Before 200 channels of TV, radio, computers, and journalism, writers could write the way Hawthorne wrote. Readers had the patience to make their way t...moreBefore 200 channels of TV, radio, computers, and journalism, writers could write the way Hawthorne wrote. Readers had the patience to make their way through sentences so dense that you could chew them, description so vivid you could taste them. This is not to say that there hasn't been quantities of fine writing since the electronic age, but there sure hasn't been another Hawthorne or James, his literary heir. Some readers may be glad of that. Not me. I love the richness of 19th century prose. When I sit down with Melville, James, Trollope, G. Eliot or Hawthorne, I know I am going to be quite pleasurably lost in a sea of words.
The Blithedale Romance to some extent follows the pattern of The Scarlet Letter and The Marble Faun; strong independent woman with a secret in her past and a shadowy maleficent man from whose hold she cannot break free. However, this novel of the founding of a Utopian community takes several new paths both in tone and narrative. As with all of Hawthorne's work there is a mysterious aspect to the narrative and the relationships of the characters, but in Blithedale the sense of other-worldliness is immediate and lasting. Another difference is that despite the tragic nature of the tale, the tone is more buoyant than in any other work that I have read by him. And, also not typical, with the use of the cynical Miles Coverdale who is willing to laugh at his own play at idealism as narrator, the book is often very funny. Thematically there is a great deal to chew on with the most important or interesting themes being, I suppose, the question of whether or not we can really better mankind as a whole and the paradox of the philanthropist, a man or woman who begins with a genuine concern for their cause but in the end becomes dehumanized by it.
Fanciful, funny, rich in sympathy, sobering and thought provoking... The Blithedale Romance deserves a wider readership than it has had. It is in not the great work that The Scarlet Letter is, but is very wise in its own way, a great tale, and probably more fun.(less)
One of the few thorns in my college literature classes! Tom Brown was part of the syllabus of our Victorian literature class not because of its litera...moreOne of the few thorns in my college literature classes! Tom Brown was part of the syllabus of our Victorian literature class not because of its literary value but as a portrait of the Victorian psychology. After all, it was schools like Rugby which shaped the great writers, thinkers, empire builders and political figures of 19th century England, not the least among the literary figures being Matthew Arnold, the son of Rugby's headmaster Thomas Arnold. Thomas Arnold in Tom Brown figures as a guiding, benevolent godhead of the school.
As the granddaddy of the school boy novel genre which has ranged from the various works of Delderfield to Hilton's Goodbye, Mr. Chips to Knowles's A Separate Peace, it must be given its due. One can also note to its credit that it is the source of Fraser's character Flashman who was a bully and Tom's nemesis in Hughes's novel. As a mirror of the educated upper middle class Victorian mindset it is quite effective. Which is to say it isn't much fun. (less)