The Blithedale Romance

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Blithedale Romance: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Over the next few weeks, Coverdale struggles to put his memories of Blithedale and his concern for Zenobia, Hollingsworth, and Priscilla behind him. Try as he might, he can’t stop thinking about them and wondering what their lives are like beyond what he reads about Blithedale in the papers. Coverdale returns to his old life and friends, and he jokes about his project at Blithedale, downplaying its significance, but he’s never physically far away from Blithedale. On one autumn day, Coverdale ventures out to a Lyceum-hall to see the Veiled Lady. The hall is crowded, but Coverdale notices a familiar form sitting nearby. He tries to surprise Hollingsworth by asking where Zenobia is, but Hollingsworth calmly replies that the last time he saw her, she was at Blithedale. Hollingsworth doesn’t say more, so Coverdale listens to the people around them talking about the power magicians have over other people’s emotions.
Even now that he knows Zenobia and Priscilla’s secrets, Coverdale doesn’t use the information to try to save them. In fact, he does the opposite and tries to forget them by slipping back into his old life and habits. This means that Coverdale actually is willing to abandon Blithedale since the most interesting part of life there (the mysteries surrounding Priscilla and Zenobia) have been explained and Coverdale feels like there’s nothing he can do with the information, especially if they also abandoned the project. This shows the self-serving nature of his curiosity. When Coverdale asks Hollingsworth about Zenobia, Coverdale intends to surprise and perhaps even hurt Hollingsworth. The information that Zenobia is back in Blithedale could indicate that she’s once again freed herself from Westervelt.
Themes
Self-Interest and Utopian Societies Theme Icon
Secrecy and Self-deception Theme Icon
Manipulation, Control, and Ambition Theme Icon
The audience calls for the show to start and a bearded man enters the stage. Coverdale recognizes Professor Westervelt; he shudders and asks Hollingsworth where Priscilla is but gets no answer. Westervelt beckons the Veiled Lady forward to take her seat on stage. Westervelt says that beneath her veil, the Lady is in the land of spirits and doesn’t see or hear the audience. Several audience members test this claim by making loud noises near her ear, but she never responds. Hollingsworth abruptly steps onto the stage and tells her to come. She takes her veil off and Coverdale wonders at how she was betrayed but believes she kept her innocence throughout her ordeal. Under the veil, she was as safe and alone as if she were back at Eliot’s Pulpit with Hollingsworth. The Lady runs to Hollingsworth.
Coverdale realizes that the real danger is not that Westervelt has Zenobia, but that Westervelt has Priscilla. Coverdale’s question reveals his growing suspicion that Zenobia won her freedom from Westervelt by sacrificing Priscilla’s. Even though Coverdale doesn’t name Priscilla once she takes the veil off, it’s clear that the Lady is Priscilla because Coverdale describes her being at Eliot’s Pulpit and sitting at Hollingsworth’s feet in Blithedale, which is something only Priscilla does in the narrative.
Themes
Self-Interest and Utopian Societies Theme Icon
Progressive vs. Traditional Gender Roles Theme Icon
Secrecy and Self-deception Theme Icon
Manipulation, Control, and Ambition Theme Icon
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