Gender in Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance
The Blithedale Romance, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story of a twisted utopia. This perfect world is twisted in that the roles of gender have a traditional utopian representation, only with a more contemporary take. Of course, this is interesting because this book was written and published in the 19th century when such ideas were beginning to establish a form for the genre of writing. Hawthorne combines fantasy, philosophy, mystery, gothic, and even [what would be called today] science fiction. This novel illustrates the early break from even fresh ideas. The writing style allows for the "genderizing degenderizing" affect as well as nature of the self.
Within most utopias, gender becomes androgynous in that the sexes are neither feminine nor masculine. Tasks and habits are usually equal for the two sexes and both are able to love freely. However, only half of these traditions hold true for this particular novel. Hawthorne's characters can love whomever they want to, but are still held in the constraints of traditional roles. Though they try claiming that this will only be a temporary necessity to their community ("I am afraid we shall find some difficulty in adopting the Paradisiacal system, for at least a month to come" (17)), change never seems to occur within the community. The women, though they tend to migrate to the field, still tend to do the domestic work such as knitting and cooking. Throughout the novel, the women hold the positions within the house.
Another aspect of the gender in this novel is the physical, mental, emotional, and moral representation that the two sexes are distinguished by. Interestingly, Hawthorne never directly specifies these characteristics, rather the characters do so. For example, the narrator says "It did one good to see a fine intellect (as hers really was, although its natural tendency lay in another direction than towards literature) so fitly cased" (15) about one of the main female characters. The males within the novel always seemed to be placing their skills and knowledge above the women's own. Characters such as Coverdale and Hollingsworth placed their own thoughts above those of the female characters almost anytime that they could. The women, oddly, seemed to show diverse roles. Subtly, this is a representation of women as more complex than men in general. One of the characters, Zenobia, is probably the most least genderized character of the novel, that is, until the end. Throughout most of the novel, she is seen as very masculine (in comparison to traditional roles that is) yet very feminine at the same time. She has a mystical illusion about her yet seems very sensible in the ways of life. However, by the end of the novel, Hawthorne writes her character to be very manipulative and weak, for she dies of grief. On the other hand, the other female character, Priscilla, seems to hold the same mystical aura about her, yet...