Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Woman's Fate

In many ways, it seems, The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne is not only a very sacred window into the lives of those living in earlier times, but seems to be a piece of history (the Transcendental Period, that is) which touches on the hopes and dreams of many individuals today.

The inhabitants of the Blithedale Community, as it began, aspired for nothing more than a place of solitude from the daunting and hectic world. They were looking to change the way they viewed the world and, furthermore, the basic set of standards society had so deeply carved into the woodwork of their daily lives.

Of the many standards the citizens of Blithedale attempted to alter, the most fascinating seemed to be the way in which men and women were admirably looked upon - more specifically Zenobia and Priscilla. Not only were the two characters, according to Coverdale, complete opposites, but they were ultimate symbols that provoked insight to society's way of thinking.

As we know, Zenobia was strong. She carried herself "deficient of softness and delicacy" (15). Her hands were "larger than most women would like to have," therefore provoking a masculine picture for the reader to acknowledge (15). Throughout the book, Zenobia seemed to be a central character, both influential and picturesque, who brought both admirable envy as well as scorn to all who looked upon her. In the days of Blithedale's settlement, women with traits such as these were despised (though ironically, they are now envied).

Priscilla, on the other hand, was meek and gentle, in an almost helpless manner. Her face was an "almost sickly hue, betokening habitual seclusion from the sun and free short, there has seldom been seen so depressed and sad as this young girl's..." (27). From the moment Priscilla arrived in Blithedale, she was looked upon as a saddening individual which needed all the help she could get. Yet, her character, it seems, is one which was highly regarded for a female during this time period; she was pious and submissive.

Ultimately, I find it extremely ironic that this story concludes with the death of the vibrant and individualistic Zenobia, and the continuation of Priscilla's profitable and envious life, though she a lonely and weak woman. This conclusion, it seems, carries undertones of the ancient philosophy that happy and blessed women are those who keep to themselves and never aspire for more than mediocrity...fortunately, for women today, this is much less of an issue!

1 comment:

  1. Your choice of quotation is interesting, Chelsea: Coverdale presents Zenobia's strength as a deficiency, which reveals a lot about his perspective right away. The "anonymous mediocrity" message for women is, as you say, fortunately not part of what our culture preaches.