Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Unnamed city

Unnamed city. Anonymous city representing the corruption of “civilization” from which the idealists who go to Blithedale come. For the affluent utopians (Coverdale and Zenobia), city life is soft and artificial, full of comforts, glitter, and social conventions that mask true feelings. For the poor (Moody and Priscilla), city life is a constant struggle marked by rigid class lines, poverty, and ill health. Wealthy and beautiful Zenobia leaves Blithedale periodically to resume her social life in the city. When Coverdale becomes disillusioned, he also returns to the city, where he indulges in comforts, eavesdrops on neighbors, and tells his friends he was never serious about the experimental commune. The city also supports popular and exploitative public entertainments. Here Priscilla becomes the Veiled Lady, a kind of slave to Westerveldt.


Blithedale. Experimental farm commune in Massachusetts that is founded to model life without class boundaries or competition, and one day, perhaps, without gender roles. The utopians want to live in harmony with one another and with nature. They assume such lives will ennoble them spiritually and will lead to heightened artistic and intellectual accomplishments.

Almost immediately, however, it becomes apparent that the Blithedalers are naïve and that the main characters are merely “playing” at being social reformers. They are uncomfortable treating the farming couple they live with as equals and had not understood that even farmers must compete in the financial market. Moreover, their lives quickly begin to revolve around worldly...

(The entire section is 680 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. Edited by Seymour Gross and Rosalie Murphy. New York: W. W. Norton, 1978. Contains the text, background information, sources, criticism, and bibliographies.

Johnson, Claudia D. The Productive Tension of Hawthorne’s Art. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1981. Chapter 4 contends that Hawthorne attacks the romantic tendency toward artist-centered art in The Blithedale Romance. Bibliography.

Kaul, A. N., ed. Hawthorne: A Collection of Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966. Kaul’s analysis of The Blithedale Romance identifies the author’s theme as social regeneration. Chronology and bibliography.

Lee, A. Robert, ed. Nathaniel Hawthorne: New Critical Essays. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1982. Depicts Hawthorne as looking back to the Puritans and forward to modernist themes and concerns.

Pearce, Roy Harvey, ed. Hawthorne Centenary Essays. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1964. Includes essays dealing with the reception of Hawthorne’s work in the nineteenth century. Suggests that the author’s complex, ambiguous feelings about the idealistic social experiment are evident.