The Blithedale Romance


Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Blithedale Romance: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

A few days after his argument with Hollingsworth, Coverdale announces that he’s going to leave for a holiday. This upsets Silas, who doesn’t want to lose a good worker; he predicts that Coverdale is leaving for good. Coverdale insists that he’ll only be gone for a couple of weeks to enjoy the sea air and would never abandon Blithedale. The truth is that Coverdale’s life at Blithedale has become troublesome since his argument with Hollingsworth—even his friendship with Priscilla and Zenobia changes after the fight. Although they’re kind to him, Coverdale senses a change in their feelings that makes him uncomfortable. The rest of the community, too, senses that something momentous occurred between Hollingsworth and Coverdale, and it weighs heavily on them all. Coverdale wants to take a step back to think about all that’s happened before deciding what to do with his future.
Coverdale’s departure truly marks the beginning of the end of Blithedale. As a founding member, it’s a big step for Coverdale to leave. Even though he says he’ll be back in two weeks, it’s clear that he’s deceiving himself. He’s no longer happy at Blithedale because he senses that its mission is crumbling and the people he’s most interested in no longer like or trust him. Even though Priscilla and Zenobia aren’t rude to Coverdale, the change in their manner towards him is their way of punishing him for hurting the man they love. Coverdale recognizes that he has to really think hard about his future because he’s becoming disillusioned with Blithedale, which was supposed to be his future.
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In an aside, Coverdale writes that there are so many opinions on the world—what it should be, what it shouldn’t be, how to change it—that he was beginning to forget what the world was actually like. He believes that no wise man can maintain his wisdom if he’s constantly surrounded by reformers and that sometimes it’s necessary to return to the old system and reevaluate the state of the world. To that end, Coverdale decided to go back to the city. Before he leaves, Coverdale asks Zenobia if he should announce that she’ll be delivering lectures about women’s rights soon. Zenobia smiles and says that women don’t have rights. Zenobia says she’s sad that he’s leaving because it’s like this phase of their lives is ending for good.
Coverdale has hitherto adopted the schemes and plans of the other reformers, but now he’s determined to arrive at his own conclusions about the world, about Blithedale, and about what he wants his life to be like. Zenobia, too, realizes that Coverdale’s departure is the beginning of the end for Blithedale, but also for their relationships. In ending his friendship with Hollingsworth, Coverdale has also ended his friendship with Zenobia, who can’t accept anyone who doesn’t accept and admire Hollingsworth.
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Zenobia tells Coverdale that she’s thought about confiding in him, but she won’t because he’s so young and she can’t confide in him now that he’s leaving. Coverdale goes to say goodbye to Priscilla, who’s making another purse. He asks her if she’ll still be there when he comes back and says he has a bad feeling that even if he comes back the next day then everything will be changed. Priscilla says she doesn’t ever want to leave and doesn’t think things will change. Coverdale squeezes her hand, but she doesn’t return it—he knows there’s no room in her heart for him. Coverdale walks past Hollingsworth without a word and towards the pigsty. Silas is there and says Coverdale must come back for spare ribs. Coverdale replies that pigs are the only happy creatures and it’d be better for them to eat people than the other way around.
Zenobia admits that she has something to hide by saying she’s considered confiding in Coverdale. This also means she senses Coverdale’s curiosity about her life, and therefore his willingness to listen to her problems and complaints. Coverdale is aware that by leaving, he is probably ruining his chances of ever fixing his friendships with Zenobia, Priscilla, and Hollingsworth. This is why he feels like nothing will be the same even if he’s only gone for a night.
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