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The Blithedale Romance (1852)

de Nathaniel Hawthorne

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1,473219,104 (3.33)65
A group of Utopians, unhappy with dissolute, mid-19th-century America, takes to the pastoral life; but the members find little satisfaction in the communal life. Instead of changing the world, they pursue self-centered paths that ultimately lead to tragedy. Absorbing 1852 novel about love, idealism, and politics bristles with Hawthorne's perceptive wit and intelligence.… (més)
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Its setting is a utopian farming commune based on Brook Farm, of which Hawthorne was a founding member and where he lived in 1841. The novel dramatizes the conflict between the commune's ideals and the members' private desires and romantic rivalries.

The story takes place primarily in the utopian community of Blithedale, presumably in the mid-1800s. The story begins with a conversation between Miles Coverdale and Old Moodie, a character who reappears throughout the story. The legend of the mysterious Veiled Lady is introduced; she is a popular clairvoyant who disappears unannounced from the social scene. Coverdale then makes the voyage to Blithedale Farm, where he is introduced to such characters as Zenobia and Mr. and Mrs. Silas Foster. At their first community dinner, they are interrupted by the arrival of Hollingsworth, a previous acquaintance of Coverdale, along with a frail, pale girl of unknown age. Though Hollingsworth believes the girl is an expected guest, none of the Blithedale citizens recognize her. She immediately develops a strong attachment to Zenobia, and reveals her name to be Priscilla.

Soon after, Coverdale becomes severely ill and is bedridden. During his sickness, Hollingsworth and Zenobia care for him and he develops a closeness with Hollingsworth. Coverdale recovers as spring begins, and the residents of the community begin to work the land. Zenobia and Hollingsworth become close, and rumors say they might build a house together, as Priscilla becomes attached to both. Mr. Moodie makes a reappearance and asks about Priscilla and Zenobia. Coverdale then meets a stranger who turns out to be a man named Professor Westervelt. Westervelt also asks about Zenobia and Hollingsworth. Coverdale does not like the Professor, and when he is retreating in a tree he overhears the Professor talking to Zenobia and suspects they have a prior relationship.

At a gathering of community members, Zenobia tells a story titled "The Silvery Veil". She describes the Veiled Lady and her background, though it is never revealed whether her version of the story is true or not. Coverdale, Hollingsworth, Zenobia, and Priscilla meet at Eliot's Pulpit, a place of rest and discourse they occasionally visit. There they discuss women's rights, and Zenobia surprisingly sides with Hollingsworth, against Coverdale, on a misogynistic point of view of women's roles. Their disagreements intensify the next day when Hollingsworth and Coverdale discuss their hopes for the future of Blithedale. Coverdale renounces Hollingsworth and effectively ends their friendship. Coverdale decides to leave the farm and return to the city.

In the city, Coverdale idly looks out from his hotel windows at a young man and another family. He also sees Zenobia and Westervelt in another window. They notice and, embarrassed and curious, Coverdale visits them and is chastised by Zenobia. She reveals that Priscilla is staying with them and, upon Westervelt's return, all three leave Coverdale for an unnamed appointment. Motivated once more by curiosity, he seeks Old Moodie, who tells him the story of Fauntleroy, Zenobia, and Priscilla. It turns out that Old Moodie is Fauntleroy and the father of Zenobia, and was once a wealthy man. He fell from grace, but remarried later and had another child, Priscilla, making the two women half sisters.

Coverdale is extremely shocked and proceeds to a show of the Veiled Lady, where he recognizes Westervelt as the magician controlling the clairvoyant and Hollingsworth in the audience. He asks the whereabouts of Priscilla, and it is shortly revealed, when Hollingsworth removes the veil, that Priscilla is the Veiled Lady. All of the main characters then return and meet at Eliot's Pulpit. Zenobia accosts Hollingsworth for his love for Priscilla, expresses her depression, and acknowledges her sisterhood with Priscilla. However, Priscilla chooses Hollingsworth over her, and the three go their separate ways. When Zenobia realizes that Coverdale witnessed this scene, she asks him to tell Hollingsworth that he has “murdered” her and tells him that when they next meet it will be behind the “black veil,” representing death. She leaves and does not return. Hollingsworth, Coverdale, and Silas Foster form a search party and find Zenobia's body in the river. She is buried at Blithedale and given a simple funeral, at which Westervelt makes a last cryptic appearance and declares her suicide foolish. Hollingsworth is severely affected by the death, and it seems as she promised that Zenobia is haunting him. Priscilla is less affected due to her attachment solely to Hollingsworth, and the rest of the characters part and proceed with their lives. The last chapter reflects on the wisdom and ideals of Coverdale, now cynical about his purpose in life. The last sentence reveals cause for his bleak, apathetic outlook—he was in love with Priscilla.

Symbolism

Flower: Zenobia wears a new exotic flower every day. It represents vitality, and all the other characters are focused on destroying it. Coverdale is always probing and investigating into her life. Hollingsworth uses her in his conspiracy to create an ideal society. Priscilla betrays her when she chooses Hollingsworth over her. Lastly Westervelt blackmails her. She ultimately destroys herself through suicide. The exotic flower is a symbol of her pride, life and vitality all of which the characters in the Blithedale Romance are set on destroying. Zenobia's main vice is pride; however it is why she is admired by all. Its physical representation is demonstrated through her exotic flower.

Veil: The veil represents withdrawal and concealment. Priscilla, as the Veiled Lady, is private and hidden. The image of the veil appears with almost every character. Old Moodie with his alias and eye patch illustrates his use of concealment. Westervelt's gold teeth, Hollingsworth's philanthropic project are also examples of a withdrawal. Additionally, the whole community is withdrawn from society, as it is a secluded Utopian community. The veil is a constantly recurring theme throughout the novel. Concealment and withdrawal continually surface through all the characters.

Spring/Fall: The novel starts in spring and ends in fall. Upon moving to Blithedale, Coverdale proclaims his own rebirth. Spring is full of warmth and hope, while fall is full of dark imagery. In spring, Coverdale recovers from his illness. In fall, it concludes with the mutilated, marbled, rigid corpse of Zenobia.

Sickness: In the beginning of the novel, Coverdale becomes deathly ill and is bedridden. Hollingsworth cares for him and he returns to health. Priscilla is also sick and gradually regains her health as time elapses and she adjusts to Blithedale. As Roy R. Male Jr. wrote, “This sickness is what the book is about.” Coverdale's mental state also changes throughout the novel. Upon his return he emphasizes that there is a, "Sickness of the spirits [which] kept alternating with my flights of causeless buoyancy"

Dreams: The dream of building a Utopian Society is just one of the dreams in the novel. As Daniel Hoffman wrote, "Whether Miles Coverdale is reporting what he has actually seen and heard, or what he has dreamed. Parts of the book indeed seem to rely on, to create, a stream-of-consciousness narration" Coverdale's dreams reveal his discovery and continued repression of his sexual desire of Zenobia. There are dreams created in his imagination and memory, as well as the dreams in his sleep. All of which include the veil and mask imagery that recur in the novel. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Feb 24, 2021 |
I'm not entirely sure what to think of this book. When I read it from this current period, the way the men are behaving seems strange.
A book of which the storylines eluded me at times. Why murder someone when you love another? Or was the confesser not the murderer? The sad ending somehow fits but is a bit dramatical imho.
And I'm not so fond of the book that I feel the need to go back and look what I might have missed at a certain point. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Jan 31, 2020 |
So, "The Blithesdale Romance" certainly isn't Nathaniel Hawthorne's best work but I still found it interesting nonetheless. It had an odd way of getting at the story -- in a sort of meandering way, but I thought the overall story was interesting once the book finally got to it.

Our narrator Myles Coverdale joins a communal farm named Blithesdale, which is populated by some quirky and interesting characters. There isn't really a ton of information about farm life, it's more about Coverdale's efforts to slowly uncover the lives of his fellow residents Zenobia and Priscilla.

Sometimes the plot gets lost a bit in the poetic ramblings about the trees or the walls (or whatever) but I liked it enough to continue on to see what would happen. The ending also surprised me, so bonus points for that, too. ( )
  amerynth | Apr 9, 2019 |
Enjoyable romance with tragic elements. ( )
  brakketh | May 23, 2018 |
This book was chosen while trying to complete a LT Challenge.

It was listed as a satire, yet there was barely enough information presented about the daily lives of the people who joined to form the experimental Blithedale community to satirize.

The plot ranged from faux mysteries to goofy, with good venue and character physical descriptions interspersed:
"He had a good forehead, with a particularly large development just above the eyebrows; fine intellectual gifts, no doubt, which he had educated to this profitable end; being famous for nothing but gin-cocktails, and commanding a fair salary by his one accomplishment."

The physical beauty of the women was way over-emphasized and, what was revealed by their actions, might make one wonder if they were worthy of the equal rights pursued.

I felt no connection with any of the characters and only the slightest interest in solving the mystery
of The Veiled Lady, certainly a discordant plot entry. ( )
  m.belljackson | Apr 23, 2017 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Nathaniel Hawthorneautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
George, Andrew J.Introduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Kolodny, AnnetteIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Rossanda, RossanaEpílegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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The evening before my departure for Blithedale, I was returning to my bachelor-apartments, after attending the wonderful exhibition of the Veiled Lady, when an elderly-man of rather shabby appearance met me in an obscure part of the street.
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A group of Utopians, unhappy with dissolute, mid-19th-century America, takes to the pastoral life; but the members find little satisfaction in the communal life. Instead of changing the world, they pursue self-centered paths that ultimately lead to tragedy. Absorbing 1852 novel about love, idealism, and politics bristles with Hawthorne's perceptive wit and intelligence.

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