“Art For Heart’s Sake” by R. Goldberg Analysis

Categories: Art
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The text “Art for heart’s sake” was written by Reuben Lucius Goldberg, an American sculptor, cartoonist and writer, who was born in San-Francisco. Introduction: The action began with male nurse Koppel’s words for Collis P. Ellsworth, who didn’t want to drink his juice. Ellsworth was not an ordinary patient, he was a shopaholic in global case. If he buys something, he will suffer from heart attack. Complication: After that came a doctor named Caswell, who offered old Ellsworth to take up art and called a young student Frank Swain from the Atlantic Art Institute to make Ellsworth concerned with art.

The old man didn’t make any progress in painting, actually he was an awful painter, but suddenly Ellsworth send his “god-awful smudge” picture named “Trees Dressed in White” to the Lathrop Gallery, the biggest art exhibit, and was awarded a prize. Falling action: The young student, male nurse and doctor congratulated him with winning and recovery. Resolution: But suddenly Ellsworth said that he bought the Lathrop Gallery last month.

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The theme of the story is loneliness that influences on human’s behavior. It’s represented with Ellsworth’ behavior, his speech, his attitude to people and his attitude towards things that he buys. It is difficult to find out real theme of the story.

Each of us can find his own cause and theme, because the author forces it upon the story. The story takes place in hospital room, art exhibition in the course of a few months.

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It’s represented with last words of Ellsworth that he bought the Lathrop Gallery last month. There seems to be an impression, that the author didn’t want a reader to see the setting, but to feel it. The author doesn’t show the setting of time directly, but it’s important because it helps the author to pierce the story with a humour. The conflict of the story is internal. The plot turns on loneliness of old Ellsworth that influences on his behavior and how he fill his inner emptiness. The chief episode is when doctor Caswell offered old Ellsworth to take up art. The development of the plot is not strictly chronological, because in the end of the story we find out that old Ellsworth bought the Lathrop Gallery, that means before he start to take up art. The plot is unified. The individual episodes logically relate to one another.

The plot is plausible. There are two main characters: Ellsworth and Swain, and two minor characters: doctor Caswell and male nurse Koppel. Old Ellsworth is protagonist and no one is antagonist, because old Ellsworth develops through the whole story. He is dynamic and round character. And all the rest three characters are flat and static characters. The role of minor characters to show a reader what kind of person old Ellsworth is. The author uses indirect method of characterization by old Ellsworth actions and behavior. The actions of the characters are simply consistent and properly motivated. The author didn’t use so many stylistic methods. He used an irony in cases. For example in the end of the story we find out, that Ellsworth bought the gallery last month.

And some simile, for example, the Swains’ comparison of Ellsworth’s picture to a salad. The language of the author is concrete, formal and literal. The message of the author is to be attentive with old lonely people. The central idea is to be more human, than give all your time for your work and you won’t be a lonely old human like Ellsworth. I think, it’s very impressive story that the author didn’t use as many stylistic methods as others, and he succeeded showing a reader the inner condition of this old lonely man Ellsworth. Not everybody can reach to the readers’ hearts without using such number of stylistic methods. It’s brilliant.

Expressive Means in the Story

The story is told in a humorous and, to an extent, ironic tone. We would be hard-pressed to deny the situational humor of a snappy and petulant, albeit very wealthy, 76-year-old in a hospital-like establishment. The epithets “aloud, raucous splash on the wall” and “a god-awful smudge,” along with the metaphor “gob of salad dressing,” are teasingly said in reference to Ellsworth’s weak painting skills. His personified dislike of the pineapple juice prescribed by Dr. Caswell (“. . . old pineapple juice comes back.”) is likewise worth a smile. By using zeugma (“All his purchases of recent years had to be liquidated at a great sacrifice both to his health and his pocketbook.”), Goldberg forges a link of irony between Ellsworth’s health and his money: the more money the old man spends on compulsive property purchases, the more his condition deteriorates. The ultimate irony, however, is that a treatment designed to alleviate Ellsworth’s oniomania serves only to aggravate it.

The character of Collins P. Ellsworth is portrayed, mostly indirectly, as crabby, materialistic, and petulant. From the very first lines, we can hear him retorting with the informal nope and brandishing dated colloquial pejoratives (e.g., bosh, rot, poppycock). The simile “like a child playing with his picture book” brings out Ellsworth’s childishness, while his impatience is highlighted by his frequent use of the interjection umph. Vain and impatient, he “snaps” and “grunts with satisfaction” at his feeble attempts at painting. His belief that money — as opposed to talent — can buy one anything may not be the best philosophy to live by, for it is money and his uncontrollable urges to spend it that have undermined Ellsworth’s health. Dr. Caswell is driven by professionalism (“. . . with his usual professional calm . . .”), logic (“He had done some constructive thinking . . . .”), and compassion, always acting with Ellsworth’s best interests at heart. The fact that he recommends Frank Swain as tutor to the often intolerable Ellsworth, thereby helping Swain pay his tuition, also speaks positively of Dr. Caswell. Frank Swain is similarly patient and attentive, which is evident, for example, when he brings the grumpy old man watercolors and oils, or when he politely (“Not bad, sir.”) comments on Ellsworth’s risible picture, although there is no certain way of establishing whether the remark was or was not used somewhat sarcastically. The character of Koppel, the male nurse, does nothing but fetch pineapple juice and therefore plays only a subsidiary role in the story — perhaps that of helping fuel Ellsworth’s grumpiness and of functioning as a sort of human prop in the final”surprise” scene of the story.


As noted above, apart from largely neural vocabulary, the story features a number of dated informal words (as above, e.g., bosh, rot, poppycock), phrases (by gum), and colloquialisms (kinda), which all serve the purpose of portraying Ellsworth as an old, grumpy, and childish man. Vocabulary pertaining to painting — such as water-colors, oils, picture book, gallery, exhibit, and numerous others — helps establish the setting and reinforces the image of Ellsworth as a grown-up baby “[fooling] around with chalk and crayons.”

At the syntactic level, brisk, simple sentences account for the majority of the sentences found in the story. If not too simple, the syntax, on the whole, is rather uncomplicated, with a significant number of elliptical (“Not bad.” “Fine.”) and exclamatory (“Nope!” “Bosh!” “Umph!”) sentences. Such sentences, in conjunction with the straightforward syntax, strengthen the impression of Ellsworth’s awkwardness. Through repetition (“See, see . . .”) and aposiopesis (“But, but — well, now . . . .”), Goldberg imitates the way many people would react in moments of overwhelming surprise.

This story is interesting in that it portrays a complex man — old, rich, petulant like a child, and in a precarious state of mental and physical health. As we watch his ostensible passion for art develop, we may find ourselves inspired by his progress and, not infrequently, even amused by his caustic remarks. But when we learn about his regression at the end of the story, we are bound for disappointment — we begin to view Ellsworth as a childish and materialistic person not worthy of our sympathy. Is he such a man? That is precisely why this story is so interesting: While humorous and ironic on the surface, it poses the deep question of whether Ellsworth is really in control of himself when he decides to purchase the Lathrop Gallery, or whether he is a victim of a mentall illness none of us would ever wish on our worst enemies. Should we be amused at his regression, or should we pity him?

Cite this page

“Art For Heart’s Sake” by R. Goldberg Analysis. (2016, May 20). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/art-for-hearts-sake-by-r-goldberg-essay

“Art For Heart’s Sake” by R. Goldberg Analysis

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