The Blithedale Romance

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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A founding member of Blithedale, Zenobia is the group’s unofficial leader. She is beautiful, vibrant, independently wealthy, and a known writer and activist with a passion for women’s equality. While Zenobia’s past and identity are mostly a secret (“Zenobia” is itself a pseudonym), there are rumors of a past marriage and Coverdale observes that she has mysterious connections to others, including Moodie, Westervelt, and Priscilla. As the story continues, Hawthorne reveals what these connections are. The book implies that she is married to (but estranged from) the sinister magician Westervelt, and Coverdale suggests that their marriage might have been a traumatic loss of independence for Zenobia, which perhaps led to her feminist activism. Moodie turns out to be her father, who left her with a wealthy uncle when he fled debtors during her childhood, and Priscilla is her half-sister who has come to Blithedale to find her (although Zenobia never knew she existed). At Blithedale, Zenobia becomes good friends with Coverdale and she falls in love (and has a somewhat one-sided relationship) with Hollingsworth. Her relationship with Hollingsworth draws out a central tension of her character: while she cherishes her ideas about women’s equality and independence, her love for Hollingsworth makes her change her behavior and rhetoric as she tries to align with his more traditional ideas about women. Zenobia also becomes close to Priscilla, despite being annoyed by the girl’s clingy and affectionate demeanor. However, Zenobia comes to a moment of crisis when she realizes that Hollingsworth is using her for her money, manipulating her love so she will fund his philanthropic project while not actually being in love with her. After a confrontation, Priscilla and Hollingsworth walk off together, and Zenobia tells Coverdale that Hollingsworth has killed her then drowns herself in the pond. Zenobia’s death marks the end of Blithedale’s idealism, showing that the utopian experiment was doomed to fail. Her suicide is also a comment on the difficulty of being a 19th-century woman. Zenobia’s despair comes from her inability to be herself while finding romantic fulfillment and from her sense that the world hurts women while protecting men.

Zenobia Quotes in The Blithedale Romance

The The Blithedale Romance quotes below are all either spoken by Zenobia or refer to Zenobia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Blithedale Romance published in 1983.
Chapter 6 Quotes

The most curious part of the matter was, that, long after my slight delirium had passed away—as long, indeed, as I continued to know this remarkable woman—her daily flower affected my imagination, though more slightly, yet in very much the same way. The reason must have been, that, whether intentionally on her part, or not, this favorite ornament was actually a subtile expression of Zenobia’s character.

Related Characters: Miles Coverdale (speaker), Zenobia
Related Symbols: Zenobia’s Flowers
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
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Then, also, as anybody could observe, the freedom of her deportment (though, to some tastes, it might commend itself as the utmost perfection of manner, in a youthful widow, or a blooming matron) was not exactly maidenlike. What girl had ever laughed as Zenobia did! What girl had ever spoken in her mellow tones! Her unconstrained and inevitable manifestation, I said often to myself, was that of a woman to whom wedlock had thrown wide the gates of mystery. Yet, sometimes, I strove to be ashamed of these conjectures. I acknowledged it as a masculine grossness—a sin of wicked interpretation, of which man is often guilty towards the other sex—thus to mistake the sweet, liberal, but womanly frankness of a noble and generous disposition. Still, it was of no avail to reason with myself, nor to upbraid myself. Pertinaciously the thought—‘Zenobia is a wife! Zenobia has lived, and loved! There is no folded petal, no latent dew-drop, in this perfectly developed rose!’—irresistibly that thought drove out all other conclusions, as often as my mind reverted to the subject.

Related Characters: Miles Coverdale (speaker), Zenobia
Page Number: 47
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Chapter 8 Quotes

“Did you ever see a happy woman in your life? Of course, I do not mean a girl—like Priscilla, and a thousand others, for they are all alike, while on the sunny side of experience—but a grown woman. How can she be happy, after discovering that fate has assigned her but one single event, which she must contrive to make the substance of her whole life? A man has his choice of innumerable events.”

Related Characters: Zenobia (speaker), Miles Coverdale, Priscilla / The Veiled Lady
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 9 Quotes

Thus, as my conscience has often whispered me, I did Hollingsworth a great wrong by prying into his character, and am perhaps doing him as great a one, at this moment, by putting faith in the discoveries which I seemed to make. But I could not help it. Had I loved him less, I might have used him better. He—and Zenobia and Priscilla, both for their own sakes and as connected with him—were separated from the rest of the Community, to my imagination, and stood forth as the indices of a problem which it was my business to solve.

Page Number: 69
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Chapter 12 Quotes

Now, as I looked down from my upper region at this man and woman—outwardly so fair a sight, and wandering like two lovers in the wood—I imagined that Zenobia, at an earlier period of youth, might have fallen into the misfortune above indicated. And when her passionate womanhood, as was inevitable, had discovered its mistake, there had ensued the character of eccentricity and defiance, which distinguished the more public portion of her life.

Related Characters: Miles Coverdale (speaker), Zenobia, Professor Westervelt
Page Number: 103
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Chapter 14 Quotes

“It is my belief—yes, and my prophecy, should I die before it happens—that, when my sex shall achieve its rights, there will be ten eloquent women, where there is now one eloquent man. Thus far, no woman in the world has ever once spoken out her whole heart and her whole mind. The mistrust and disapproval of the vast bulk of society throttles us, as with two gigantic hands at our throats! We mumble a few weak words, and leave a thousand better ones unsaid. You let us write a little, it is true, on a limited range of subjects. But the pen is not for woman. Her power is too natural and immediate. It is with the living voice, alone, that she can compel the world to recognize the light of her intellect and the depth of her heart!”

Related Characters: Zenobia (speaker)
Page Number: 120
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“I hate to be ruled by my own sex; it excites my jealousy and wounds my pride. It is the iron sway of bodily force, which abases us, in our compelled submission. But, how sweet the free, generous courtesy, with which I would kneel before a woman-ruler!”

“Yes, if she were young and beautiful,” said Zenobia, laughing. “But how if she were sixty, and a fright?”

Related Characters: Miles Coverdale (speaker), Zenobia (speaker)
Page Number: 121
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Chapter 19 Quotes

Even her characteristic flower, though it seemed to be still there, had undergone a cold and bright transfiguration; it was a flower exquisitely imitated in jeweller’s work, and imparting the last touch that transformed Zenobia into a work of art.

Related Characters: Miles Coverdale (speaker), Zenobia
Related Symbols: Zenobia’s Flowers
Page Number: 163-164
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 20 Quotes

“Oh, this stale excuse of duty!” said Zenobia, in a whisper so full of scorn that it penetrated me like the hiss of a serpent. “I have often heard it before, from those who sought to interfere with me, and I know precisely what it signifies. Bigotry; self-conceit; an insolent curiosity; a meddlesome temper; a cold-blooded criticism, founded on a shallow interpretation of half-perceptions; a monstrous scepticism in regard to any conscience or any wisdom, except one’s own; a most irreverent propensity to thrust Providence aside, and substitute one’s self in its awful place—out of these, and other motives as miserable as these, comes your idea of duty!”

Related Characters: Zenobia (speaker), Miles Coverdale (speaker)
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 22 Quotes

Nor was her reputation seriously affected by the report. In fact, so great was her native power and influence, and such seemed the careless purity of her nature, that whatever Zenobia did was generally acknowledged as right for her to do. The world never criticised her so harshly as it does most women who transcend its rules. It almost yielded its assent when it beheld her stepping out of the common path, and asserting the more extensive privileges of her sex, both theoretically and by her practice. The sphere of ordinary womanhood was felt to be narrower than her development required.

Related Characters: Miles Coverdale (speaker), Zenobia
Page Number: 189-190
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Chapter 25 Quotes

“Ah, this is very good!” said Zenobia, with a smile. “What strange beings you men are, Mr. Coverdale!—is it not so? It is the simplest thing in the world, with you, to bring a woman before your secret tribunals, and judge and condemn her, unheard, and then tell her to go free without a sentence. The misfortune is, that this same secret tribunal chances to be the only judgment-seat that a true woman stands in awe of, and that any verdict short of acquittal is equivalent to a death-sentence!”

Related Characters: Zenobia (speaker), Miles Coverdale, Hollingsworth
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:
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“It is all self!” answered Zenobia, with still intenser bitterness. “Nothing else; nothing but self, self, self! The fiend, I doubt not, has made his choicest mirth of you, these seven years past, and especially in the mad summer which we have spent together. I see it now! I am awake, disenchanted, disenthralled! Self, self, self! You have embodied yourself in a project. You are a better masquerader than the witches and gipsies yonder; for your disguise is a self-deception.”

Related Characters: Zenobia (speaker), Hollingsworth
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 26 Quotes

“A moral? Why, this:--that, in the battlefield of life, the downright stroke, that would fall only on a man’s steel head-piece, is sure to light on a woman’s heart, over which she wears no breastplate, and whose wisdom it is, therefore, to keep out of the conflict. Or this:--that the whole universe, her own sex and yours, and Providence, or Destiny, to boot, make common cause against the woman who swerves one hair’s breadth out of the beaten track.”

Related Characters: Zenobia (speaker), Miles Coverdale
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:
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“But I am weary of this place, and sick to death of playing at philanthropy and progress. Of all the varieties of mock-life, we have surely blundered into the very emptiest mockery, in our effort to establish the one true system. I have done with it […]. It was, indeed, a foolish dream! Yet it gave us some pleasant summer days and bright hopes, while they lasted. It can do no more; nor will it avail us to shed tears over a broken bubble.”

Related Characters: Zenobia (speaker), Miles Coverdale
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 28 Quotes

It was a woful thought, that a woman of Zenobia’s diversified capacity should have fancied herself irretrievably defeated on the broad battle-field of life, and with no refuge, save to fall on her own sword, merely because Love had gone against her. It is nonsense, and a miserable wrong—the result, like so many others, of masculine egotism—that the success or failure of woman’s existence should be made to depend wholly on the affections, and on one species of affection; while man has such a multitude of other chances, that this seems but an incident.

Related Characters: Miles Coverdale (speaker), Zenobia, Hollingsworth
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:
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Zenobia Character Timeline in The Blithedale Romance

The timeline below shows where the character Zenobia appears in The Blithedale Romance. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Old Moodie
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...help, but Moodie refuses to explain what he needs. He asks Coverdale if he knows Zenobia. Coverdale says he does, but not personally. Zenobia is an author and a women’s rights... (full context)
Chapter 2: Blithedale
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...(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... (full context)
Chapter 3: A Knot of Dreamers
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When Zenobia greets Coverdale, she expresses her love for his poetry and says she hopes he doesn’t... (full context)
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Zenobia explains that their new life as brothers and sisters will begin at dawn. Women will... (full context)
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...to society rather than as a new brotherhood. Coverdale hopes this will change over time. Zenobia calls them to the dinner table. She tells Coverdale how odd she thinks it is... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Supper-table
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...the fire, the men look young and energetic and the women look even more beautiful. Zenobia urges everyone to sit without any pomp or ceremony and enjoy the tea. At the... (full context)
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...silence, Coverdale comments on how picturesque the farmhouse must look with the fire blazing inside. Zenobia says it’ll undoubtedly attract a wayfarer and just then someone pounds on the door. Everyone... (full context)
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Zenobia sharply asks who the girl is and why she doesn’t talk. Hollingsworth—who is very tall... (full context)
Chapter 5: Until Bedtime
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...pair of shoes and Mrs. Foster knits. Coverdale notices how trustingly Priscilla surrenders herself to Zenobia’s care. Coverdale theorizes that Priscilla worships Zenobia because she has read some of Zenobia’s stories... (full context)
Chapter 6: Coverdale’s Sick-chamber
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...he’s getting better instead of dying. Everyone is unfailingly kind to Coverdale during his illness. Zenobia brings him gruel she made herself and talks to him whenever she has time. Coverdale... (full context)
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Coverdale obsesses over the thought that Zenobia has been married. She is young, wealthy, and beautiful, but if she has ever been... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Convalescent
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...charitably welcomes her, though she maintains an air of mystery. Priscilla is very devoted to Zenobia, but Zenobia sometimes loses patience with her. Priscilla also favors Hollingsworth and the two often... (full context)
Chapter 8: A Modern Arcadia
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Coverdale leaves his bed in May. He wanders outside, toward the sound of Zenobia and someone else laughing. In the barn he sees that Zenobia is decorating Priscilla with... (full context)
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...meet him. Halfway there, she suddenly stops and looks around like someone has called her. Zenobia says she’s seen Priscilla do the same thing before and doesn’t know why it happens.... (full context)
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Zenobia arrives at a similar conclusion. When Coverdale returns one day, she asks if he’s written... (full context)
Chapter 9: Hollingsworth. Zenobia, Priscilla
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...to Hollingsworth, he might have been more objective in his assessments. As it is, Hollingsworth, Zenobia, and Priscilla stand apart from the rest of Blithedale and seem like a problem that... (full context)
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...of Hollingsworth, as many young women might. Hollingsworth is affectionate with Priscilla, and Coverdale knows Zenobia would give anything for Hollingsworth to show her the same. Coverdale would like to protect... (full context)
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...wonders what Priscilla sees in Hollingsworth but enjoys the image of the two sitting together. Zenobia appears in the doorway and stares at them a moment before telling Priscilla to come... (full context)
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The gossips in Blithedale theorize that Hollingsworth and Zenobia are in love. They frequently take long walks alone together, with Hollingsworth talking about his... (full context)
Chapter 10: A Visitor from Town
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Wood-path
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...The man apologizes for the way he addressed Coverdale and asks if a woman named Zenobia lives there. Coverdale confirms this, although Zenobia is a pseudonym. The man says he knows... (full context)
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...his name is Professor Westervelt. Coverdale says that he’s shown the man where to find Zenobia but he’ll have to ask Priscilla’s other friends to lead him to her. Westervelt leaves... (full context)
Chapter 12: Coverdale’s Hermitage
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...at Blithedale. After speaking with Professor Westervelt, Coverdale climbs into his hermitage, which is near Zenobia’s usual walking path. From his perch, Coverdale sees Hollingsworth in the field with the oxen.... (full context)
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...hears Westervelt’s distinctive laugh in the forest below and he realizes that his thoughts about Zenobia, Hollingsworth, Priscilla, and Blithedale were actually reflections of Westervelt’s opinions, and his influence has darkened... (full context)
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Unlike Zenobia, Westervelt is cool and collected. He looks perplexed about Zenobia’s anger, but he is likely... (full context)
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Coverdale wonders if fate will lead Zenobia and Westervelt to stop under his tree so he can hear their conversation, but this... (full context)
Chapter 13: Zenobia’s Legend
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...putting on theatrical performances from time to time. The night after the incident with Westervelt, Zenobia proposes that they put off acting for the evening so she can tell a story.... (full context)
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...heard of the Veiled Lady, who once drew huge crowds but abruptly disappeared months earlier. Zenobia tells of the last known incident involving the Lady: a group of young men are... (full context)
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...listens to the exhibition. The performance ends and soon the Veiled Lady enters the room. Zenobia says at this point Theodore was likely becoming frightened with the thought of what he... (full context)
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...The woman does it and the magician grabs and enslaves the Lady. At this moment, Zenobia throws some gauze over Priscilla, leaving her shaken and scared.   (full context)
Chapter 14: Eliot’s Pulpit
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...others enjoy the scenery around Blithedale or take long naps in the barn. Hollingsworth, Coverdale, Zenobia, and Priscilla make a habit of going to a strange nearby rock formation they call... (full context)
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Zenobia sees Coverdale smile and says it’s indicative of shallow thought. She predicts that as soon... (full context)
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Coverdale says it’s Zenobia who “rate[s] womanhood low.” He says that he never like bearded male priests and wishes... (full context)
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...Coverdale knows the type of womanhood Hollingsworth idealizes is at his feet. He turns to Zenobia, expecting her to be as horrified by Hollingsworth’s words as he is; to Coverdale, Hollingsworth’s... (full context)
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...the group gets up and heads back. Priscilla skips on ahead, followed by Hollingsworth and Zenobia, and Coverdale in the back. Coverdale sees Zenobia press Hollingsworth’s hand to her breast. Coverdale... (full context)
Chapter 15: A Crisis
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...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.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 16: Leave-takings
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Zenobia tells Coverdale that she’s thought about confiding in him, but she won’t because he’s so... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Boarding-house
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...after a late night at the theater. His sleep was tormented by dreams about Hollingsworth, Zenobia, and Priscilla. In one, Hollingsworth and Zenobia bend across his bed to passionately kiss each... (full context)
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Zenobia is fashionably dressed, but she still has an exotic flower in her hair. She walks... (full context)
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Coverdale watches Zenobia and Westervelt talk to each other. Zenobia’s gestures and other body language indicate that she’s... (full context)
Chapter 19: Zenobia’s Drawing-room
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For the rest of the day, Coverdale wonders why Zenobia and Priscilla are in town instead of at Blithedale. He feels insulted by Zenobia’s decision... (full context)
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A servant leads Coverdale to Zenobia’s rooms. When he enters Zenobia laughs, but Coverdale detects some scorn in her manner. Zenobia... (full context)
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In the next instant, Coverdale realizes that it’s only right for Zenobia to make herself as beautiful as she wants, but he always wonders who the true... (full context)
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Coverdale coldly tells Zenobia that her description of single-minded people reminds him of Hollingsworth and his nonsensical philanthropic plans.... (full context)
Chapter 20: They Vanish
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Priscilla immediately answers Zenobia’s call and comes into the room. This is somewhat surprising to Coverdale, who initially thought... (full context)
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Zenobia wonders why Coverdale never considered falling in love with Priscilla, insinuating that social class had... (full context)
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Coverdale is on the verge of leaving after Zenobia’s outburst, but he catches sight of Priscilla huddled in a corner and goes up to... (full context)
Chapter 21: An Old Acquaintance
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After Coverdale’s interview with Zenobia and Priscilla, he admits that it would be reasonable for him to find new places... (full context)
Chapter 22: Fauntleroy
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...character as a child. She is naturally passionate and self-willed, but also generous and kind. Zenobia’s uncle dies while she’s still young and she inherits his wealth. After this, her history... (full context)
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A few months after Priscilla’s departure, Zenobia goes to Fauntleroy’s rooms. Coverdale doesn’t know the details of their conversation, but he presents... (full context)
Chapter 23: A Village-hall
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 24: The Masqueraders
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...heart is—he can almost imagine that Hollingsworth will warmly shake his hand, and Priscilla and Zenobia will greet him with open arms. Coverdale keeps thinking of them as he walks, sometimes... (full context)
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...quite the scene. Coverdale realizes he’s at Eliot’s Pulpit—Priscilla is sitting at Hollingsworth’s feet and Zenobia is standing in front of them. (full context)
Chapter 25: The Three Together
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Hollingsworth is wearing his usual clothes, but Zenobia and Priscilla are both in costume. Zenobia is wearing a jeweled flower in her hair... (full context)
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Zenobia tells Hollingsworth that it was unfair that one man has been her judge, jury, and... (full context)
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Hollingsworth starts to leave but Zenobia stops him and says it’s only fair for him to answer her questions after she... (full context)
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Zenobia lashes out and declares that she, at least, is a real woman—she might have faults... (full context)
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Priscilla shakily stands up, totters over to Zenobia, and collapses at her feet. Zenobia tells Priscilla that she has won, and Hollingsworth is... (full context)
Chapter 26: Zenobia and Coverdale
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Zenobia forgets that Coverdale is there, but he decides to stay and witness her grief. He... (full context)
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Coverdale says this moral is too stern, but Zenobia changes the subject and says Hollingsworth has thrown away something that would have been better... (full context)
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While Zenobia talks, Coverdale admires how beautiful she looks. She notices his look and gets pleasure from... (full context)
Chapter 27: Midnight
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...his own voice. Hollingsworth comes outside and asks what’s wrong. Coverdale asks if he’s seen Zenobia and Hollingsworth states that he hasn’t, nor does he expect to. Silas leans out a... (full context)
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...to the spot. He points out some footprints leading to the water and Silas finds Zenobia’s shoe; Coverdale takes it as a keepsake. The men get into a boat and start... (full context)
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Coverdale, Hollingsworth, and Silas make a bier to carry Zenobia’s body back. The thought occurs to Coverdale that Zenobia probably would have chosen a different... (full context)
Chapter 28: Blithedale-pasture
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There is no cemetery in Blithedale, so they must discuss where to bury Zenobia. Coverdale suggests Eliot’s Pulpit, but Hollingsworth insists that they bury her on the hillside where... (full context)
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Coverdale says nothing Westervelt just described would’ve satisfied Zenobia’s heart. Westervelt contemptuously says she would have learned to control that. Coverdale asks how Westervelt... (full context)
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...Priscilla but knows that her heart only has room for a single all-consuming affection. While Zenobia’s death is heartbreaking, it doesn’t destroy Priscilla. The worst that can happen to her is... (full context)
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...to philanthropy, it can destroy their heart even though their intentions are good. Returning to Zenobia’s grave, Coverdale says he doesn’t have a doubt that plants grow in abundance above her... (full context)
Chapter 29: Mile’s Coverdale’s Confession
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...own story—he has very little to tell. He left Blithedale a week after they buried Zenobia and hasn’t returned since. Sometimes he thinks fondly of his time there and all that... (full context)