Miles Coverdale, a young New England poet, the narrator of the story. He is a highly sensitive young man and an eager observer of the persons he meets at Blithedale Farm, an experiment in communal living that he joins for a time. Three of his fellow experimenters particularly attract his attention: Zenobia Fauntleroy, Priscilla Moodie, and a man named Hollingsworth. As an observer of their lives, Miles is intrigued, caught by his interest in them as human souls and, as well, by his love for Priscilla Moodie, a love he never reveals to her.
Hollingsworth, a dark, powerful man who was once a blacksmith. He has fastened himself to a single project in obsessive fashion: He desires to set up a philanthropic institution for the reform of criminals and thus to reduce the amount of evil in the world. This project is Hollingsworth’s ruling passion, and all else in his life must be subservient to it. He joins the experiment at Blithedale Farm because he sees in the farm a place to erect the buildings to house his reformatory and because he sees in Zenobia, a wealthy young woman of the group, a person who can help his project with her money and influence. Unfortunately for Hollingsworth’s project, he falls in love with Priscilla Moodie and thus alienates Zenobia, who is Priscilla’s half sister. Zenobia’s later suicide weighs heavily on Hollingsworth’s conscience, for she left him with a curse. He gives up his idea of reforming other persons until he can assure himself that he is not guilty of crime. His tragedy is that of conscience, for he believes he is responsible for Zenobia’s death; he believes he has driven the girl to suicide and so regards himself as her murderer. With this thought weighing upon him, he can no longer consider trying to reform others guilty of crime. Though he marries Priscilla Moodie, he is a...
(The entire section is 776 words.)