“A second chance — that’s the delusion. There never was to be but one. We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”
James, “The Middle Years”, p. 354.
Throughout the story, we get glimpses and examples that lead the reader to associate perfectionism with Dencombe — he is extremely critical of his work, has fears of how his work will last in the future after he dies, etc. etc. This quotation acts as a conclusion to the argument surrounding second chances throughout the story and I would argue that it calls out the uselessness of perfectionism — that the idea that you have a second chance at correcting, developing, enhancing, etc. your art is quite literally “delusional” and despite how much our passion can cause us to doubt and worry — our work is taken up by the “madness of art” which has no regard for doubt or perfection. Also — that we only have ONE life!!!!