Monday, 4 July 2016

Review of 'The Blithedale Romance' by Nathaniel Hawthorne

What, two posts in two days? I know right, total chaos over here. One of my goals for July is to get back into book blogging and writing reviews, so here we are with another glorious classic. In case you missed it, you can have a peek at yesterday's review of The Thirty Nine Steps here.

For far too long, I assumed that American literature was basically the same as English literature, until I took a couple of modules at university that pointed out to me that American authors actually strove to move away from English literature, to make their own distinct genre. Having now learnt a bit about early American literature, I can see that The Blithedale Romance is unapologetically American.

This dark romance is said to be inspired by Hawthorne's own experiences at attempting to create a utopian society of intellectuals. This occurred at a place called Brook Farm. Although the author disclaims that the fictional events and characters of the novel do not resemble real life, many critics stated that there were clear parellels between the novel and some of the inhabitants of the Brook Farm commune.

The Blithedale Romance centres around its protagonist's, Miles Coverdale's, attempt to move away from modern life, and back to a simpler time at Blithedale farm. He joins a community there, and over a matter of months begins to feel his body and mind transforming to a less intellectual and more agricultural mode. Despite there being a reasonably sized population at the commune, Miles is only concerned with the fates of three individuals: Zenobia, Hollingsworth and Priscilla. 

Zenobia is the female patriarch of the commune, and as such, from a feminist viewpoint, it is interesting to see the speeches that Hawthorne accredited to her character. She greatly believes in the power of women, and thinks that men have covered up the female voice of intellect for far too long. Zenobia is a beautiful but somewhat mysterious creature, best known for her insistence on wearing an exotic flower in her hair at all times, and Miles' obsession with its presence.

Hollingsworth is seen as a threat to Coverdale: Miles almost seems to believe that without Hollingsworth there, he would be the 'top dog' of the male aspect of the commune, yet there is little evidence to support this belief. Despite declaring the animosity between the pair at the beginning of the novel, Hollingsworth treats Miles with the most respect, and even tends to him during his time of sickness.

And then we have Priscilla. She simultaneously maintains a position at the centre and at the edge of the novel and it's plot. This weak and delicate young girl is shrouded in mystery from the very start of the novel. Zenobia's rejection of her love and Hollingsworth's admiration of the girl never cease to baffle Coverdale.

Alongside the tale of the perhaps not-so-idyllic Blithedale farm, are the stories about the mysterious Veiled Lady. Coverdale seems almost obsessed with following the trail about her, but why is this creature from 'the other side' so interesting to him? And is she paranormal or actually on this earth?

Have you read The Blithedale Romance? What were your thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment