Blithedale Romance is one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s splendid works which tells the story of a group of utopians who set out to reform their deteriorating, meaningless existence. They went to live in Blithedale community overlooked by the famed Zenobia. They started out with noble aims but the story ended in tragedy. In the story, careful analysis of the story would show that what really happened and what Miles was saying could actually two different things. Miles in his narrations seem to be holding back some important details and sugar-coated the truth by telling a version of his own. The end part of the story though would provide the clue as to why he finds the need to cover the truth. All throughout the story, the narrator carefully hid the fact that he has feelings for Priscilla by insinuating that it was Zenobia that caught his fancy. It was as if he purposely misled the reader into thinking that so his story would appear factual when in fact it could be full of biases.
Zenobia, at the start of the story, is full of life. She is at her prime. She is very successful as a magazine writer in which she used the pseudonym Zenobia. That is how the name came to be so popular. She holds the esteem of not only a few but most people in her place. Her committing suicide then comes as a huge puzzle. Even her friend, Mr. Westervelt, who knew Zenobia well, questions the very reason why she would commit such a grave mistake. This adds to the idea that a cover-up could have occurred. That Miles could not have narrated the whole truth about what had transpired. In the last portion of the story, we find Zenobia, a strong-willed woman, died because she committed suicide which prompted her long-time friend Mr. Westervelt to raise suspicions on such claims (“She was the last woman in the world to whom death could have been necessary”). This part is the subject of debate and the reason why questions surrounding Zenobia’s death arise.
Miles depiction of Zenobia at the middle part of the story showed her as woman of strength but is also capable of weakness (how can she be happy, after discovering that fate has assigned her but one single event, which she must contrive to make the substance of her whole life?). Zenobia questioned Miles statement as he commented on how happy Priscilla had become and he lamented that women are happier than men.
Zenobia unfortunately fell in love with Mr. Hollingsworth who, as the story unfolds, reveals that he wasn’t in love with Zenobia. At one point of the story, when Miles criticizes Hollingsworth, Zenobia comes to the latter’s defense. She believes that Hollingsworth actions stem from nobility and greatness of mind and not otherwise as what Miles believes. But Zenobia’s love is unrequited despite her efforts. And this is believed to be the cause why she committed the ghastly act of suicide.
The conclusion of the story though seems to give a whole new twist as Miles admitted a long-held secret (‘I–I myself–was in love–with–Priscilla!’). As Miles announced his real feelings for Priscilla one could not help but wonder if Miles could be hiding the truth all along. He is so good at convincing the readers that he has feelings for Zenobia throughout the tale that his admission in the end for his feelings for Priscilla practically takes them off-guard. The conclusion kind of unravels the mystery. It holds the key that shed light on what really happened to Zenobia on the faithful night. It is prompts the reader to ask more questions instead of enlightened them. Did a cover-up really occur? Is Mr. Coverdale telling the truith all along? Given the situation that the
narrator Miles is actually in love with Prisicilla and not with Zenobia, it leads one to believe that a cover-up is possible. For how can one explain the deadly choice Zenobia made given the kind of woman that she is – strong, intelligent, wealthy and successful? What Mr. WEstervelt said is true. There was no probable cause for her to commit suicide. And there were no signs that she even entertained the thought, even if she felt sad over her apparent failure in love. As a matter of fact, in her conversation with Miles she revealed that she was going to become a nun.
The story is full of twist right from the very start. Zenobia’s character is one of them being strong and weak at the same time. There is also the mysterious presence of Priscilla and as you get involved with the story you begin to wonder how this sweet little girl figures in the plot. As it turns out, she is Zenobia’s sister. Mr. Moodie, the stranger talking to Miles at the start of the story, turns out to be Zenobia and Priscilla’s father who hides from the public because of the crime of murder she committed in the past. Even Mr. Hollingsworth becomes the target of a twist when he opens to Miles that he intends to establish a School of Reform for prisoners at the community to which Miles strongly resisted.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance is a moving and haunting tale of pursuit of happiness and perfection. They build a community to reach their goal. This small community is actually a group of idealistic people. In the end, their pursuit ended tragically in Zenobia’s death.