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The Blithedale Romance: 01/25/08
I fell in love with Hawthorne's books and short stories when I was in junior high school. Twenty years later he continues to be on my list of top ten favorites. His novels strike me as incredibly modern and relevant to modern day life.
The Blithedale Romance has many elements in common with the much sillier novel Tommy's Tale by Alan Cumming. The events at Blithedale (a commune in the woods) are laid out in chronological order by Miles Coverdale who proves to be as unreliable a narrator as Tommy. Cloverdale's omissions are a result of Puritan embarrassment but the sexual tension is hovering just below the surface of his euphemisms.
Like Tommy who lives in a flat with Sadie, Bobby and Charlie, Cloverdale moves into Blithedale to live with two women (Zenobia, Priscilla) and a man, Hollingsworth. Unlike Tommy's flat, the two men and women pair up in more conventional ways but Cloverdale hints that the four are more open with their adult desires than what Cloverdale feels is proper. Nonetheless, he is a willing participant.
Blithedale, though, ends up being a failed experiment. Puritan mores and hot tempers ultimately brings the downfall of the commune and Zenobia, the liberated modern woman, pays the ultimate price.
If you like character driven tragedies like Hamlet, I highly recommend The Blithedale Romance.