People Living In The Perfect World?

May 23rd, 1849.

Robert Malachi here, reporting to you today from the Washington Post, today I will be discussing the Utopia known as the Brook Farm, last week I discussed the New Harmony. I have been with involved with researching the Farm for about four years now and I believe I have a great grasp on what the people of the farm thought about their living situations. Especially one specific individual by the name of Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the founders of the Brook Farm, who I got the opportunity to interview several times over the course of years I stayed the farm. I also got to speak with George Ripley, the founder of the Brook Farm, but he was not very interested in what I had to say in the slightest.

(George Ripley)      George Ripley “The Brook Farm experiment (1841—1846) was one of the most famous experiments in Utopian Socialism in America, of the time. From a Transcendental experiment of literary intellectuals, whose intellectual pursuits were the primary purpose of life, the Brook Farm evolved into a Fourierist experiment promoting the ideals of Fourier, the Association of a “just” society.”(4) Ripley describes the Brook Farm experiment one of the most famous utopias of our time, yet my experience was simply confusing to say the least. I was told by Ripley that no matter what job the people of the farm chose to do they still get paid equally. Life on the farm is unique, although you may be thinking that this may seem ridiculous that everyone is paid equally no matter what they do, but the Brook Farm is focused on the greater good of the community as a whole. The Brook Farm was making a large majority of their money from their schools lead by Mrs. Ripley, but why to go school on the farm rather than go to school in a public area? The Brook Farm school had its benefits and these consisted of two major exceptions. First, the school allowed adults to attend and receive the education they failed to have as kids. Second, they allowed women to attend. They also had many visitors, which was another source of income for the Brook farm although it was not as important as the school it was another way Brook farm was making their money. You maybe asking yourself so how does this create the perfect world? Well personally, if it was a perfect world for someone I believe it was for the women, the roles that the woman had the opportunity to take on were unlike anything they would be allowed to do outside of the utopia of the Brook Farm. At the Brook Farm women had the chance to work in the fields and be involved with tours of the farm according to Ripley. The jobs that woman do outside of the farm involving cleaning duties around the house, laundry, housekeeping and watching after the kids. (5)

Nathaniel Hawthorne After my time visiting the farm for a couple months I noticed that people weren’t as happy as they seemed. Nathaniel Hawthorne, A novelist and a short story writer, who I interviewed in my first month of being on the Brook Farm had told me that he felt the more people who attended the farm the better, but near the end of my months attending the Brook Farm I realized he may have wanted more people to work on the Farm for a completely different reason. My crew and I got him to have an interview outside of the farm, even though Ripley was hesitant to let us leave the farm property. Hawthorne was a founding member of the Brook Farm so I really took his opinions into account. “I have no quiet at all”, he said, as he stared into the fields like freedom was so close, yet so far away. Hawthorne was a passionate writer but his farm work got in the way, “…with a new crop of blisters—the effect of raking hay”. Although I was told by Ripley that the workers on the farm got the job they wanted to do, I had seemed to find an outlier. Hawthorne didn’t really seem to enjoy farm working in the slightest, to end our conversation I purposed the deciding question; did you enjoy living and working at the farm? Hawthorne replied, “I never suspected that farming was so hard…before my soul is utterly buried in a dungheap.” Years later, in 1847, I got the chance to interview Hawthorne again. He had left the farm left in 1845 and wasn’t planning on returning. After Hawthorne’s departure Ripley had struggled maintaining the farm and managing the finances and the farm was shut down in the fall of 1846. Hawthorne and I decided to meet up in Salem, his hometown. It was a around seven o’clock in the evening and Hawthorne walked in and looked like a new man. He was no longer carrying the stress and grief the farm had brought upon him. I had one thought that stood out to me most before our interview and that was that Hawthorne didn’t just look better he had finally had the time to find himself again. After we settled in greeting one another and gotten comfortable half way through our conversation he admitted about his time on the farm: “But really I should judge it to be twenty years since I left Brook Farm; and I take this to be one proof that my life there was an unnatural and unsuitable, and therefore an unreal, one. It already looks like a dream behind me. The real ME was never an associate of the community; there has been a spectral Appearance there, sounding the horn at daybreak, and milking the cows, and hoeing potatoes, and raking hay, toiling in the sun, and doing me the honor to assume my name. But this spectre was not myself.” (1 and 7) I had known that Hawthorne wasn’t to fond of the farm after he had realized the toll it had taken on him the second time I got to interview him, but I didn’t expect him to admit to me that he never had the chance to be himself. I later then continued to ask questions about how he was doing now and for all I know he seemed to be living the life he always wanted to. (Nathaniel Hawthorne 6) So the Brook Farm wasn’t all it turned out to be Hawthorne had mentioned that many people also felt the same and the so called “Utopia” wasn’t a utopia at all it was a place where time didn’t seem to pass and people had learned to forget who they once were.

Brook Farm Sketch:


1. The Economic Systems.


3.Oregon State Library/ Andrew White

4.         UAA Article about Brook Farm

5. Wikipedia Brook Farm       Trancedentalism

6.      Hawthorne Image

7     Brook Farm Article

One thought on “People Living In The Perfect World?

  1. Hi Scott,

    Great blog post! I really enjoyed the degree to which you described your characters and their opinions. You really brought these historical figures to life for me and that helped me to better understand this position in history. The quotes that you had from Nathaniel Hawthorne were very well integrated; the context and the quote really supported your article and were good evidence of how Brooks Farm affected people. The article sounded like a story, not an essay or a research paper, which made it very enjoyable to read. It was interesting to compare this community to what I know about communes that exist today. I think your article could be strengthened by explaining more about how the communities came to be and who invented them, how many existed, and their effect on the rest of society.

    Again, I really liked the post and I honestly enjoyed reading it. It was a great story that had very informative historical evidence.


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