The Blithedale Romance


Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Blithedale Romance: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

One day while Hollingsworth and Coverdale are eating lunch under some trees after hoeing potatoes, they spot someone coming up the path. This isn’t unusual because a lot of people have come to see the community for themselves, but this person seems to have another purpose—he is old, shabbily dressed, and seems to want to hide half of himself. Coverdale indicates that he recognizes the man, but that he doesn’t know anything about his history, although it must be interesting. When he gets closer, Hollingsworth greets Moodie and offers him some bread and cheese. Moodie seats himself so he’s mostly obscured by a shrub. Coverdale reminds him of a little purse he bought from Moodie once and asks who made it. Moodie says normally he wouldn’t reveal that secret, but Coverdale currently knows more about the purse-maker than he does.
Moodie is unique because he tries to balance an active social life (this is necessary to his job as a peddler, which requires him to go out into public to try to sell his purses and other trinkets) with concealing himself from the public eye. This is slightly different from Zenobia, who uses a pseudonym but doesn’t deny her real identity in society. Moodie wants to be simultaneously seen and unseen, which is the first clue that he has other, bigger secrets to hide. Recall in this moment that, on their first night at Blithedale, Priscilla was making a purse of which Coverdale took note.
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Hollingsworth playfully scolds Coverdale, saying that surely Coverdale has already figured out that Priscilla makes the purses. Hollingsworth tells Moodie it’s good that he’s come to visit Priscilla—she’s grown lively and beautiful since coming to Blithedale. Moodie is happy to hear this, but he says that maybe it’d be better not to see her and remind her of the unhappy past. Hollingsworth tells Moodie he’s wrong—Priscilla talks about him all the time and she’d be happy to see him. Before going to find her, Moodie asks if anyone has called for Priscilla (nobody has) and if there is a beautiful lady, one he knew when she was a child, who wears a flower in her hair. Coverdale quietly asks Hollingsworth what the connection between Moodie and Zenobia can be. Hollingsworth says that Moodie is out of his mind and he tells Moodie that there is someone of that description, and she’s very kind and sisterly to Priscilla.
This is the second clue that Zenobia and Priscilla are somehow connected, and that Moodie is the element that connects them. Moodie’s question about someone coming to see Priscilla reveals his concern that whatever bad situation Priscilla escaped from has to do with another person who might be trying to track her down.
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Moodie tells Hollingsworth that nothing would make him happier than to see the “beautiful lady” holding Priscilla’s hand. Hollingsworth says they might catch them doing just that and leads Moodie towards the farmhouse. Alone, Coverdale thinks that Moodie doesn’t seem out of his mind like Hollingsworth said. In fact, Coverdale thinks the community should take care of Moodie and make him happy, which would benefit both Moodie and the community in general. Later, as he heads back in, Coverdale sees Moodie in the yard staring at a window. Suddenly Priscilla appears there with Zenobia. Coverdale thinks Priscilla is doing this for Moodie’s benefit. However, Priscilla is a little too affectionate and Zenobia pushes her away and gives her a condescending look. Moodie shakes his head and walks away but turns back around to shake his fist.
Interestingly, Moodie doesn’t refer to Zenobia by name now even though he did use her name (her pseudonym, at least) the night before Coverdale left for Blithedale. He calls her the “beautiful lady,” but not Zenobia or her real name. Moodie’s angry reaction to seeing Zenobia push Priscilla away indicates that he expects—for some mysterious and secret reason—Zenobia to accept Priscilla and shower her with affection. He’s angry at her for being so proud that she can’t graciously accept Priscilla’s affection.
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