The Touchstone: Art vs. Mammon: Eben Holt's Sculpted Soul in the Market's Crucible - Edith Wharton

American literature essay. Literary analysis of works and characters - Sykalo Evgen 2023

The Touchstone: Art vs. Mammon: Eben Holt's Sculpted Soul in the Market's Crucible
Edith Wharton

The conflict between the unwavering pursuit of riches and artistic integrity is central to Edith Wharton's "The Touchstone," as it is embodied through the character of Eben Holt. The story digs into the conflict between creative values and the materialistic demands of the market, examining the effects of a society driven by the market on the spirit of the artist.

The artistic integrity of Eben Holt:

The main character of "The Touchstone," Eben Holt, comes to represent the epitome of artistic purity. His commitment to sculpture is unshakable, and he makes an effort to produce pieces that are more than just functional. Because of his dedication to his work, Eben serves as a reference point for examining the tension that exists between creative goals and the demands of a Mammon-dominated society.

The Crucible of the Market:

As Eben enters the market in search of notoriety and financial gain, he finds himself in a conflict between the ideals of Mammon and art. The market forces Eben to make concessions and strike a careful balance between his work's commercial viability and creative integrity. Wharton deftly captures the difficulties faced by artists in a society that frequently commodifies creativity.

Mammon vs. Art:

A recurrent theme in the story is the conflict between Mammon and art. Born of a deep artistic vision, Eben's sculptures face opposition in a world that prioritizes profit over quality. Wharton illuminates the larger cultural struggle between the unrelenting quest of monetary wealth and the search of beauty through Eben's trials.

A Soul Sculpted in the Crucible

The voyage of Eben represents how the artist's spirit is transformed in the furnace of the marketplace. Eben's once-sculpted spirit is put to the test and changed as he struggles with concessions and commercial pressures. Wharton asks readers to consider the toll that the demands of the market have on the inner life of the artist and whether the quest of artistic perfection can withstand Mammon's furnace.

In summary:

"The Touchstone" provides a deep literary examination of the conflict between art and Mammon, as embodied by Eben Holt. In order to strike a careful balance between artistic integrity and the business realities of a society driven by the market, Wharton creates a nuanced portrayal of the artist's journey. Readers are invited to consider the eternal significance of this fight via Eben's story, delving into the cost painters bear when their chiseled souls come into contact with Mammon's crucible.