Zenobia Character Analysis in The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Considering the characterization from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, there is a clear dictation and condescending nature of which the characters express for each other. The narrator's attitude towards Zenobia is specifically noticeable through how they view the changes Zenobia has made for her life and the nature of their interaction.
At the beginning of the passage, he admits that she "bewildered" him through the excessive elegance of her home and persona. The narrator describes, "The furniture was exceedingly rich"... "and the whole repeated and doubled by the reflection of a great mirror, which showed me Zenobia's proud figure, likewise, and my own. It cost me, I acknowledge, a bitter sense of shame, to perceive in myself a positive effort to bear up against the effect which Zenobia sought to impose on me." ( line7, 15-21) The excessive description of her home players to his idea of her and what she has become. So much so that he finds himself belittling his own identity compared to the strives he feels she has made in her life. This description of Zenobia gives readers a picture of her without the emotion. By describing her home, her body enter reflection ignores her personality and humanity. This was done purposefully to make then the narrator's realization of her true self more impactful. After only moments of being with her, he comes to a new conclusion or idea that, "I hardly know whether I then beheld Zenobia in her truest attitude, or whether that was the truer one in which she had presented herself at Blithedale. In both, there was something like the illusion which a great actress flings around her." (Line 35-40) The specific diction he uses to describe her nature and then tints the glamour she presents. Through words such as actress, illusion, presented herself, and flings around create a different attitude. He treats her like a liar and questions her authenticity of self. It does if he sees her as a magic trick only he sees through the illusion. The moment of her compliant claim changes how the narrator interacts with Zenobia. He is no longer questioning her authenticity but makes the defined opinion that she is false in every way. Her statement classifies her as privileged, biased, and classist. The narrator then classifies her and a hypocrite considering her poor roots where she and he grew together. His shift in opinion of hers is very clear through the shift in his descriptions. The glamour of her house no longer matters to him, and just study his description shifts to include phrases more condescending and skeptical than before. Considering both characters are quite calculated, smart, and have something to fight for( Zenobia- her reputation and the narrator - the truth), their interaction becomes a battle of wit. The author uses the narrator's investigation of her as an inlet for readers to also see her changes. The narrator enters this passage with very different expectations of this woman, whereas by the end, she feels as though he has beaten her at her own game and has broken down her line of defense. After the narrator has calculated the response to her classist remark, he sees her true emotion shine through. "Zenobia's eyes darted lightning; her cheeks flushed; the vividness of her expression was like the effect of powerful light, flaming up suddenly within her. My experiment had fully succeeded. She had shown me the true flesh and blood of her heart," (81-85), and in that description of it, readers see he has won the interaction. This passage here shows the complete switch of description this narrator had of this woman. In the beginning, she was elegant, pristine, and perfect, but now she is cracked, and her true self, and his mind, has been revealed. Instead, she has now darted lightning, blotchy cheeks, and in no way as pristine as once was.