The Blithedale Romance

The Blithedale Romance Literary Elements



Setting and Context

1840s Massachusetts

Narrator and Point of View

First-person omniscient - Miles Coverdale

Tone and Mood

1st half: frank; straightforward; optimistic
2nd half: dreamy; obsessive; bitter; languid

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: Miles Coverdale Antagonist: Hollingsworth, if there is one

Major Conflict

There are several conflicts, but the main one seems to be the relationship between the four main characters - Hollingsworth, Priscilla, Zenobia, and Coverdale - and particularly the love triangle between the former three. Whom will Hollingsworth choose, and what will it do to the other woman?

A major conflict is also whether or not Blithedale will survive and thrive.

Another way to see the major conflict is whether Coverdale can control/influence his friends to the degree that he wishes.


While Coverdale actually misses it, the climax is at Eliot's Pulpit when the truth of Zenobia's identity and her lost fortune lead Hollingsworth to choose Priscilla over her.


-Coverdale threads his entire narrative with foreshadowing - foreshadowing of Blithedale's demise, of the tragedy that befalls them, of the identity of the Veiled Lady, of Moodie's role, of the outcome of Hollingsworth's experiment, of his break with Hollingsworth, etc.
-While ill, Coverdale blurts out in his stupor that "[Zenobia] is a sister of the Veiled Lady" (45)
-Coverdale says Blithedale is not really consecrated until it has its first death (130)


-When he notices his friends in the boarding house outside his window, all Coverdale says is "At any rate, it was with no positive surprise, but as if I had all along expected the incident, that, directing my eyes thitherward, I beheld—like a full-length picture, in the space between the heavy festoons of the window curtains—no other than Zenobia!" (155)


-"The response, by the by, was of the true Sibylline stamp" (6) -a sibyl was a Greek prophetess or oracle of the gods
-Coverdale calls Blithedale a "counterfeit Arcadia" (21) -allusion to the Greek pastoral paradise
-Coverdale calls Blithedale a "Utopia" (37) -allusion to Thomas More's work of philosophy and politics
-Coverdale speaks of the "nail in Sisera's brain" (38) -a reference to the biblical story of Jael putting a nail in Sisera's head while he slept
-Coverdale writes of Milton's poetry


See Imagery Section.


-Zenobia excoriates Hollingsworth with this cry: "It is all self!...Nothing else; nothing but self, self, self!" (218); but her main complaint that he did not choose her is also about "self."



Metonymy and Synecdoche



-Coverdale describes the driving snow as "business-like" in its perseverance (10)
-Coverdale writes, "A horrible suspicion crept into my heart, and stung the very core of it as with the fangs of an adder" (57)