Though the form of this tale is that of romantic metaphor, its substance is a very serious manifesto of art dogma. It amounts to saying, the only satisfactory works of art are those which exhibit the very soul of the artist. To work for fame or self-display is a failure; but to paint that which your own perceptions and emotions urge you to paint promises to be a success for yourself, and hence a benefit to a mass of beholders. This was the core of the 'Pre-Raphaelite' creed; with the adjunct ... that the artist cannot attain adequate self-expression save through a stern study and realization of natural appearances. [Link to citation in appendix -- as soon as we have it up?(p18-19)]
"Hand and Soul" not only offers its readers insight into the artistic intentions of Rossetti and the PRB, but as many critics have argued, the story is significant for research into many areas of study. "Hand and Soul" can be read as autobiography and self-prophecy, as an important turning-point in nineteenth century short fiction, and as a pre-cursor to Pater, Wilde, the Aesthetic movement and Decadence. D.M.R. Bentley has argued that the changes Rossetti made to the story for later publication provide "evidence... of Rossetti's youthful fascination with Catholicism and... of his later tendency to de-Catholicize the atmosphere of his early work" ("Rossetti's 'Hand and Soul.'" _English Studies in Canada_ III, 4, Winter 1977,447). Changes made to later publications of the story have been noted to aid the reader in coming to his or her own conclusions in this matter.