As the summer wears on and Coverdale adjusts to life in Blithedale, he begins to look forward to the future and the group starts making permanent plans for cottages and larger communal living quarters. Hollingsworth engages in these discussions but without enthusiasm. Shortly after the event at Eliot’s Pulpit, Coverdale is sharing his opinion on how future generations of Blithedale will honor the founders. Hollingsworth says this is nonsense, but Coverdale passes over the criticism and keeps talking about Blithedale’s future—he’s excited for the first baby to be born there and wonders where they should set up the cemetery when someone inevitably dies. Hollingsworth stops him and says Coverdale’s words have made him realize how ridiculous the whole Blithedale experiment is and he mourns that they’ve wasted a whole summer on it. Still, Coverdale says he thinks they’ll be successful.
Despite his initial disappointment and disillusionment about how intellectually deadening physical labor can be, Coverdale still expresses a belief that Blithedale has a bright future. This is quite a contrast to his pessimism when he was observing Westervelt and felt infected by Westervelt’s thoughts. It’s not clear, then, what Coverdale’s actual beliefs are. It does seem that he enjoys being part of something and thinking that he’s important. Part of what makes his friendships with Hollingsworth, Zenobia, and Priscilla bittersweet is that he knows they don’t quite accept him into their group, nor do they think of him the way he thinks of them. Hollingsworth, however, begins to show his motives in joining Blithedale.
Hollingsworth says he neither believes in nor values Coverdale’s expectations for Blithedale and insists that Coverdale should try to be serious and join him in his project. Coverdale says there’s no need to repeat the whole conversation—Hollingsworth again shares his plan for criminal reform and says that he has the means of buying the land Blithedale is on. Hollingsworth wants to use the community for his own ends, and he has carefully prepared an argument in favor of this plan. Coverdale asks how Hollingsworth can afford this and he vaguely replies that he has the money. Coverdale believes Zenobia is giving Hollingsworth the money and wonders if she gave herself to Hollingsworth as well. They argue over how the rest of the community might feel, Hollingsworth’s secrecy, and whether Hollingsworth should give the others a say before he moves forward with his plan, which Hollingsworth refuses to do.
Hollingsworth’s revelation that he wants to buy Blithedale is a serious betrayal. It indicates that Hollingsworth may have really come to Blithedale because he wanted to use the readily-available land and manpower to fuel his own project. In doing so, he completely ignores how others might feel. Most of the people in Blithedale truly believe that they’re doing something great, and it will distress them all to learn that one of Blithedale’s founders manipulated them for months to win their trust so he could get them to do what he wants to do. Hollingsworth doesn’t see people as people, but as tools that he can either use for his own purposes or discard at will without a second thought.
Hollingsworth cuts the discussion short and says he wants an answer: will Coverdale join Hollingsworth’s cause and thus finally do something meaningful with his life or not. Hollingsworth says he doesn’t love any other man like he loves Coverdale and asks Coverdale not to forsake him. In a narrated aside, Coverdale says that Hollingsworth’s appeal tugged at his heartstrings and he nearly gave in, but the truth is that he thought Hollingsworth’s plan was odious and bleak. Still, had he just touched Hollingsworth’s hand, he might have given in. Back in the story, Coverdale asks if Zenobia is part of the plan and he is surprised that she is. Hollingsworth assures Coverdale that he didn’t use “base” methods to get her on board, but he can’t look Coverdale in the eye while he says it.
Hollingsworth is being very emotionally manipulative. He knows that Coverdale loves him and is willing to use that love to get Coverdale to compromise his own values and adopt Hollingsworth’s. This also means that Hollingsworth wouldn’t hesitate to do something similar to Zenobia, who everyone knows loves him. In fact, it’s likely that he appealed to her love for him to get the money he needs for the building. Hollingsworth says he wouldn’t use “base” (corrupt, dishonorable) methods to get the money, but he’s already shown a tendency to lie so neither Coverdale nor the reader can believe him.
Coverdale asks Hollingsworth what’s supposed to happen to Priscilla. Suddenly Hollingsworth looks fierce and asks why Coverdale insists on bringing her and Zenobia into the conversation. He again demands an answer from Coverdale—will he join the enterprise or not? Coverdale angrily asks if Hollingsworth is willing to throw over a friend just because that friend doesn’t want to join his project. Hollingsworth says Coverdale is either for him or against him. Coverdale replies that Hollingsworth’s plan is ill-advised and his methods in pursuing it dubious, so he will not join it. In the present, Coverdale says it wasn’t easy to tell Hollingsworth no, and Hollingsworth himself looked as if he’d been shot through the heart. Back in the story, Hollingsworth looks like he wants to say something, but he only manages to say “Well!” before turning away to fix a fence.
Hollingsworth seems so hurt because Coverdale’s rejection was so unexpected. Hollingsworth was sure that he could successfully manipulate Coverdale—who he sees as a directionless, idle pawn—into joining his cause for criminal reform. Coverdale’s rejection sends the message that Hollingsworth has overestimated his own abilities, which leaves him second-guessing himself.