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Yesterday I teased that I’d compare The Blithedale Romance to Joan of Arcadia, but what it really reminded me of was I Capture the Castle. It’s perhaps not immediately obvious why I’d think about the story about becoming a woman amid a family of eccentrics in the English countryside while reading about a poet becoming an older, crankier poet among utopians in Massachusetts, and if it is obvious you can probably safely stop reading now. Actually the commonalities that jumped out at me don’t lie in idealistic eccentrics trying to make ends meet in a bucolic setting. It was that both feature brashly uncensored narrators. I started to say “unselfconscious,” but both Cassandara Mortmain and Miles Coverdale are intensely selfconscious and self-aware, though both have a tendency to miss or mistake crucial issues. And they’re about trying to distinguish love as it happens from the Platonic ideal of love that you can think about, which is perhaps impossible if you want to maintain that ideal.

Really, these are narrators and narratives obsessed with the overlap between ideals and dreams and realities, with the questions that arise from observation and a search for certainty. And how much murder guilt should you feel if the death is not at your hands? How long do love and promises hold? Or are promises only wishes and dreams? Can you really be a martyr if you revel in your doom? And should you have noticed those clear, inauspicious signs, or were they only visible when you looked back? Is it worth not being rich to be honorably poor? And why don’t people behave like the people in books? or do they?

I’m getting too tired to think more about this, but I’m going to go ahead and publish this in hopes it will urge me to clarify my thoughts further, which hasn’t worked yet. I’m not sure whether this means I believe in hope or the redemptive possibilities of publicly stated goals or just that doing a lousy job is better than nothing at all.