The veil in The Blithedale Romance represents the mystery and allure of innocence, which all too often attracts its own destruction. The veil both obscures the true identity of the Veiled Lady and puts a target on her back by creating an alluring mystery that the audience wants to uncover. As Zenobia says in her story, young men spend hours talking and theorizing about what they’d find if they took the Lady’s veil off. They are drawn to her innocence (her veil), but only because they want to personally be the one to take the veil away. If the veil were removed, however, the Lady would no longer be an object of temptation, as her central mystery—that of her identity and appearance—would be known. She would be, in effect, ruined by the removal of her veil in the same way a woman at the time was said to be ruined by extramarital sex.
Not coincidentally, the imagery of removing the Veiled Lady’s veil mirrors the act of removing a veil during a wedding ceremony, after which the bride and groom—who are now officially married—may kiss. Therefore, for both a bride and the Veiled Lady, the state of being concealed under a veil is associated with innocence and virginity, and removing the veil—symbolically associated with sex—diminishes their value in the public’s eye. Because of this, the Veiled Lady must always be on her guard; she can’t be too open with people, she must be careful who she trusts, and she leads a rather isolated existence with a veil standing between herself and the rest of the world. It’s for these reasons that the Veiled Lady says that the veil makes her feel like a “sad and lonely prisoner,” and she clearly wants someone to liberate her from it, but only if they do it the right way: by kissing her through the veil first, thus binding them together in a marriage-like relationship. It seems that what the Veiled Lady really wants to escape is the scrutiny she’s constantly under because her veil excites so many rumors about her—and she also wants to escape the threat the veil invites, as it makes her particularly vulnerable to treacherous and lascivious young men.
The Veil Quotes in The Blithedale Romance
How strangely she had been betrayed! Blazoned abroad as a wonder of the world, and performing what were adjudged as miracles—in the faith of many, a seeress and a prophetess—in the harsher judgment of others, a mountebank—she had kept, as I religiously believe, her virgin reserve and sanctity of soul, throughout it all. Within that encircling veil, though an evil hand had flung it over her, there was as deep a seclusion as if this forsaken girl had, all the while, been sitting under the shadow of Eliot’s pulpit, in the Blithedale woods, at the feet of him who now summoned her to the shelter of his arms. And the true heart-throb of a woman’s affection was too powerful for the jugglery that had hitherto environed her.