"Phosphoric Glimmers" in Eden: Coverdale's Failed Allegory and Hawthorne's Moral in The Blithedale Romance

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2008-01-01
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Kolbinger, Valerie
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Susan Yager
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English
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English
Abstract

Allegory's history in America, as expressed by Deborah L. Madsen, includes the strand of “American exceptionalism” — the idea that America is a “redeemer” nation. This viewpoint is critiqued in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance through the genre of allegory. Through his otherworldy language Miles Coverdale, the novel's unreliable narrator, creates a flawed or failed allegory about the creation of a new Eden. The characters both do and do not embody their allegorical figures. Three of the main characters, Zenobia, Hollingsworth, and Coverdale, fail, because of their selfishness, to embody the goodness and purity of their allegorical counterparts: Eve, Charity/Adam, and Dionysus/Transcendental Poet. Priscilla's veiled nature makes her allegorical counterpart difficult to decipher, but clues in the narrative suggest she may be figured as Pandora; however, her lack of conscious evil works against this role. Westervelt as the Devil and Moodie as Pride and Shame round out the allegory, although, they, too, fail to fully embody their roles. The failure of Coverdale's allegory to adequately cover the narrative allows Hawthorne's seeming critique of “American exceptionalism” to shine through his moral that a new Eden is impossible in a fallen world.

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