“The House of the Seven Gables” is a romantic novel set in a grand and rustic, old house with seven
gables in New England town. The story opens with its history, beginning in the 1690’s, when
witch-hunting was rampant. Afterwards, it revolves around the course of one summer in the 1850’s.
At his housewarming party, Colonel Pyncheon, the socially noted owner of the house was
mysteriously found dead in one of the rooms. Although he was highly esteemed for his wealth and
high position, legend has it that he usurped the land on which his house stood from a poor fellow
named Matthew Maule. Maule was a nobody. Furthermore, he was rumored to be practicing
witchcraft. For this, he was hanged and it was rumored that Pyncheon was responsible for it because
he wanted the land for himself. However, his social prominence and Maule’s infamy allowed him to
get away with the crime smoothly. Before Maule died though, cursed him saying, “God will give him
For years, the Pyncheon-Maule dispute carried on. The long line of Pyncheons struggled to keep
the land from their rivals. Though they succeeded in this, their greed became their own undoing.
Alice Pyncheon dies because her father, Gervayse, allowed her to be hypnotized by a Maule also
named Matthew, because he believed him when he said that he needed Alice’s mind to find a the
hidden Pyncheon treasure. Clifford Pyncheon was another victim of the greed of his cousin Judge
Jaffrey Pyncheon. He framed him and sent him to prison for killing their uncle so that he could have
However, after many years, the once talked-about mansion was eventually forgotten, and the story
focuses on the time when Hepzibah Pyncheon, an old and lonely spinster inhabited it. She was often
feared for the scowl on her face that was actually only the result of a chronic squint due to her poor
Proud and without talent for practical matters, she is a symbol of decaying aristocracy.
She grieves for her beloved brother, Clifford, who was framed and imprisoned. She had a boarder
named Holgrave. He is an attractive and imtellectual young man with modern views and notions.
He preaches about social reform to Hepzibah and Phoebe.
When her money was running out, Hepzibah was forced to open little bakeshop in the front gable of
the house and abandon her illusion of aristocracy. This only adds to her misery until her young niece,
Phoebe, comes from the country to live with her in the house. Like a ray of sunshine, she lights up
the house with her beauty, simplicity, and free-spiritedness
After 30 years in prison, Hepzibah’s brother, Clifford, is released and comes home to the house of
seven gables. He has a love for beauty but the years of seclusion had drawn out the life from him
and he became bitter and spiritless. Then he develops a special bond with Phoebe. Despite the
complexity of his personality, she understood him.
A frequent visitor was Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon. He resembled his ancestor, the colonel physically
and in his greed and pretentiousness as well. Yet, he pretends to be good-natured and amiable. He
insists that Clifford possessed the knowledge about a hidden Pyncheon fortune. However, the truth
of the matter is that Clifford has long since forgotten the secret.
One day , Judge Jaffrey comes again, looking for Clifford. He manages to force Hepzibah to let
him see her brother and she goes up to fetch him. He is not in his room and when she comes back
to tell the judge, she finds him dead. And Clifford is standing beside him. Afraid that he would be
accused of murder again, Clifford flees, bringing Hepzibah along. In their absence, Holgrave and
Eventually, it was discovered that Jaffrey’s death was a result of a stroke, and everything is cleared
and resolved. Clifford and Hepzibah return and Holgrave asks Phoebe to marry him. She agrees
and he discloses that he is a descendant of Matthew Maule. The secret treasure turned out to be
the deed of the territory, which was now useless. It was hidden inside a vault concealed by the
painting of the colonel which hung on the wall of the house eversince it was built.
Hepzibah, Clifford, Phoebe, and Holgrave all decide to leave the house and live in the country,
where they inherited an estate from Judge Jaffrey. And that was the end of the Pyncheon – Maule
The story presents us with several themes. Firstly, that the sins of the forefathers are passed on to
the next generations, and they become branded for life. Although one cannot undo what have
already been done, he can still strive to break the curse, and free himself from the spiral of sin.
Secondly, man cannot live alone. Isolation can draw out life from a being. Clifford and Hepzibah
who had been living n seclusion for many years had become bitter and lifeless, but when they were
re-united and Phoebe came into their lives, they became alive again. Third, man should not be
divided by social classes. Hawthorne was obviously against aristocracy for he preaches through
Holgrave that wanting to be above the rest leads to isolation and division. Lastly, Hawthorne tells
us not to be deceived by appearances. “Do not judge a book by its cover”, as it is commonly said.
The judge’s beatific smile is as misleading as Hepzibah’s scowl.
The themes of the story present valuable lessons relevant even today. Hawthorne’s style of
writing is very relaxed and personal. By using the present tense, one feels as if he were within the
story as it unfolds before him. With this, one particularly feels the relevance of the irony of his novel
He plays up the novel by embellishing it with mischief like the disappearing skeleton hand and ghost
who plays the harpsichord. He also filled with symbolism. For instance, the withered with odd
markings symbolize the fading eminence and odd traits of the Pyncheon family. The organ grinder
and the little figures in his box represent the concept of individualism — each figure, dancing to the
same tune accomplish nothing. The image of the cracked porcelain vase hurled at the granite column
represents Clifford, in all his frailty versus Jaffrey, to whom he does not stand a chance against. The
house itself symbolizes the human heart. It may be stone-cold but when warmed with loveSymbolism in The House of the Seven Gables
American literature reflects life and the struggles faced during existence. Symbols are an eloquent way for an author to create a more fully developed work of art. The stories themselves tell a tale; however, an author also uses symbols to relay his message in a more subtle manner. Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the earliest authors to use symbols as an integral part of his plots. This is clearly seen in both The Scarlet Letter and in The House of the Seven Gables. The use of symbols causes an “association psychology” to enter into the story, making it more intriguing.1 In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s romance The House of the Seven Gables, symbolism is used eloquently to enhance the story being told by providing the reader with a deeper insight into the more complicated intentions in the story.
The novel begins by describing the most obvious symbol in the book, being the house itself. The exterior of the house is a “rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst.”2 The house is almost organic because of its aura and the vines that cover it.3 It is significant that the house is made from wood because wood is a degradable material. A stone house’s beauty grows greater with age, and the interior can be redecorated, but a wooden house without good upkeep can only decay.4 The roof of the house is so rotted that there is mosses and other vegetation growing in between the gables. The house is truly the decaying yet proud spectacle of the neighborhood. Yet, though the house is the spectacle of the neighborhood, it is also the focus of young children’s imaginations. This is seen where the first customer of the shop appears asking for a cookie. It is clear that the young boy was very curious as to what is happening in the great mansion. The house is an old wooden building that is rotting away but still is a good enough quality to withstand some of the test of time.
The house is referred to as a prison by Hawthorne; he calls Hepzibah and Clifford inmates. The house is a prison because it prevents the inhabitants from truly enjoying any freedom. The inmates attempt an escape from their prison twice. Initially, as Phoebe and Clifford watch the parade of life in the street, Clifford realizes that his life has become meaningless, and he cannot help but try to join the masses below. This could mean the only way for Clifford to become truly reunited with mankind is through death. Unfortunately, Clifford fails to win his freedom and returns to the solace of his prison. The second attempt at escape is by Clifford and Hepzibah. They attempt to escape the clutches of the house, but, alas, it is too late for them. The house has affected them too much to stay away. This is apparent when Hepzibah and her brother made themselves ready- as ready as they could in the best of their old-fashioned garments, which had hung on pegs, or had been laid away in trunks, so long that the dampness and mouldy smell of the past was on them- made themselves ready in their faded bettermost, to go to church. They descended the staircase together…pulled open the front door, and stepped across the threshold, and felt, both of them, as if they were standing in the presence of the whole world… Their hearts quaked within them, at the idea of taking one step further.5
Hepzibah and Clifford are completely cut off from the outside world. They are like prisoners who, after being jailed for decades, return to find a world they do not know. Clifford realizes this and offers his insight, “‘We are ghosts! We have no right among human beings- no right anywhere, but in this old house.'”6 The house has imprisoned their souls and trapped their lives; hence, the house symbolizes a prison for the characters. Although the most obvious of Hawthorne’s symbols is the house, many of the things in and around the house are also token items.
The elm tree outside of the house is very large in stature. It is the symbol of nature and life. The elm tree began very small in comparison to the house, but over time has grown to so large that it overpowers the house with its immense presence. The tree “though now four score years of age, or perhaps nearer a hundred, was still in its strong and broad maturity, throwing its shadows from side to side of the street, overtopping the seven gables” is obviously prospering in this decaying scene.7 Because the tree continues to grow during and despite the generations of the Pyncheons, it show that regardless of bad circumstances in the house, life outside will continue to grow and prosper.
Several things inside the house are very important to the story. These things represent the history of the Pyncheon family dating back to the original Colonel Pyncheon who had been cursed by Matthew Maule for the evil way in which the Colonel had obtained land for the house. The house has collected many memories and many artifacts from the different residents over the decades. The house has an elaborate interior, but is mostly gloomy and grim. It can also be seen as a symbol of light verses dark. Most of the family items are old and dark, except for the tea set.
The tea set is very exquisite and expensive; it has been kept in mint condition throughout the years of use. Hepzibah introduces this item when she carries in “the old silver spoons, with the family crest upon them, and a China tea set…still unfaded, although the tea-pot and small cups were as old as the custom of tea-drinking.”8 This tea set is allowed to shine only because it was brought into the home by a wife of the Colonel, who was not a Pyncheon. Unfortunately, everyone and everything in the house is slowly decaying. This is obvious when Phoebe thinks Clifford is a ghost. Clifford’s clothing is even used as a symbol of his imprisonment. His dressing gown is worn and faded and has been soiled over time by house. Even the Colonel’s old room was once plush and shining, but is now worn, ragged, and old. All of the other things and people in the house contrast with the bright China and the cheerful street outside. Hawthorne shows the house to be the gloomy, dismal castle from a Gothic tale.9
The garden is also very symbolic. Gardens are symbols of growth and renewal. It is not a coincidence that the only romantic scenes take place in the garden. Just as the house harbors decay, the garden induces romance and life into the story. The scenes in the garden are more realistic than the scenes in the house.10 The garden provides the characters with a sort of sanctuary. Phoebe goes there to be alone and to relax. She goes to be amongst the flowers and the trees. It is her escape from the bustle of the world and a sanctuary from the house.
Clifford enjoys going to the garden because of the bees. He appreciates the bees buzzing by and the blossoms in the trees. The garden is a place to be alone, and a place of refuge for the characters.
The well in the garden symbolizes the past and tells the future of the Pyncheon family. The well was a “spring of soft and pleasant water- a rare treasure on the sea grit peninsula” when the land was first settled.11 It was a prized asset because it was one of the few freshwater wells in a salt-water area. It was soiled once Colonel Pyncheon took the land from the Maules and began living there. The well is like the land that the house now sets upon. It was once a very valuable piece of property, but now is tainted. The well soon shows the effects of the Pyncheon curse: “It was a curious, and some people thought, an ominous fact that, very soon after the workmen began their operations, the spring of water, above mentioned, lost its pristine quality.”12 This is because of the evil manner in which the property was obtained from the Maules. The well tells the future of the family for certain people. It gave the Maules their magical power, and has given Holgrave his power. The water also casts up a rainbow of colors onto the walls of the well. These colors represent the good future of the family.13 The well adds a mystical touch to the growing group of symbols. The outside symbols bring the house into a very realistic setting with an intriguing quality.
Inside of the house the characters also participate in the contrast of light verses dark. The characters in The House of the Seven Gables “symbolize the poles of human existence.”14 Each one has a set role, and none contradicts his or her character. They range from the stereotypical old spinster to the young, liberal democrat. Each of these characters marches to his or her own drum, but when all of the drums are played together, a magnificent novel is produced. Even when the characters are set alone, they are symbolic. Hepzibah and Clifford are the dark elements, and Phoebe, like the China, is the light. Holgrave is not light or dark; but rather, in the shadows.
Hawthorne wished for this book to be of a lighter spirit than his first The Scarlet Letter. To accomplish this, he used more normal characters. Phoebe is the symbol of good; Hawthorne describes her in one word: May. Like the month of May, she is blossoming into maturity. She is one of the few people that go to the garden. The act of going out in the sunshine to tend the flowers is reminiscent of the month of May. Hepzibah will not go to the garden because she prefers the shadows of the house.
Phoebe enjoys nature. She likes the feel of earth under her fingertips, and she is enraptured with the odd hens in the garden. The hens are mirrors of the Pyncheon family.
The time-thinned blood of the chickens is similar to the family’s.15 The hens were originally great birds, growing to be the size of a small turkey. However, because of inbreeding and generations of keeping the “great” blood unspotted, the hens now appear gaunt and ugly. The family with the genteel blood is now unattractive and ineffectual like the hens.16 The hens really like Phoebe and react to her in a similar manner as Hepzibah and Clifford react; they react as if in automatic approval of her regardless of her common strengths. Holgrave tells Phoebe, “The chicken really treats you like an old acquaintance.”17 He also tells her that the Pyncheon hens are not like common hens. The hens act as if they are better than other hens, a sort of aristocracy. Phoebe is compared to a ray of sunshine by Hawthorne. In her entering moment, she does not look like she belongs in the shadowy, weed-filled yard, yet Hepzibah cannot turn her away. Phoebe loves the garden, and it is one of the few places at the house where she can be herself. Hawthorne wrote, “The eye of heaven seemed to look down on it.”18 Phoebe is the perfect character to be in the viewing area of heaven and is very worthy of the garden.
Hepzibah is a true picture of “decayed gentility.”19 Her character is the opposite of Judge Jaffery in many ways. The judge appears to be a very nice and sincere man, but appearances can deceive. He is a horrible and cruel man, very similar to his ancestor Colonel Pyncheon. Hepzibah is dark on the outside.20 She is old and “a tall figure, clad in black silk… feeling her way towards the stairs like a near-sighted person.”21 She has a permanent scowl of wrinkles on her forehead because of her nearsighted condition. Her clothing is all dark shades of grey and black similar to the clothing worn while in mourning. This goes along with her “title” November. She is in the November stage of her life; she is older and alone in the world. When Hepzibah takes Phoebe to see the harpsichord that looks like a coffin, Hepzibah recognizes that she is a dark and dismal old woman.22 She is comparative to the straight back chairs in the house.23 The chairs are very stiff, and uninviting; however, amongst the other chairs there is one that stands out. It is compelling; it is old, plain, roomy, and comfortable looking. These chairs are like her character. Hepzibah’s outward beauty is nearly non-existent, but her true character is seen in the way she treats Phoebe and Clifford. Hepzibah is “very humble at heart, but rigidly conscious of her pedigree.”24 This is most noticeable when she attributes all of Phoebe’s common heritage. Phoebe’s mother was a lower class country-girl, so Phoebe is not a true lady. Despite these feelings she does have love and compassion for Phoebe. She is truly a November soul.
At the time this novel was published the entire United States had become enthralled with the daguerreotype. A daguerreotype is a picture of a person that when turned in a certain direction the negative can be seen.
Thus when Hawthorne created the character Holgrave he used the daguerreotype as another name for him. Holgrave is symbolic of the young and prospering America.25 He is a psychologist and a daguerreotypist. He offers different characters insight on the symbols in the story, including the hens in the garden. One of the most important symbolic things about him is his being a daguerrotypist. To make a daguerreotype, light and dark must be combined.26 Making the daguerreotypes is symbolic of his insight to human nature. Like a daguerreotype Holgrave’s character contains light and dark; he is the most realistic and complete character in the book, regardless of his slight morbid outlook. His morbid outlook is seen when he makes a daguerreotype of the Judge after he dies. He also wants to show Phoebe to reassure her and himself that the Judge is actually dead. Though Holgrave is a young man with an attitude, he is a very good psychologist.
The House of the Seven Gables is a great novel containing many symbols. Richard Harter Fogle wrote that the book was more aesthetically pleasing and harmonious than Hawthorne’s previous work.27 Each of the symbols work together harmoniously to make a melodious symphony.
The house is like a bassoon, deep and dark with a foreboding sound. The elm tree is like the percussion section of an orchestra, because regardless of how badly the rest of the group is doing, it continues its steady pace. Violins and violas make a rich, quality garden, all of the components work together to make chords and harmonies creating the sounds of a garden. The well has the sound of a harp; the light, bubbly sound is like the sound of cascading and swirling water in the well. Phoebe is a clarinet; she doesn’t stick out with a brassy sound, but rather a warm earthy quality of a woodwind like the clarinet. Hepzibah would definately be the most difficult instrument, the French horn. She is like the French horn because she is the most complicated character in this novel. Also like French horn, in hands of a master Hepzibah is one of the most fully-developed characters. Holgrave is similar to a trombone; Holgrave’s unique and fresh perspective make him this instrument. The sliding action of the trombone makes it a truly unique instrument like Holgrave’s unique character. The Judge must be a trumpet; this loud and boisterous instrument has the same sound as Jaffery’s attitude. The ghostly Clifford would be the oboe. The oboe’s haunting and somewhat clumsy sound is similar to Clifford’s character. Each of these instrument work together to make this romance anything but boring. Hawthorne took more care when he wrote this book and it can be seen in the complexities of the characters and the extreme focus on the other symbols in this book.
The House of the Seven Gables is a great classic. The symbols create a rich tapestry that is woven together to make this novel a masterpiece. Hawthorne’s use of symbols has made this tapestry more elaborate and wonderful. The mood of this romance is created through the symbols used. The book is a great model of perfection, and it is a wonderful novel that has not had the attention it deserves. The book makes an intriguing representation of Hawthorne, and is a great classic that will last through the ages.
Book Report:Hawthorne’s HOSG “Hepzibah As Heroine”March 04, 1998
Nathaniel Hawthorne, lauded as one of America’s greatest novelists, creates a literary masterpiece in his favorite work, The House of Seven Gables. Hawthorne, famous for his technique as well as his Puritan morality, introduces characters rich in background, and detailed in every way. His characterizations are so life-like, in fact, that the book’s success rests upon the shoulders of the Pyncheons and the Maules whose lives revolve around the House of the Seven Gables. In a large, stately home we find the Pyncheon family, descendants of a strict Puritan heritage. The house itself becomes a character, because it symbolizes the values and feelings of those inside. “The aspect of the venerable mansion has always affected me like a human countenance, bearing the traces not merely of outward storm and sunshine, but expressive also, of the long lapse of mortal life, and accompanying vicissitudes that have passed within.” (11) Hawthorne describes the house as symbolic of the Pyncheon family that resides within, with its “shadowy and thoughtful gloom,” and its “scattered shavings, chips and shingles.” (17) The story begins in the 17th century, when the Pyncheons settled in Salem under the watchful eye of their patriarch, the avaricious Colonel Pyncheon. The land on which the house stands did not belong to the Colonel, rather, it was a possession of the Maule family, long settled in Salem.
When Colonel Pyncheon found the land to his liking, he brought Matthew Maule, the rightful owner of the land, up on witchcraft charges. Because of fear of witches in Salem throughout this epoch, Maule was executed summarily, and the land was taken by Colonel Pyncheon, who spent countless hours and dollars on the construction of his new home. When its seven gables were complete, he decided to celebrate, inviting the entire town. On the day of the gala, the colonel was found dead, killed by the curse of Matthew Maule and his family. “The iron-hearted Puritan, the relentless persecutor, the grasping and strong-willed man, was dead!” (20) At the time Hawthorne begins his story, the House of the Seven Gables, after being passed down as a fateful heirloom, is inhabited by four people, one of whom is not a Pyncheon. These characters include Phoebe, a young country girl with bright spirits, Clifford, a feeble-minded old man, Holgrave, a young daguerrotypist renting a gable, and Hepzibah, the quasi-matriarch forced to earn her bread in a small cent-shop. All of these characters are bound by two things: the gloomy curse of the house in which they inhabit, and the evil atmosphere created by Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, Hepzibah’s cousin, who is a vestige of the late Colonel Pyncheon, greedy and manipulative in every way. The four characters who live on Pyncheon Street are constantly reminded of the morbid past that haunts their home, and Maule’s curse indeed has a deadening effect on all of them. For example, Clifford, after only a few days in the house, is drawn to the windowsill and comes inches from flinging himself over the balcony, in order to escape the dreary, gloomy lifestyle he experiences. Much like Hawthorne’s other famous novel, the Scarlet Letter, the true personalities of the characters only come out when they are faced with hardship.
All of the characters in the novel are heroes in one way or another. Yet we find the true heroine of the novel in Hepzibah, the old maid whose only joy in life is her feeble-minded brother. Hepzibah is a heroine because her love for Clifford pushes her to courage and strength, and ultimately, to escape from the House of Seven Gables. In order to understand how much of a hero Hepzibah truly becomes at the end of the House of Seven Gables, one must look at her trials and tribulations throughout the novel. Hepzibah Pyncheon endures the worst melancholy that the curse she lives with has to offer, including poverty, a daily monotony, and the burden of caring for a feeble older brother, Clifford. “Inaudible, consequently, were poor Miss Hepzibah’s gusty sighs. Inaudible the creaking joints of her stiffened knees, as she knelt down by the bedside. And inaudible too, by mortal ear, that almost agony of prayer Evidently this is to be a day of more than ordinary trial for Miss Hepzibah, who, for above a quarter of a century gone by, has dwelt in strict seclusion, taking no part in the business of life, and just as little in its intercourse or pleasures. Not with such fervor prays the torpid recluse, looking forward to the cold, sunless, stagnant calm of a day that it to be like innumerable yesterdays!” (33) Hawthorne introduces the quintessential old maid as lifeless, weary woman, whose days repeat themselves. Indeed, her daily life is a bore. Sleep, eat, and the occasional day of work in the garden are all that occupies her time. She is, as a result of both the house and Maule’s curse, an insipid old hag.
There is no sunshine in any part of her day because she does not venture outside the melancholic house, and is consequently an unhappy person. Hawthorne describes her as “torpid,” and “stagnant,” and it is hard to imagine how such a miser could possibly become a hero. This is actually one of the novel’s greatest qualities – the unforeseen heroine. At the beginning of the novel, and throughout the book, the reader sees Hepzibah as both torpid and stagnant, an unlikely candidate for a hero. However, as the novel progresses, the reader becomes aware of Hepzibah’s moral progress – her subtle transition into a heroine. Not only is Hepzibah faced with a daily monotony filled with the darkness and gloom of the house, but she is also faced with a more practical problem: the lack of money. For years, the Pyncheon family had lived off the wealth of their patriarch, the illustrious Colonel Pyncheon. His savings, however, has slowly dwindled away, leaving Hepzibah and her immediate family with little or nothing in the bank. The banal old woman, therefore, is forced to earn her own bread, going against the traditions set by her great-great grandfather decades before. “Poverty, treading closely at her heels for a lifetime, has come up with her at last. She must earn her own food, or starve! And we have stolen upon Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon, too irreverently, at the instant of time when the patrician lady is to be transformed into the plebeian woman.” (39) Her financial tribulations cannot only be accounted to the fact that she has no money, rather, one must also note that at one point, she had money, and was never taught how to earn it. It is her former nobility that impedes her progress at this point in the novel. Had she been raised like a commoner, she would have learned how to set up a proper shop, and to earn money accordingly. In any case, as inexpensive as her torpid life would seem to be, Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon is in dire need of sustenance, so she sets up a small cent-shop in the House of Seven Gables.
However, her entrepreneurial aspirations are held back by numerous things, one of which being the house in which she lives. The first difficulty in setting up the cent-shop is the simple idea of competition. “The business of keeping cent-shops is overdone, like all other kinds of trade, handicraft, and bodily labor there is another cent-shop right around the corner.” (47) It is obvious how difficult it will be for Hepzibah to succeed when the business of cent-shops is not in demand. However, competition is not the only obstacle the old maid faces; people, and would-be customers, are genuinely frightened by her melancholic disposition. Hawthorne recounts the conversation of two laborers on Pyncheon street, discussing the failure of Hepzibah’s cent-shop: “Make it go? Not a bit of it! Why, her face – I’ve seen it, for I dug her garden for her one year – her face is enough to frighten the old Nick himself, if he ever had so great a mind to trade with her.
People can’t stand it, I tell you! She scowls dreadfully, reason or none, out of pure ugliness of temper!” (47) Hepzibah’s frightening scowls, indeed, are enough to drive away most customers, except for a hungry young boy who becomes a regular at the cent-shop. The reader soon learns of course, that this is not Hepzibah’s fault, rather it devolves back to the house in which she lives. It is the house that makes her scowl, that gives her a melancholic disposition, therefore, it is the house that prevents her from succeeding in her business. Indeed, the gloomy presence of the seven gables would be enough to frighten would-be customers, in addition to the general malaise that afflicts its inhabitants. Hepzibah’s failure to start a business is not the only obstacle she must face to overcome the melancholic aspect the House of the Seven Gables has given to her life, however. Early in the novel, Hawthorne describes a scene where Hepzibah admires a miniature. “Of the possessor of such features we shall have a right to ask nothing, except that he would take the rude world easily, and make himself happy in it. Can it have been an early lover of Miss Hepzibah’s? No; she never had a lover – poor thing how could she? Nor ever knew, by her own experience, what love technically means. And yet, her undying faith and trust, her fresh remembrance, and continual devotedness towards the original of that miniature, have been the only substance for her heart to feed upon.” (34)
The original of that miniature, we learn later on in the novel, is Hepzibah’s feeble-minded brother Clifford. He comes to symbolize throughout the novel, the unhappiness which the house imparts on its inhabitants. He is walking despair; rarely smiling, and entrapped by the seven gables. Clifford is so old and sickly that he becomes another burden in Hepzibah’s life – he is her brother, and she is compelled to care for him, as hard as it may be. Even looking at Clifford becomes hard for Hepzibah, for she is emotionally overwrought staring at his emasculated visage: “Her heart melted away in tears; her profoundest spirit sent forth a moaning voice, low, gentle, but inexpressibly sad. In this depth of grief and pity, she felt that there was no irreverence in gazing at his altered, aged, faded, ruined face.” (104) Clifford is merely another hurdle in Hepzibah’s quest to attain happiness, but it is her undying love for him that truly makes her a heroine. Hepzibah, in The House of the Seven Gables, is truly a heroine, not only because she sacrifices gentility in order to feed her family, but also because of her interminable love for her feeble brother, Clifford.
As we discussed before, Hepzibah, in the early part of Hawthorne’s novel, is faced with financial difficulties. She is forced to set up a cent-shop under trying conditions, impaired by the melancholic gloom of the house, as well as her lack of common knowledge. Hepzibah, the old-moneyed noblewoman, is forced to teach herself the ways of a commoner, and to earn her own bread. “What had she to do with ancestry? Nothing; no more than with posterity! No lady, now, but simply Hepzibah Pyncheon, a forlorn old maid, and keeper of a cent shop!” (51) Hepzibah can no longer survive on ancestral wealth – she is forced to make the transition from gentility to plebeian. After only a few days as a commoner, Hepzibah even grows to resent nobility a little. As she notices a gentlewoman on the street, she says: “For what end, for what good end, in the wisdom of Providence, does that woman live? Must the whole world toil, that the palms of her hands may be kept white and delicate.” (54) Apparently, it has no taken much time for the old maid to make the transition into common life, for she already resents the aristocracy. Indignation towards gentility is not what makes Hepzibah a heroine, of course, rather, it is her success as a plebeian that makes her so heroic. It is hard to imagine having to make such a transition, with absolutely no knowledge of business or common life. It is Holgrave that serves as Hawthorne’s messenger in relaying the old maid’s heroism: “Hitherto, the lifeblood has been gradually chilling in your veins as you sat aloof, within your circle of gentility, while the rest of the world was fighting out its battle with one kind of necessity or another. Henceforth, you will at least have the sense of healthy and natural effort for a purpose, and of lending your strength – be it great or small – to the united struggle of mankind.
This is success – all the success that anybody meets with!” (45) It is the daguerrotypist that makes the reader realize how truly heroic a step Hepzibah has made. She is truly a heroine because she overcomes the burden of gentility for her family’s well-being. Her cent-shop, however, is not the only thing that makes Hepzibah so heroic. It is her undying love for her brother Clifford that proves her heroism as well. We have already seen how burdensome Clifford is; with his suicidal tendencies, and his gloomy disposition. Yet Hepzibah continues to love him, and hopes, along with herself, to help Clifford escape the house. It is the liberation from the seven gables that is the climax of the old maid’s heroism. Hawthorne discusses Hepzibah’s love for Clifford early in the novel, while describing the miniature of Clifford, with “her undying faith and trust, her fresh remembrance, and continual devotedness towards the original of that miniature.” (34) Yet as the novel progresses, and Clifford becomes trapped by Maule’s curse, Hepzibah’s devotion grows stronger, and it is her and her alone that keeps Clifford alive and well at the end of the book. Again, Hepzibah is a surprise heroine, a shocking transformation to the reader as well as to the characters in the book. Even Holgrave, the daguerrotypist who praised her success as a shopkeeper, doubts her ability to escape the house. “Miss Hepzibah, by secluding herself from society, has lost all true relation with it, and is, in fact, dead; although she galvanizes herself into a semblance of life, and stands behind her counter, afflicting the world with a greatly-to-be-deprecated scowl. Your poor cousin Clifford is another dead and long buried person, on whom the governor and council have wrought a necromantic miracle. I should not wonder if he were to crumble away, some morning, and nothing be seen of him more, except a heap of dust.” (191)
Holgrave’s statement is meant to make the reader doubt Hepzibah and her brother, and that doubt adds to the excitement of their final escape from the Seven Gables. Hepzibah, too, doubts herself at this point in the novel, for she believes she has little to live for. It is in fact, her love for Clifford that keeps her alive, because if she died, she would be failing her brother. Chapter twenty-seven details the siblings’ escape from the house that has entrapped them for so long. We know that the “Flight of the Two Owls,” is not Phoebe’s doing, for she has departed from the house. Phoebe’s absence allows Hepzibah’s heroism to shine, and the reader becomes aware that it is not the country girl that helps them flee. The scene in the novel with Clifford and Hepzibah on the train is the culmination of the old maid’s heroism, and Clifford is no longer feeble-minded, proved by his speech to the train conductor. In fact, Clifford becomes so self-sufficient he becomes Hepzibah’s guardian towards the end of the novel: “At home, she was his guardian; here, Clifford had become hers, and seemed to comprehend whatever belonged to their new position with a singular rapidity of intelligence. ” (226) Clifford, at the end of the novel, becomes strong willed, and self-sufficient, but only because Hepzibah’s love made him so. It is this brotherly love that makes the “torpid and stagnant” old woman a true heroine. All of the characters in The House of Seven Gables have at least one heroic quality. Clifford, Phoebe, Holgrave, and Hepzibah alike are all heroes in one way or another because they escape the desolation and catatonia of the house. Clifford, for example, enters the novel in a melancholic state, and continues to suffer along with the rest of the Pyncheons.
One of the most poignant scenes in the novel is when Clifford’s desire to escape the house sends him into a suicidal state. “At last, with tremulous limbs, he started up, set his foot on the window sill, and in an instant more would have been in the unguarded balconyHad Clifford attained the balcony, he probably would have leaped into the street; but whether impelled by the species of terror that sometimes urges its victim over the very precipice which he shrinks from, or by a natural magnetism, tending towards the great center of humanity, it were not easy to decide.” (148) However, in the end of the novel, Clifford has been rejuvenated, and escapes the house, becoming a hero in the process. After their flight from the mansion, Hepzibah asks Clifford if they are in a dream. Clifford, in true heroic fashion, responds, “On the contrary, I have never been awake before.” (224) The once feeble minded old man has escaped the house and his evil cousin Jaffrey, and become a true hero in the process. Phoebe, too, is a heroine. She brings light and happiness to the foreboding lifestyles of Hepzibah and Clifford, and helps them in their quest to escape the seven gables. Every time Clifford met with Phoebe in the garden, the reader can see the happiness that the young country girl creates. “Phoebe’s voice had always a pretty music in it, and could either enliven Clifford by its sparkle and gaiety of tone, or soothe him by a continued flow of pebbly and brooklike cadences.” (130)
Again, however, the true heroine of the book is Hepzibah, because she makes the greatest transition, and it is her love alone that helps the Pyncheon family escape the evil house. It is the scowling old maid that proves the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Hawthorne proves this perfectly in his closing paragraph to Chapter II: “Nevertheless, if we look through all the heroic fortunes of mankind, we shall find this same entanglement of something mean and trivial with whatever is noblest in joy or sorrow. Life is made up of marble and mud. And, without all the deeper trust in a comprehensive sympathy above us, we might hence be led to suspect the insult of a sneer, as well as an inmitigable frown, on the iron countenance of fate. What is called poetic insight is the gift of discerning, in this sphere of strangely mingle elements, the beauty and the majesty which are compelled to assume a grab so sordid.” (42) Bibliography Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The House of Seven Gables. Penguin Books: New York. 1961Analysis of the train ride in The House Of SEven GablesPaper #1- The Train RideIn the famous nineteenth century Romance novel, The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne centers his entire book on an extremely odd and small seventeenth century country home. The book begins by giving the reader background information on the house and the two families involved-the Pyncheons and the Maules. However, Hawthorne quickly catches the reader up to date by informing the reader of how dull and gloomy the house is at the present time. Finally, to help Hepzibah and Clifford cope with their seemingly horrible lives, Hawthorne introduces a bright new ray of sunshine, Phoebe.
It is through his characters’ descriptions of the seven gabled house and how and why the Pyncheons have possession of the house that he delivers his moral, “-the truth, namely, that the wrong-doing of one generation lives into successive ones, and, divesting itself of every temporary advantage, becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief; – and [the author] would feel it a singular gratification, if this Romance might effectually convince mankindof the folly of tumbling down an avalanche of ill-gotten gold, or real estate, on the heads of an unfortunate posterity, thereby to maim and crush them, until the accumulated mass shall be scattered abroad in its original atoms” (2).One of the most significant scenes in the book is when Hepzibah and Clifford take a mysterious train ride, which seems very strange to the reader the first time he reads it. Hawthorne incorporates this train ride to prove several points to the reader, primarily how Clifford’s thoughts are so strikingly similar to Holgrave’s. This scene also brings to light Hepzibah and Clifford’s isolation from the rest of the world, and the differences between Hepzibah and Clifford.The reader’s first impression of the train ride is generally one of confusion and misunderstanding. Hepzibah and Clifford just all of a sudden decide that they are going to leave, and don’t say anything to anyone about it. Looking at the actual plot of the book, the reader believes this train ride bears no significance to the characters. It turns out, however, to be an extremely important section of the story because of all of the underlying meaning that it gives to the reader about the characters.First of all, the reader must understand that the house has put a terrible omen on whoever lives in it ever since it was built, all the way back to the original Pyncheons.
Hawthorne gives the reader the impression that the land that the house is built on provides a mystical aura that seems to engulf anyone who lives in and around the house; it engulfs them in such a way that they lead an inescapable lifestyle that is very dull, boring, and monotonous. The train ride shows Hepzibah and Clifford entering the real world away from their seclusion, and demonstrates how the house has actually forced them to become isolated from everyone else. These two have been away from the public for quite a while, Hepzibah even more so than Clifford. Hawthorne demonstrates this by saying,”At last, therefore, and after so long estrangement from everything that the world acted or enjoyed, they had been drawn into the great current of human life, and were swept away with it, as by the suction of faith itself” (256).These two characters are so estranged from the public that they really do not know how to conduct themselves when they enter the train station and board the train. They have no idea where they were going, and Clifford gives the money to the conductor “as he had observed others do,” as if he was not sure what to do (259). They both seem to be somewhat amazed at what all is going on inside the rail car. Although it seems to the reader to be a typical interior of a train, it is “full of novelty for this pair of strangely enfranchised prisoners” (256). They watch the children play and, Clifford especially, soaks in every bit of his surroundings as he possibly can.The train ride brings out each of the characters true feelings about the house, and shows that Clifford and Hepzibah are actually not quite as similar as everyone originally believes.
Clifford is really much more positive about life in general than Hepzibah, and he really enjoys being out and about and absorbing all of the joy that life has to offer. Hawthorne pays particular attention to the children playing ball and the boys who sell items at the train stops, almost as if he is reminding the reader about young Phoebe, who is not physically there. To exemplify Clifford’s happiness, Hawthorne states that “he caught the color of what was passing about him, and threw it back more vividly than he received it” (257). However, Hepzibah “felt herself more apart from humankind than even in the seclusion which she had just quitted” (257). The seclusion that Hawthorne is referring to here is that of the old seven gabled house in which they had just left. Hepzibah does not even want anyone to know that she is outside and in public-it EMBARRASSES her to be seen out in the open! Hawthorne proves this by writing that Hepzibah”was fain to shrink deeper into herself, as it were, as if in the hope of making people suppose that here was only a cloak and hood, threadbare and woefully faded, taking an airing in the midst of the storm, without any wearer!” (255). This entire scene almost saddens the reader, for Clifford acts as though this is the greatest moment in his life when, in fact, it is a fairly regular occurrence in most people’s lives. It is a very depressing moment when Hepzibah asks, “‘Clifford! Clifford! Is this not a dream?'” (256). Hawthorne is showing that she is so unbelievably depressed at the house, that she knows no other world than to simply live in seclusion.
Then, to prove to the reader how excited Clifford actually is, Clifford retaliates back with, “‘A dream, Hepzibah!On the contrary, I have never been awake before!'” (256). Here again, Hawthorne shows the reader how much of a damper the old house has put on these two characters’ lives. Also here, the tables have turned with respect to who is guiding who. Before this train scene, Hepzibah has been leading Clifford like a parent would lead a child; then, out of nowhere, Clifford begins guiding Hepzibah. Up until this point, the reader has never seen Clifford act this way before. Finally, after always letting someone else lead his life for him, Clifford is “startled into manhood and intellectual vigor” (258).One of Hawthorne’s main points that he is trying to show is the similarities between Clifford’s thoughts while on the railroad, and Holgrave’s words that he speaks in the garden. They both believe that the present and future is nothing but the past revisited, except with a few extra turns. Clifford expresses this when he is speaking with the stranger on the train. He says to the man,”You are aware, my dear Sir-you must have observed it, in your own experience–that all human progress is in a circle; or, to use a more accurate and beautiful figure, in an ascending spiral curveThe past is but a coarse and sensual prophecy of the present and future” (259-260).Here, Hawthorne is providing the reader with proof of his moral that he states in the Preface. That is, that real estate or “ill-gotten gold” is the main reason behind many of the world’s problems (2).
It is definitely the cause of a serious problem that is the backbone of this book. Both Clifford and Holgrave believe that if Colonel Pyncheon had gotten the original land from Matthew Maule in a gentlemanly fashion, none of the feuding would have ever taken place. When Holgrave is speaking with Phoebe in the garden, he also expresses his opinion of the present and future relying on the past. He claims, “‘Shall we never, never get rid of this Past!–It lies upon the Present like a giant’s dead body!'” (182). Then, to further prove his point, he goes into a long verse about dead men, and how we rely on them for many things. Using these two scenes, Hawthorne has definitely shown his own belief that the past is the basis for the future. Another similarity between the two characters is how they both express their hatred for the hideous house. Holgrave expresses this, again during his conversation with Phoebe, by saying, “‘The house, in my view, is expressive of that odious and abominable Past, with all its bad influences, against which I have just been disclaiming.'” (184). He also says that he thinks it ought to be burned. Hawthorne allows Clifford to express his hatred for the house when he refers to it as “‘that dismal old house'” and encourages Hepzibah to forget about it for a while (258). Also, both characters DO NOT believe that houses should be built for permanence. Holgrave believes that nothing should be built “ofpermanent materialsas a hint to the people to examine into and reform the institutions which they symbolize” (183-184). Clifford believes that “the greatest possibly stumbling-blocksof human happiness and improvement, are these heaps of bricks, and stones” (261).Finally, at the end of the novel, Holgrave surprises everyone, while speaking about the Judge’s country home, by saying, “‘But I wonder that the late Judgeshould not have felt the propriety of embodying so excellent a piece of domestic architecture in stone, rather than in wood” (314).
This comes as a big surprise because he and Clifford had both believed in not building houses for permanence. He says this because now that the Judge is gone, everyone seems to already have forgotten about him, and since Judge Jaffrey has built such a nice house, Holgrave believes that everyone should be able to enjoy it. Holgrave says this only after seeing the new house. He and Clifford had both believed that houses should not be built out of stone; however, the only house they had to base this opinion on was the horrible house of seven gables. Now that both of them have much more open minds, Holgrave says that he thinks the house should last forever.Hawthorne knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote this highly important train-ride scene, and very meticulously planned out each quote and occurrence. This train ride, although it may seem irrelevant when the reader first reads it, proves to be an extremely important piece of the book.
The 1-cent shop in itself is a symbol if irony due to the fact that Hepzibah was once rich and now, though she is living in a mansion, she sells penny goods on the bottom floor. Townspeople come in usually just to see her work and to mock her but a few townspeople come to buy goods.
The old house has only a few inhabitants left. There is Hepzibah Pyncheon, who can live there as long as she wants, Mr. Holograve, who is a hypnotist that rents the upstairs apartment, and an old maid, who serves Hepzibah. Then one day a pretty young girl, Phoebe Pyncheon, comes in and brightens the gloomy atmosphere; about the same time Hepzibah’s insane brother, Clifford, arrives to live with them. Since Clifford dislikes Hepzibah’s ugliness, attitude, rustiness and scowl she soon quits reading and playing the harpsichord for him. Then she sadly resigns the tasks of keeping him happy and leaves them to Phoebe.
At the same time Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon visits Hepzibah and demands to see Clifford about the old deed threatening to send him to the insane asylum for life. She has Jaffrey sit in the parlor as she goes to find Clifford and finding him missing, she goes back and finds Clifford dancing around Jaffry’s dead body. Frightened for prosecution they ran to the nearest station and rode to a far away to a deserted railroad stop and they hide many miles from the mansion that they came from.
While Clifford and Hepzibah are gone Phoebe finally returns from the county to find the house quiet and locked up. Holograve lets her in and tells her about Jaffrey’s death.
Phoebe becomes frightened and makes her way to call the police but Holograve begs her for a few moments to talk to her before she calls. Phoebe agrees and tells her that he is in love with her and Phoebe tells him that she feels the same way for him. At that moment Clifford and Hepzibah return home.
Since Judge Jaffery Pyncheon is dead Clifford, Hepziah, and Pheobe inherit all of his wealth and riches. They later find out that Jaffery was responsible for Clifford’s 30 year imprisonment. They realize this because all three of the Pyncheon men that had died the same unusual deaths. Due to this fact you can assume that it is a genetic trait. They then conclude that as a youth Jaffery planted evidence as to appear that Clifford committed a murder.
Finally, at the end of the story, Holograve finally tells Phoebe that he is a Maule. He also tells her the house is made of wood instead of stone. Holograve finds a spring that Clifford vaguely remembered. He remembered that it was behind the old portrait, there they found the deed to the vast lands near Maine. They then move into the county to leave the house behind and their memories behind.