The Blithedale Romance dramatizes Nathaniel Hawthorne's career-long preoccupation with the human heart. Rather than the oft-acknowledged "head versus heart" struggle, his third mature romance features a "heart versus heart" conflict, in which "heart" represents both the passional, erotic impulses of the romance's characters and the ideals of sympathy, brotherhood/sisterhood, community, and familial love. Blithedale's utopianism, especially as asserted by the romance's first-person narrator, Miles Coverdale, rests upon the latter, ideal, or ideological notion of "heart." Much to Coverdale's nostalgic regret, neither Blithedale's ideology nor the community itself can survive the jealousies, rivalries, and erotic entanglements of the romance's four main characters. This ideology corresponds to Hawthorne's own desperately affirmed belief in "the magnetic chain of humanity," "the great universal heart," and the powers of sympathy and familial love. This belief, in turn, might derive from the Age of Sentiment-the later eighteenth century and subsequent decades. Despite his dour portrayal of Puritan behavior in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne posits a "larger and warmer heart of the multitude" that can vibrate "into one accord of sympathy." An abstract, authorially asserted ideology in The Scarlet Letter, it becomes a motive and emotional complication for Coverdale and others in The Blithedale Romance, tested and ultimately defeated by eros.
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