Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Blithedale Romance - Finished At Last

The Blithedale Romance

Having misplaced this book a half dozen times, I finally sat down this week and read it through to the end.

I am letting my musings settle while I figure out what I believe about the novel - what Hawthorne meant to say and whether he succeeded.

One passage I read echoed with a conversation I had this week. A friend mentioned that she has no plans for St. Patrick's Day because despite her Irish surname, when she was growing up her father was adamant they were "Americans" and definitely not Irish.

I can vouch for the fact that for the generation before mine in Massachusetts, it was still undesirable to be Irish. We did not celebrate St. Patrick's Day in my family either. My dad's mother was Scottish. Growing up Catholic in Boston with fair skin and Celtic features, my dad was often mistaken for Irish, and he staunchly defended himself against these allegations. When we were young he would not let us celebrate the Irish holiday and discouraged wearing of the green on that day by anyone not Irish.

Enough about me, the passage from chapter 22 refers to the flight of "Fauntleroy" .

He had fled northward to the New England metropolis...There he dwelt among poverty-stricken wretches, sinners, and forlorn good people, Irish, and whomsoever else were neediest.

I know it is no secret the Irish were relegated to the worst living conditions during the Industrial Revolution in New England, but still, I find it interesting that Irish is the only racial/cultural reference in that passage.

I enjoy Hawthorne's descriptive passages. I liked this from chapter 5 about the Native American name for the site of their community: chanced to be a harsh, ill-connected, and interminable word, which seemed to fill the mouth with a mixture of very stiff clay and very crumbly pebbles.

Stiff clay and crumbly pebbles - I love it.

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