When I started reading Blithedale Romance I was really frustrated with Hawthorn and all of the detail he included in his novel. As I went on I started understanding that, unlike some authors, he does not use as much dialogue to expose his characters. His dialogue does move the story along, but in Blithedale Romance paying attention to the physical things surrounding a character can be just as exposing.
I am really impressed with the way Hawthorn used the veils to describe the women characters, as well as foreshadow some key elements of the story. The story begins with Coverdale giving his description of the Veiled Lady. After speculating that she was a beautiful young lady with good family and a great fortune, he describes the veil. “It was white, with somewhat of a subdued silver sheen, like the sunny side of a cloud; and falling over the wearer, from head to foot, was supposed to insulate her from the material world…” p. 6 The wearer of the veil, as we come to know later in the novel, is Pricilla. Physically Pricilla is a delicate pale girl, who is described by Coverdale as one with a ghostly presence. Her delicate features and mannerisms are what the men in the current society are attracted to. In the end she ends up with not only the affection of Hollingsworth, but also the thoughts of Coverdale and is remembered last in the novel.
Contrast the white “innocent” veil Pricilla wears to the black veil Zenobia decidedly says she will wear after Hollingsworth chooses Pricilla over her. “When you next hear of Zenobia, her face will be behind the black-veil; so look your last at it now for all is over! Once more, farewell!” (p.227) Zenobia is strong and independent, which were not characteristics women were praised for having in that time period. Her affections are not returned by Hollingsworth which drives her to suicide. She takes on the “black veil” of death while Pricilla lives on still wearing her “white” veil of purity and meekness. I’m not sure if Hawthorn is trying to expose the problems of the societal expectations of women, or if he is reinforcing the standard by having Zenobia die in the end. I would be curious to see what people think.