Although Zenobia's suicide is at the heart of The Blithedale Romance, its psychology has not received the systematic critical consideration that it warrants. In this article, I create a psychoanalytically informed narrative of Zenobia's life that elucidates complex forces, conscious and unconscious, that propel her to suicide. Although she is an accomplished and commanding woman, Zenobia's early childhood trauma at the hands of her father have left her remarkably vulnerable. Indeed, Old Moodie's role in Zenobia's fate has been insufficiently emphasized. When he once again deprives her of love and material support, during the course of the story, he reinflicts the trauma that had left her a “forsaken child.” Hollingsworth's rejection reinforces these abandonments. In an identification with her mother, Zenobia, through suicide, extricates herself from ignominy and male bondage. With courage, she confronts the limits of a struggle to overcome the past and the narrow judgments of a society that is set against the wider rights of women. In the tradition of tragedy, she acknowledges her moral frailty and succumbs to her fate with nobility and dignity. Coverdale is united with Zenobia as his tragic muse: his narrative of The Blithedale Romance is an act of mourning for the extraordinary woman that he loved and lost.

You do not currently have access to this content.