The Blithedale Romance

The Blithedale Romance Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Why does Zenobia kill herself?

    What the characters assume is that Zenobia killed herself because Hollingsworth spurned her love. This is certainly plausible, but it is likely that there is something else going on as well. Zenobia has lost Hollingsworth, her fortune, and her entire way of being. She is adrift, bereft. Her new sister has chosen Hollingsworth, her lover. Her loss of fortune means that she will no longer be above the masses, thus escaping their censure. The entire way she has lived her life thus far, both materially and emotionally, is over. Even the women's rights views that she espoused must ring hollow, as she was willing to ignore them for Hollingsworth's love. The other explanation, albeit one more far-fetched, is that Coverdale murdered her; thus, she did not commit suicide at all but died to assuage Coverdale's frustration with not procuring her affection and his intense judgment of her behavior.

  2. 2

    What is the role of the Veiled Lady?

    The Veiled Lady is first and foremost Priscilla, a young woman coerced into performing this erotic and mysterious role. The Lady is also emblematic of the spiritual currents of the day, which, like the utopias, sought to push back against growing industrialization and secularization. She is also a symbol of covert sexuality, of secretiveness, of hidden identity. She is, as one critic writes, "a void for the poet to decorate." She symbolizes the characters' desires, and their need for truth in an increasingly fragmented world.

  3. 3

    Why is Blithedale a failure?

    Hawthorne makes it very clear that Blithedale is a failure, just as Brook Farm was in real life. The Blithedalers ignore history, the human condition, the prevailing forces of the day, and their own motivations and ambitions as they come together in their doomed experiment. Everyone has ulterior motives, and everyone is ultimately selfish and self-interested. It is also impossible to unite the farmer and the intellectual into one; Coverdale's hands are fated to be un-calloused.

  4. 4

    What are the allegorical elements of the text?

    Some critics see the work as secular allegory of the biblical tale of sin and virtue, "an allegorical dream-play between God and the devil" according to Brian M. Britt. Blithedale is an Eden, and its inhabitants are modern-day Adams and Eves consumed by sexual tension, selfishness, and curiosity. Coverdale often refers to Zenobia as Eve, and laments the lost Paradise after the Fall. Other critics have called it a Pilgrim's Progress of a sort; Kelley Griffith, Jr. writes, "Blithedale, in fact, is Coverdale's attempt to purge through art, through allegory, the guilt and suffering from his soul."

  5. 5

    What role does Westervelt play in the text?

    Westervelt is the devil of the text, the secular force to which the other characters are drawn to whether they want to be or not. He is certainly not fleshed out, and is more of an allegorical figure. He is there to tempt both Priscilla and Zenobia, and a reminder of the dangerous allure of the new age in which the characters live. As Laurie A. Sterling writes, "the imagery that surrounds him partakes of the language of substance and shadow, reality and unreality, that permeates the novel." Westervelt is the id, the seducer.