Studies in a Literary Genre
CHAPTER 4 Hawthorne and Utopia: The Blithedale Romance
Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance is, of course, not a utopia in any strict sense; it does not belong to the genre at the center of which are works like More’s Utopia, Bellamy’s Looking Backward, Morris’s News From Nowhere. On the other hand, The Blithedale Romance is related in the most interesting way to actual utopian experiments in history—Brook Farm, specifically— and it dramatizes certain problematic questions about utopia that have had major consequences for the twentieth century. Thus the relationship of Blithedale to the generic problems with which we are concerned has seemed to me significant enough to justify a close look at Hawthorne’s romance. Miles Coverdale projects the romance of Blithedale into the future one summer day, as he and Hollingsworth lift stones into place to repair a wall. In a century or two, he says to his silent companion, Zenobia, Priscilla, Hollingsworth, and he will be mythic characters; legends will have grown up about them, and they will figure heroically in an epic poem. But to Hollingsworth feckless speculations like these are infuriating; the utopian project at Blithedale is, in his view, a wretched, insubstantial scheme, impos- sible of realization and worthless if possible. “It has given you a theme for poetry,” he growls at Coverdale. “Let that content you.” It is a question whether Hawthorne’s experience at Brook Farm brought him more, although he boasted, according to Emerson, of having lived in the utopian community during its heroic age. He was there, on his own explanation, to...
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