The Blithedale Romance

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Zenobia’s Flowers Symbol Analysis

Zenobia’s Flowers Symbol Icon

One of the most notable things about Zenobia is that she always wears a beautiful exotic flower in her hair. These flowers represent the pride she has in herself and her actions. When Miles Coverdale first meets Zenobia in Blithedale, she’s wearing a real exotic flower that she got out of a nearby hothouse, and every day she wears a new one. At this time, Zenobia is very proud of herself and her accomplishments as a writer and women’s rights activist. These things give her pride because they help her stand out from the crowd as a strong, independent woman who lives life on her own terms. At this period, her flower—like she herself—is authentic, vibrant, and unique.

Every day that Zenobia is in Blithedale, living in total equality with the men and doing what she thinks is right, she wears a real flower. However, when Zenobia leaves Blithedale and brings Priscilla (the famed Veiled Lady and, as Zenobia later learns, her half-sister) back under the villainous Professor Westervelt’s control, she starts wearing a fake flower that’s been decked out with brilliant jewels. This transition from a real flower to a fake one indicates that Zenobia’s pride has become false. Zenobia feels compelled to return Priscilla to Westervelt so he can continue to exploit her for financial gain as the Veiled Lady, but she’s not at all proud of herself for doing it because it goes against her naturally kind and generous nature (and, besides, it’s throwing another woman to the wolves for selfish reasons, which contradicts her feminist values). As brilliant and bright as her new jeweled flower is, Zenobia is secretly ashamed of herself and she is only wearing a flower to keep up appearances.

In the end, after Hollingsworth chooses to marry Priscilla instead of her, Zenobia takes her fake flower off and tells Coverdale to give it to Priscilla. This is Zenobia’s way of saying that Priscilla is now the one who should be ashamed because she chose to leave with Hollingsworth even though it meant breaking her beloved half-sister’s heart. Without any pride in herself left (either genuine or false)—which is symbolized by the loss of her flower altogether—Zenobia loses her defining characteristic and commits suicide.

Zenobia’s Flowers Quotes in The Blithedale Romance

The The Blithedale Romance quotes below all refer to the symbol of Zenobia’s Flowers. 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:
Self-Interest and Utopian Societies Theme Icon
). 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:
Quotes explanation long mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire The Blithedale Romance LitChart as a printable PDF.
The blithedale romance.pdf.medium

Zenobia’s Flowers Symbol Timeline in The Blithedale Romance

The timeline below shows where the symbol Zenobia’s Flowers appears in The Blithedale Romance. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: A Knot of Dreamers
Self-Interest and Utopian Societies Theme Icon
Progressive vs. Traditional Gender Roles Theme Icon
...and gown, her hair is up without curls, and her only ornament is an exotic flower that immediately catches Coverdale’s attention. Although some people might find fault with Zenobia’s beauty for... (full context)
Chapter 6: Coverdale’s Sick-chamber
Progressive vs. Traditional Gender Roles Theme Icon
Manipulation, Control, and Ambition Theme Icon
...can conceal how beautiful her body is. Coverdale notices that, somehow, Zenobia gets a new flower for her hair every day. The flowers are all so exotic and beautiful that it... (full context)
Chapter 10: A Visitor from Town
Progressive vs. Traditional Gender Roles Theme Icon
Secrecy and Self-deception Theme Icon
...is a beautiful lady, one he knew when she was a child, who wears a flower in her hair. Coverdale quietly asks Hollingsworth what the connection between Moodie and Zenobia can... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Boarding-house
Secrecy and Self-deception Theme Icon
Zenobia is fashionably dressed, but she still has an exotic flower in her hair. She walks away from the window, but Coverdale expects that she’ll return... (full context)
Chapter 19: Zenobia’s Drawing-room
Self-Interest and Utopian Societies Theme Icon
Secrecy and Self-deception Theme Icon
...other in Blithedale. Her appearance has also changed—she’s dressed up in finery and her usual flower is made up of jewels. Coverdale says it feels like years since they were together... (full context)
Chapter 25: The Three Together
Self-Interest and Utopian Societies Theme Icon
Progressive vs. Traditional Gender Roles Theme Icon
Secrecy and Self-deception Theme Icon
...usual clothes, but Zenobia and Priscilla are both in costume. Zenobia is wearing a jeweled flower in her hair still and looks like a queen, but one who’s been dethroned or... (full context)
Chapter 26: Zenobia and Coverdale
Progressive vs. Traditional Gender Roles Theme Icon
Secrecy and Self-deception Theme Icon
...asks him to tell Hollingsworth that he’s murdered her and to give Priscilla her jeweled flower, which she rips out of her hair. Coverdale mentally notes that this is like watching... (full context)
Chapter 28: Blithedale-pasture
Self-Interest and Utopian Societies Theme Icon
Progressive vs. Traditional Gender Roles Theme Icon
Secrecy and Self-deception Theme Icon
...intentions are good. Returning to Zenobia’s grave, Coverdale says he doesn’t have a doubt that plants grow in abundance above her and that nature has reclaimed her body in death, although... (full context)