The Blithedale Romance


Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Blithedale Romance: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Now that Coverdale is getting old and has white hairs in his mustache, he can’t imagine a cheerier fire than the one they had on their first night in Blithedale. Gathering around the fire, the group spoke of starting a new Paradise, which nobody else in New England was thinking of doing. The group at Blithedale created a Paradise that lasted an entire summer. It’s mid-April when Coverdale and the others move there; the weather is clear in the morning, but by noon there’s a violent snowstorm. Still, Coverdale walks out of his cozy rooms and into the storm, fully believing that he’s heading towards a better life.
Coverdale reiterates that it has been many years since the events of the story, but this time he emphasizes that the project, although failed, was not entirely unhappy. Coverdale emphasizes how idealistic and progressive he and his group of friends were by mentioning that they chose to attempt something that nobody else in the area even talked about at the time.
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In the present, Coverdale says that the “better life” probably doesn’t look better now. It’s heroic to overcome doubt that one might be making an unwise decision, but genuine wisdom is being able to differentiate between when doubt should be resisted and when obeyed. Still, Coverdale thinks it’s wiser for individuals to try to make their daydreams a reality, even though any daydream worth having can only end in failure. This, however, doesn’t matter to Coverdale—daydreams have a value, they’re not just clutter. Whatever else Coverdale regrets, he thinks it was neither a sin nor a folly that, as a young man, he truly believed he was doing something for the greater good and made sacrifices to make his daydreams come true.
The “better life” Coverdale is looking for is supposed to be more intellectually and spiritually fulfilling; materially, Coverdale already has all he needs and more. Although Coverdale thinks it was heroic of him to leave luxury and comfort behind in the name of progress and idealism, he doesn’t think it was wise—he should have listened to his doubts and not gone because it would have saved him the heartache of seeing it fail. Even still, he admires his younger self for being so generous and determined, implying that he has since lost these qualities.
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At Blithedale, Coverdale trudges through the storm with four other men. Hollingsworth, he knows, has been delayed and will join them later that night. The snow in the city seems dingy, but once they get into the country the men believe the air and snow is purer, less tainted by smoke and the grime. Snowdrifts are building up along the fences, and the sole traveler the men encounter does not return their cheerful greeting (in the present, Coverdale notes that this might have been an omen). Coverdale suspects he’s caught a cold. At the farmhouse Mrs. Foster (whose husband will teach them how to run the farm) and two women greet them. Zenobia walks in shortly after these initial greetings. Although it’s not her real name, “Zenobia” seems fitting for her because she has as much natural pride as a queen.  
Throughout the narrative, the people at Blithedale struggle to win the acceptance of others. This is why, looking back, Coverdale believes the traveler’s rudeness in not responding to their greeting was an omen—it should have prepared them to be treated with indifference at best and hostility at worst. Although Coverdale knows Zenobia’s real name, he never does reveal it. It’s also perhaps an omen that, despite the men’s appreciation of nature (their sense that the snow is purer at Blithedale than in the city), the storm makes Coverdale sick. While the idea of Blithedale is that nature will purify the community members and make them better people, Coverdale’s immediate sickness is a bad sign.
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