Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance In the penultimate chapter of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance, Coverdale offers a “moral” at the end of the narrative that specifically addresses Hollingsworth’s philanthropic and personal failures: "…admitting what is called philanthropy, when adopted as a profession, to be often useful by its energetic impulse to society at large, it is perilous to the individual whose ruling passion, in one exclusive channel, it thus becomes. It ruins, or is fearfully apt to ruin, the heart, the rich juices of which God never meant should be pressed violently out and distilled into alcoholic liquor by an unnatural process, but should render life sweet, bland, and gently beneficent, and insensibly influence over other hearts and other lives to the same blessed end." (348) Coverdale’s “moral,” which implicates all of the reformers, including both Hollingsworth and himself, implies that an Edenic world created by individuals unwilling to acknowledge a deterministic universe ultimately proves destructive, both to the self and to others. It not only proves fatal for the individual—as evidenced in Hollingsworth’s “ruling passion,” Coverdale’s disillusionment, and Zenobia’s suicide—but it also proves fatal to the community, composed of “rich juices” symbolically depicted throughout the novel as fruit, specifically grapes and wine, that represent its members and their desires. When “pressed violently,” these “ruling passion[s]” follow an “unnatural process” that cannot accommodate a “life sweet, bland, and gently beneficent,” or one that accepts a predetermined course not governed by individual human will. Coverdale’s journey, a journey not only temporally taken through seasons ... ... middle of paper ... establish community in a predetermined world. The latter painting only results in isolation, in the “death-in-life” state even Coverdale cannot escape at the end. The “bubbled” world encapsulated in the revelers’ painting offers a momentarily glimpse into the ending Hawthorne does not give the romance. Rather, he leaves us with the last painting’s lesson, the “broken bubble” that not only describes Blithedale, Hollingsworth, and Zenobia, it also describes Coverdale, who sits in judgement on others, even in his memory, and leaves himself, like the “New England toper,” in isolation. If, in Hawthorne’s view, we should accept a predetermined course, acknowledging that we have no free will and no possibility for a Paradisiacal world devoid of corruption, then we should also learn to share together in a communal spirit that ultimately defeats absolutism and isolation.

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