Journal directory listing - Volume 21-30 (1976-1985) - Volume 28 (1983)

Hawthorne's Zenobia and Margaret Fuller - A Literary Quarrel? Author: C.Y. Lily Ma Chang(Department of English College of Liberal Arts)


"To insure a more natural union between intellectual and manual labor than now exists, and to combine the thinker and the worker in the same in-dividual," George Ripley, a Unitarian minister and a Transcendentalist, initiated the founding of a transcendental farming association, Brook Farm, situated some nine miles from Boston, New England, in 1841. Nathaniel Hawthorne, then a young man of about 37, still unmarried but already engaged to Sophia Peabody, bought two shares of stock at $500 each, and began his life at Brook Farm as a member in the spring of 1841. He wanted to build his own home there where he would eventually marry Sophia, but he left the Farm after toiling one whole summer, disillusioned.
After a lapse of one decade, in 1852, he wrote his third novel, The Blithedale Romance, setting it right in this communal Farm. In it, he created a beautiful dark-haired female character, Zenobia, who was endowed with intellectual pride in being a bluestocking and an excellent "conversationalist," and who was also a fervent advocate of women's rights. But this proud and strong-willed woman ended her own life in a muddy river after having an unrequited love affair with another inmate of the farm, Hollingsworth, and also after being disinherited by her father, Old Moodie.
The controversy begins when Hawthorne's son, Julian Hawthorne, published his parents' biography, Hawthorne and His Wife, in 1885, and included in it certain excerpts from Hawthorne's Italian Notebooks. Margaret Fuller's biographers and critics were furious about the content of these excerpts; they began to attack Hawthorne for using her as a prototype of Zenobia, and thus distorting the fair image of her and her reputation as well. Margaret Fuller, a contemporary of Hawthorne, was herself a highly knowledgeable bluestocking of literary aptness; she was famous for her "conversations" and her book, Woman of the Nineteenth Century, had won her the reputation of being a feminist. Her life was ended in a shipwreck when she was corning back to America from Italy with her Italian husband and their child.
The fact that many similarities exist between Zenobia and Margaret Fuller has caused Fuller's writers to accuse Hawthorne for having the satirical intent of breating his Zenobia just to ridicule her as a head-strong and aggressive feminist. Infuriated by their own indignation, Fuller's supporters opened fire, and the "literary quarrel" or "literary battle" began; naturally, Hawthorne's supporters also fired back.
After examining a number of relevant articles and books pertaining to the subject of the "literary quarrel," the writer of this paper has reached the conclusion that it has been an effortless quarrel, not worth fighting any longer, since in the first place, it is not an actual "literary quarrel" between Hawthorne and Fuller themselves; and secondly, Margaret Fuller, as an individual, was an outstanding woman in her own right; and Zenobia, as a fictitious individual, is also a literary wonder. They both add splendor to the colorful varieties of the human

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