Annie; it may well be said to possess life, for it has absorbed my own being into itself; and in the secret of that butterfly, and in its beauty – which is not merely outward, but deep as its whole system – is represented the intellect, the imagination, the sensibility, the soul of an Artist of the Beautiful!”