the house of seven gables

Title: the house of seven gables
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^^^^^^^^^^ NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE: THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES In our late teens, many of us have to make career decisions. Will we prepare to be engineers, ballet dancers, composers, professional athletes, fashion designers? Nathaniel Hawthorne at age 17 was at that very crossroads of his life. In a letter to his mother, written in 1821, Hawthorne ruled out joining the clergy ("Oh, no, mother, I was not born to vegetate forever in one place and to live and die as calm and tranquil as a puddle of water"). Becoming a lawyer didn't seem to be a wise choice either ("...one half of them are in a state of actual starvation"). And as to medicine, Hawthorne could not contemplate making a living "by the diseases and infirmities of my fellow creatures." Instead, he tentatively suggested, "What do you think of my becoming an author and relying for support upon my pen?" We don't know how his mother responded, but the millions of readers who have enjoyed Hawthorne's work are pleased, no doubt, that he pursued his goal, ultimately taking his place as one of the leading figures in all of American literature. In addition, Hawthorne is seen today as a writer of great influence on subsequent generations of storytellers. The effect of Hawthorne's creation of isolated and withdrawn characters, and his probing of the psychology that led to their alienation, may now be seen in the novels of such various writers as Henry James, William Faulkner, Albert Camus, and Robert Penn Warren. Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, a city already infamous in American history for its campaign in the 1690s against "witches." In The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne uses references to Salem witchcraft in his examination of the forces that motivated some of the characters in his novel. Young Hawthorne had a slight limp that hindered him enough to keep him from engaging in sports, and so he turned to reading--showing a special fondness for William Shakespeare, the English poet John Milton, and the novels of the French writer and philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. This interest in literature later led to his rejection of other possible professions in favor of becoming a full-time writer. After graduating from Bowdoin College, in Maine, at the age of twenty-one, Hawthorne returned to Salem, and for the next twelve years he lived there in relative seclusion. He had made a personal commitment to the literary life and spent that famous hibernation time developing his craft. Hawthorne had no regrets about investing that much time in honing his skills: "If I had sooner made my escape into the world, I should have grown hard and rough... and my heart might have become callous by rude encounters with the multitude. But living in solitude till the fullness of time was come, I still kept the dew of youth with the freshness of my heart." Hawthorne was drawn out of his long isolation when he fell in love with Sophia Amelia Peabody, of Salem. Before they were married in 1842, he spent six months at Brook Farm, a commune outside Boston that attracted people who were in search of a utopian society. There he talked with such intellectuals as Henry David Thoreau (both men had a great deal in common since they enjoyed solitude and simplicity) and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Brook Farm was just one expression of the liberal spirit of the times. Under Emerson, The Transcendentalist Movement tried to change the way people thought about themselves. The Transcendentalists believed that people are basically good and ultimately perfectible. They believed communion with nature, reading literary classics, and studying Eastern religions were important elements in elevating the human condition. Thoreau, also a Transcendentalist, chronicled his own experiment in returning to nature at Walden Pond. Following his marriage, it became important for Hawthorne to earn a living. He used political influence to get a job as the surveyor for the port of Salem, but lost his position in the Customs House there when the Democrats were voted out of power in 1849. At the time, the mood in America was generally liberal and optimistic. Railroads and the telegraph reached widely, effectively shrinking the size of the country. Momentum was building in the Abolitionist movement to free the slaves. People looked to the future with excitement. Hawthorne, however, was preoccupied with the past. In one way, at least, he was closer to the Puritans in spirit. Instead of believing that man was perfectible, he felt that evil would exist as long as the human heart existed. And so it was difficult for him to share in the expectations of a "new" world when what he saw was the past visiting its sins upon the present. In 1850, Hawthorne's classic tale of sin and retribution, The Scarlet Letter, was published and met with great success. The story of Hester Prynne, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth was set in the gloomy atmosphere of Puritan New England and was embellished with dark, psychological overtones. The vision of the haunted young Hester on the scaffold with the scarlet "A"--standing for adulteress--on her breast is among the most memorable portraits in all literature. When Hawthorne began to write The House of the Seven Gables the following year, he was already an acclaimed writer. Unlike The Scarlet Letter, which is about events in the seventeenth century, The House of the Seven Gables is set in Hawthorne's own era, in 1850. But its main theme is how the past weighs on the present. Hawthorne's ancestor, John Hathorne (Nathaniel added the "w" to his last name), had been one of three judges in the notorious Salem witchcraft trials in 1692, and Hawthorne may have been trying to rid his family of that shame when, at the beginning of The House of the Seven Gables, he wrote so eloquently of that terrible time. About his own work, Hawthorne said, "The House of the Seven Gables, in my opinion, is better than The Scarlet Letter but I should not wonder if I had refined upon the principal character a little too much for the public appreciation; nor if the romance of the book should be found somewhat at odds with the humble and familiar scenery in which I invested it." The poet James Russell Lowell called The House of the Seven Gables "the most valuable contribution to New England history that has been made," and Sophia Hawthorne, in a letter to her mother, said about the novel, "How you will enjoy the book, its depth of wisdom, its high tone, the flowers of Paradise scattered over all the dark places." The House of the Seven Gables had been written in the Berkshire Mountains where the Hawthornes had a home in Lenox, Massachusetts. While there, Hawthorne was visited by an admirer, Herman Melville, who lived in nearby Pittsfield and was writing Moby-Dick at that time. Melville thought so much of his shy friend that he dedicated Moby-Dick to Hawthorne. Melville was greatly impressed with The House of the Seven Gables, telling Hawthorne that he "spent almost an hour in each separate gable." And Henry James, a consummate writer himself, honored Hawthorne as "the first great writer of the tradition of psychological, subjective fiction in American literature." James added that Hawthorne "had a cat-like faculty of seeing in the dark," referring to Hawthorne's genius for illuminating the dark corners of those people who lead lives of quiet desperation. Others who came to see Hawthorne often remarked about his physical attractiveness. The British novelist Anthony Trollope called him "the handsomest of all Yankees," and Julia Ward Howe, the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," described him in this manner: "The beauty of his countenance was remarkable. Crayon portraits and photographs preserve the fine outline of his head and face but fail to give his vivid coloring and varying expression. His eyes, fringed with dark lashes, gleamed like tremulous sapphires." With The Blithedale Romance in 1852, a novel about his Brook Farm experiences, a very prolific period in Hawthorne's life came to an end. He had produced three novels in three years and was regarded as an important literary figure. When his college friend Franklin Pierce was elected President of the United States in 1852, Hawthorne was rewarded with an appointment as U.S. consul in Liverpool, England. It enabled him to travel on the European continent and to fill his notebooks with material for future short stories and novels. But he had written himself out, it seemed, because none of his later stories came up to the level of his earlier classics such as "The Great Stone Face," "Rappacini's Daughter," and "Young Goodman Brown." His last novel, The Marble Faun, written in 1860, lacked the power of his great books. Hawthorne died quietly in 1864, just before his sixtieth birthday. Sophia and their three children survived him. Hawthorne left us a small treasury of significant and entertaining works, and an enduring reputation. One of his critics, Hyatt Waggoner, rightly pointed out that "few 19th century American writers seem so likely to reward rereading as Hawthorne." ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: THE PLOT When the prominent Colonel Pyncheon is found dead during a housewarming party at his new mansion, the official cause of death is given as a stroke. The townspeople suspect something different. Colonel Pyncheon acquired the land for his new homestead only after its owner, a poor man named Matthew Maule, was hanged during the Salem witchhunts in 1692, for allegedly practicing witchcraft. Until the end, the innocent man suspected Colonel Pyncheon of encouraging the persecution in order to obtain the Maule property. With the hangman's noose around his neck, Maule cursed the Colonel. The townspeople remembered the words of the wizard: "God will give him blood to drink!" For some one hundred and sixty years, a long line of Pyncheons struggle to settle their claim to a vast territory in Maine and to preserve their dynasty against as long a line of Maules suspected of inheriting the wizard's powers. The Pyncheon's real struggle, though, is against the sins of their forebears--sins that hang over them like the portrait of their ancestor, the Colonel. The Pyncheons are hobbled by a pride that isolates them from the world. They are undone by a greed that leads to the mysterious sacrifice of a beautiful young woman, Alice Pyncheon, and the framing of young Clifford Pyncheon for murder. The house of the seven gables, which stands on the site once owned by the Maules, is inhabited by an aging spinster, Hepzibah Pyncheon. Weatherbeaten and crumbling, the house has lost all its former grandeur and presents a dismal appearance. Seventeen-year-old Phoebe Pyncheon, who comes from the country to live in the house of the seven gables, is like a ray of sunshine flooding a dark corner. The pretty young woman shares the house with her two elderly cousins and a boarder, the young artist Holgrave. Her cousin Hepzibah has recently been forced to abandon her delusions of aristocracy and open a shop to keep from starving; Hepzibah's brother, Clifford, has just been released from prison after serving thirty years for the alleged murder of his uncle--a crime he didn't commit. Holgrave is an attractive young man who, unknown to the others, is a descendant of the wizard Matthew Maule. A frequent visitor is another cousin, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon. Jaffrey inherited everything when Clifford went to prison for their uncle's murder. His greed knows no bounds. He will not rest until he is allowed to speak with his broken cousin, Clifford, who, he believes, alone knows the secret of hidden Pyncheon wealth. Clifford has long since forgotten the secret, but the painting of the Colonel which still hangs upon the wall will play a role in the unraveling of the mystery. When Jaffrey dies suddenly at the gabled house, of an apparent stroke, just as his uncle and the Colonel before him did, Hepzibah and Clifford flee. Clifford thinks that he may again be accused of murder. Hepzibah doesn't know what to think. Alone in the house with Jaffrey's body, Phoebe and Holgrave are drawn together by this morbid secret. At this unlikely moment the young people discover that they share more than the knowledge of Jaffrey's death--they have fallen deeply in love. Jaffrey's death is found to be the result of natural causes. This discovery helps clear Clifford of their uncle's alleged "murder," for which he had been framed by Jaffrey himself. Phoebe agrees to marry Holgrave, who discloses his identity as a descendant of Matthew Maule. And the secret of the portrait is explained at last. A hidden spring releases the frame and reveals a hiding place where the now useless deed to the territory in Maine has been for two hundred years. Hepzibah, Clifford, Phoebe, and Holgrave decide to leave the house of the seven gables and live in the country estate they inherited from Jaffrey. It seems like a happy ending. The two families and the two classes are reconciled. A Pyncheon and a Maule have learned to love each other, and as the feuding families unite and abandon the gabled house, the curse is lifted. But look again. Are Phoebe and Holgrave really starting a new life? They inherit the Pyncheon wealth and go to live in yet another Pyncheon house. Are they destined to repeat the curse that has been the family's downfall for generations? Let's look at the tale a little more closely. Then you can make your own judgments. The important thing to consider when studying the characters in The House of the Seven Gables is the way Hawthorne develops them in relation to each other. Each character is defined through contrasts with others as Hawthorne develops his themes. Hepzibah and Jaffrey are compared, for example, in Hawthorne's conception of appearance vs. reality. Clifford and Holgrave are contrasted in the theme of isolation. This technique stresses the psychological aspects of the characters. Because no character is defined in absolute terms, you are invited to make up your own mind about each one. This kind of ambiguity puts Hawthorne close to modern fiction writers in sensibility. Here is a sketch of each of the main characters. Before you make up your mind, though, review the many possibilities Hawthorne offers in the text for the interpretation of each character. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: CLIFFORD Clifford is not much more than the ghost of a man. Everything about him is shadowy. His steps are muffled. His speech is a vague murmur. His eyes are clouded. His memory is dim. There is nothing to him but his love of beauty, a pure sensibility. But his is a frail sensibility. Clifford is the "porcelain vase, with already a crack in it" that was thrown against the "granite column" that is Jaffrey. But what is this crack? What is the source of his powerlessness? And what is it that has made this Pyncheon man so different from the other? His life is a symbol for isolation brought to an extreme. And it is only when he runs from the house and out into the world that he is "startled into manhood and intelligence." But he cannot sustain the energy required to become a man of action. It is too late for Clifford. As the narrator tells him, he has no future. Clifford and Holgrave have a great deal in common. Listen to their speeches. What is it they both are saying? How is it that both have arrived at this philosophy? What does it mean that a Pyncheon and a Maule share these thoughts? And how is it that Phoebe is so important to both of them? ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: HEPZIBAH In her rusty black silks and her hideous turban, the sixty-year-old spinster could strike fear into any heart. Afflicted with poor eyesight, Hepzibah wears a chronic squint that twists her face into a scowl. Proud, lonely, and without talent for practical matters, she is the symbol of decaying gentility. For twenty-five years she has lived alone in the house of the seven gables, grieving for her unjustly imprisoned brother, Clifford. Like the house itself, she is a symbol of the ruin brought by isolation. And when she is forced to open a small variety shop to support herself. Hepzibah is unable to reconnect with the world. What is it that makes you so fond of Hepzibah, one of the most endearing characters in literature? What saves her in your estimation is what saves her from complete ruin: her fierce love and loyalty. Her suffering on Clifford's behalf "enriches" and "elevates" her life. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: HOLGRAVE What does Holgrave represent? Is he the voice of the future, whose message is the rise of the common man and the demise of the past with its aristocracy? Or is he an echo of the past--descended from Wizard Maule, and invested with all his powers? Or is he, simply, an artist whose agent is sunlight, and whose work is revealing the true nature of people? You see Holgrave almost exclusively through the eyes of Hepzibah and Phoebe, but neither woman understands him. Hepzibah, trapped by the past, cannot understand his new-fangled notions. Even when she takes his advice, she doesn't completely trust him. Conservative Phoebe is threatened by his irreverence, by his clinical view of life, and by her attraction for him, as well. In some ways, Holgrave has much more in common with Clifford. The views he preaches to Phoebe in the garden are not far from those Clifford espouses on the train. But whereas Clifford is a dreamer, Holgrave is a man of action. The character of Holgrave is a puzzling one, and nowhere is it more puzzling than at the end of the novel. After reading his story entitled "Alice Pyncheon," Holgrave breaks the spell he has unwittingly cast over Phoebe. Unlike a Maule before him, he refuses to exploit the spirit of a young Pyncheon woman. This incident seems to suggest that change is possible, that we are not doomed forever to repeat past sins. But by the end of the novel, Holgrave--like all the other characters--undergoes an inversion. In the cases of the others, the inversion is a setting straight, a triumph of reality over appearance. Clifford is shown to be innocent, for example, and the Judge is revealed as an evil man. But in the case of Holgrave, the inversion is completely baffling. In a complete turnaround of his earlier views, he willingly accepts Phoebe's Pyncheon fortune and goes off to live in a Pyncheon house, complaining all the while about its lack of permanence. This is not the same Holgrave whose beliefs have helped to bring about so many other changes for the better. What can this change in him mean? And what does it say about Hawthorne's theme? ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: JUDGE JAFFREY PYNCHEON When Jaffrey Pyncheon steps into the cent-shop one morning, Phoebe--who has never met the man--is filled with horror. For a moment she mistakes him for her ancestor, Colonel Pyncheon, risen from the dead. With his full beard trimmed into a pair of grizzled whiskers, his sable and velvet cloak changed for a suit and tie, and his sword traded in for a gold-headed cane, the "original Puritan" seems to step forward across two centuries. The similarities between the two men go beyond the physical. As the Colonel is remembered as greedy, the Judge is now known to be tightfisted. What was seen as the "grim kindliness" of the Colonel lives on, now, in what the townspeople see as the benevolent smile of the Judge. Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon is, as the Colonel was before him, the model of respectability. But a second glance shows that the Judge is not as beefy as the Colonel, nor does he have the ruddy complexion of his English ancestor. And there is a nervous quality about him: His face changes rapidly and lacks the Colonel's steady expression. Is this merely the difference between an American and an Englishman, or is it something more? In a book so concerned with the repetition of the past in the present, what can these differences mean? And what of the face revealed in Holgrave's daguerreotypes? The forced smile creates a stifling and sultry atmosphere. It is a smile that can barely mask the anger and displeasure lurking just below its surface. One of the great themes of The House of the Seven Gables is the difference between appearance and reality, and the character of the Judge is central to stating that theme. Hawthorne developed his characters in relation to one another, and he developed the character of Jaffrey in relation to both Hepzibah and Clifford. When you compare Jaffrey to Hepzibah (especially in the chapter entitled "The Scowl and Smile"), you discover that Jaffrey's smile is as meaningless as her scowl. She is not fierce, and he is not benevolent. Jaffrey's life is full of enough "splendid rubbish" to cover up a more active conscience than his. Jaffrey is the palace built over the stinking, "half-decayed, and still decaying" corpse. When you compare him to Clifford, you see two men who were both attractive in their youth. Clifford's beauty still shows through his frail spirit and his old age. Jaffrey's couldn't be guessed at under his portly body and heavy face. Clifford, imprisoned for a murder he didn't commit, has missed out on a lifetime while Jaffrey, who framed him, has had it all--a wife, a son, a career as a public figure, a good reputation, and the Pyncheon inheritance that was meant for Clifford. Clifford appeared responsible for the death of his uncle. In reality it was Jaffrey who brought the death about and covered his tracks. The two men, both Pyncheons, could not be more different. And in an unforgettable image, Hawthorne likens the relationship between Clifford and Jaffrey to a porcelain vase being thrown against a granite column. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: PHOEBE Phoebe is a pet name that Nathaniel Hawthorne reserved for his wife, Sophia, the woman who drew him out of his long isolation. It has long been thought that he modelled his character on Sophia as a tribute to her influence in his life. The name "Phoebe" comes from a Greek word meaning "radiant" and the Phoebe of The House of the Seven Gables is always described in images that are sunny, bright, and cheerful. She dislikes anything that is obscure--a riddle, a mystery, or the darkness. When she comes from the country to live with her elderly cousins at the house of the seven gables, she comes like sunlight to a dark corner. The hearts of those isolated people and the house itself are purified by her influence. And when she leaves for a few days, the house and its inhabitants fall again into darkness and decay. Phoebe is not a complicated character, but she has been called "a special kind of reformer." In chapter after chapter you see her influencing the other characters in the novel. For all of them she holds some redemptive power. In the chapter entitled "May and November" Phoebe is compared to Hepzibah. They are both women, but their ages, classes, attitudes, and figures are very different. The aristocrat meets--and learns from--the plebian. And yet they are both Pyncheons. How is it that Phoebe has escaped Hepzibah's fate? In "Clifford and Phoebe" you see her simple character contrasted with the complex Clifford. In her naturalness, her femininity, and her beauty, she is a symbol to Clifford of what he lacked on earth. And in "Maule's Well," "The Daguerreotypist," "Phoebe's Good Bye," and in "The Flower of Eden," you see her with Holgrave. His radical spirit is tempered and finally tamed by the kind and simple young woman. And when, in the end, Phoebe and Holgrave marry, it is not merely the union of a Pyncheon and a Maule, but the union of heart and head. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: SETTING The opening pages of The House of the Seven Gables chronicle the life of the house for almost two hundred years, and begin in the 1690s--a time of witchhunts. The main action of the story starts in the 1850s, and takes place over the course of one summer, or about three months. Most of the action occurs in a house on a side street of a coastal New England town. The house has seven gables, all of which point in different directions. (For an explanation of a gable, see the first note in the section of this book on chapter I.) Most of the rooms are occupied by Hepzibah Pyncheon, who has a shop with its own entrance in the front gable. One of the other gables is rented to a boarder. The house also has an enclosed garden. Hawthorne describes the house using human characteristics: it shows signs of age like a human face; the projecting upper story gives it a brooding look; the clustered chimney in the dark-chambered place is like a human heart with a life of its own. The interior and the exterior could not be more different or distinct. The interior, which includes the enclosed garden, is a place of darkness, shadow, isolation, and decay. It symbolizes the hearts of the two who isolate themselves there: Hepzibah and Clifford. Their hearts, as well as the interior of the house, are purged and illuminated by the presence of Phoebe, who arrives from the country. The exterior, which includes the street and the train, represents the real world. It is fast-paced and bright, and as massive as the terrible Judge Pyncheon himself. In between is the cent-shop, a threshold to the world, a transitional place where the world is admitted to the house. The scenes that take place there symbolize meetings between the darkness of the house and the light brought in by customers like Holgrave or reflected by other buildings. Neither a life lived in the house (Hepzibah's) nor a life lived on the outside (Jaffrey's) is ideal. Neither character can exist in the other's world. Hepzibah is driven back to the house on the two occasions she tries to go out. And when Judge Pyncheon finally reaches the interior of the house, he becomes another shadow, indistinguishable by evening from the others. A healthy balance of the two worlds, achieved by Phoebe and Holgrave, is desired. Throughout the book, the setting is so closely identified with both characters and themes that many readers have considered the setting a major symbol within the book. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: THEMES The following are important themes in The House of the Seven Gables. 1. THE SINS OF THE FATHERS... The wrong done by one generation of a family is visited upon the generations that follow. The greed that drove Colonel Pyncheon to encourage the persecution of Maule, and then to seize Maule's land for his homestead, brings down a curse upon all of the Colonel's descendants. The past weighs on the present like the corpse of a giant. It influences everything the living do. Hawthorne appears to say that we are forever struggling against what has been passed down to us; therefore, we should not be so eager to impose ourselves upon future generations. For "...no great mistake, whether acted or endured... is ever really set right." We can never hope to undo what has been done, but we must strive to break the pattern, to remove ourselves from the circle in which we are destined to repeat our mistakes. 2. ISOLATION Hawthorne lived in the nineteenth century, at a time when the Romantic poets stressed the importance of individualism and celebrated the differences between people. But Hawthorne had experienced the isolation of individualism and had found no happiness in his many years of solitude. He believed strongly that a man finds happiness not in his differences from other men but in what he shares with them, in his sense of community with them. In their isolation, Hepzibah and Clifford might as well be dead. The only strength Hepzibah has is that which she derives from her love for her brother. It is only in the cent-shop--the setting that puts her in contact with the outside world--that she has the courage to stand up to her cousin Jaffrey. It is only when Clifford tries to rejoin the humanity in a pulsing crowd or on a crowded train that he comes alive. Phoebe and Holgrave, on the other hand, are part of the world in which they live. Their integration into human society, as well as their love for each other, gives them an opportunity to break the curse. 3. ARISTOCRACY VS. DEMOCRACY Evil cuts across social class lines in The House of the Seven Gables, but in his characters Hawthorne presents a clear argument for the triumph of democracy over aristocracy. Hepzibah, Clifford, and Jaffrey depend on a past founded on sin to elevate them to social prominence. On the other hand, Holgrave, the modern man, preaches social reform to both Hepzibah and Phoebe. What were once the privileges of class are now its restrictions. To live without battling necessity is to let the blood chill in our veins. Hawthorne leads us to believe that the struggle of mankind should be a united one. 4. APPEARANCE VS. REALITY Hawthorne's fascination with this theme is apparent throughout The House of the Seven Gables. Hepzibah wears a scowl that the world sees as a sign of her wickedness, but she squints only from poor eyesight, and is really a good woman at heart. Judge Pyncheon, on the other hand, wears a beatific smile, which the townspeople take as a sign of benevolence and goodness. Yet this man has framed his cousin for murder and has taken what didn't belong to him. The contrast between appearance and reality is most pronounced in the development of these two characters, but it underlies other parts of the book as well. It begins with the discrepancy between what Matthew Maule was and what the townspeople thought he was. For other examples, think of the following discrepancies: between the natural deaths of the Pyncheons and the murders the townspeople suspect; between Clifford's part in Jaffrey's death and Hepzibah's suspicion of Clifford's part in Jaffrey's death; and between the person everyone thinks Holgrave is, and who he actually is. 5. HEART VS. HEAD In a letter to his wife, Hawthorne wrote, "...we are not endowed with real life... till the heart be touched. That touch creates us,--then we begin to be..." You first see the theme of the heart vs. the head in the relationships between Hepzibah and Clifford, and between Phoebe and her two elderly cousins. Hepzibah is a groaning wreck until Clifford returns from prison, at which point she springs to life to help him. When Phoebe brings her love and sunny disposition to the house, she warms the lives of her brooding cousins like a small fire. But it is in the relationship between Phoebe and Holgrave that this theme receives the most attention. Phoebe is the heart of the house of the seven gables. She warms it and brings it life. Holgrave, an intellectual, is the head. He is the bearer of ideas in the romance his entire life is concerned with philosophies of life. When Phoebe and Holgrave fall in love, heart and head are brought together to form a union that may end the curse forever. Such a union of heart and head, according to one critic, is "as modern as psychoanalysis." ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: STYLE Hawthorne's style has been described as "slightly old-fashioned even when he wrote it," and in this regard he is definitely a product of the nineteenth century. For the most part, his formal, careful, well-organized development of ideas are stylistic elements you might think better suited to the essay than to the novel. Hawthorne relies heavily on the use of symbols in his work, and often includes references to classical and biblical mythology. But he rarely relies on stylistic devices alone (images, symbols, etc.) to present his point of view. Instead, Hawthorne explicitly states his meanings to you. For example, even though his descriptions of the hens clearly draw a parallel to the Pyncheons, Hawthorne has Holgrave say that the hens "betokened the oddities of the Pyncheon family, and... the chicken itself was a symbol of the life of the old house." Hawthorne employs an interesting stylistic device in The House of the Seven Gables in an attempt to involve you in his story. He begins Chapter II by telling you what happened that morning, and he uses the past tense (Hepzibah "awoke," and "arose," and "began" to dress). He then switches to the present tense, and comments on her actions as they happen (she "prays," she "is almost ready," she "is probably looking at a certain miniature," and she "is standing" before the mirror). His use of the present tense here makes you feel as if you are here as the story unfolds, and gives you the sense of a story so immediate that not even its author knows what might happen next. Hawthorne repeats this technique at the end of Chapter X, "The Pyncheon-Garden," after Clifford calls out for his happiness. The narrator answers Clifford, saying "You are old.... You are partly crazy.... Fate has no happiness in store for you." Again, you feel that you and the narrator can see and hear the characters, but they can't see you. In Chapter XVIII, "Governor Pyncheon," Hawthorne uses this device to great effect, as he writes the entire chapter in the present tense. Through this rather lengthy chapter you examine Jaffrey's body and keep a vigil with the narrator throughout the night. Some readers think this chapter is too long, too silly, or overwritten. Others consider it one of the greatest scenes in American literature. What's your opinion? As you think about the style of The House of the Seven Gables, try to remember that Hawthorne wrote before a more "modern" style of fiction was introduced--the personal, relaxed, and image-oriented writing with which you are familiar. With this in mind, you will be able to appreciate the fact that--as serious as his writing is--it never lacks a sense of humor or the touches of irony that make his work seem so relevant even today. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: POINT OF VIEW In his cool and critical preface to The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne refers to himself as if he were talking about someone else. He strikes this pose throughout the book, whenever he refers to himself as its author. In the first chapter, which provides background material for his tale, Hawthorne uses the first-person singular ("I"). Hearing the narrator talk about his personal experience of the town and house in question gives you a sense that he is familiar with his subject and is, therefore, a voice to be trusted. When the story actually begins in the second chapter, Hawthorne settles down to the first-person plural. When he says "we," he means "you and I" (the reader and the narrator). You are drawn into the story and you become--with the narrator--what he calls the "disembodied listener." You are not only with him at the telling of the tale, you are on the threshold of the story as it happens. You hear what he hears; you see what he sees. You sometimes hear Hepzibah's thoughts, and sometimes Phoebe's. Sometimes you hear the narrator's own thoughts as the story unfolds. He answers Clifford when Clifford cries out for his happiness; he calls to Judge Pyncheon to rise from the elbow chair and get on with his day as planned; he asks your indulgence when describing life in the Pyncheon garden. This involvement of the storyteller in the story has earned Hawthorne a reputation as "the most intrusive of authors." ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: FORM AND STRUCTURE In his preface to the novel, Hawthorne described his work as a romance rather than a novel. He called it a "prolonged legend" that connects the past and the present in a "legendary mist." A romance is a story that contains scenes that you would not expect to find in ordinary life. In establishing his work as a romance, Hawthorne found license to use such devices as a disappearing skeleton hand and a ghost who plays the harpsichord. He says in his preface, however, that an author would be "wise... to make very moderate use of the privileges" and offer the "Marvellous" as a flavoring rather than as the whole meal. Among Hawthorne's readers there is a great deal of disagreement about the book's structure. Some say that it has none, that it is merely a series of episodes. Others say that it has a beginning and an end, like two halves of a short story with no middle, but a number of character sketches that add nothing to the plot. Then there are readers who see the book as a series of progressions--not in a linear motion--but in an ascending spiral, returning again and again to the same sins and the same themes in one generation after another. Still others view the structure of the work as a series of contrasts (Phoebe vs. Hepzibah, The Scowl and the Smile, for example) that help to develop its themes. When Hawthorne corresponded with his publisher as he was writing The House of the Seven Gables, he often spoke as if he were a carpenter building a house. Many readers have seized this metaphor as a fitting one for the book's structure. To some the book is a single room, and its elements are furnishings. Others regard the book as a whole house and each chapter as a different room. This is an interesting view. There is, for example, a chapter named for the cent-shop, one for the garden, one for the arched window at the top of the stairs, and one for Clifford's room--all distinct areas of the house of the seven gables. Several of the other chapters also take place in different parts of the house. You can argue in favor of each of these theories. Keep them in mind as you read, and then decide for yourself which one best describes the structure of the book. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: PREFACE The preface to The House of the Seven Gables sounds as if it were written by someone other than Hawthorne, so indirect is he in introducing his work. The preface has three functions. The first is to characterize the work as a romance as opposed to a novel. The second is to state the moral of the story. The third is to point out the legendary origins of the romance. A novel, says Hawthorne, aims at a faithful representation of the ordinary events of life. In a romance, on the other hand, an author has "a certain latitude." He can stray from the ordinary and the real; he can manipulate the elements of his story to create an effect; he can flavor his tale with a touch of the "Marvellous." The moral of the story is this: "...that the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones, and... becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief." In his romance, Hawthorne seeks to "...convince mankind (or, indeed, any one man) of 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." The preface ends with a disclaimer. Hawthorne knows that his readers will recognize the town as Salem, but he insists that the street, the house, and the people in his story are his own inventions. NOTE: In revolutionary times, there was a resident of Salem named Judge Pynchon. When The House of the Seven Gables was published, descendants of this man complained of the bad light in which their family name had been cast. In a letter to his publisher, Hawthorne denied any connection between this person and his character, and called these Pynchons "jackasses." I. THE OLD PYNCHEON FAMILY Toward the end of this section, entitled "The Old Pyncheon Family," Hawthorne refers to it as a "preliminary chapter," meaning that it comes before and leads up to the main action of the book. The stories told in this chapter occur almost two hundred years before the action of the rest of the book begins, and they furnish the background you need in order to understand The House of the Seven Gables. The chapter begins in front of an old wooden house on a side street in an unnamed New England town. The house has some unusual features: seven gables pointing in as many directions, a clustered central chimney, and a large elm in front of the main door. The street, the house, and the elm are all named for the Pyncheon family, whose home this has been for almost two hundred years. NOTE: In order to visualize the house of the seven gables, and the action in and around it, you should know what a gable is. The word gable comes from a root that means head. In the strictest sense of the word, a gable is the triangular top of a wall at one end of a house under a double-sloping roof. It also refers to the triangular-topped structure under a section of such a roof. In a house with more than one level (such as the house in this story) the gable extends from the roof to the ground and often has its own windows as well as its own entrance. Like a human face, this house shows signs of age and of the changing fortunes of its life, which have been considerable. All the stories this house has to tell would fill a very large book. Instead, a brief history of the house and its occupants brings you up to the point where the tale begins. What is now called Pyncheon-street was once called Maule's Lane. Where the house of the seven gables now stands there once was another house--a log hut, really--built by Matthew Maule. The presence of a fresh, clear spring on this property (an unusual feature on land projecting far into the sea) made it a desirable spot for a home and garden, despite its distance from the center of town. As the years passed and the borders of the town crept closer to Maule's land, the property came to the attention of a well-known and powerful man--Colonel Pyncheon. Colonel Pyncheon is described as a man of iron will and determination, and as a prominent citizen of his day. Matthew Maule is described as stubborn when defending his rights, and as a rather obscure man. Legend has it that Colonel Pyncheon claimed Maule's property, saying that it belonged to a part of a larger parcel granted to him by the legislature. (In the early years of this country the government gave pieces of unsettled land to persons of position.) There is no written record of the dispute between the two men, but tradition has preserved their story. You may well wonder how legitimate the Colonel's claim was if he was unable to settle it for years, especially considering that he was a prominent person and Maule was a nobody. In Colonel Pyncheon's day, personal influence swayed many decisions. The death of Matthew Maule finally did settle the dispute. But his was no ordinary death: Maule was accused of practicing witchcraft. He was tried, found guilty, and hanged. NOTE: SALEM WITCH TRIALS In 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, about four hundred people were accused of practicing witchcraft. Twenty were found guilty and were put to death. Hawthorne's ancestor, John Hathorne, was one of the three judges at the witchcraft trials. This caused Nathaniel Hawthorne great shame. You sense his strong feelings when he says of Matthew Maule, "He was one of the martyrs to that terrible delusion which should teach us, among other morals, that the influential classes, and those who take upon themselves to be leaders of the people, are fully liable to all the passionate error that has ever characterized the maddest mob." When the commotion, surrounding the witchhunts died down, some of the townspeople remembered that Colonel Pyncheon had been among those most anxious to rid the area of witches and wizards, especially Matthew Maule. It was said that Colonel Pyncheon watched from horseback as Maule was executed. Claiming that he had been persecuted so Pyncheon could seize his land, Maule is said to have stood on the scaffold with the hangman's noose around his neck, cursing Pyncheon, saying, "God will give him blood to drink!" Pyncheon did take the land when Maule died. But when he decided to build his family mansion on the very spot where Maule had had his little hut, the villagers gossiped apprehensively. Pyncheon, they said, was building his house over an "unquiet grave," giving the ghost of Matthew Maule the privilege of haunting its rooms. Colonel Pyncheon, however, was not the sort of person to let his behavior be influenced by the threat of evil spirits. He dug his cellar and laid his foundation on the land Maule had cleared forty years before. When the water in the spring became murky and foul, many of the townspeople interpreted it as a bad sign. Head carpenter on the building of the Pyncheon mansion was the son of Matthew Maule. In one of the many asides he makes in the book, Hawthorne notes that at that time it was not unusual for a person to earn his living from his father's worst enemy. in any event, it is to Thomas Maule's credit that the house of the seven gables still stands today. It is hard to believe that the house of the seven gables was ever new, but at one time it was not only new but unlike any house that had ever been built in that town. In shape it was rather top-heavy. Each story or upper level of the house jutted out over the one below it. The seven gables pointed sharply in as many directions. And there was a great cluster of chimneys toward the center of the roof. Little figures decorated the outside of the house, drawn in a plaster made of lime, pebbles, and bits of glass. The windows were covered with lattices having small diamond-shaped panes, and the projecting upper stories of the house cast shadows into its lower rooms. On the gable that faced the street there was a sundial. The front door--in the angle between the two front gables--was covered by an open porch furnished with benches. When the house was finished, wood chips, shavings, bricks, and shingles were scattered over the bare ground. When the place was ready, Colonel Pyncheon hosted an enormous housewarming to which all the townspeople were invited. As they passed through the front door of the house, the guests were met by two butlers who showed them into either the front rooms or the kitchen area depending on their rank in society, which was easily distinguished by their mode of dress. NOTE: Here you see that class distinctions go far back in Pyncheon family tradition. Several of the guests were annoyed that their host was not in the front hall himself to greet them. Finally, in a climactic scene, the Colonel failed to appear in order to greet the Lieutenant Governor, one of the area's highest officials. The county sheriff, embarrassed by the Colonel's absence, advised one of the servants to fetch his master immediately. The servant refused, saying that he had strict orders not to disturb his master. Hearing this, the Lieutenant Governor told the sheriff not to worry, that he would deal with the problem himself. With much ceremony, the Lieutenant Governor went to the door of Colonel Pyncheon's study and knocked loudly, smiling at the guests who looked on. There was no answer. Using the hilt--or handle--of his sword, he knocked again, making a racket that could have wakened the dead. Again there was no answer. The Lieutenant Governor then tried the door. It opened easily, practically thrown open by a gust of wind that rushed through every corner of the house. The guests crowded to the door of Colonel Pyncheon's study, pushing the Lieutenant Governor into the room ahead of them. At first, nothing seemed amiss. The Colonel frowned at them from where he sat at his desk below a portrait of himself. The Colonel's young grandson pushed through the crowd and rushed toward his grandfather. Halfway there he stopped and began to scream. It was then that the crowd noticed that all was not right with the Colonel--his gaze was distorted, his collar and beard soaked with blood. From somewhere in the crowd came a voice, not unlike Matthew Maule's, saying, "God hath given him blood to drink!" Several rumors circulated about the incident afterwards. Some said the Colonel had bloody fingerprints on his neck, some that his beard was in disarray and had obviously been pulled. Another story had it that a man was seen climbing out of the study window just moments before the Colonel's body was discovered. The Lieutenant Governor claimed to have seen a skeleton hand at the Colonel's throat, and said the hand disappeared as he got closer to the body. (This detail will surface later in the book, so you should keep it in mind.) Local doctors attributed the Colonel's sudden death to a stroke. There was no real suspicion of murder. The Colonel's huge estate and a claim to a very large and unexplored territory in what is now the state of Maine went to the Pyncheon family. Had Colonel Pyncheon lived a little longer, he might have settled this claim through his political influence and connections. However, over the next hundred years the Pyncheons failed to secure the property or even to find the documents proving it was theirs. The land was granted to "more favored individuals" and occupied by settlers. The Pyncheons, however, clung to the hope of regaining what they thought had been theirs. For most of them, this hope did little but perpetuate delusions of importance, and increase their tendencies to be lazy and dependent as they waited for their dreams to come true. In almost every generation, there was one Pyncheon who took after the Colonel, restoring the house when family fortunes had declined. At least some of the inheritors of the place had doubts about their moral, if not legal, right to the house. It may be that the owners who felt guilty and did nothing about it committed the same crime as did their ancestor, the Colonel. In this sense, the Pyncheon family may have inherited not a great fortune, but a great misfortune. A large dim mirror used to hang in one of the rooms in the house. Legend has it that this mirror contained all the shapes that had ever been reflected in it. It is said that the Maules had some power over the mirror and could make the deceased Colonel and his family come to life inside it, reliving times of tragedy and wrongdoing. Both the mirror as a symbol, and the idea of one person's having magical power over another, are repeated throughout the book. NOTE: Here you come upon the term mesmeric process. Mesmerism is another name for hypnotism, a power that some people have to induce a hypnotic state in others through their animal magnetism or influence. The word comes from the name of Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician and hypnotist (1734-1815). The story of the Pyncheons, the Maules, and the curse was embellished over the years until it was generally believed that the curse put on Pyncheon by Maule would be inherited by each generation of Pyncheons. If any Pyncheon even gurgled, a villager would say--only half-joking--"He has Maule's blood to drink!" After a hundred years, one of the Pyncheons died suddenly in much the same way as the Colonel. His death only reinforced the popular suspicion. According to a provision of his will, the Colonel's portrait remained on the wall of the study where he died. It seemed to cast an evil influence on the room. NOTE: Here you find a reference to Hawthorne's main theme: ".the ghost of a dead progenitor--perhaps as a part of his punishment--is often doomed to become the Evil Genius of his family." You first heard this theme in the preface, where Hawthorne says,... "the wrongdoing of one generation lives into the successive ones, and, divesting itself of every temporary advantage, becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief..." The Pyncheons were products of their time: They were thrifty, discreet, orderly, and narrow-minded. They were all homebodies. Generations of the family had lived uneventful lives for almost two hundred years. There had been only one noteworthy event--the sudden death of a relative, later judged a murder. The victim was a wealthy old bachelor who, after sifting through family records, had decided that Matthew Maule and his family had been wronged. Among the Pyncheon family, there was a great deal of concern that the old man might give up the old house to the Maules or leave it to them in his will. Before the man could do anything, however, he died. Some of the circumstances surrounding his death led people to believe that he had died violently. A nephew was tried for his murder, found guilty, and has served thirty years of his prison sentence by the time the story begins. There have been rumors that the prisoner might soon be freed, to return to the house of the seven gables to live with his spinster sister, who is too poor to maintain the house properly. When the story opens, the only other surviving Pyncheons are a cousin who inherited everything except the house at the time of the uncle's death and promptly became a model citizen and judge; his son, traveling in Europe; and a pretty seventeen-year-old cousin whose late father was a Pyncheon and whose mother has remarried. Maule's descendants, on the other hand, were known as honest, quiet, poor, and diligent workers. They always seemed set apart from others, and their isolation only fueled rumors that they had inherited Wizard Maule's powers and had influence over people's dreams. The family may have settled elsewhere, but for thirty years there has been no sign of them in this town. Pyncheon-street has ceased to be a fashionable section of town. The more modern houses that were built around the house of the seven gables are small, wooden, and all similar to each other. They have none of the "picturesqueness... that attracts the imagination." The house of the seven gables, on the other hand, seems to be keeping secrets. "So much of mankind's experience had passed there that the very timbers were oozy, like a great human heart." The Pyncheon elm, nearly one hundred years old, is gigantic. It casts a shadow from one side of the street to the other and sweeps over the roof of the house. It makes the house seem part of nature. Through the fence is a grassy yard, and beyond the house are the remains of a garden. Moss grows over the windows and on the sloping roof, and a cluster of flowers grow in a crevice between two gables. These flowers are called "Alice's Posies" for Alice Pyncheon, who threw seeds up onto the roof in play. From the dust and dirt on the roof, the flowers have grown long after Alice's death. One other aspect of the house mars the picturesque image a bit. In the front gable is a shop door with a window in the top. This shop door causes great embarrassment to Hepzibah, the dignified resident of the house, as it did to some of her ancestors. A hundred years ago, a Pyncheon found himself in need of money. Rather than seek office or try to settle his family's claim to the Maine territory in a gentlemanly fashion, he cut a shop door through the side of the house and operated a store, much like a person of a lower class. When he died, the shop door was locked, bolted, and barred, and has never been opened again. The shop has remained exactly as it was in his day; some say that his ghost--wearing an apron and with his ruffled cuffs turned back--can be seen through the window poring over his ledger, trying to make his accounts balance. Now the tale begins. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: II. THE LITTLE SHOP WINDOW When the chapter begins a half-hour before sunrise on a midsummer morning, sixty-year-old Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon has just gotten out of bed. She is alone in the house of the seven gables except for a young man, who for three months has been renting a room in the gable farthest from Miss Hepzibah's own quarters, and who earns his living making daguerreotypes. NOTE: A daguerreotype was a forerunner of the photograph. The process of making a daguerreotype involved exposing a treated silver or silver-covered copper plate to sunlight for several hours, during which time an impression was made on the plate. Prints could then be made. The process was named for its inventor, the French painter Louis Daguerre (1789-1851). You stand with the narrator at the threshold to Miss Hepzibah's bedroom. Together with the narrator, you are a "disembodied listener" watching Hepzibah's actions as she, prepares to face the day. For twenty-five years, Hepzibah has lived in seclusion, avoiding the world and its activity whenever possible. Yet there is something in her movements today, in the seriousness of her prayers, in her sighing, and in the length of time that she spends dressing, that leads you to believe that today will not be an ordinary day in the life of this recluse. She pauses once more before leaving her room and takes a miniature from a secret drawer in her desk. For several minutes she gazes at the portrait of a young man in a dressing gown (a robe usually worn while dressing or resting). He has beautiful, expressive eyes and full lips. But who is he? Is he a former lover? No, Hepzibah has never been in love. She puts the miniature down and checks her appearance once more in the mirror, wiping away tears. Then she steps into the dark hallway, a tall, nearsighted figure dressed in black, feeling her way toward the stairs. NOTE: A miniature is a very small portrait, originally painted with a red substance called minium, from which the English word is derived. Use of the word miniature to mean something very small comes from the fact that these portraits were so small. The room Hepzibah steps into at the bottom of the stairs has a low, beamed ceiling, dark wood paneling, and a faded carpet on the floor. There are two tables, six straight-backed chairs, and an antique armchair. Two framed items hang on the walls. One is an old map of the much-disputed Pyncheon territory in Maine, absurdly illustrated with Indians and wild beasts (including a lion). The other is the portrait of old Colonel Pyncheon wearing a skull cap and a grizzly beard, holding a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. Hepzibah pauses before the portrait, looking at it with her famous scowl--something that has always been taken as an expression of anger but which is only a squint caused by her nearsightedness. Because of this scowl, Miss Hepzibah has a reputation as an ill-tempered spinster when she is actually a very kind and good-hearted person. Until a few days ago, the shop in the front gable had been untouched since the death of its operator a hundred years ago. Dust covered the shelves and counters, and had filled a pair of scales as if the dust itself were being weighed. But now the shop has changed. The shelves and counters are clean, the floor is covered with fresh blue sand, and the scales have been scoured in an attempt to remove the rust. Barrels of flour, apples, and cornmeal, boxes of soap and candles, a stock of brown sugar, white beans, and split peas line the walls. Someone, it seems, is about to reopen the shop. In a frenzy, Hepzibah enters the shop and busies herself straightening and arranging the merchandise. There is something sad in the contrast between the tragic old figure and the silly work she is doing, setting up playthings and cookies. You are watching Hepzibah at the moment when she must step down from her imagined position as a member of an aristocracy in which people do not work for a living. After years of clinging to the hope that the land in Maine would be found to be rightfully hers, Miss Hepzibah has faced the truth--that she must either work for a living or starve. What else could she do? She cannot be a seamstress--she is too clumsy and nearsighted. While she considered opening a school for young children, her intolerance of them made that unlikely. There was little choice for her but to open a cent-shop. NOTE: In Europe, a person's position had a great deal to do with heredity, and couldn't vanish with the loss of money. But in the United States, where position depends more on money, a person's fortunes can change daily. In the setting up of the cent-shop you find another of the themes of this tale--decaying gentility and the rising and falling tides of fortune. Hepzibah takes down the bar from the shop door, preparing to admit the world--something she has not done in twenty-five years. In her misery at the realization of her new life, she runs back into the parlor where she throws herself into the armchair and weeps. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: III. THE FIRST CUSTOMER The ringing shop bell signaling the entrance of her first customer rouses Hepzibah from her despair. As she rushes to meet the customer, she appears like someone who expects to meet a burglar. Her fierce appearance--enough to frighten anyone who does not know her--disguises the fear she feels in her heart. The person entering the shop brings some of the morning sunlight with him. He is a young man of twenty-one or twenty-two, slim, with a thin brown beard and a short moustache. His facial expression combines cheerfulness, seriousness, and energy. Hepzibah's first customer is Holgrave, the young man who for three months has been boarding in a far gable of the house. He has come to make sure that Hepzibah hasn't backed out of her enterprise, to ask if there is anything he can do to help her, and to wish her luck in her business venture. Here Hawthorne notes that a person who is very upset seems able to survive any amount of nastiness from other people, but goes to pieces the moment someone shows some kindness. If you have ever felt this way, you will understand why, at Holgrave's goodness, Hepzibah at first starts to laugh and then bursts into tears. When she collects herself, Hepzibah confides her misgivings to her friend. The young man tries to calm her and says that the things we fear lose their substance as soon as we meet them face-to-face. When Hepzibah bemoans her fallen state and the fact that she is no longer a lady but merely a woman, Holgrave will not sympathize with her. Instead he tells her that what she considers a day of misfortune is actually one of the greatest days of her life. Instead of sitting aloof in her circle of gentility, she will be battling with necessity. He assures her that joining the struggle of mankind will give her a sense of purpose that she has never had before. Holgrave admits that--because he was not born a gentleman--he cannot sympathize with Hepzibah's dismay at leaving the aristocracy. He goes on to tell her that while the words "gentleman" and "lady" once had meaning and conferred privileges, they now imply restriction. When Hepzibah refuses to accept this new-fangled idea, Holgrave leaves her to wonder if it is not better to be a true woman than a lady, and adds that if the Pyncheons had always acted as nobly as Hepzibah is acting today, Maule's curse would have had no power over them. In what you will later see as an ironic statement, Hepzibah replies that if Maule's ghost or one of his descendants could see her now, he would be happy at last. Relishing the pleasure of being her first customer, Holgrave chooses some biscuits for his breakfast. Hepzibah smiles and insists she will be a lady a little longer; she refuses to accept his money. Although initially cheered by Holgrave's presence, Hepzibah finds that his visit has no long-lasting effect on her mood. She listens to the footsteps of people in the street, some pausing in front of her shop window to look at her display. At one point, two laborers stop just outside the door and comment on how surprised they are that she has opened a cent-shop. One man says that his wife lost five dollars when her cent-shop failed. Hepzibah, they say, is not likely to attract customers with her scowl and bad temper. The conversation makes a great impression on Hepzibah, who wonders how she--a born lady--will succeed in business when a vulgar woman of a lower class had failed. She is shaken from horrible fantasies by the ringing of the shop bell. The door opens and a messy little boy carrying a schoolbook and slate comes into view. He has come for the Jim Crow gingerbread figure. Hepzibah hands it to him but declines the coin he holds out in payment, and the surprised little boy leaves without shutting the door. No sooner has Hepzibah replaced the figure in the window when the bell rings again and the door jerks open. When Hepzibah sees that it is the same little urchin with crumbs still around his mouth, she says, "What is it now, child? Did you come back to shut the door?" He has come to get another Jim Crow. Realizing that she will never be rid of him as long as she gives away gingerbread, Hepzibah charges him for this one. NOTE: Jim Crow is a stereotype name for a black person in a nineteenth-century song-and-dance act. It later came to mean discrimination against blacks by legal enforcement. In this case it is the shape of a gingerbread man. Hepzibah drops her first earnings into her money box, feeling as if the coin has stained her palm forever. In her mind, the schoolboy and the gingerbread figure have broken her link with her ancestry. She might as well turn her family portraits so they face the wall and use the map of their eastward territory as kindling. Yet, as Holgrave had predicted, Hepzibah grows calm and for a while seems to almost enjoy her new position. The atmosphere is refreshing after her long seclusion, and she feels healthier now that she is helping herself. But she is encouraged only to the point of being able to continue. Her despondency always threatens to return. Among the customers who trickle through her shop are a little girl whose mother sends her to match thread and who returns with Hepzibah's choice, saying it will not do and is rotten; the worn-out wife of a drunk and the mother of nine to whom Hepzibah gives flour without accepting payment; and a man reeking of alcohol who buys a pipe and curses the shopkeeper for having no tobacco. Five people leave angrily when they find she has no ginger or root beer, and one housewife dooms her shop to failure because she has no yeast. Hepzibah is offended by the cross-section of humanity she sees. She hates the rude people who treat her like an equal. Even more, she hates those who know of her fallen state. When some voice their regrets at what she has been forced to do, Hepzibah suspects them of coming only to gawk. It is not long before she finds herself struggling against a great bitterness toward the idle rich--the aristocracy to which she has until now belonged. When a well-dressed and perfumed lady passes through Pyncheon-street, Hepzibah wonders if the whole world must work so this woman's hands may be kept white and delicate. NOTE: From the visit with Holgrave to the trade with her first customers, Hepzibah is struggling with her change of class. She has given up the hope of wealth that isolated her for so long, and has joined the "united struggle of mankind." What do her mixed feelings here suggest about isolation and class distinctions? Do you feel any special sympathy for her? Why? ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: IV. A DAY BEHIND THE COUNTER When this chapter opens, it is noon on the same day and Hepzibah is looking out of the shop. On the side of the street opposite the house of the seven gables, a large but dignified older man is walking. He stops in the shadow of the Pyncheon-elm and looks with great interest first at the house and then at the shop window. This character, described as "as well worth looking at as the house" is the model of respectability. Both his clothing and gold-headed cane make him seem a person of authority and influence. Although he was probably thought handsome in his youth, his face now is jowly, and a host to shifting expressions. As he looks up at the house, he first smiles and then frowns. Through gold-rimmed spectacles, he studies the shop window and smiles--first harshly and then benevolently--when he spots Hepzibah looking out. This person has a considerable effect on Hepzibah. She wonders aloud what he thinks of her enterprise. "Take it as you like, Cousin Jaffrey!" snarls Hepzibah once he is gone, and you discover that this gentleman is Jaffrey Pyncheon, the wealthy judge and cousin of Hepzibah and her imprisoned brother. Returning to the parlor, Hepzibah tries to knit but soon tosses the stocking aside and paces, pausing under the portrait of her Puritan ancestor, Colonel Pyncheon. As the likeness has faded into the canvas over the years, the character of the man has grown more prominent, as if the artist's true feelings for the man have been hidden under paint that is now wearing away. The resemblance between Colonel Pyncheon and the man Hepzibah has just seen on the street is striking. "This is the very man!" she mutters. Hepzibah loses herself so completely in her thoughts that when the shop bell rings it sounds as if it comes from another world. In the shop she finds a neighbor, an old man known as Uncle Venner. He is a familiar sight in Pyncheon-street where--toothless and in patched clothing--he does chores for many families and gathers scraps for his Pig. For his lack of ambition, Uncle Venner had a reputation as a dimwit. But what seemed vulgar in him when he was younger seems charming in his old age. He is pleased to find that Hepzibah has begun trade but predicts that something better will happen to Hepzibah, and that she will never end up at the work-house (the poorhouse, which he calls his farm). Hepzibah fantasizes about how her fortune might change. An uncle who sailed for India fifty years ago and who has not been heard from since might come back and adopt her. The head of the English Pyncheons--a member of Parliament--might invite her to live in England. Relatives in Virginia might hear of her poverty and send her a small fortune in yearly income. Or the claim to the eastward territory might still be settled in her family's favor. Motioning for Hepzibah to come closer to him, Uncle Venner asks, "When do you expect him home?" Hepzibah turns white and wonders who he could mean, but Uncle Venner cannot be put off. He says there is word of it all over town. For the rest of the day, Hepzibah moves mechanically, as if she were in a trance. It is as if her spirit is in the past, and her body has been left to deal with the present. As luck would have it, customers pour into the shop all afternoon and Hepzibah blunders along, confusing her goods and miscounting her change. In her first day she has cleared only six cents, but in spite of the slim profit, Hepzibah is happy that the day is over. As she is locking up, a carriage stops next to the elm, and Hepzibah's heart stands still. Could this be the guest from the past that Uncle Venner referred to? A slender young girl jumps down to the sidewalk and goes to the front door of the Pyncheon house, where the porter has left her things. Thinking that the girl must have the wrong house, Hepzibah peers out the window at the young, cheerful face. The contrast between the fresh, young girl and everything around her is striking. Her presence at the door is like a ray of sunshine falling into a dark corner. Hepzibah unlocks the door and shoves back the bolt. It occurs to her that this might be Phoebe, the country cousin whose father has died and whose mother has remarried. Hepzibah thinks to herself that it is just like a country cousin to lack the sophistication to write ahead of her intended visit. Little does Hepzibah know that Phoebe's letter to her has been in the postman's pocket for days. As she opens the door, Hepzibah vows that Phoebe will stay only one night, thinking that her presence might upset Clifford. V. MAY AND NOVEMBER Phoebe awakens in the early morning in a room that faces east and looks out over the garden. After saying her prayers and dressing, she hurries down to the garden, where she picks some white roses that she had seen from her window. Phoebe has a talent for arranging a room so that it looks homey and inviting. With her natural touch, the dark and dreary bedroom becomes a cozy apartment. The previous night it could have been compared to Hepzibah's heart. It lacked sunshine and fire, and its only guests were ghosts. Now, though, something--perhaps the bunch of flowers?--makes the room unmistakably that of a young woman. When Hepzibah tells Phoebe that she cannot afford to keep her, Phoebe replies cheerfully that she intends to earn her own living and thinks the two of them will get along quite well. Hepzibah tries everything to discourage Phoebe: she points out the unwholesome condition of the house, and tells stories of her own bad temper and low spirits. But Phoebe will not be daunted. Finally Hepzibah concludes that she does not, in fact, have the last word--that the master of the house will be returning soon. Surprised, Phoebe asks if Judge Pyncheon is the master of the house. Angrily, Hepzibah says no, and adds that the Judge will never cross the threshold while she is alive. When asked again about the master of the house, Hepzibah brings out the miniature you saw when she was dressing. Phoebe admires the face, calling it "as sweet a face as a man's can be, or ought to be," and asks her cousin who it is. Bending toward her, Hepzibah wonders in a whisper if she has never heard of Clifford Pyncheon. Phoebe has only a dim recollection of the name, and seems to remember that Clifford has been dead a long time. Hepzibah laughs a warning that in old houses like the house of the seven gables, people are always apt to come back again. Hepzibah brings out some family silver and a china tea set brought to the colony by Phoebe's great-great-great-great-grandmother. When Phoebe washes the things with great care, Hepzibah compliments her on her work. She says Phoebe must take after her mother, because no Pyncheon ever had her talents. The shop bell rings before the women sit down to breakfast, and Hepzibah puts down her teacup with a look of despair. The sound is almost more than she can bear as she sits with the silver and china remnants of her gentility. She is surprised once again when Phoebe, claiming experience in shopping and selling at country fairs, announces that she will tend the shop today. Hepzibah watches from the passageway to see how she conducts herself, and is impressed when Phoebe bargains well with a difficult old woman who trades yarn. Hepzibah's admiration for Phoebe includes no desire to imitate her. Although Phoebe may be competent to manage the shop and make yeast, brew beer, and bake spice cake, she is not and will never be a lady. No lady would ever possess Phoebe's talents--they would be unnecessary. This is not to say that Phoebe is not ladylike. She is tasteful and well groomed, but she is not elegant. She is petite and her tan, freckled face is framed by brown curls. She has an upturned nose and deep eyes. She is pretty and graceful the way a bird is. Phoebe is as much a representative of the new Plebeianism as Hepzibah is of Old Gentility, and the contrast between the two is great. NOTE: Phoebe is May to Hepzibah's November. She is young and hopeful whereas her cousin is old and despairing. Phoebe is from a lower social class than Hepzibah, but she is more competent and more talented. What does this say about the contrast between Plebeianism and Old Gentility Hawthorne presents here? The light of Phoebe's personality must shine through the windows of the old house. There is no other explanation for the speed with which the neighbors learn of her presence. Business quickly picks up. At the end of their first day together, Hepzibah puts on a pair of silk gloves and tallies the change in the money box. On a tour of the house Hepzibah recounts the history of each article in it, hinting at Pyncheon fortunes still awaiting discovery. She tells Phoebe that the house is said to be haunted by the ghost of the beautiful and talented Alice Pyncheon, who wasted away from some mysterious ailment a hundred years earlier. Alice can still be heard playing softly on her harpsichord, Hepzibah says, just before the death of one of the Pyncheons. Rounding out the grand tour, Hepzibah tells Phoebe about her boarder, the daguerreotypist, who lives in one of the gables. She explains that although she first considered Mr. Holgrave an orderly young man, she now does not know what to think. His friends, with their long beards and fashionable clothing, are unlike any people she has ever known. Holgrave has been accused in a recent newspaper article of making a rebellious speech at a meeting of his friends. Hepzibah suspects him of practicing animal magnetism and black magic in his room. Horrified at Hepzibah's description of the young man, Phoebe wonders why she allows him to stay. Hepzibah excuses her tolerance of him, saying, "I suppose he has a law of his own." NOTE: Animal magnetism is the personal influence or power that one creature exerts over another. Black magic is another term for witchcraft. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: VI. MAULE'S WELL After one day away from the country, Phoebe feels the need to spend time in the garden. She finds it in better shape than she had supposed it to be. While the signs of long neglect are apparent, it also seems that some of the fruit trees have been recently tended and pruned. There is also a small vegetable garden almost ready to be harvested. Phoebe wonders for a moment who the gardener is, quickly rejecting the possibility that it might be Hepzibah. It seems to Phoebe that the eye of heaven must smile down onto the garden, happy to see Nature surviving somewhere in the dusty town. In the garden's center, surrounded by mossy stones, is a fountain that spouts water into the air. In the corner is a hen coop that houses one rooster, two hens, and a single chicken. They are all of an unusual breed--an heirloom of the Pyncheon family for generations. At their peak, the fowls had been the size of turkeys, laying eggs the size of ostrich eggs. But the hens are now no larger than pigeons. Their withered look and stiff movements show their degeneration over the years in spite of--or perhaps because of--the purity of the breed. Phoebe is disturbed to find that the crest, the distinguishing feature of the birds, reminds her of Hepzibah's turban. When Phoebe calls to the birds, they seem to recognize the sound, and the chicken runs to her. When he flies up and lands on her shoulder to be fed, a voice behind her remarks with surprise how familiar the birds are with her. Turning, Phoebe finds a young man with a hoe, who has come into the garden from another gable. The young man says that Hepzibah would explain the bird's behavior by saying that Phoebe is a Pyncheon. Phoebe replies that it is merely because she has learned how to talk with chickens and hens. Phoebe realizes that this must be the daguerreotypist--Holgrave--and she behaves toward him in a manner more reserved than is natural for her. He explains that gardening is a refreshing pastime for him and that his real occupation is "making pictures out of sunshine." When Phoebe says that daguerreotypes are disagreeable-looking, Holgrave counters that they are disagreeable only when their subjects are disagreeable. He contends that sunshine has greater insight than humans have into a person's character. Handing Phoebe a miniature in a leather case, Holgrave explains that while most people think of this man as having a pleasant face, he himself has never been able to achieve an image other than sternness. Phoebe thinks she recognizes the face of her Puritan ancestor, the Colonel, without his cap, beard, or old-fashioned clothing. Holgrave laughs at her mistake, assuring her that the subject of the miniature is very much alive, and that she will certainly meet him one day. He marvels at the difference between the actual face, seen by most people as benevolent, kind, open-hearted, and good humored, but pictured here as "sly, subtle, hard, imperious, and cold as ice." Refusing to look again at Holgrave's picture, Phoebe mentions a miniature that Hepzibah has shown her, and challenges the sun to make that face look fierce and tough. Holgrave's extreme interest in Hepzibah's miniature puzzles and embarrasses Phoebe. When Holgrave asks if there is anything sinister or criminal in the man's looks, Phoebe suggests that he ask Hepzibah to show it to him. Holgrave would rather see the original, he says, and adds that the character of the man has been judged already. Phoebe does not have a clue that the person in Hepzibah's miniature is Hepzibah's brother Clifford, who has been imprisoned for thirty years for murder. Phoebe isn't sure she likes Holgrave. While his manner is polite, she resents the magnetic aspect of his personality. When the garden is in shadow, Holgrave suggests that they stop for the day; he invites Phoebe to come to his studio some time when the sun is shining, so he can make a daguerreotype of her. Before retreating into his gable, he warns Phoebe not to drink or wash her face at the fountain, called Maule's Well, for it is said to be bewitched. NOTE: When Phoebe and Holgrave meet, she isn't sure she likes him. If you look closely, you will see that it is not the young man that Phoebe dislikes, but her attraction to him. What does Phoebe's reaction tell you about her, and how does it affect your impression of her character? Does it influence your feelings toward Holgrave at all? How does it foreshadow the story of Alice Pyncheon? When Phoebe returns to Hepzibah's part of the house, she finds it so dark she is unable to see. She can just make out Hepzibah's figure in a straight-backed chair, and asks if she may light a lamp. Hepzibah's voice in answer sounds strange to Phoebe. While she is lighting the lamp she thinks she hears Hepzibah say something to her, and cries, "Just a minute!" She expects to hear Hepzibah's voice in reply, but instead hears an unfamiliar murmur. The sound is so indistinct that after a while she decides she must have imagined it. In the lamplight from the passageway Hepzibah becomes a bit more visible, but the rest of the room remains as dark as before. When Phoebe asks Hepzibah if she has just spoken to her, Hepzibah says no in a melancholy voice. After sitting still for a moment, Phoebe becomes aware of irregular breathing in one of the dark corners of the room. Reluctantly, she asks Hepzibah if there is someone in the room with them. Hepzibah reminds Phoebe of how busy she has been and how tired she must be, and suggests that she get some sleep. When Hepzibah rises and embraces her, Phoebe feels Hepzibah's wildly beating heart and wonders at the overflow of emotion. Phoebe retires to her room, but she does not fall asleep right away or stay asleep for very long. In the night she hears footsteps on the stairs and Hepzibah's voice rising with the footsteps. In response to Hepzibah's voice, Phoebe again hears the strange murmur, a shadow of a voice. The chapter ends here, with Phoebe's suspicion that there is someone else in the house. You must wait until the next chapter to learn if her suspicions are well founded. NOTE: Notice how Hawthorne ends the chapter on a suspenseful note. He leaves you hanging, eager to press on and discover the identity of the presence on the stairs. But when you begin the next chapter, you don't find the answer right away. Instead, Hawthorne trades on this suspense as he describes the mechanics of preparing breakfast. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: VII. THE GUEST After her fitful night, Phoebe awakens to the sound of movement from downstairs. When she investigates, she finds Hepzibah at a kitchen window with her nose in a cookbook. With a sigh, Hepzibah asks Phoebe to see if Speckle (one of the hens) has laid an egg. Just as Phoebe returns empty-handed, they hear the fisherman blow his conch (seashell). Hepzibah calls him to the house and buys a fat mackerel. Hepzibah's breakfast feast promises to be a very cheerful one. The aroma of fish, coffee, Indian cakes, and clover-blossom butter spreads through the dark-paneled parlor, and the china and family silver sit proudly on the table. Only the face of the Colonel seems out of place. Phoebe arranges some cut flowers in a pitcher, and everything is ready. But who will be their guest this morning? The table is set for three. All morning, Hepzibah has seemed both jumpy and moody. One moment she is ecstatically happy, the next she is in tears. When their work in the kitchen is finished and Phoebe asks what has happened, Hepzibah quickly wipes her eyes and tells Phoebe to be quiet. "He is coming!" Drawing the curtain to achieve a perfect mix of sun and shade, she murmurs that he always liked bright faces and never could stand tears... "poor Clifford." Just then a step is heard at the head of the stairs, followed by a very slow and halting descent. It is the same step Phoebe heard climbing the stairs in what she thought was a dream the night before. After a long pause at the threshold of the parlor, someone on the other side of the door grasps the knob and then, without opening the door, lets it go. Unable to endure the suspense, Hepzibah throws open the door and leads an elderly man, with very long, white hair and in an old-fashioned dressing gown, into the room. He seems to lack not the physical strength to walk freely, but the spirit to do so. His expression wavers on his face. When, with a slight and graceful movement, he acknowledges the bright and cheerful Phoebe, Hepzibah introduces her as his cousin. At his assigned place in the parlor, Clifford looks around the room as if trying to be certain of where he is. His spirit still seems to waver; as it flickers in his eyes, Phoebe recognizes him as the man in Hepzibah's miniature. He wears the same dressing gown, now old and faded. His worn face and body are evidence that he has suffered a terrible wrong. Every once in a while an expression of refinement and imagination flashes through the decay and ruin that separate him from the world, showing that whatever has happened has not destroyed him completely. As if talking to himself, he asks if this is Hepzibah and why she scowls so. Is she angry? At Hepzibah's reply that he is at home where he is loved, Clifford responds with a feeble but charming smile. When his smile fades, it is replaced by a look of hunger. When he eats, he is so completely absorbed in the mindless enjoyment of the food that Phoebe is repulsed and must look away. The flowers, the open window, and Phoebe's pretty face all seem to Clifford suddenly like a dream masking the four walls of a prison. His face darkens at the thought. Phoebe, in an attempt to cheer him, shows him a rosebud from the garden. It is, by chance, a flower Clifford loved long ago, and he thanks her. While enjoying the rose and the memories it evokes, Clifford notices the portrait of the Colonel and starts out of his chair in alarm. Hepzibah reminds him that, according to the Colonel's will, the portrait must stay in the house, but offers to cover it with some cloth. While Clifford is dozing, the shop bell rings. Hepzibah explains that she has opened a cent-shop, and wonders if Clifford is ashamed of her. Asking how Hepzibah could speak of shame to him, Clifford bursts into tears. When Clifford finally falls asleep, Hepzibah sits and studies his aged and ruined face, and moans in sorrow. She lowers the curtain on the sunny window and leaves Clifford asleep in the parlor. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: VIII. THE PYNCHEON OF TODAY In the shop Phoebe finds the eater of Jim Crow, little Ned Higgins. Having no money of his own left, he is getting eggs and raisins for his mother. When she hands him his package, Phoebe slips him a gingerbread whale which he devours. With the food still in his mouth, the boy asks on his mother's behalf how Hepzibah's brother is doing. Phoebe does not answer, but is surprised to find out who Clifford is. As the boy leaves the shop, a man comes in. He is portly, wears a black suit, a white necktie, and polished boots, and carries a gold-headed cane. With its shaggy eyebrows and fat chin, his face would look nasty if he were not smiling so deliberately. A careful observer would conclude that his expression of good humor and kindness is not quite real, but in any event, it intensifies as he enters the shop. When the man asks if she is Hepzibah's assistant, Phoebe says that she is, and is also her cousin. At this the man exclaims that she must be his cousin as well, and introduces himself as Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon. NOTE: In this introduction of Jaffrey, the narrator looks carefully enough to notice the difference between the Judge's appearance and the reality of his disposition. Compare this description to the description of Hepzibah, and the difference between her appearance and her reality. Just as the Judge bends over the counter to kiss her, Phoebe steps aside, leaving him stupidly kissing the air. While he seemed pleasant enough from across the street or across the room, Phoebe does not want his fat, rough face to touch her. She blushes at the thought and when she looks again, his face seems to be covered by a thundercloud. Suddenly it occurs to Phoebe that this is the face in Holgrave's daguerreotype, and that the nastiness she is witnessing now is identical to what the sunlight has seen. The strong resemblance between his expression and that of the Colonel might almost imply that more than physical characteristics are passed down from one generation to the next. The Judge tries to regain his composure and pride by saying that Phoebe is a good girl for being so cautious. Still, Phoebe finds herself unable to warm up to him and can't shake the idea that the old Puritan has just stepped into the shop. There are differences between the two men: As heavy as the Judge is, he is not as heavy as his ancestor, and he does not have the Colonel's ruddy English complexion. But in their character, integrity, and courage they are the same. In addition, both are greedy and both pretend to be kind. Phoebe does not know enough about her family history to recognize any of the less obvious parallels, but she has heard of Maule's curse. Thus, when Judge Pyncheon clears his throat with a gurgling sound, she jumps. For a moment the two men blur in her mind. When the Judge asks Phoebe what she is afraid of, Phoebe offers to call Hepzibah for him. He detains her a moment longer to ask about Clifford's return. After Phoebe describes Clifford as a gentle but weak-minded man, the Judge seems pleased and expresses his hope that Clifford has enough intellect to repent of his past sins. When she answers that no one could have fewer sins than Clifford, it becomes clear to the Judge that Phoebe knows nothing of Clifford's history. He urges her to think the best she can of "unfortunate" Clifford. As the Judge tries to enter the house unannounced, Phoebe--unsure that she is doing the right thing--blocks his way. Claiming great familiarity with the house and its occupants, the Judge pushes her aside just as Hepzibah appears, looking like the dragon that guards over beauties in fairy tales. At this moment her scowl is unrelated to her nearsightedness. Shooing him away, she plants herself in the doorway. The Judge offers her his hand and another of his warm smiles. He says he has come to assist in making Clifford comfortable, and asks if he may enter. He seems hurt when Hepzibah replies that Clifford cannot see visitors. Jaffrey then offers to be the host, and invites Hepzibah and Clifford to his luxurious house in the country. Phoebe is startled when Hepzibah coldly rejects his offer. When the Judge tries to force his way past Hepzibah so that he might see Clifford, she again blocks the doorway. A weak and defenseless voice from inside the house begs Hepzibah not to let the Judge inside. No matter how he might smile later, the flash of anger in the Judge's eyes at the sound of Clifford's voice is a sight no one could ever forget. The Judge claims that Hepzibah does him a great wrong. With a bow and a nod he leaves the shop and goes, smiling, down the street. When he is gone, Hepzibah--white as a sheet--calls him the horror of her life and asks if she will ever have the courage to tell him what he is. It seems unlikely to Phoebe that a judge--a man of a respectable position--could be anything other than upright and good. Unwilling to face the disorder that would follow in her mind if anything else were true, she rejects her suspicion that the Judge is an evil man and dismisses Hepzibah's declarations as bad feelings created by a family feud. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: IX. CLIFFORD AND PHOEBE NOTE: Some readers complain about this chapter, saying that it lacks action, that nothing happens to develop or enhance the plot. The chapter is uneventful. It considers the characters of Clifford and Phoebe and the relationship that develops between them. Why do you think Hawthorne included this chapter? What can you point to as its strength? Several days pass after Clifford's arrival, and the three Pyncheons work out a routine that suits them all. Hepzibah, who has never asked for anything for herself, wants nothing more than to make her shattered brother happy. But she wears hideous clothing; her voice croaks; she is clumsy and ugly. Her efforts only offend her brother, and she knows it. She turns to Phoebe for help. Again and again you are told how fragile Clifford is. His only pleasure (for he has no purpose) is the appreciation of beauty. In Phoebe he finds much to appreciate. Her purifying influence purges the house of its shadows. Her movements remind him of a fountain. She sings like a bird. Clifford becomes more youthful in her presence--his face glows and shows traces of its former beauty. He never talks to Phoebe or says that he enjoys her company, but when she wanders out of sight or earshot he grows restless and irritable. Clifford is aware of Phoebe as a beautiful woman. But his attraction to her is neither sexual nor paternal. In her physical beauty, her simplicity, and her natural grace, Phoebe is a symbol of what Clifford will never have. Hers is the kind of beauty with which Clifford should have lived all his life. After years in prison imagining what a woman is, Phoebe is just what Clifford needs to bring him back to the real world. NOTE: CLIFFORD Hawthorne says that Phoebe does not really know what to make of Clifford. To explain this, he uses a wonderful image, saying that Phoebe has no more understanding of Clifford than a fire has of the faces it illuminates. This is a perfect image to describe the relationship between them. Phoebe, in her cheerfulness and warmth, is always described in images of fire and sunshine. The old and gloomy Clifford is drawn to her warmth. In her fire he sees a number of images. When she goes away, Clifford feels as if a fire has gone out or the sun has gone behind a cloud. Phoebe is drawn to Clifford, not by his exotic nature, but by his need for her. Like the fire or the sun, she does not reflect his gloom but generates her own heat and light. This is not to say that life in the house does not take its toll on Phoebe's nature. With so much to think about, she does grow more thoughtful, but she never tries to discover what Clifford has endured. Their relationship develops in complete ignorance on Phoebe's part. In her innocence, she judges Clifford by her own standards--and when she finally learns his story, she knows him too well to be influenced by it. X. THE PYNCHEON GARDEN At Phoebe's urging, Clifford spends time in the garden, where she reads to him and where he delights in the natural world of flowers, insects, and birds, as well as the Pyncheon hens and Maule's Well. Clifford prefers Phoebe's chatter about the flowers, insects, and birds in the garden to her reading aloud to him. It helps him focus on the present. He loves the flowers, and he studies each one not just for its fragrance, color, or form, but for its life and individuality. Hepzibah, whose role is both mother and sister to Clifford now, watches him with both sadness and pleasure. His childlike happiness contrasts sharply with his actual state of aged ruin. His present lies between a terrible past and a blank future. And if you study Clifford's present closely, you see that it is a deep void. He knows this, for he has looked into the "mirror of his deeper consciousness," and has seen that he is always at odds with the world. He has learned so well how to be unhappy that he can no longer understand how to be happy. Pain is most real to him, and often his experience of pain--the prick of a thorn or a pinch--is what tells him that he is not dreaming. At Clifford's request, the Pyncheon fowls are allowed to roam freely in the enclosed garden. They are the oddest birds imaginable, both in appearance and behavior. When one of the hens finally lays an egg (which might hatch into a hen and continue the breed), Hepzibah serves it to Clifford for breakfast. Hawthorne's use of the withered birds as a symbol of the Pyncheons is very obvious here. Holgrave muses that the chicken's odd markings are like the odd traits of the Pyncheons and that the chicken is a symbol of life in the old house. It is yet another restatement of the theme of decaying aristocracy. The hens sit on the edge of Maule's Well and savor the water that people find so foul. Clifford sees a changing display of figures in the fountain's dancing water--beautiful faces that symbolize his character, and dark ones that symbolize his fate. On Sundays, after Phoebe returns from church, the three Pyncheons are joined in the garden by Holgrave and Uncle Venner. Clifford likes Uncle Venner: the fallen gentleman is most at ease with a member of the lower class. Uncle Venner's extreme old age makes Clifford feel young, and sometimes Clifford forgets that he does not have a lifetime ahead of him. Holgrave tries to draw Clifford into conversation; his interest in Clifford seems at times to be greater than any a stranger might have in the old man. On these sunny afternoons, Clifford becomes animated and even speaks his mind, but when the sun goes down the excitement fades from his eyes. "I want my happiness," he says at one point, and the narrator answers him, saying that he is too old, that fate has no happiness in store for him, and that he should make the most of the life he has. NOTE: Readers often point to this passage when accusing Hawthorne of being an "intrusive" author. He answers Clifford's remark as if he can see and hear the characters as their story unfolds, but he is invisible to them. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XI. THE ARCHED WINDOW Over the porch of the front gable is a very large arched window that opens onto what was once a balcony with a railing. As a change of scenery, Phoebe and Clifford--shaded from view by large red curtains--look down onto the street and watch the world go by. There is always something for Clifford to look at. After so many years in isolation, the world and its ways are strange and infinitely interesting. What pleases him most are sights and sounds that are either familiar or beautiful. He misses stagecoaches on the street, but when a scissors grinder sets up his wheel under the Pyncheon elm, Clifford is ecstatic at hearing a sound from his childhood. While life on Pyncheon-street can be monotonous, it is often quite lively. One day an Italian organ grinder and his monkey pause on Pyncheon-street to play. Spying Phoebe and Clifford in the arched window, the organ grinder stands below them so they can hear his music. The monkey bows and begs for money while the organ grinder plays a tune on his organ, where, at the turn of a crank, a collection of little figures dances to his tune. A lady fans herself, a soldier waves his sword, a milkmaid milks a cow. When the dance is finished, each little character is in exactly the same position as before it began. The cobbler has not finished his shoe and the miser has no money in his strong-box. Delighted at first by the music and the little figures, Clifford is struck by the ugliness of the monkey and bursts into tears. NOTE: The organ grinder and his organ become symbolic here. As all the little figures--from all walks of life--dance to the same tune, they accomplish nothing. These symbols seem to favor the pursuit of individuality. When, on another day, a political parade passes through the street, the sight is too much for Clifford. A parade is silly when seen up close, when each individual is discernible. But from where Clifford sits, the parade streams through the street like a "river of life," a human tide that pulls him into its undertow. Hepzibah and Phoebe do not understand the look Clifford gives them, and think only that he is disturbed by so much commotion. Moved either by the magnetic force of the parade or by the terror that pushes people over the edge, Clifford tries to join the humanity below him. He steps onto the window sill and struggles to reach the balcony--from where it is a two-story drop to the crowd below. Hepzibah and Phoebe grab him by his clothes and pull him back. Phoebe bursts into tears and Hepzibah screams at Clifford, asking if he is crazy. He answers that he doesn't know. But if he had taken the plunge and survived, he adds, the shock would have made him another man. It might have restored him to the world. NOTE: Considering what you know of Hawthorne and his ideas about individualism vs. the tide of humanity, how is this scene a comment on his own time? Clifford's desire to be part of humanity returns one Sunday morning as he and his sister watch from the arched window as their neighbors are going to church. Phoebe steps out of the house, looks up at them, and waves. She wears clothes that seem never to have been worn before. She looks to Hepzibah and Clifford like a "religion in herself," a "spirit capable of heaven." Moved by the way the spirit of the day seems to transform even their unspiritual neighbors. Clifford says that if he were to go to church he thinks he would be able to pray once more. Hepzibah and Clifford, dressed in their damp, moldy, old-fashioned clothes, offer quite a contrast to Phoebe. They open the front door and step out, feeling as if all the world is looking at them. Saying they are but ghosts among the living, Clifford finds himself unable to take another step. They retreat, defeated, into the house. After their breath of fresh air, though, the house is ten times as dismal as it had been. There is, it seems, no prison as dark as a person's own heart. It would be wrong to represent Clifford as always miserable. Unlike most people, Clifford has none of the worries that come with responsibilities. In this, he is like a child. Even in his dreams, he always appears as a child or a young man. In his own "lingering near childhood," he loves the sound of children's voices and the sight of them at play. One afternoon, Clifford indulges his desire to blow soap bubbles out the arched window, an amusement he loved in childhood. The people on the street below exhibit a number of reactions. Some stop; some look up angrily; others break the bubbles with their fingers. One bubble bursts on the nose of an elderly gentleman. He looks up sternly and then smiles, saying, "Aha, Cousin Clifford, still blowing soap bubbles?" At the sound of Judge Pyncheon's sarcastic tone, Clifford is paralyzed by fear. Weakness feels only horror when faced with such massive strength. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XII. THE DAGUERREOTYPIST By mid-afternoon, Clifford is usually worn out from his mental activity and Phoebe has a little time to herself. Though in some ways she seems to be immune to the dreariness of the house, she needs to escape from its damp, rotting atmosphere and the sickly spirits of her cousins. Already she seems less girlish than when she arrived: Her eyes look larger, darker, and deeper. Without occasional walks by the ocean, shopping trips, or lectures, she will grow shy and unwholesome. The only young person Phoebe sees often is Holgrave. Though they are both New Englanders, they could not be less alike. If they had met each other under different circumstances, they probably would not have given each other another thought. From the start, Phoebe has hung back from Holgrave. She's not sure if she likes him or even if she knows him well enough to trust him. Little by little Phoebe learns about Holgrave's past. His family background is humble; he has had almost no formal education. Almost twenty-two, he has supported himself since he was a boy. His former positions include schoolmaster, salesman, newspaper editor, perfume peddler, and dentist. He has traveled to Italy, France, and Germany, and has spent several months in a utopian socialist community. Recently, he delivered a lecture on mesmerism. He confides to Phoebe that he has great powers of mesmerism, and to prove it he puts the rooster to sleep. Daguerreotypy is simply his latest occupation, a way of earning a living. Despite constantly changing environments and occupations, Holgrave has managed to retain his identity, to "carry his conscience along with him." Although this quality inspires confidence, his lack of respect for tradition and Phoebe's sense that his laws differ from hers make her nervous. Holgrave always observes a situation without becoming emotionally involved in it. He is attentive to the three Pyncheons, but doesn't seem to become more deeply involved with them as he gets to know them better. He remains more interested than involved. To Phoebe he seems especially interested in Clifford, but she is not forthcoming in response to his questions about the old man. Phoebe tells Holgrave that when Clifford is cheerful, when the "sun shines into his mind," she looks only at what the light illuminates. She tells Holgrave that Clifford has a "great sorrow" and that where its shadow falls is holy ground. When she questions Holgrave's interest in Clifford, Holgrave replies that he suspects that "a man's bewilderment is the measure of his wisdom." NOTE: As our knowledge increases, it sometimes takes the greatest intelligence to realize how much we do not know. Hawthorne's age was marked by great discovery and progress, one in which the ability to admit bewilderment was important. Holgrave believes that his own lifetime will see a golden age. While he is right in thinking that better times are coming, he is wrong in thinking that any change would be complete in his lifetime, or that the change would even come in his lifetime. Although Holgrave has read little, he nonetheless considers himself a thinker. He has an inner resource, his youthful enthusiasm. His ambition may take him far, but it is hard to say in which direction he will go. Inadvertently, Phoebe makes the house more like a home to Holgrave. He is charmed by her though he considers her transparent and accessible. He speaks openly and reveals his dreams to her. When Phoebe asks how he became acquainted with Hepzibah, Holgrave speaks of the influence of the past, saying "Shall we never, never get rid of this Past! It lies upon the present like a giant's dead body!" He says that we are slaves to death, that our lives are determined and ruled by dead men, and that we must be dead ourselves before we influence our world, by which time it belongs to somebody else. Predicting that he will live to see the day when "no man shall build his house for posterity," Holgrave says he doubts that even the public buildings should be made of anything as permanent as brick or stone. Even the house of the seven gables comes under Holgrave's fire when he claims to love nothing moldy, and calls it an unwholesome place that should be purified. When Phoebe asks him why he lives there, Holgrave says he dwells in the past to learn how to hate it. He claims to believe the story of Maule's curse, not as a superstition, but as a proven theory. He feels that the Puritans' desire to "plant a family" is at the bottom of the wrong and mischief that men do, and he suggests that every family merge with the masses every fifty years and forget its ancestors. Human blood, to be fresh, must run in hidden streams. When he portrays the Pyncheons as lunatics, Phoebe doesn't know whether or not to take offense. Holgrave defends his thoughts as the truth, and suggests that the original offender--the Puritan Colonel--has perpetuated himself in an image that still walks the streets in the body of Jaffrey and will probably bequeath the same inheritance. When she asks if this lunacy that he speaks of is contagious, Holgrave is embarrassed and explains that he has become absorbed in the subject since moving into the house. He has even written a story, he says, about one incident in Pyncheon family history. Surprised that Phoebe doesn't know that he writes for magazines, Holgrave first brags about his accomplishments and then offers to read his story to her. Phoebe agrees to listen if the story is not too long or too dull. NOTE: Hawthorne believed that family pride was at the root of much of the world's evil. He states this belief here, in Holgrave's theory. In view of his theme of the wrongdoing of one generation living on in subsequent generations, is merging with the masses ever possible? ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XIII. ALICE PYNCHEON This chapter consists of the story that Holgrave reads to Phoebe. It is a flashback to an earlier time in Pyncheon family history and supplies some information you haven't heard before, as well as reminders of details you may have forgotten. The story takes place thirty-seven years after the death of Colonel Pyncheon in the house built by Thomas Maule. The three main characters include two Pyncheons and one Maule. One Pyncheon is the Colonel's grandson Gervayse, who as a boy discovered the Colonel dead in his study. Now a handsome, middle-aged man, he occupies the house of the seven gables with his large family. The other Pyncheon is Alice, his daughter, who is beautiful and exotic. Alice has just returned from Europe where she was educated and where she learned to play the harpsichord. As proud as she is beautiful, Alice manages to combine cold dignity with womanly tenderness. The third character is young Matthew Maule, a carpenter, whose father, Thomas, built the house of the seven gables. His grandfather--also named Matthew Maule--was the wizard who originally owned the Pyncheon homestead. Physically, young Matthew Maule is a very attractive young man, but he is not popular in the town. Although he has never done anything to make people dislike him, their dislike seems a result of his standoffishness and of their suspicions of inherited evil. For example, he is suspected of having control over people's dreams, of having Maule's Eye (which reads people's minds), and of having the Evil Eye (which gives him power over everything from crops to babies). His naturally withdrawn nature and the fact that he doesn't attend church feed these suspicions. Young Maule is bitter about the Pyncheon property, which he believes was rightfully his family's. He refuses to be treated like a second-class citizen by the Pyncheons. Thus, when he is summoned to the house at the beginning of Holgrave's story, he arrives at the front door rather than at the back or side doors, where servants and craftsmen usually enter. When Pyncheon's servant goes to fetch his master, Maule tells him to give his regards to Alice. The servant is outraged that a carpenter would pretend such familiarity with a lady. It is plain to young Maule that Pyncheon has not called him to make any repairs to the house: the place is in fine condition. The house is said to be haunted by young Maule's grandfather's ghost, but no carpenter can keep spirits out of a house. Gervayse's parlor is furnished with articles from Europe, as well as with the portrait of the Colonel and the map of the eastward land that the Pyncheons still hope to claim. Pyncheon has asked to see young Maule about this claim. When the young man asks what a carpenter can have to do with this matter, Pyncheon explains. He says that his grandfather was on the verge of settling the claim at the time of his death, and that he suspects there was a document or deed behind his grandfather's confidence in such a settlement. It was commonly said that the wizard, Matthew Maule, had gotten the better of the old Puritan, that he had gotten possession of the huge territory in exchange for an acre or two of homesite. It was also said that miles of Pyncheon land had been shoveled into Maule's grave, and that the deed would only be found in Maule's skeleton hand. In desperation, Pyncheon lawyers had Maule's grave searched. Not only was there no deed, but the right hand of the skeleton was missing. Many of the rumors can be traced to Thomas Maule, the builder of the house; and Gervayse remembers that either on the day the Colonel died or the day before, Thomas had come to the house to do a small job in the Colonel's study, where "certain papers" were spread on the desk. Matthew objects to this insinuation that his father may have lifted the documents. Gervayse disregards his objection and offers him great sums of money for information leading to the lost documents. After rejecting many offers, young Maule asks if he could have the house of the seven gables and its grounds as a reward for return of the deed. At this point, the portrait of the Colonel is said to have frowned and appeared as though it might descend from its frame. Gervayse, who is not so attached to the house, considers the deal for a moment. The house does not compare to a vast territory. He draws up a written agreement to Maule's terms. But before Maule will say a word about the missing deed, he insists upon seeing Alice and speaking with her. This stipulation shocks Pyncheon more than the idea of giving up his house and grounds. Maule indicates that his only chance of discovering the deed is through the mind of a virgin such as Alice, and Pyncheon finally agrees that he may see her. Alice comes when she is called. The moment she lays eyes on young Matthew Maule it is apparent that she finds him attractive. It would have thrilled other men to be looked at in such a way by the beautiful Alice, but young Maule feels that he is being appraised like an animal. He is infuriated. Gervayse explains to Alice that she is to follow Maule's instructions, and that he will remain in the room with her. Gervayse turns away and seems to study a painting, but is really worried about all he has heard about the Maules and their wizardry. When he catches a glimpse of Maule in a mirror, gesturing as if he were lowering a weight on Alice, Gervayse tries to halt the proceedings, but Alice urges him not to interrupt Maule's "harmless efforts." Rationalizing that an increase in the family's fortune would benefit Alice most of all, her father allows Maule to continue, and does not interrupt even when he hears his daughter moan. In a gesture of triumph, Maule points to Alice, who sits quite still with her eyes downcast, leaning a little in his direction. Nothing Gervayse does can rouse Alice from this trance. He shouts at her, shakes her, kisses her--but nothing works. Losing control of himself, he demands that Maule restore his daughter to him. Maule answers that Alice is now his, and proves his control by making her stand and sit with a wave of his hand. When Maule tries to make Alice reveal the location of the deed, he has no luck. She describes three figures, easily recognizable as the Colonel, Matthew Maule, and Thomas Maule. The Colonel has the deed, but the two Maules prevent him from giving it up or saying anything about it to his family. When he tries to speak, the Colonel seems to choke on his secret. Young Maule explains the imagery of Alice's vision, saying that keeping the secret is the Colonel's punishment. He tells Gervayse to keep the house. When Gervayse tries to speak, his fear produces a gurgling sound in his throat. Young Matthew repeats the curse: Gervayse has old Maule's blood to drink. With a gesture from Maule, Alice awakens from her trance and remembers nothing of it. Maule leaves Alice with her father, no closer to the missing deed. From then on, Alice is never the same. A martyr to her father's greed, she remains under the spell of young Matthew Maule. Wherever he is, he has only to wave his hand and Alice, wherever she is, laughs, cries, or dances at his bidding. She is left with no self-control and, therefore, with no dignity. One night Maule calls Alice out into the rain and mud to wait on a laborer's daughter who is about to become his bride. Wearing only a sheer dress and satin slippers, Alice obeys. From the exposure she develops a cold and fever. She plays her harpsichord, happy because she knows she will no longer be humiliated. Days later, as her funeral procession goes by, the saddest of all is Matthew Maule, who meant only to humble Alice, not to kill her. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XIV. PHOEBE'S GOOD-BYE Holgrave's dramatic reading of the story is complete with gestures showing how young Matthew Maule hypnotized Alice. As he reads, he notices that Phoebe herself is becoming drowsy. With her eyes downcast, she leans a little toward him and seems aware only of him. Slowly it dawns on Holgrave that he has cast a spell over Phoebe and that--with a wave of his hand--he could control her spirit as completely as Matthew Maule mastered Alice's. Nothing is as tempting or seductive to Holgrave as the prospect of power over another human spirit. Yet Holgrave makes a slight upward gesture with his hand, freeing Phoebe and resisting temptation. He has an uncommon respect for her individuality. When he teases her for dozing during his reading, she has no idea what he means. Both Phoebe and Holgrave fall under the spell of the beautiful moonlit evening that has stolen over the garden during the reading of the story. In a melancholy voice, Phoebe admits that she feels older than she did before she met her cousins. She says that because she has given them her sunshine, she cannot keep it for herself. Holgrave says reassuringly that she has lost nothing that was worth keeping. He encourages her with a description of a person's second youth, which he says is the state of being in love. Phoebe reveals that she plans to travel to the country in a few days to visit her mother. She says she will return to the house of the seven gables, where she feels wanted and needed. Holgrave credits her with the health, comfort, and natural life of the household. He says that Hepzibah, in her isolation from society, is as good as dead, and that Clifford, too, is dead and buried. Without Phoebe, he adds, they both may become piles of dust. NOTE: In Holgrave's remarks about Hepzibah and Clifford, you find the most emphatic statement yet of Hawthorne's theme of isolation and its effect on the human spirit. Phoebe protests that she can't tell if Holgrave wishes them well or not. He then tries to explain how different his mind is from hers. His impulse, he says, is to analyze rather than to help or hinder. Phoebe puzzles at his words and at his unattached, spectator attitude. She uses a metaphor--that the house is a theater. She says the play costs the performers too much and the audience is too coldhearted. Holgrave has mentioned that he feels that the family drama is coming to an end, but when Phoebe asks him to explain, he will not. He says only that he has no secrets but his own and questions Judge Pyncheon's motives in ruining Clifford's life. Extending Phoebe's theater metaphor, he wonders if destiny is "arranging the fifth act for a catastrophe." Phoebe, already described as being as hostile to mystery as the sunshine is to a dark corner, bids Holgrave both good-night and good-bye. A couple of days later she prepares to leave. As she says good-bye to Clifford and Hepzibah, she wonders how in just a few weeks she has become so attached to these people and this place. Everything she sees or touches responds to her thoughts as if driven by a human heart. Clifford calls her close to him and looks into her face. After an inspection that makes her blush, he announces that she has developed from the prettiest girl he has ever seen into a beautiful woman. On her way out of the shop, she meets little Ned Higgins on the doorstep and gives him either a gingerbread rabbit or hippopotamus (she cannot see which it is through her tears) as a gift. Uncle Venner, seeing her in the street, says they will miss her at their Sunday garden party, and marvels at how quickly she has become familiar to him. He urges Phoebe to return soon--not only for his sake, but for the sake of the poor souls who will never be able to do without her. When he compares her to an angel, Phoebe replies that she is no angel but agrees that she feels most like one when doing what good she can. For that reason, she says, she will return soon. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XV. THE SCOWL AND THE SMILE Phoebe's absence coincides with an easterly storm, and for days the house is filled with gloom. Without the sun or Phoebe, Clifford is cut off from all enjoyment. Looking like the east wind herself, Hepzibah seems only another phase of the weather in her black dress and cloud of a turban. Business falls off in the shop, for none of the customers can face dealing with Hepzibah. Of course, she is never ill-tempered with Clifford, although her efforts to please him invariably fail. Sometimes she just sits, darkening the room with her presence. At other times she tries to kindle a fire, but the wind drives the smoke back into the room. Clifford sits wrapped in his cloak for the first four days of the storm. On the fifth, he announces feebly that he does not plan to get out of bed, but that afternoon Hepzibah hears music coming from Alice's harpsichord and assumes that he has gotten up to amuse himself. Legend has it that this music always foretells a death in the Pyncheon family, but at the strumming of the chords Hepzibah decides that a human is definitely playing the harpsichord. No sooner does the sound of the harpsichord stop when the shop bell rings and a shoe is heard scraping the threshold. At the sound of a deep cough or choke, Hepzibah rushes forward in alarm and anger. It is as she suspected. Judge Pyncheon smiles and asks how the weather is affecting her and Clifford, saying he has come once more to ask if there is anything he can do for them. Hepzibah rejects his offer, saying that she devotes herself to Clifford. The Judge argues that Clifford is too secluded, that he needs family and old friends. He asks if he may see Clifford. Hepzibah refuses, claiming that Clifford is ill. The Judge starts in alarm. Fearing that Clifford may be near death, he insists that he be allowed to see him. When Hepzibah indicates that Clifford has not death but only Judge Pyncheon to fear, the Judge gushes in defense of himself. Hepzibah is infuriated and her anger gives her courage. She tells the Judge that she knows how he hates Clifford, that she believes he is plotting against her brother even now, and that he will be sorry if he ever pretends to care for Clifford again. Except for Holgrave, Hepzibah is alone in her impression of Judge Pyncheon. Everyone else considers him a model citizen. Even the Judge believes he is an honorable man. Like those to whom appearances are everything, the Judge has come to believe in his own facade. As an image for man's character, Hawthorne describes a grand palace with a closet in its cellar. The door is bolted and the key has been thrown away. In this closet is a decaying corpse, which fills the palace with its odor. The inhabitant no longer smells it, though, for he has been breathing the same air for so long. The inhabitant who no longer smells the death scent is a man whose soul is paralyzed. NOTE: In this metaphor, the character of Jaffrey is closely identified with the character of his ancestor, Colonel Pyncheon. Both men built their fortunes and their homes over the graves of others--the Colonel literally over the grave of Wizard Maule, the Judge figuratively over the ruin of his cousin Clifford. Both men illustrate the theme that the sins of the past are visited upon the present. At Hepzibah's outburst, the Judge grows as stern as his Puritan ancestor to whom he bears an amazing resemblance. The two argue fiercely about whether or not the Judge should be allowed to see Clifford. All the while the Judge claims to be Clifford's only friend and the man who set him free. He says that thirty years ago, when their uncle's estate was tallied, only a small portion of what he was thought to own had come to light. As the entire estate (except for the right to occupy the house) was left to Judge Jaffrey, he is here now to ask Clifford what may have happened to the rest. Hepzibah thinks the Judge is crazy and says so. But the Judge replies that before their uncle's death Clifford had boasted of knowing the secret of untold wealth. The Judge, who has thought about it all these years, is certain that Clifford knows where the remainder of their uncle's estate is hidden, but that Clifford refuses to tell him out of a sense of revenge. Judge Pyncheon tells Hepzibah that he has had people watching the house and reporting on Clifford's behavior. He has the power to send Clifford back to prison if he should decide that Clifford is unfit to remain at large, and he will decide so if Clifford does not cooperate in revealing the hidden estate. Mournfully, Hepzibah tells her cousin that it is he, not Clifford, who has the diseased mind. She accuses him of repeating the mistake of the Colonel and of passing on the curse. Jaffrey is not moved to change his position, however. He urges that Clifford decide immediately whether to share the secret or to suffer the consequences. Begging him to be merciful with her brother, Hepzibah admits Jaffrey to the house, where he flings himself into the elbow chair in the parlor, like so many Pyncheons before him have done. Perhaps none of them had ever been more tired than Jaffrey is now. Taking his watch from his pocket and holding it in his hand, he begins counting the minutes to Clifford's arrival. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XVI. CLIFFORD'S CHAMBER On her way to get Clifford, Hepzibah is rattled by the scene she has just endured with Jaffrey. Stories of good and evil Pyncheons flood her mind; taken together, they repeat the same disaster, generation after generation. She thinks that she, the Judge, and Clifford are about to add another chapter to the story. For a moment, while it is still in the present, their story seems more tragic to her than the preceding ones. Hepzibah is unable to shake the feeling that something--the likes of which has never happened before--is about to occur. She cannot bear to think of hurting Clifford, of bringing him face to face with his evil destiny, the Judge. It would be like "flinging a porcelain vase, already with a crack in it, against a granite column." Since Jaffrey wants something that Clifford almost certainly does not have, Clifford is doomed to fall and perish. For a moment she wonders if Clifford does know something of the uncle's vanished estate. She thinks that if she had it, she would gladly trade it all for Clifford's freedom. But she believes he does not know. NOTE: The metaphor of a porcelain vase is one of the most memorable in the book. The image of a porcelain vase suggests extreme frailty. The fact that the vase has a crack in it suggests a fundamental weakness as well. The vase (Clifford) hasn't got a chance against the granite column (Jaffrey). It seems impossible that, even surrounded by a city, there is no help for them. If Hepzibah were to call for help, however, anyone answering would most certainly aid the Judge. Wondering who might help them, she thinks first of Phoebe and then of Holgrave as a possible champion of their cause. She unbolts the door that leads to Holgrave's gable, but he is not home. From among a number of daguerreotypes on his desk, the face of Judge Pyncheon stares up at her. For the first time in all her years of seclusion, she feels isolated. She is being punished, she thinks, for having cut herself off from her friends. Back at the arched window, Hepzibah tries to pray to heaven through the dense clouds, but her prayer, too heavy, falls back to earth and to her heart. She thinks Providence cares little for the individual. Finding no other way of stalling, and fearing the voice of the Judge, she knocks at the door of her brother's room. There is no answer, for she has knocked so softly that Clifford could never have heard her. She knocks again--still no answer. Once again she knocks, slowly and insistently. Clifford still does not answer. When she calls to him several times with no response, she opens the door and finds the room empty. She looks out the window, but he is not in the garden. Hepzibah is horrified at the thought of Clifford, in his old-fashioned clothing, being ridiculed by young boys passing by in the street. If Clifford has strayed from the house, he will not get far, she thinks, for the town is almost completely surrounded by the sea. And at the thought of Clifford drowning, she hurries to Jaffrey for help. Crying that Clifford is gone and that harm may come to him, Hepzibah opens the parlor door. In the dim light she can hardly make out the Judge's figure, sitting in the elbow chair in the middle of the room. He is looking out the window, and in spite of his interest in finding Clifford, does not stir from his position. Hepzibah is still screaming at him to help her when, from within the parlor, Clifford appears at the threshold. Clifford is deadly white and his face wears a wild expression. From the threshold, he points back into the parlor and shakes his finger slowly. His look is one of joy or excitement. Hepzibah thinks he must be insane. When she urges Clifford to be quiet, he says she should let the Judge be quiet, and that they should dance and sing. "The weight is gone," he says. As he begins to dance, Hepzibah is seized with horror. She pushes past Clifford into the parlor, but reappears immediately, swallowing a scream. Clifford orders her to hurry, saying they will leave the house to their cousin. Hepzibah notices that Clifford is wearing his cloak and seems to be suggesting that they leave the house. She needs guidance now, and Clifford's will have to do. Afraid of what she has seen, and of how it has happened, she obeys without thinking, like a person in a dream. She keeps wondering why she doesn't awaken. None of this has ever happened, she thinks. But she does not awaken, not even when Clifford steps to the parlor door and gestures at their cousin, saying how ridiculous he looks. Hepzibah and Clifford leave the house, and the Judge's body remains. NOTE: JAFFREY'S DEATH What a difference in the reactions of Clifford and Hepzibah! Hepzibah is terrified. She isn't sure how Jaffrey died, and a part of her is afraid that Clifford may have had something to do with it. Clifford is her life, and her fear for him paralyzes her. Clifford, too, is afraid. But he is afraid of injustice--of being punished again for a death he did not cause. Greater than his fear, though, is his sense of freedom. He says, significantly, "The weight is gone," and you are reminded of how the "past weighs on the present." The man who ruined Clifford's life is dead, and Clifford now comes to life. The sudden tension, the suspense, and the beautiful imagery create an intense and effective climax to the story. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XVII. THE FLIGHT OF TWO OWLS Clifford and Hepzibah set off, out of the house and into the east wind. In their inexperience, they look like children. Although it is summer, the wind and the chill Hepzibah feels from what she has just seen make her colder than she has ever been. She is struck by the excitement that possesses her brother, an effect similar to that which some people feel from wine or from listening to fanciful music. In Clifford's case, it is excitement caused by music played on a cracked instrument. Before long, they find themselves in a large, smoky railroad station, where a bell is ringing and an engine is puffing, ready to leave. Still the decisive one, Clifford helps Hepzibah into one of the cars. It begins to move almost immediately, drawing the long-isolated pair into the current of human life. When Hepzibah, still haunted, asks Clifford if this is a dream, he answers that he has never been more awake. Outside the railroad car, the world rushes past. Inside, Clifford and Hepzibah are faced with almost fifty people--quite a novelty after their long seclusion. The passengers read, play, sleep, study. Familiar faces step off and new ones board as the train stops and starts. Clifford is dazzled by the colorful scene; Hepzibah feels more isolated from humanity than ever. Clifford reproaches her for thinking about the house and their cousin sitting in it alone. He urges her to be happy with him now that they find themselves in the midst of life. Hepzibah thinks he is mad and that perhaps she is, too. And well she may be, clinging to one thought, one scene, especially now when faced with so many distractions. To Hepzibah, though, the house of the seven gables seems to appear everywhere she looks. Unlike Clifford, her mind is unable to absorb new sights at this moment. She finds that their relationship has changed, that Clifford--startled into manhood and intelligence has become her guardian. When the conductor asks for their tickets, Clifford hands him money and asks to go as far as it will take them. A fellow passenger, commenting that they have chosen an unusual day for a pleasure ride, asserts that the best place to be is at home by the fire. Clifford disagrees, and the two men converse briefly about the merits of locomotion versus stale ideas of home. Clifford suggests that although we think of ourselves as going forward in a straight line, all human progress is circular--in an ascending spiral curve. We always return to something we tried once and abandoned, but now have refined and perfected. The past is but a coarse and sensual prophecy of the present and future. Because the railroad has made movement and change so easy, Clifford wonders why anyone would create a prison (in other words, a house) of wood, bricks, or stone rather than just live "anywhere and nowhere." As he theorizes, he is transformed into a youthful character. The young girls on the train are distracted from their game by his face. They stand looking at him, thinking how beautiful he must once have been. When Clifford's new acquaintance says he would not call living "anywhere and nowhere" an improvement, Clifford repeats his idea that our obstacles to happiness are the houses we build. The human soul needs air, he says, not the influence of a stagnant household. Whenever he thinks of a certain seven-gabled house that he knows well, he imagines an elderly man inside, sitting dead in his chair with his eyes open, poisoning the whole house with the scent of death. Clifford affirms that the farther away he gets from the house, the more alive and youthful he feels. He knows that he can never be happy there. Hepzibah tries to stifle Clifford's chatter, but he will not be silenced now that he has finally articulated his thoughts. He turns again to the embarrassed gentleman and continues his train of thought, saying that "real estate--the solid ground to build a house on--is the broad foundation on which nearly all the guilt of the world rests.... A man will commit almost any wrong... only to build a great, gloomy, dark-chambered mansion for himself to die in, and for his posterity to be miserable in...." Clifford predicts that a better age is coming, and sees "messengers of the spiritual world, knocking at the door of substance." Electricity, too, appears to be a sign of change, making the world "one great nerve." The telegraph seems an "almost spiritual medium." It should be used to serve the causes of love and joy in carrying messages, not as an instrument to spread news of fugitive bank robbers and murderers, as his fellow passenger suggests. As an illustration of the disadvantaged position of the fugitive, Clifford describes his own circumstances as if he were talking about someone else. The passenger calls Clifford strange and says he cannot see through him, to which Clifford answers that he thinks himself as transparent as the water in Maule's Well. At this point, the train reaches a station where Clifford and Hepzibah get off. The train vanishes, as if it were the world fleeing from them. From the platform they see a decaying wooden church and an apparently uninhabited farmhouse. Clifford shivers in the rain and wind, and tells his sister that she must take charge now. His mood has changed completely. Hepzibah kneels on the platform and prays to God to have mercy on them. NOTE: The railroad--the "Iron Horse"--was a controversial subject in Hawthorne's time. Thoreau, the Transcendentalist writer, saw it not as a sign of progress, but as the ruin of the natural landscape and a symbol of the evils of the Industrial Revolution. For Clifford and Hepzibah it is a world unto itself, a traveling microcosm (little world) in which they suddenly find themselves with their fellow men. For them, it is also an instrument of the future, as well as an escape from their past. You should notice two other points in this chapter. The first is how, once Clifford leaves the isolation of the house, he is "startled into manhood and intelligence." The second is how closely his ideas resemble those of Holgrave when he spoke with Phoebe in the garden. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XVIII. GOVERNOR PYNCHEON Judge Pyncheon still sits in the parlor of the house of the seven gables. He has not stirred all this time--not even his eyes have moved. Although he still holds his watch in his hand, you cannot see the time. He appears to be meditating or sleeping. You would have to hold your own breath to be completely sure that he is breathing at all. Over the ticking of his watch his breathing can't be heard. How unusual it is for a man as busy as Judge Pyncheon to linger so long in an empty house that he has never liked. Although the elbow chair is comfortable enough, the wealthy widower is more than welcome in many houses with better chairs. Just this morning he was making plans not only for today, but for the next twenty-five years. Today promised to be hectic, beginning with the interview with Clifford, which should have taken no longer than half an hour, but which has taken two hours already. Then he had a meeting with a broker about an investment possibility. It's now ten minutes before dinner time, however, and the Judge has a very important dinner engagement this evening--a gathering of his distinguished friends from around the state, who plan to ask the Judge to be their candidate for governor of Massachusetts. Why, after half a lifetime spent pursuing this goal, does he hesitate now? As the cloudy evening mingles with the gloom of the house, the parlor darkens and you can no longer make out the Judge. You hear only the murmuring wind and the ticking of his watch. The wind changes direction and the house creaks. A door slams upstairs. First starlight and then moonbeams become visible in the clearing sky. Midnight strikes on a city clock. The Judge does not believe the legend that at midnight all the dead Pyncheons gather in this parlor to see if the Puritan's portrait still hangs on the wall. The dancing of the moonbeams and shadows in the old mirror makes it easy to imagine a parade of Pyncheons entering from another world. The Puritan (Colonel Pyncheon) comes first, looks up at his portrait, and checks the frame. All is well, but the Colonel looks troubled. Shaking his head, he turns away and is followed by all the other dead Pyncheons. Six generations push each other along as they try to reach the frame: Old men, women, ministers, officers, the shopkeeper, Alice, Gervayse, a mother and her baby. One among them is dressed in modern clothes. It seems to be young Jaffrey, Judge Pyncheon's son, who has been traveling in Europe. If he is dead, then the Pyncheon fortune will one day belong to Clifford, Hepzibah, and Phoebe. Another figure joins the procession--the ghost of the Judge himself. While his body still sits in the chair, his ghost goes to the portrait and tries the frame, then turns away frowning. A mouse sits up near Judge Pyncheon's shoe, startled by a large cat at the parlor window. For the first time in five years, the Judge's watch stops ticking. The shadows fade, and it is morning. Will the Judge get up? If he does, will his seclusion have made him a better man? Again the voice calls out to him; again he does not answer. A housefly lands on the Judge's forehead, then travels across the bridge of his nose toward his open eyes. The shop bell rings, a reminder of the living world. NOTE: Will the Judge, a man of the world and the opposite of Clifford, benefit from a little isolation? ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XIX. ALICE'S POSIES When Uncle Venner ventures out shortly after sunrise the next morning, he finds that, after five days, the storm has finally passed. Everything in Pyncheon-street looks clean and bright. The Pyncheon elm has survived the wind. Its leaves are a perfect green except for one branch--always the first to announce the coming of autumn--which has turned a bright gold. NOTE: The gold branch is a reference to the golden bough that allows Aeneas to enter the world of the dead in Virgil's epic poem The Aeneid. There Aeneas meets the great men who will be his descendants in the future. Even the house of the seven gables looks inviting and as if its history must have been a happy one. Of all its interesting aspects, one stands out: The large clump of red-spotted flowers called Alice's Posies that blooms in a crevice between two gables. They have grown from seeds brought from Italy by Alice Pyncheon. Last week they looked like a clump of weeds, but now--in full bloom--they seem to symbolize the consummation of something in the house. With his wheelbarrow, Uncle Venner heads for the back door of the house, where Hepzibah always leaves a large pan of scraps for his pig. He is disappointed when he finds nothing there, but decides against knocking at such an early hour. The creaking of the gate on his way out attracts the attention of Holgrave, who calls to him from his window and asks if there is no one around. The two men talk about the storm that has just passed, and Holgrave comments that the wind was so fierce the night before that it had sounded as if all the dead Pyncheons were gathered in Hepzibah's rooms. Uncle Venner guesses that either Hepzibah has overslept or she and Clifford went to the country with the Judge after his visit to the shop yesterday. A fat woman hurries to the shop door, which will not open no matter how hard she bangs on it. As she struggles and the bell rings furiously, a neighbor calls that it is no use, that Hepzibah and Clifford left yesterday for the Judge's country estate. Ned Higgins, wanting a gingerbread elephant on his way to school, tries the shop door unsuccessfully. Through a part in the curtains, he sees that the inner door leading to the parlor is closed. When he picks up a stone to throw through the window, his arm is caught by one of two men passing by--the same men whose conversation Hepzibah overheard on her first day of business. After sending Ned on his way, they speculate about the disappearance of all the Pyncheons, saying that the stablekeeper took the Judge's horse in yesterday and hasn't seen him since. The two men declare that the Judge will turn up, and dismissing Hepzibah's absence as a flight from creditors, they walk away. Deliverymen try the shop door all day, with no luck. After a while, the sounds of music and a crowd of children fill Pyncheon-street. The Italian organ-grinder and his monkey are back. The organ grinder stops under the arched window and plays, but the kind faces he remembers seeing there do not appear. His lighthearted popular tunes contrast sharply with the dark secret of the house. Hawthorne points out that many a troubled soul is forced, nevertheless, to hear the music of the world's gaiety. This mingling of tragedy and mirth is an irony of our existence from which there is no escape. A passerby calls to the organ grinder to go somewhere else with his music, for the Pyncheon family has troubles--Judge Pyncheon has been murdered. As the young musician packs up his instruments on the doorstep, he spots a card that has been covered by the newspaper engraved card belonging to the Judge. The back lists the appointments he was to have had yesterday. The same two men who stopped Ned from breaking the window wonder if Clifford has been up to his old tricks or if Hepzibah has murdered the Judge to get money for her shop. They go off with the card to the City Marshall's office. The organ grinder leaves and the children scatter, terrified by what they have just overheard. A half hour later, a cab stops in the street and Phoebe steps out with a bag and a hat box. She tries the shop door first, but it doesn't open. Finding the front door locked, she knocks. The silence makes her think for a moment that she might have the wrong house. From down the street, Ned Higgins warns her not to go in. Expecting to find her cousins in the garden, Phoebe goes there next. Except for the hens and a cat prowling under the parlor window, the garden is empty. Her absence and the storm have taken their toll on the garden, which now looks as if no human has set foot in it for days. The garden door, too, is locked, but as she knocks, it opens enough to admit her. Assuming Hepzibah has opened it, Phoebe steps across the threshold, and the door closes behind her. NOTE: The suspense builds. Notice the extreme difference between appearance and reality--the house has been described as looking as though its history has been a happy one, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Phoebe assumes Hepzibah has opened the door. Again, note the difference between appearance and reality. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XX. THE FLOWER OF EDEN The darkness of the house blinds Phoebe. When a hand squeezes her arm in welcome, she knows instantly that it is Holgrave who has let her in. He leads her to a bright and empty apartment in an unoccupied gable. She senses that he has something important to tell her. Holgrave looks pale and thoughtful, but he smiles warmly at Phoebe, as if he is seeing his closest friend after a long absence. When he says that he should not feel so happy that she is there, Phoebe knows something is wrong. She asks where Hepzibah and Clifford are, and can't believe it when Holgrave says they are gone. When she tries to enter the parlor, Holgrave restrains her. He admits that something has happened, but not to Hepzibah and Clifford. Holgrave tells Phoebe that he is depending on her remarkable strength and wisdom, for he is confused and needs her advice. Although he cringes at the thought of exposing Phoebe to the ugly truth, he has no choice. Asking her if she remembers, Holgrave hands her the daguerreotype he first showed her in the garden. When she asks how Judge Pyncheon is involved with the disappearance of Clifford and Hepzibah, he shows her another, more recent picture. Phoebe turns white at the portrait of the dead Judge. Holgrave recounts the unearthly quiet of the house that morning and the rumors of Judge Pyncheon's disappearance. A sense of catastrophe made him check this part of the house, where he discovered Judge Pyncheon dead in the parlor, and Hepzibah and Clifford vanished. He claims to have taken the picture of the dead man for Clifford's purposes as well as for his own, and adds that he has family connections to the event. Holgrave's calmness stuns Phoebe. He seems to have absorbed the fact of the Judge's death as if it had been inevitable. When she asks why he has not called in witnesses, he begs her to consider what is best for Clifford and Hepzibah. They have incriminated themselves in their flight from the house when, in fact, the death of the Judge could actually help Clifford. The Judge has died as his uncle did thirty years ago. Such sudden deaths clearly run in the Pyncheon family. Yet another incidence of this can only emphasize Clifford's innocence in his uncle's death. Holgrave suspects that it was an "arrangement of circumstances" that led to Clifford's conviction for murder. Holgrave suspects this "arrangement" was the work of the Judge. Phoebe insists that they bring Judge Pyncheon's death to light immediately. Holgrave agrees, but he does not share her horror at this gruesome event. Instead he feels a kind of wild enjoyment in being connected to Phoebe by their secret. It seems to encircle them and set them apart from the world. When Phoebe says they must not delay, Holgrave tells her that there will never be another moment like this one, and that he feels joy as well as terror. At this unlikely moment, Holgrave admits that he is in love with Phoebe. Phoebe wonders how this can be true, and says she could not possibly make him happy. He argues that she is his only hope of happiness. But she fears he might lead her away from her own path in life. Claiming that such impulses belong only to dissatisfied men, he vows that with her he would no longer be dissatisfied. Instead, he imagines himself building a house and planting trees. Phoebe admits that she is in love with him. For a moment, they feel that there is no Death. A sound at the street door brings the couple back to the grim reality facing them. Before they reach the door, they hear footsteps in the passageway--the feeble steps of weary people. When they hear the murmur of familiar voices, Phoebe and Holgrave know that Hepzibah and Clifford have returned. When Phoebe runs to meet them, Hepzibah bursts into tears. Clifford, saying that he thought of them when he saw Alice's Posies in bloom, smiles and seems to know instinctively what has happened between Phoebe and Holgrave. NOTE: Phoebe's own path is the way of the heart, while Holgrave's is the way of the head. She recognizes him as an intellectual and is afraid that he might try to change her. Holgrave claims that he needs Phoebe and her ways in order to be happy. Thus, true happiness results only when the heart and the head are brought together. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: XXI. THE DEPARTURE "Death is so genuine a fact that it excludes falsehood," Hawthorne observes at the beginning of this chapter. Judge Pyncheon's death--so similar to his uncle's death thirty years ago--reopens discussion about the uncle's alleged murder. At the time a medical investigation had shown that he had died of natural causes, but the fact that he had been robbed and that his room was in disarray had suggested a more violent death. When the authorities looked further, they had found a chain of evidence that led to Clifford. Out of the talk that follows Judge Pyncheon's death, however, a new theory arises. As a young man, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon was wild, self-indulgent, and a reckless spendthrift. His rich uncle grew to dislike him intensely. One night, young Jaffrey decided to search his uncle's room, and was caught by his uncle (also named Jaffrey). The shock of finding his nephew going through his things brought on one of the attacks to which the Pyncheons were so susceptible. Old Jaffrey fell, striking his head against the corner of a table, and died instantly. Continuing to search among his uncle's papers, young Jaffrey found two wills: a recent one leaving everything to Clifford and an older one leaving everything to him. He destroyed the will naming Clifford as heir and arranged the evidence so that the murder would point clearly to his cousin. His crime of misleading the authorities brought with it the kind of guilt that a respectable man often finds easy to forget. Young Jaffrey had done nothing to Clifford; he hadn't even lied during Clifford's trial. A week after Judge Pyncheon's death, word comes from Europe that the Judge's son has died of cholera. Thus, his estate goes to Clifford, Hepzibah, Phoebe, and--through her--to Holgrave (the avowed enemy of wealth). Clifford's murder trial is never reopened. In his old age he needs the love of a few people more than an unsullied reputation. Besides, as Hawthorne notes in yet another statement of the theme of the sins of one generation being visited on the next: "After such wrong as he had suffered, there is no reparation.... It is a truth (and it would be a very sad one, but for the higher hope which it suggests) that no great mistake, whether acted or endured, in our mortal sphere, is ever really set right." Clifford never regains his faculties completely, but free of the weight of Judge Pyncheon, he is invigorated. Hepzibah, Phoebe, Clifford, and Holgrave leave the house of the seven gables to live at the Judge's country estate. On the day they plan to move, they gather with Uncle Venner in the parlor. Holgrave wonders why the Judge did not build his country house of stone to give it more permanence. Phoebe is amazed by the complete change in Holgrave's thinking. Is this the same man who said that not even the public buildings should be made of any permanent material? When he first confessed his love for Phoebe, Holgrave had predicted that he would become more conservative in his views. So he has, although it seems particularly unlikely to him that he should say this in a house of inherited misfortune and under the gaze of the Puritan himself. Looking at the Colonel's portrait, Clifford says the picture holds a secret that he has forgotten. Holgrave steps up to the picture and puts his finger on a secret spring somewhere on its frame. At one time this spring must have made the portrait move forward; at Holgrave's motion the picture crashes to the floor. The exposed wall shows a small recess, a hiding place. It contains a parchment--the ancient and now worthless deed granting the eastward territory to the Pyncheon family. Yes, says Clifford, this is what he was trying to remember all along. As a boy he had discovered the spring and had bragged to his cousin Jaffrey of finding hidden wealth. Jaffrey remembered this, and it had made him think Clifford knew of their uncle's hidden estate. When Phoebe asks Holgrave how he knows the secret of the portrait, Holgrave asks her how she will like having Maule as a last name. Holgrave, it turns out, is a descendant of Matthew Maule. The secret of the portrait is his only inheritance. Thomas Maule constructed the hiding place and hid the deed when he built the house. The rumors he had started were true--the Pyncheons had traded their eastern territory for Maule's garden plot. When Uncle Venner supposes that the claim is worth less than a share in his farm (the work-house) Phoebe forbids him to ever speak of his farm again. Their new garden includes a cottage, which will be furnished just for him. Clifford joins her in urging the old man to come and live with them, calling Uncle Venner the only philosopher he knows whose wisdom has not a drop of bitter essence at the bottom." Uncle Venner agrees to join them in a few days. They pull away in a beautiful barouche, a four-wheeled carriage for four. A crowd of children gathers around the carriage and horses. Phoebe, spotting Ned Higgins among them, gives him enough silver to keep him in gingerbread for a very long time. The same two men who have walked down Pyncheon-street so often pass by as the barouche drives off. One remarks to the other that his wife had her cent-shop for three months and lost five dollars, but Hepzibah, who had one for the same length of time, now has several hundred thousand dollars. Anyone watching the water spouting from Maule's Well would have been able to foretell these events in its images. Anyone listening would have heard it whispered in the prophecies of the Pyncheon elm. As old Uncle Venner walks away, he thinks he hears Alice Pyncheon touch her harpsichord one last time before she floats up to heaven from the house of the seven gables. NOTE: The ending of The House of the Seven Gables has created an enormous controversy among readers. Some readers see it as the end of the curse. The two families and the two classes have reconciled. The love of a Maule and a Pyncheon will break the cycle of repeated sin. Other readers maintain that having Phoebe and Holgrave leave to start their life together in the house that Jaffrey built with ill-gotten wealth condemns the couple to a life weighed down by the past. Hepzibah, freed from isolation and aristocratic family pride by working in the cent-shop, gets what she has always hoped for, but it is the last thing she needs: Enormous wealth (which is ill-gotten). Clifford, "startled into intelligence" by his escape from the house of the seven gables and the weight of Jaffrey, goes off to live in isolation in another Pyncheon house. These readers see the ending as a denial of all the book's themes. They suspect that Hawthorne ended the book this way simply to satisfy the demand of his time for happy endings. Readers from both camps agree that Phoebe and Holgrave fall in love too quickly, that their relationship is underdeveloped, and that their marriage is too sudden. What do you think? What evidence can you point to in support of your opinions? ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: GLOSSARY AELOUS God of the winds in classical mythology. ALARUM Obsolete form of the word alarm. ANIMAL MAGNETISM Almost hypnotic power that some persons are thought to have over others. APOPLEXY Rupture or obstruction of a blood vessel to the brain, causing a loss of consciousness and sometimes paralysis. BANSHEE In Gaelic folklore, female spirit whose wailing warns a family of the approaching death of one of its members. BY-STREET Side street. CHANGE-HOURS Hours during which the Boston Merchants' Exchange was open for business. CHANTICLEER Name for a rooster, first found in medieval fables. CHIP-HAT Hat woven of straw or thin strips of wood. COME-OUTERS Radicals or reformers. CONCH-SHELL Large spiral seashell which, when used as a horn, produces a deep sound. COTTON MATHER Puritan clergyman and author from Boston (1663-1728) who defended the Salem witchcraft trials in his writings. COUNTENANCE Face or expression. DAGUERREOTYPE Forerunner of the photograph, produced by exposing a treated metal plate to sunlight, then printing the image made on the plate. DAMASK Cloth bearing a reversible print. DAMSON-TREES Asian plum trees. DOMDANIEL CAVERN Cavern, described in some fables, where a wizard meets with his apprentices. ESCRITOIR Writing table or desk. FAIN Pleased, inclined, willing. FIFTY-SIX Standard of dry measure used in the nineteenth century U.S. Customs Houses, based on the fact that a U.S. bushel of wheat weighed fifty-six pounds. FOURIER French socialist and reformer (1772-1837). FREE-SOILERS Nineteenth-century U.S. political party that opposed the extension of slavery into U.S. territories. GABLE Triangular part of a building under a double-sloping roof. GALVANIC RING Ring made of metals whose chemical interaction was thought to produce an electrical current that was beneficial for the wearer. GIANT DESPAIR AND HOPEFUL Characters in The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (1628-1688). GIL BLAS French romance chronicling the adventures of a young rogue in Spanish society. GOTHIC Literary style characterized by violence, desolation, and decay. Also a style of architecture found in Western Europe from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. GRAHAM'S MAGAZINE and GODEY'S LADY'S BOOK Magazines that published literary work in Hawthorne's time. HERCULANEUM Ancient city in southern Italy, buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. HYMETTUS Mountain in Greece, famous for its honey. IXION In classical mythology, Ixion tried to seduce Hera. He was punished by Zeus, first with a cloud image of Hera and then by being fixed to a revolving wheel. JACOB In the Old Testament, Jacob wrestles with an angel all night until the angel finally blesses him. JIM CROW Stereotype of a black person in a song-and-dance act, based on a folksong of that name in the early 1800s. KING LOG In Aesop's Fables, king who does not exercise his power. KING WILLIAM William III, king of England from 1689 to 1702. LAR In Roman and Etruscan myths, god who guards the house. LUCIFER MATCHES Matches lit by friction. MESMERISM Hypnotism, named for Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician (1734-1815) who believed in animal magnetism. MALBONE, EDWARD GREENE Finest American painter of miniatures (1777-1807). MAMMON In John Milton's Paradise Lost, personification of corrupting wealth, and the least of the fallen angels. MINIATURE Very small portrait or painting. MOCHA High-quality coffee. MOLL PITCHER Psychic and fortune-teller in Massachusetts during the late 1700s and early 1800s. OAK HALL Men's clothing store in Boston where inexpensive, ready-to-wear clothing was sold. OMNIBUS Bus. PAGANINI, NICCOLO Italian violinist, considered the greatest violinist of all time (1782-1840). PANDEMONIUM In Paradise Lost, capital of hell. WILLIAM PHIPS Governor of Massachusetts during the Salem witchcraft trials (1692). PLEBEIAN Common person. POPE, ALEXANDER English poet (1688-1744). He is famous for his satiric epic poem The Rape of the Lock. RASSELAS History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia by Samuel Johnson, eighteenth-century English writer and dictionary compiler. ROXBURY RUSSET Green apple, formerly grown for its keeping powers. RUN OF CUSTOM Customer, business patronage. SYBARITE Person devoted to the gratification of sensual appetites. Sybaris, a Greek town in ancient Italy, was notorious for its devotion to sensual pleasures. THE TATLER Series of satiric essays (1709-1711) written by Richard Steele (1672-1729) and Joseph Addison (1672-1719). TITHE PIG Pig given instead of cash to satisfy a parishioner's duty to support the church. TOPER Drunkard. TOPHET Hell. VICISSITUDES Changes, as in nature or human life. VISAGE Face. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: ON ORIGINALITY "The Scarlet Letter," and "The House of the Seven Gables," contain mental qualities which insensibly lead some readers to compare the author to other cherished literary names. Thus we have seen Hawthorne likened for this quality to Goldsmith, and for that to Irving, and for still another to Dickens; and some critics have given him the preference over all whom he seems to resemble. But the real cause for congratulation in the appearance of an original genius like Hawthorne, is not that he dethrones any established prince in literature, but that he founds a new principality of his own. -Edwin Percy Whipple, "The House of the Seven Gables: Humor and Pathos Combined," 1851 ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: ON CHARACTERS The end of an old race--this is the situation that Hawthorne has depicted, and he has been admirably inspired in the choice of the figures in whom he seeks to interest us. They are all figures rather than characters--they are all pictures rather than persons. But if their reality is light and vague, it is sufficient, and it is in harmony with the low relief and dimness of outline of the objects that surrounded them. -Henry James, Hawthorne, 1879 ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: ON HAWTHORNE AND HIS AGE The measure in which he intended The House of the Seven Gables as a criticism of his own age is somewhat obscured by his treatment of time. Even while he was examining his changing New England, he felt the past weighing heavily on the present's back. Unlike virtually all the other spokesmen for his day, he could never feel that America was a new world. Looking back over the whole history of his province, he was more struck by decay than by potentiality, by the broken ends to which the Puritan effort had finally come, by the rigidity that had been integral to its thought at its best, by modes of life in which nothing beautiful had developed. -F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance, 1941. ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: ON THE SIMPLICITY OF HAWTHORNE'S WRITING Hawthorne's writing is misleading in its simplicity, which is genuine enough but tempts us to overlook what lies beneath. In the end, simplicity is one of his genuine charms--combined with something else. The essence of Hawthorne is, in fact, distilled from the opposing elements of simplicity and complexity. This essence is a clear liquid, with no apparent cloudiness. Hawthorne, together with Henry James, perhaps, is the only American novelist who has been able to see life whole without, in Thackeray's words, "roaring ai, ai, as loud as Prometheus," like Melville, Wolfe, and Faulkner; droning interminably an account of its details, like Dreiser; or falling into a thin, shrill irony, the batlike twittering of souls in Hades, like all the sad young men.... He is a unique and wonderful combination of light and darkness. -Richard Harter Fogle, Hawthorne's Fiction, 1952 ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: ON HAWTHORNE AS A MODERN WRITER Since ours is an age that has found irony, ambiguity, and paradox to be central not only in literature but in life, it is not surprising that Hawthorne has seemed to us one of the most modern of nineteenth-century American writers. The bulk and general excellence of the great outburst of Hawthorne criticism of the past decade attest to his relevance for us. It requires no distortion of him to see him not only as foreshadowing Henry James in his concern for "the deeper psychology" but as first cousin to Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren.... Hawthorne's themes, especially, link him with the writing and sensibility of our time. -Hyatt H. Waggoner, Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1962 ^^^^^^^^^^ THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES: ON THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES The final chapter may be a disappointment, there may be other weaknesses, but The House of the Seven Gables remains a remarkable and puzzling novel--and remarkable, perhaps in part, because it is so puzzling. Its incidental pleasures are numerous: the style, with its beautifully equivocal mixture of the colloquial and the elevated, the narrative easing itself backwards and forwards in time, and that peculiar blend of domestic detail and Gothic melodrama about which Hawthorne was, at times, so nervous. Then there are the greater achievements of the book: a narrator playing cunningly with different masks and creating a consistent identity out of them, the complicated series of figurative references which is given coherence and a sense of meaning by the dominating presence of the house. And, above all perhaps, Hawthorne's agnosticism: his willingness to ask questions, and offer different sets of possibilities, in a way that is at once sportive and deeply serious. At his best, indeed, which means in this novel most of the time, Hawthorne makes a positive virtue out of what he sees as necessity and turns uncertainty itself into an art; suspecting that any human category is arbitrary and conjectural, he offers us a conflict between different categories, various idioms and systems, which is only resolved, if at all, by the reader. What it comes down to, in the end, is something very simple: if the book strikes us as a problem then, quite probably, it was meant to. If the old Pyncheon house seems at once intimate and mysterious, a home and a place of imprisonment, then that perhaps is because the man who built it, Nathaniel Hawthorne, saw the world in precisely that way. -Richard Gray, "'Hawthorne: A Problem:' The House of the Seven Gables," 1982 THE END