The House of the Seven Gables
A House of Doom: Hawthorne’s Seven Gables
In a rather prophetic statement about a doomed family residing in an ancestral home, where the curse of the father becomes the curse of the children, Hawthorne writes in The House of the Seven Gables, “Ambition is a talisman more powerful than witchcraft” (209). For this second novel, Hawthorne shifts from the puritanical to the mesmeric, a deviation from the evils of religion to the effects of greed that guides the reader on a journey into the blackness of human nature. The dust collected on the puritan lifestyle is swept away for a more promising Christian ideal. In his earlier novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne contrasted puritan ideas of sin and redemption. Such a concept had bleak undertones in the puritan setting of the past. In his second novel, he chose to deal with a happier outcome on a grander scale of several generations, though through a much darker story of the Fall and salvation. The start of the curse began out of greed with the old Colonel, the progenitor of the Pyncheon family, dying from a soar curse. His descendants would depart this life too from the same doom, for the family patriarchs would betray anyone, even their own family members, to increase the riches that only damned their souls. The curse of the family is its own ambition, curable only through rectifying the past.
The Pyncheon family inherited its doom although the living family members had not been there to see the fall. So it is that all of the Old Colonel’s lineage must suffer for his madness, which was the wrenching of his new family legacy from the cold, dead hands of his enemy’s old birthright: “He was about to build his house over an unquiet grave. His home would include the home of the dead and buried wizard, and would thus afford the ghost of the latter a kind of privilege to haunt its new apartments, and the chambers into which future bridegrooms were to lead their brides, and where children of the Pyncheon blood were to be born” (Hawthorne 4). Colonel Pyncheon did so to defy fate and any doom that would come upon him for his evil act, thinking himself above even God. However, with the last nail hammered into the “castle” of his newly established legacy, the doom of wizard Maule is evoked: “God will give him blood to drink” (3). It is suggested by Hawthorne that Maule had a foreknowledge of the Pyncheons’ disease that would bring them all low if they submitted themselves to some mental predicament, or were thrown into a fit of rage. Both of these states can be necessitated through the stress and problems brought on by the acquisition and maintenance of great wealth. From Colonel Pyncheon to Judge Pyncheon, all suffered this fate over the great tract of Indian land in the East forever denied them. It was such ambition that killed them. Maule’s curse becomes God’s curse.
Colonel Pyncheon had a reason to be cursed by God, as any man of high and proper position who corrupts the basic Christian principles for his own gain would (at least in a devout culture). Men in his position were to be the ones who corrected corruption and would, supposedly, not hide it within their own black hearts. The novel records the Colonel’s life as that of an honorable man on the outside, holding high positions and admiration in the public eye, but he had a secret that the future patriarchs would hold as well, being linked with the austere House of the Seven Gables. “And beneath the show of a marble palace, that pool of stagnate water, foul with many impurities, and, perhaps, tinged with blood—that secret abomination, above which, possibly, he may say his prayers, without remembering it—is this man’s miserable soul!” (176). This doom follows the Colonel through to his untimely death and carries on to all those of his lineage who live within the cursed house, for both the family and the house are cursed.
Those specifically doomed, whom Hawthorne writes of, are the Judge, Hepzibah, and her brother Clifford in the modern tale; Alice and her father in the daguerreotypist’s tale; and the Pyncheon head a century before, who cut a shop out of the side of his house. The Colonel, of course, brought on the original curse because he wanted to “plant a family!” (141). Who could plant a family of such high ambitions as the Colonel without planting the weeds of destitution as well? To plant one must have fertile ground, not corrupt land saturated with the blood of the dead. The seeds of doom were planted with the ambitious desire to be on par with the Old World European families through the Colonel’s new found landed aristocracy status of quick wealth. All of which wasn’t acquired through honest work, like the land for his house, the house itself, and many of his titles and positions. Infertile land choked with the weeds of doomed fate is no place to plant a family legacy. This cursed land was to be the base of his landed empire when he acquired the immense wealth promised to him through the Indian deeds to acres upon acres of rich Eastern land. This same deed and desire for easy wealth would lead other future descendants to the same doom. The deed was the very downfall of Alice because her father would sacrifice her soul for the deed, and in the century past, the Pyncheon head even inherited the doom through his pursuit of the Eastern lands as well. Because money was short, however, “it appeared to be his doom to spend eternity in a vain effort to make his accounts balance” (20), hence the shop that was opened for his own greedy desire to squeeze every penny he could into his tight pockets. The modern Pyncheons of this tale were to suffer the same fate as well if they had followed the same wayward path of ambition and greed, but through the grace of redemption, they were saved from such doom.
Clifford’s doom is brought about directly because of the Judge’s greed for more wealth than he already had. His suffering for a crime he did not commit at the hands of his ambitious brother left this artist’s life mundane and lacking any beauty. Upon his release from prison, Clifford still had to shake off the shackles of his family heritage but couldn’t do so within the confines of the cursed house, for after finding his freedom, he locked himself up again in an even darker cell. This echoes his very words upon his return to the House of the Seven Gables, “‘I want my happiness!’ at last he murmured, hoarsely and indistinctly, hardly shaping out the words. ‘Many, many years have I waited for it! It is late!’” (119). Late indeed. Happiness was not to be found in such a dark and corrupted house. Thus, it is that just living in the house dooms Hepzibah as much. The scowl imprinted on her face, probably from living in such a murky and dilapidated house void of good light, is proof enough of her lot in the curse. “‘How miserably cross I look!’ she must often have whispered to herself; and ultimately have fancied herself so, by a sense of inevitable doom” (24). The ultimate conclusion, which will be proved later, is that the only way to be happy is to leave the house and the blight behind. The house is the family’s modern day curse and doom (120).
The past is linked to the present. What occurred in the past would occur in the present due to the original curse. This is brought together through the old portrait of the austere Colonel hanging over the lives of the present Pyncheon family, a constant reminder to the source of their doom. And with the Judge reaching an age similar to that of the old Colonel, many could see the likeness between the two. There is a sense that the two ends of the circle of destiny were converging upon the house at this time. Perhaps the Judge would draw down a new curse upon the unfortunate family or put an end to the old one. The old portrait constantly watched over all the affairs of the family and was sure to control the events and doom within. Thus, both he and the house become entwined in the curse, for the old Colonel is the house, his spirit having inhabited it. “The picture of the puritan Colonel shivered on the wall. The house itself shivered, from every attic of its seven gables down to the great kitchen fireplace, which served all the better as an emblem of the mansion’s heart, because, though built for warmth, it was so comfortless and empty”(171-72). Events come full circle when Judge Jaffrey attempts to blackmail his cousin Clifford as the Colonel blackmailed Maule out of his small acreage of land to found his damned legacy upon. “Alas, Cousin Jaffrey, this hard and grasping spirit has run in our blood these two hundred years. You are but doing over again, in another shape, what your ancestor before you did, and sending down to your posterity the curse inherited from him” (182). If the Judge had listened to his cousin at this time and mended his ways, perhaps he could have avoided the fate singled out for him by God to die a horrible death in the dark confines of his coffin house. Salvation comes to those who seek it first, and none needed it more than Phoebe and Clifford.
How is it that a fallen family can free itself from such a deeply embedded doom when there is no possibly way of separating an aristocratic lady from the comforts of her family home? By chances of the ever-elusive eastern land, the modern Pyncheon family had been plunged into deep poverty, though the Judge had come upon immense wealth through his own corruptness as a public official. Having to deal with this new twist of fate, Hepzibah opened up the penny shop already built by her ancestor a century before. Swallowing her pride, the old maid destroys her last vestiges of aristocracy by laboring with her own hands and serving those of a lower station than she. What separates her from her penny thrift ancestor was her own charitable nature toward her customers by giving several of them free goods. Not only this but also through her growing humbleness, she too recognized the idle nature of aristocracy and its evils by saying of a certain prosperous maiden, “Must the whole world toil, that the palms of her hands may be kept white and delicate?” (40). Nothing better could have happened to the old spinster, for she is eventually able to overcome the doom by helping herself without the aid of greed or ambition. She must toil for the common need of survival. Though she saw this debasement of her status level as the fulfillment of Maule’s curse upon her family, it was, in fact, the implementation of the end of the curse.
It is further illustrated that the house is the curse when Clifford and Hepzibah flee from the corpse of the Judge, and Clifford feels the weight of the family doom lifted off of him with such a death of a family member. In talking with a skeptical old man upon the train, Clifford explains the very fate that has kept him and his family trapped:
“The greatest possible stumbling blocks in the path of human happiness and improvements are these heaps of bricks and stones [. . .] which men painfully contrive for their own torment, and call them house and home! The soul needs air; a wide sweep and frequent change of it. Morbid influences, in a thousandfold variety, gather about hearths, and pollute the life of households. There is no such unwholesome atmosphere as that of an old home, rendered poisonous by one’s defunct forefathers and relatives” (200).
He even further asserts several pages later that one builds a house to die in and to curse his posterity with. An understandable statement considering the lengths through which he and Hepzibah ran to escape such a fate, even without money or a plan where to go once the modern patriarch of the curse had died.
Holgrave adds to this point with his speech to Phoebe about the need for temporariness. He concludes in the midst of the novel that the solid past is pushed onto the descendants, as in the case of the House of the Seven Gables, and if houses and society were built upon a less permanent foundation, none would leech off the toil of others but reform their own futures out of the mistakes of the past. He knows what must be done for the Pyncheons to bury the curse, being a descendant of the wizard Maule. They must abandon the very house, where the stem of the curse came from–the greed and ambition of its founder.
It is, in fact, this offspring of the wizard Maul that holds the key to his own family’s retribution and the freeing of his ancestor’s enemies from the awful grasp of doom. There is a link between the modern Holgrave and Phoebe and previous Alice and Mathew that should be noted. There has been dissatisfaction amongst the critics over the love between Holgrave and Phoebe, “that the love between Phoebe and Holgrave comes too soon and is, therefore, underdeveloped and not worth to be trusted” (Corrente 102-3). This marriage can be seen under a different light when compared to the earlier “courting” of Alice Pyncheon and Mathew Maule. Mathew being of a lower class can only win Alice through the whiles of mesmerism. This fashionable eighteenth-century practice comes from Franz Anton Mesmer who, as the American Heritage Dictionary states, “during highly fashionable curative sessions in Paris caused his patients to have reactions ranging from sleeping or dancing to convulsions. These reactions were actually brought about by hypnotic powers that Mesmer was unaware he possessed” (“Mesmerism”). Through a hypnotic ritual, common with mesmerism, Mathew is able to gain control over the will of Alice and further extract his revenge over the rapists of his patrimony. Holgrave, too, does the same because the Maules “were believed to inherit mysterious attributes; the family eye was said to possess strange power” (Hawthorne 17). Through the use of mesmerism, Holgrave is able to blind Phoebe to his true intentions of watching his ancestors’ enemies struggle through the doom placed upon them. At first, he may not have been entirely true in his motives to her, but in the end, his genuine feelings appear when Phoebe likewise mesmerizes him with her purity and beauty.
Morbid? Yes! Even Holgrave admits as much (167). Perhaps because of his ancestry locked deep into “witchcraft” and mesmerism, he cannot help it. But his sudden love for Phoebe shatters the ties that bind him to his past and allows freedom for a better future. Such a need exists to link the two spiritual feuding families of the past with the spiritually bonded family of the present that fate takes control. Through their newly developed love, the curse can be broken and peace can be brought to their prosperity once and for all. For all can see that Phoebe is not anything like her ancestors, and indeed something special resides within her. As Eve tempted Adam to Fall, inversely did Phoebe tempt Holgrave to redemption. She also resurrected Hepzibah and Clifford, who are the living dead existing in a fallen house of bad blood, and brought them forth from their living tomb into a brighter world of redemption (165-66). It is so obvious that while she stays at the house, not a bit of misfortune touches the house or the inhabitants, all are given a blessed second chance. It is when she leaves that the doom settles its wings around the house to choke the joy out of it again.
The final blow to the destruction of the old doom is through overcoming of total ambition, even in the face of restored wealth and station. Upon the Judge’s untimely death due to the strain, his greedy heart placed upon his health, Clifford comes into the family fortune accumulated by the late Judge. Though the amount is not as big as what the Judge hopes to squeeze from the torment of Clifford for the ancestor’s hidden, though now useless, inheritance, it is large enough to reestablish the family into the heights of the aristocracy. Instead of lavishing it upon the house of their family’s heritage and doom, they choose to escape its black walls for the sunny countryside upon a substantial piece of land. Here they would live in the lap of luxury, but in no way that the Pyncheons lived in the past. The doom dies with their sloughing off the robes of idle aristocracy with the abandonment of their “castle,” and inviting the vagabond of the lower class, Uncle Veneer, who lives in rags and collects discarded refuse to fatten his own pig, to live with them. He is to be an equal with them, sharing his common stories for entertainment. True, the elderly brother and sister are still a bit solitary, but it is their first step to emerge back into the folds of society again.
Some critics point out that the inheritance of ill-gotten money would only continue the curse (Dillingham 449-59). But the fact is originally the Maules kept the Indian grant to the land in the east from the Pyncheon offspring as the payment for the doom of murdering Maule for the speck of land. Holgrave finalizes the merger of parental wrong through marrying Phoebe. Thus, the Maules get their inheritance back, breaking the curse, and the Pyncheons regain their sanity and shuffle out of the curse’s way by leaving the very source of the curse behind–the House of the Seven Gables.
“In Adam’s Fall / We sinned all” a New England Primer rhymes the truth of Puritan thought, but as suggested by Hawthorne, salvation from the Fall is through the pure heart and practice of an honest soul. Phoebe, of course being the purity, as Alice was in an earlier epoch. For only in the foul water in Maule’s well could such beauty as Alice’s posies grow best, a subtle metaphor of salvation from the fall. Only from a curse could such sweetness bloom.
Corrente, Linda. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables. Woodbury NY: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1985.
Dillingham, William B. “Structure and Theme in The House of the Seven Gables.” Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The House of the Seven Gables, Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Seymour L. Gross. New York City: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1967. 449-459.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The House of the Seven Gables. New York: Bantam Classic, 1981.
“Mesmerism.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language. 3rd ed. 1992.
The Decline of Aristocracy
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbols and characters to portray the struggle between aristocratic and democratic ideas in his novel, The House of the Seven Gables. The democratic ideas which develop throughout the novel prevail against the aristocratic greed, injustice, and pride. Hawthorne begins his novel with the reign of aristocracy by depicting Colonel Pyncheon’s acquisition of the house through means of power and greed. The novel takes place during the lives of Hepzibah and Jaffery Pyncheon, descendants of the original Colonel, who built the house and laid the foundation for generations of resentment and hatred between the Pyncheon’s and Maule’s. The Judge eventually falls, bringing down with him the negative aspects of aristocracy while allowing the rest of the characters to live democratically and freely. Hawthorne illustrates the lesson of false appearances by comparing the Judge, an aristocratic and deceptive member of society, to the rotten roses in the garden. When Phoebe looks out of her window from the house, she sees a rosebush “of luxuriant growth” that is “covered with a rare and very beautiful species of white rose” (59). Yet she later discovers that a “large portion of [the roses]…had blight or mildew at their hearts” (50). From afar, the rose bush looks “as if it had been brought from Eden that very summer”, but if looked at closely, the core is moldy and decayed. (59) This same notion of falsity and disguise is emphasized many times throughout the novel, particularly in reference to aristocratic characters such as the Colonel and the Judge. They both appear to be prominent figures of society, but their hearts are rotten with greed and arrogance. At the beginning of the novel, the Judge is described as “showing more of the Pyncheon quality…than any of his race since the time of the original Puritan” (17). The Judge is similar to the Colonel, not only in looks, but in personality and attitude. Both men epitomize aristocracy by being “exceedingly respectable” in society, but also deceitful in many ways. (17). Just like the rose, the Judge deceives those in society who respect him for “the purity of his judicial character; his remarkable zeal as President of Bible society; and the cleanliness of his moral deportment” (196). He hides behind the mask of being a religious Puritan and honest judge, but his downfall at the end exposes his true self.Despite the Judge’s sudden and violent death, Hepzibah finds a way to escape this consequence by releasing herself from the family pride to which she has clung. She opens a cent-shop and makes a revolutionary change in her life by defying the greed of the Colonel and Judge. Despite the fact that society views Hepzibah “with little satisfaction”, Hepzibah still sees herself as a lady of high social status. (43) She proclaims: “I was born a lady, and have always lived one…always a lady!” (36). Brought up to abide by rules, manners, and pride, Hepzibah finds it difficult to let go of her past and start a new life. She continues to cling to her family’s aristocratic values, while her wealth rapidly decreases. Finally, Hepzibah opens the cent-shop and frees herself from everything that bounded her to her name by earning an honest living for herself. Hawthorne describes Hepzibah as not a lady, but “simply Hepzibah Pyncheon…keeper of a cent shop” (42). This quote signifies the independence she acquires by defying the characteristics of her greedy ancestors. Hepzibah, through opening her cent shop, frees herself from the limitations of her ancestral pride and moves her life towards a more democratic way of life.As such democracy in the novel increases, Hawthorne illustrates the decline of aristocracy through the chickens. These “hens of aristocratic lineage”(76), consist of “Chanticleer, his two wives, and a solitary chicken” (74). They are pure breeds of a race of chickens which, “in their prime”, attained great size and prestige; yet as the generations passed, became scrawny, and “had a queer rusty, withered aspect” (74). By marrying within the same group for years, the chickens lost their once “delicate flesh” and prestigious size as a “consequence of too strict a watchfulness to keep it pure” (74). These chickens symbolize the degeneration of the Pyncheon family through the generations. Once described as “so admirable a breed of fowls”, the Pyncheon dynasty turned “lugubrious” as a result of their own greed and arrogance. (74)The garden in back of the house, however, stands as a symbol of democracy and renewal throughout the novel. Hawthorne writes of the garden with great detail, describing it as a “sheltered and sunny” haven for Pheobe, Clifford, and Holgrave. (72) A refreshing change from the dark gloom of the house, the garden transcends the ancestral disputes between the Pyncheons and Maules. When Phoebe first goes into the garden, she observes a pair of robins “which had built their nest in the pear tree, and were making themselves exceedingly busy and happy” (73). In this quote the robins’ nest symbolizes a creation while their happiness and freedom are all examples of democratic traits found in the garden. Phoebe also finds “blossoms of the garden” which appear to be “as if they were endowed with sentiment and intelligence” (125). The rebirth and happiness found in the garden are all democratic features which contrast against the “melancholy” house that “never lets in the sun”. (61) The “dust” and “continual decay” prove that the house is no longer suitable for living. (62) Similarly, aristocracy, which the house embodies, is no longer accepted and valued in society. Instead, democracy, with its attitude toward happiness and freedom, triumphs in the end.In addition, Holgrave is a character who represents the democratic views in the novel. On Hepzibah’s first day of work in the cent shop, she cries hysterically to Holgrave saying, “I wish I were dead, and in the old family tomb, with all my forefathers!” (35) Afterward, she adamantly states that she is a dignified lady and too old to participate in the world. However, Holgrave is not one to linger in the past. He comforts Hepzibah’s cries by criticizing the archaic titles of “gentleman and lady”, stating that they “imply not privilege, but restriction!” (36-37) The above quotes illustrate Holgrave’s belief in the evolution a society undergoes over time. To him, keeping pace with society’s development is crucial, and those who refuse to comply live only in the past like Hepzibah. Earnest to “get rid of the past”, Holgrave says to Phoebe one day in the garden, “[the past] lies upon the Present like a giant’s dead body!” (155) He continues to explain that “we are sick of dead men’s diseases, physical and moral” (156). These diseases could be interpreted to symbolize the ancestral disputes Hepzibah continually suffers by. If she would free herself from the colonel’s mistakes, Hepzibah would be a healthier, more independent woman rather than a slave to the past. In the end, Holgrave learns to be less radical in his ideas about democracy. Once saying that public edifices “should crumble to ruin once in twenty years” so that the citizens may have a chance to “examine” and “reform” them to the current times, he now develops his view and suggests building houses in “stone, rather than in wood”, thereby allowing “every generation of the family..to suit its own taste” upon the house. (269)In conclusion, the characters and symbols representing democracy throughout the novel triumph over those representing aristocracy. The Judge, with his cunning charm and pride, dies as a result of his own greed, leaving Holgrave and Hepzibah to live peacefully and freely. Neither false appearances nor family pride can interfere with the democratic life the above characters have striven to achieve. The two families unite together through the marriage of Phoebe and Holgrave, healing the generational wounds created by the original colonel Pyncheon and Matthew Maule. Free of aristocratic injustice and dishonesty, Holgrave, Hepzibah, Phoebe, and Clifford now have the independence to live in happiness.
Character Analysis: Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon
It has almost become an everyday slogan, in light of present events, that behind everything that seems so perfect there is some horrible mistake, or some terrible sin waiting to come back and rear its ugly head. Nathaniel Hawthorne could not have given any better example of this than the honorable Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon from his novel The House of Seven Gables. Hawthorne illustrates that behind even the most prominent, religious, and social icon, there is always that one regretted mistake that causes everything in one’s life to collapse.In the beginning of his essay, Hawthorne addresses all the notable achievements and attributes of Judge Pyncheon, from his generosity to widows and orphans to his office as president of the Bible Society. Hawthorne portrays the Judge as the epitome of faithfulness, justice, and compassion. The author flaunts Judge Pyncheon’s friendly demeanor through his various charities to society. Hawthorne tells of the Judge’s contribution to horticulture by his development of two, very esteemed, variations of a pear. Judge Pyncheon is revealed as a charismatic public figure who was always eager to greet whomever he came across along the streets; the author even goes as far as to say that his prominent smile “made it a point to gladden the world”. He was never afraid to express his faith; Judge Pyncheon made it a habit to pray at least twice a day and to say grace before every meal. His outward appearance modeled him as the ideal Christian, who looked to be as righteous as any Saint you could find on this earth.Through Hawthorne’s depiction of the faithful Judge Pyncheon, it seems that even at first sight one could realize the brilliance and nobility that seemed to radiate off the prominent Judge. His dress was as distinctive as his character; Hawthorne makes every effort to focus on details when describing his elaborate dress, going to the extent of stating, “the snowy whiteness of his linen, the polish of his boots, his gold-headed-cane, the square roomy fashion of his coat and the fineness of its material.” This statement further illustrates the prestigious life-style that the judge was trying to live out. It even says that when he looked in the mirror that he could even be thinking of himself, “Behold Judge Pyncheon, there.” This statement shows the reader that the Judge is not lacking in his pride department. This act of selfish, almost haughty, pride is almost foreshadowing his inevitable downfall, which validates the scripture that states, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (PROV. 6:18).After the reader goes through Hawthorne’s positive examination of Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, he finally is shown the dark-side of this once-described righteous man. The reader now figures out that this secret dark-side of the Judge is not as hard to comprehend after discovering the many oppressive actions of his relatives and ancestors. Hawthorne’s depicts Judge Pyncheon as a noble, honest, faithful, spiritual, generous, and illustrious gentleman, but then in a metaphorical blink of an eye, Hawthorne slyly, but noticeably, changes his tone towards the Judge. It now appears to the reader that the judge is a deceiving, almost criminal-like human being, who without his notable public deeds, was nothing but the typical Pyncheon at heart. This immediate tone change leaves the reader perplexed and confused on whether to hate the Judge or still admire him. Hawthorne’s perplexing way of developing the character of Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon is one of original and complex structure, which leaves the reader unsure of his true feelings of this multi-faceted character. But to the reader one thing is for sure, Judge Pyncheon should spend less time looking in the mirror and more time looking into his soul and practicing what he preaches.
Hepzibah and Phoebe: Vanishing Aristocrat, Emerging American
Ostensibly a tale of the effects of sin and guilt as manifested through successive generations of a New England family, Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables is a richly detailed novel with multiple levels of meaning and ambiguities that have prompted a wide array of critical interpretations. Though frequently faulted for its narrative structure or other perceived flaws, The House of the Seven Gables is generally ranked second in importance only to The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne considered it his greatest work”more characteristic” of his mind and “more proper and natural” for him to write than his first novel. Overall, it was a critical success with three themes seeming to attract most of the critic’s attention of his century. The three topics were Hawthorne’s authentic characters, the powerful setting, and the invigorating yet unsettling theme.Hawthorne analyzes the delicate traits of human sentiment and character, and opens vistas into that beautiful and unexplored world of love and thought that exists in every human being, though overshadowed by material circumstances. Hawthorne takes evident delight in expanding on types of characters and general traits of life or in bringing into strong relief the more evident facts of consciousness. Henry Tuckerman wrote, “No contrast can be imagined of this kind, more eloquent to a sympathetic mind than that between the inward consciousness and external appearance of Clifford, or Phoebe and Holgrave, or the Judge. They respectively symbolize the poles of human existence, and are fine studies for the psychologist. Yet, this attraction is subservient to fidelity to local characteristics. Clifford represents the man of fine organization and true sentiment environed by the material realities of New England; Phoebe is the ideal of genuine, efficient yet loving female character in the same latitude; and Holgrave embodies Yankee acuteness and hardihood redeemed by integrity and enthusiasm”(520). Tuckerman’s passage describes the local authenticity that Hawthorne uses to breathe life into his characters. One of the most important characters of the book is Hepzibah, who, at the opening of the book, is the sole possessor of the dark recesses of the mansion. Rudolph Von Abele gives us a detailed look at her when he writes, “[Hepzibah] is the embodiment of aristocratic gentility, sustained only by her delusion of family inheritance. Hawthorne knew how fully her predicament corresponded to the movement of the age, since ‘in this republican country, amid the fluctuating waves of our social life, somebody is always at the drowning-point'”(316). Abele shows how Hawthorne uses Hepzibah to contrast the other characters through her failing aristocratic beliefs. Hawthorne will use the same detailed descriptions to build his stage on which his characters may roam. The setting becomes as important as the characters themselves.The setting of The House of the Seven Gables is imbued with local authenticity, which is not, for an instant, impaired by the imaginative charm of Romance. We seem to breathe the air as we read, and be surrounded by familiar objects of a New England town. Austin Warren concludes, “The interior of the house, each article described within itfrom the quaint table to the miniature by Malbone,–every product of the old garden, the street-scenes that beguile the eyes of poor Clifford, as he looks out of the arched windowsall have the significance that belongs to reality when seized upon by art. In these details we have truth and simplicity”(84). This passage describes the beauty of the setting, but H.P. Lovecraft observes a different truth. He wrote, “The overshadowing malevolence of the ancient housealmost as alive as the Poe’s House of Usher, though in subtler wayspervades the tale as a recurrent motif pervades an operatic tragedy”(65). Both critics seem to view the setting from different sides, but both agree that the setting is perfect for Hawthorne’s theme.The main theme that Hawthorne evolved from The House of the Seven Gables corresponds to Hawthorne’s view as seen in his preface, a view from which the forces of his country had just begun to strain under the prosperity caused by the opening of California. Hawthorne pens, “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”(viii). Hawthorne understood, through the past of his own family, that greed and power corrupted, and that this corruption sometimes hung like a shroud over future generations. F.O. Matthiessen discusses this theme by writing, “What Hawthorne set himself to analyze is this ‘energy of disease,’ this lust of wealth that held the dominating Pyncheons in its inflexible grasp. After the original victory, their drive of power had long since shifted its ground, but had retained its form of oppressing the poor”(322). Lawrence Sargent Hall agrees with Matthiessen by observing, “The theme of Romance has to do with inherited sin, the sins of aristocratic pretensions against a moral order, which in the judgment of an equalitarian like Hawthorne, calls for a truer and higher evaluation of man”(201). Hawthorne uses The House of the Seven Gables to exercise the demons of his own past, while suggesting the social complexity of the American family.It is easy to see why Hawthorne deemed this his most enlightened story. Hawthorne brings to life his characters and setting, while keeping theme tightly focused. This is the reason the critic’s praise it for what it is, a brilliant, well thought out novel that embodies its age.Work CitedAbele, Rudolph Von. “The Death of an Artist: A Study Of Hawthorne’s Disintegration” Martinus Nijhoff Press 1955Hall, Lawrence Sargent. “Hawthorne: Critic of Society” Peter Smith Press 1944Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Blithedale Romance” The Modern Library Paperback 2001Lovecraft, H.P. “Supernatural Horrors in Literature” Ben Abramson Press 1945Matthiessen, F.O. “A Dark Necessity: Hawthorne’s Politics” Oxford University Press 1941Tuckerman, Henry. “Nathaniel Hawthorne” Littell”s Living Age, Vol. LXXXI, NO. 1045 1864Warren, Austin. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: Rage for Order” The University of Michigan Press 1959Whipple, Edwin Percy. “The House of the Seven Gables” Graham’s Magazine 1851
When Rusty Shutters are Forced Open: Hawthorne’s Cheery Ending
In an attempt to write a more cheerful novel then his brooding Scarlet Letter during a time when optimism was the one quality shared by all, Hawthorne writes, what critics call today, a contrived ending for his House of Seven Gables. When all seems its darkest, when the past curse points its bloody dagger at the new generation, and all hope has failed, Hawthorne steps in to become his own savior, penning wings for his beloved characters so that they may fly into a fairytale ending. Hawthorne becomes his own Deus ex machina, leaving stardust in his own eyes, and the dry taste of disgust in the mouths of his critics. Why though would Hawthorne do this after the critical success of The Scarlet Letter? In a letter to his publisher, James T. Fields, Hawthorne wrote, “[House of Seven Gables] darkens damnably towards the close, but I shall try hard to pour some setting sunshine over it”. This letter shows Hawthorne’s conscious choice to force a happy conclusion onto his story. The critics give three reasons to allow for this forced change, 1) Hawthorne’s conflict as a writer, 2) the call of the marketplace, and 3) a failed tongue and cheek on the author’s part.During the writing of The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne discovered a conflict between the wrier he wanted to be and the writer he had become. The book had spun out of his control”it darkens damnably towards the close”from what Hawthorne had intended. At the beginning of writing House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne wrote in a letter, “I think it a work more characteristic of my mind and more proper and natural for me, than The Scarlet Letter; but for that very reason, it is likely to interest the public”. Here Hawthorne is apparently less concerned with the audience than with fidelity of his own temperament. Nina Baym wrote, “Hawthorne did not like his inability to participate in the hopeful temperament of his day. He wanted to be a writer of happy books. He had struggled, unsuccessfully, to lighten the gloom of The Scarlet Letter. He was sure that his readers would not like so dark a tale. When they liked it, he persisted in his discomfort, asserting that so unrelieved a dark story was not healthy or natural”(172). Baym shows how more than reader response was involved since The Scarlet letter had succeeded. Apparently, some inner censor, rather than a wish to please his audience, directed him to be a writer of happy stories, and judged him lacking when he failed to do so.Many critics disagree with this interpretation of Hawthorne’s cheery ending. They point out that despite the moderate success of The Scarlet Letter, he was still hard pressed financially and knew only too well that his reputation for bleakness was an obstacle to acceptance by a wider audience. Michael T. Gilmore wrote, “Hawthorne evidently overlooked his own warnings about the evils of wealth. The House of the Seven Gables’ happy ending may stem less from authorial oversight than from the requirements of the marketplace. By concluding his book as he did, Hawthorne yielded to the world’s wish that in stories everything should turn out welland would pay him for it”(172). Compelled by the pressures of the literary marketplace to brighten his stories for his readership, Hawthorne had become like the character whom he hated most in House of Seven Gables, Jaffrey Pyncheon. In chapter 18, the angry taunting of Jaffery’s corpse, we, the reader, can detect the self-reproach in Hawthorne’s outburst at the dead Judge for seeking profit and worldly honor. Hawthorne wrote, “Rise up, thou subtle, worldly, selfish, iron-hearted hypocrite, and make thy choice whether [or not] to tear these sins out of thy nature, though they bring the lifeblood with them! Rise up, before it is too late!” (216). Hawthorne begged from his own literary foil, for what he could never do himself.The last reason that most critic seem to think spurred Hawthorne into writing such a abrupt, cheery ending is that is a tongue in cheek homage by the author. In a since it was his way of thumbing his noise at the very marketplace that was calling to him. Hawthorne gave the common person what he wanted, a happy ending, but the happy ending is so unsatisfactory that even the mass audience could not dismiss its mechanical nature. Richard Gray wrote, “The reader of House of Seven Gables is left scratching his head as Old Maid Pyncheon’ and her relatives depart, declaring with mock naïveté, it is all very well; but if we are to take it as the will of providence, why I can’t exactly fathom it.’ The aplomb is evident, the author’s tongue is evidently in his cheek”(88). Here, Gray expresses the frustration that most critics have today about the ending of House of Seven Gables. In the scope of Hawthorne’s writing, it is an enigma. It must be a joke by the author.The supreme joke is that critics will never truly know why Hawthorne changed his method of writing to conclude House of Seven Gables. As time passes, more theories will be devised in order to bring understanding. However, with each new explanation the issue only becomes more muddled. Only one man knew why Hawthorne decided to throw open the rusty shutter and allow sunshine to fill his dreary world, but like Jaffrey, he holds his secret behind bloodless lips.Work CitedBaym, Nina. The Shape of Hawthorne’s Career Cornell University Press 1976, 283Gilmore, Michael T. The Artist and the Marketplace in “The House of Seven Gables” ELH, Vol. 48, No. 1 1981, 172Gray, Richard. Hawthorne, a Problem: “The House of Seven Gables” Nathaniel Hawthorne: New Critical Essays 1982, 88Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The House of Seven Gables Bantam Classics 1981, 261
Pens Without Ink: Authorial Castration and Sterile Sentimentality in Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables and Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors”
By the 19th-century, according to Hawthorne and Melville, a man’s home was no longer his castle, but an effete parlor-room, a locus of stripped and castrated masculinity that hampered the development of classically intellectual and original literature in favor of the mawkish and uniform. While Hawthorne’s and Melville’s story “The Paradise of Bachelors” both show domestic residences under assault from a sentimentalizing feminine influence, the respective atmospheres emerge from a different set of authorial concerns. Hawthorne’s anxiety comes from a defensive standpoint. He causally views the feminization of the house as a symbolic castration of masculine authority and a negation of the strong ethic of writing (assuming we consider the work of writing an “ethic,” since it was, and still is, a leisure activity at odds with traditional work). Melville, while addressing in “The Paradise of Bachelors” some of Hawthorne’s focus on the origins of this problem, finds more compelling the effects of sentimentality in “The Tartarus of Maids.” A subtler version of Hawthorne’s castration, writing becomes a mode of mechanical reproduction, a repetitive imprinting of mass-manufactured emotion. From Melville’s sterility to Hawthorne’s impotence is but a step, yet an irreversible one, in that Hawthorne is able to prescribe an anti-domestic Viagra, while dissemination in Melville’s story only occurs metaphorically in the production and distribution of paper (the very problem to begin with), and not in a re-seeding of barren pages.Hawthorne opens by describing the foundations of the Pyncheon house, historical and physical. To defy the curse of witchcraft – a feminine association, despite Matthew Maule’s position behind it – that hangs over the house, Colonel Pyncheon arms himself with masculine traits and actions that will later recur as increasingly sexualized images: “Endowed with common sense, as massive and hard as blocks of granite, fastened together by stern rigidity of purpose, as with iron clamps, he followed out his original design, probably without so much as imagining an objection to it” (4). Hawthorne contrasts this iron structure with the literary world. Consider the portrait of Pyncheon: “…holding a Bible with one hand, and in the other uplifting an iron sword hilt. The latter object, being more successfully depicted by the artist, stood out in far greater prominence than the sacred volume” (23). Since Pyncheon has been given a second screen by the artist’s hand (or a third, if we include Hawthorne’s role), the choice to emphasize the sword may have resulted from the painter’s own notions of masculinity, and not Pyncheon’s. In any case, the sword may be mightier than the pen but, so far, not at the pen’s expense.Melville does find the pen lacking, however, and echoes Hawthorne’s imagery of solid and flaccid masculinity: “But the iron heel is changed to a boot of patent-leather; the long two-handed sword to a one-handed quill” (204). We must return to the scene of Pyncheon’s death to locate the antecedent for this transformation. Hawthorne follows the path of the wind, described as “a loud sigh,” over the even more effeminate audience whose gender becomes indeterminate by their ornaments: “It rustled the silken garments of the ladies, and waved the long curls of the gentlemen’s wigs” (8). We see the precipice from which Pyncheon has fallen. Sitting under his sword-wielding portrait (the reader does not yet learn the subject matter), he is interrupted by death at the moment of writing, frozen “with a pen in his hand” and with “[L]etters, parchments, and blank sheets of paper” in front of him (8-9). The blank sheets gain importance with Melville, but for now, the central image is that of an oppressive domesticity usurping Pyncheon’s formerly iron-clad patriarchal authority.Just as Pyncheon is halted from writing and thus muted, so must Hawthorne appease the sensitized reader with a playful but barbed critique of political correctness: “Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon…began what it would be mockery to term the adornment of her person. Far from us be the indecorum in assisting, even in imagination, at a lady’s toilet!” (21) The double usage of “dressing” words, “adornment” and “indecorum” (as “unfitting,” a sartorial pun, but also by extracting the Latin roots of “decor-us”) reminds us that Hawthorne is prevented from “addressing” the female act of robing by the feminization of literature – and recalls another obsolete and self-conscious meaning of “decorum”: that which is proper “esp. in dramatic, literary, or artistic composition” (OED, 1a). If the writer is unable to relate his art without euphemism, what chance do his created characters have? Melville, too, indirectly comments on this. During the epicurean feast, the narrator interrupts his ludicrous description of the food (“its agreeable flavor dissipated my first confounding of its main ingredient”) four times with parenthesized justifications for the bachelors’ consumption of alcohol: “(By way of ceremony, simply, only to keep up good old fashions, we here each drank a glass of good old port)” (206-207). The parentheses may produce a rising comedic effect, but the underpinning moral evasions on the narrator’s part force the reader to question his giggly response.But Hawthorne’s narrator may step aside, for Hepzibah contributes most to the castration of the house. A “time-stricken virgin,” she simultaneously exhibits a fear of the phallus and curiosity about sex (24). The chairs in the Colonel’s room continue the motif of sexualized, rigid objects held over from his time, and their description shows how Hepzibah might regard them: “Half a dozen chairs stood about the room, straight and stiff, and so ingeniously contrived for the discomfort of the human person that they were irksome even to sight” (23). Hepzibah reacts to her phallic fear by appropriating the masculine role in sex and overturning the fact that she has taken little part in life’s “intercourse and pleasures” (21). Her interaction with the house’s interiority is rife with further sexual puns that beg Freudian interpretation:First, every drawer in the tall, old-fashioned bureau is to be opened, with difficulty, and with a succession of spasmodic jerks; then, all must close again, with the same fidgety reluctance. There is a rustling of stiff silks; a tread of backward and forward footsteps to and fro across the chamber…We heard the turning of a key in a small lock… (21-22)The act of intercourse recreated through her domestic and dominant machinations, Hepzibah’s efforts end by finding a treasured picture of an effeminate man whose sensual features “seem to indicate not so much a capacity of thought as gentle and voluptuous emotion” (22). She clearly prefers an absence of intellectuality to an abundance of sentimentality, but how does Hepzibah go about castrating masculine presence within the house?The setting up of shop seems the ultimate downfall for the once-proud Pyncheon house, and we can trace Hepzibah’s sexual anxieties as a female virgin within her duties as a shopkeeper. She experiences an unwanted orgasmic reaction to a customer’s entrance through the doorway, rigged by a bell:This little bell…was so contrived as to vibrate by means of a steel spring, and thus convey notice to the inner regions of the house when any customer should cross the threshold. Its ugly and spiteful little din (heard now for the first time, perhaps, since Hepzibah’s periwigged predecessor had retired from trade) at once set every nerve of her body in responsive and tumultuous vibration. (30)The numerous allusions to virginity and the vagina aside, it is also important to note that the first customer is a man – and Holgrave, at that, quite the opposite of her beloved young man in the portrait. As the virago proprietress, we see Hepzibah recast as the witch from Hansel and Gretel. First, Hawthorne repeatedly points out her poor eyesight (22, 24, 27), a trait common to witches as detailed in the Grimms’ tale. The similarities in the prose are too perfect to discount; “her stiff and somber intellect,” Hepzibah’s seizure of the masculine mind through the “stiff” motif, is perplexed with “how to tempt little boys into her premises” (26). The details match nearly perfectly, with Hepzibah and the witch from the gingerbread house entrapping children with the same food, but with Hepzibah’s treat meeting an inevitable, and willful, demise:Now she places a gingerbread elephant against the window, but with so tremulous a touch that it tumbles upon the floor, with the dismemberment of three legs and its trunk; it has ceased to be an elephant, and has become a few bits of musty gingerbread. (26)The elephant loses its elephantine essence through Hepzibah’s “tremulous” dismembering touch, an action I view as subconsciously purposeful as a literal Freudian slip. She has done the same with the house, dismembering its masculinity out of her own sexual anxiety and damming up any literary irrigation through her patriarchal arrogation.Melville takes these truths as self-evident and moves on to a finer exploration of the ramifications of female authority in the second half of his diptych with “The Tartarus of Maids.” The treatment of the blankness of the white page calls to mind Paul Valèry’s explanation for why he could not write novels: “I could never begin to look at a white sheet of paper and begin to write The duchess went out at five.'” We may now regard this example in the light of 20th-century bastardization of the reportorial, Hemingway-influenced style, but the anxiety over defacing pure white paper, glowing with poetic potential, with factual, novelistic writing was not the main concern in Melville’s time. More destructive was the mechanical, iterative sentimentality that filled out those blank pages. Melville foreshadows and calls attention to this treatment of blankness in a paragraph retelling the narrator’s seemingly banal movements:Then, blanketing my horse, and piling my buffalo on the blanket’s top, and tucking in its edges well around the breast-band and breeching, so that the wind might not strip him bare, I tied him fast, and ran lamely for the factory door, stiff with frost, and cumbered with my driver’s dread-naught. (215)The six alliterative words starting with “b” (and two different parts of speech stemming from “blank”) anticipate the six instances of “blank” two paragraphs later for the female workers, but also presage the narrator’s own gradual progression towards verbal blankness and sterility. He, too, is stripped bare of his ability to make new configurations of language in the passage’s stifling, and not poetic, assonance – it is he, after all, who runs “lamely,” is “stiff” only because of the cold, and ends up “cumbered.”Of Billy Budd, Barbara Johnson writes that the plot “could conceivably be seen as a consequence not of what Claggart does but of what he does not say.” Likewise, the blankness here – and that “[T]he human voice was banished from the spot” – boldfaces the lack of male presence and diminished authority. Masculinity survives only in the form of the predatory sexual imagery of the “ponderous iron, with a vertical thing like a piston periodically rising and falling upon a heavy wooden block,” but the imprint is of a wreath of roses – sentimental and repetitive (215). The traditionally antithetical terms of mechanization and femininity begin their confluence here, and the word “periodically” sets the stage for the advancement of this conceit. Cupid points out that the pulp swims “’round and round'” in the vats, and the proprietor of the factory refuses to hire married women because “they are apt to be off-and-on too much” (218, 222). The stress on regularity and cyclicality finds fruition in the catamenia imagery of mechanical reproduction. The initiating water-wheel (“‘This sets our whole machinery a-going'”) is itself set into motion by the “turbid waters of Blood River,” and the paper-making room is “stifling with a strange, blood-like abdominal heat” (216, 218). But the menstrual associations foster a climate of sterile creation – menstruation is the paradoxical sign of a fertile body that has, for the preceding month, at least, resisted impregnation. This is why the confused narrator finds it “‘strange that red waters should turn out pale chee – paper, I mean'” (217).Any doubt that Melville is drawing an explicit parallel between paper-making and pregnancy is banished when Cupid reveals that the process from gestation to ejection out of the metaphorical vaginal canal takes not nine months, but minutes, and ends with the umbilical cord’s release of a “scissory sound…of some cord being snapped” (220). John Locke’s comparison between the “human mind at birth to a sheet of blank paper” as “something destined to be scribbled on” solidifies the conceit, but Melville problematizes the transference by showing that, in fact, little does pass from progenitor to child under these sterile auspices (221). The narrator marks a piece of test paper, not with his name, since, ostensibly, he has none, nor any identity to speak of, but with Cupid’s – and which, nine minutes later, returns with “my Cupid’ half faded out of it” (220). The ownership is dubious; the narrator purports to possess the paper, although Cupid’s name is (barely) stamped on it. As with Pyncheon’s carpet, “originally of rich texture, but so worn and faded in these latter years that its once brilliant figure had quite vanished into one indistinguishable hue” (Hawthorne often uses “texture” as a signifier of something written), identity is effaced (Hawthorne 23). The resulting dilution and confusion of literary identity leaves the machine as the only certain “writer,” an author whose mechanical reproduction eliminates human touch and progressive authority in favor of a cloying strike and a stalled intellect.The narrator’s only recourse is to leave the factory, and there the story ends. Hawthorne, on the other hand, finds solution in escape. Clifford’s development stands as a metaphor in itself for the castrating effects of the home. A man-child in reality, Clifford is reduced to the role of a child in his dreams, the illustration of which carries Hawthorne’s signifiers of textuality: “But the nightly moonshine interwove itself with the morning mist, and enveloped him as in a robe” (130). Paired with the fact that he sleeps “open-eyed” cues us to the qualities of reading and writing in dreaming – telling in that the one place where Clifford creates and evaluates “literature” on his own, he participates in self-castration (130). Normally, he requires the “golden texture” of Phoebe’s musical voice to make literature intelligible, and without which is as illiterate as “a blind man” (104, 111). His metamorphosis from unlettered quasi-eunuch to “manhood and intellectual vigor” is made possible only through his release from the domestic shackles into the mobile exterior of the train, where he and Hepzibah trade places of authority (198). There he articulates Hawthorne’s rabid anti-domestic judgments: “The soul needs air; a wide sweep and frequent change of it. Morbid influences, in a thousandfold variety, gather about the hearts, and pollute the life of households” (200). This sounds much like Ishmael’s manifesto at the start of Moby Dick, published the same year, that “whenever it is a damp, drizzly November” in his soul, he accounts “it high time to get to see” as soon as he can (Moby Dick, 1). Melville took this advice far more to heart than Hawthorne did, shipping out and migrating often, unlike his celebrated friend, who spent most of his life in the dreary confines of Salem, Massachusetts, where he concluded his depressed and unproductive final four years. Perhaps this explains Hawthorne’s obsession with his Clifford’s need to flee the oppressive home, and Melville’s more casual acceptance of such a reality. Salem would stifle anyone’s creative drive, but sea air always clears the mind.
The House of Seven Gables as a Gothic Novel
To be a paradigm of a Gothic novel, The House of Seven Gables needs to include many elements, all which center on the ideas of gloom, horror, and mystery. The action of a Gothic novel takes place in a “run-down, abandoned or occupied, mansion or castle,” which often include secret passages, doors, and compartments (Encarta). The mansion also adds its own flavor and variety to the atmosphere of mystery and suspense in the novel by providing a dark and gloomy setting where the story takes place. The basis of mystery and suspense in the atmosphere of the novel feeds off of “an unexplained or supernatural event” in the present or from past generations (Harris). The unexplained event in the novel is a result of ancient prophecy in connection with the history of the mansion, or the earlier generations, and explains the negative vicissitude in future present generations. The ancient prophecy sometimes only provides the reader with “partial or confusing” information or only provides one side of the story, thus presenting and even stronger feeling of mystery in the novel (Harris). Bad omens and visions of death also occur to foreshadow the misfortune of a character in the novel in the near future. The use of omens as foreshadowing devices also develops and presents additional suspense to the already mysterious plot. Along with omens, supernatural events also appear in a Gothic novel to add mystery and include: “ghosts, giants, or inanimate objects coming to life” (Harris). The supernatural events continue to add the atmosphere of suspense and even horror to the Gothic novel. In a Gothic novel, a “tyrannical male” usually threatens a weak female, adding an element of pathos provoking sadness by allowing the reader to sympathize over the misfortune of the woman (Harris). The inclusion of the elements of suspense, mystery, and gloom in a novel, along with the occurrence of supernatural and unexplained events, provide support for the novel as a Gothic piece of literature. By including all the elements, which standardize the content and atmosphere of the novel in the The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne develops an exemplary example of a Gothic piece of literature.To be considered a Gothic novel, The House of Seven Gables needs to first fulfill the requirements of the setting, including a once aristocratic run down mansion or castle with many secret doors, passages, and compartments. The elements in the setting produce effects in the development of the mysterious and gloomy atmosphere. In the early years of the Pyncheon family, Colonel Pyncheon steals the domicile and land of Mathew Maule out of greed and fulfillment of his superiority as an aristocrat. Colonel Pyncheon constructs the House of Seven Gables on Pyncheon Street, over the grave of the restless Mathew Maule, inheriting the curse of death within its walls. The anathema of death Mathew Maule sentences the residents House of Seven Gables to results in a scarcity of inhabitants, due to the fear for their lives, and therefore the house becomes extremely dark and lonesome to the later generations. The lack of denizens to upkeep the house results in the house itself showing the signs of the melancholy and gloom it contains, mirroring the affects of isolation on the life of Hepzibah Pyncheon. The isolation of the house provides the perfect lugubrious and mysterious setting for the story to take place: “Three of the seven gables either fronted or looked sideways, with a dark solemnity of aspect” (Hawthorne 59). The house of seven gables remains a dark abode for the melancholy Hepzibah Pyncheon, the lone denizen of the house other than the frequently absent mysterious and young daguerreotypist, Holgrave. The isolation produces extreme sadness and loneliness in the heart of Hepzibah Pyncheon, “she had dwelt to long in the Pyncheon house, until her very brain was impregnated with the dry rot of its timbers” and results in the dreary and run down atmosphere about the house (Hawthorne 40). The House of Seven Gables adds its own sense of gloom and sadness to the story by producing the melancholy feeling in the heart of Hepzibah Pyncheon. She reflects the sorrow back into the house with her lugubrious aspect, resulting in the continuous melancholy cycle inside the House of Seven Gables. The presence of the long forgotten aristocratic nature about the house slowly deteriorates throughout the Pyncheon generations, becoming apparent as Hepzibah stares at the area around the arched window: “It opened above the porch, where there had formerly been a balcony, the balustrade of which long since gone to decay, and been removed” (Hawthorne 110). Hawthorne contrasts the aristocratic history of the house to its present state, losing its aristocratic air, after the continuous cycle of the melancholy atmosphere takes the house within its retrograding grasp. The setting of The House of Seven Gables adds its own flavor to the atmosphere during the story, making it extremely isolated and doleful, thus fulfilling the requirements of the setting in a Gothic novel.The setting also contributes to the mystery and suspense required in a Gothic novel by revealing hidden passages and compartments. As she makes her way to the chamber of Clifford Pyncheon, Hepzibah Pyncheon proceeds fearful of what lurks down the next passage: “and opened one crazy door after another, and ascended the creaking staircase, she gazed wistfully and fearfully around” (Hawthorne 167). The secret passages link the numerous chambers in the House of Seven Gables, adding a sense of precariousness and suspense due to the many figures, invisible to Hepzibah Pyncheon, possibly lurking within. In the House of Seven Gables there hides a secret compartment, center of greed in all generations of Maules and Pyncheons, which holds the deed to the land under the house. In each generation the dispute over land becomes the center of attention and fuels the ongoing feud between the Maules, Pyncheons, and even fuels the greed intermingled between the Pyncheons themselves. The whereabouts of the deed provides mystery in the novel until the mysterious Holgrave uncovers the deed lying in a recess of the wall behind the portrait of Colonel Pyncheon: “The portrait, frame and all, tumbled suddenly from its positionÖA recess in the wall thus brought to light” (Hawthorne 221). The portrait of the colonel finally ceases to hang in the house and reveals a recess, which holds the mysterious document, sought after by both the families of the Maules and Pyncheons. Holgrave uncovers the document, now useless because of its age, and adds to the horror in the novel by revealing the quest for land and the deaths it causes in the families of the Pyncheons and Maules to be in vain. The presence of the secret passages and compartments in the mansion provide a source of secrecy, adding the requirement of suspense and an unknowing feeling to the house, further proving The House of Seven Gables as a Gothic novel. The next element in a Gothic novel is the relationship between the histories of the mansion or past generations to the misfortune of the present generation, resulting in the further sense of mystery in the novel. In the Pyncheon generation of Colonel Pyncheon, he accuses Mathew Maule of wizardry in a heinous scheme to obtain the land by murder. His plan succeeds, and as Mathew Maule treads the path towards his execution for witchcraft, Hawthorne develops mystery in the novel by stating the devious act Colonel Pyncheon commits: “Mathew Maule, the wizard, had been foully wronged out of his homestead, if not out of his life” (Hawthorne 13). By murdering Mathew Maule, Colonel Pyncheon brings an anathema of death upon the Pyncheon family and creates a feeling of mystery and horror as mysterious death surrounds the curse. In The House of Seven Gables, the relationship between the history to the addition of mystery in the novel occurs when describing the curse set upon the Pyncheons by the deceased Mathew Maule and its affect on later generations: “God will give him blood to drink!” (Hawthorne 3). The curse on the Pyncheons condemns them to death, resulting in the sudden and mysterious deaths of people in the Pyncheon mansion. The history of the Maules and Pyncheons, overflowing with horror and darkness, sets the mood of mystery and suspense of a Gothic novel Hawthorne carries throughout The House of Seven Gables. As the story continues the mystery of the Maule family occurs as a continuous and mysterious force taking hold of the Pyncheon family. As generations of Pyncheons pass, a later Mathew Maule summons the curse of blood upon Gervayse Pyncheon as he attempts to stop Maule from entrancing his daughter, Alice Pyncheon: “Mr. PyncheonÖcould make only a gurgling murmur in his throat” (Hawthorne 144). The resurrection of the curse again results in the in horror and mystery surrounding the Maules as they continue to plague the Pyncheon family. The history of each the Pyncheons and Maules present an abstruse and mysterious anathema the townspeople use to describe and explain the misfortune of later Pyncheon generations. By including the mysterious past of the Pyncheons to explain misfortune of later generations, The House of Seven Gables fulfills one more requirement to resemble a Gothic piece of literature.Another characteristic of a Gothic novel The House of Seven Gables exhibits is the use of supernatural and unexplained events to strike horror and mystery into the mind of the reader. The main use of unexplained events in The House of Seven Gables appears in the death of a Pyncheon and its relation to the mysterious curse set upon the Pyncheons by Mathew Maule. A few days after Colonel Pyncheon moves into the House of Seven Gables, he turns up dead as his grandchild races to his chair to find blood in his mouth, as if to fulfill the curse: “there was blood on his ruff, and that his hoary beard was saturated with it” (Hawthorne 8). After finding the Colonel Pyncheon dead, the town immediately turns to blame his misfortune on the curse of blood he acquires from the dying Mathew Maule. With Colonel Pyncheon dead, a horrific and mysterious atmosphere surrounds the House of Seven Gables and Maule’s anathema, as if proving its truth. By creating the mysterious and horror-filled atmosphere in The House of Seven Gables through the use of an unexplained, supernatural event, Hawthorne includes another characteristic to prove the House of Seven Gables as a Gothic novel.The main characteristic Hawthorne uses to portray The House of Seven Gables, as a Gothic novel, is the use of bad omens. Bad omens appear in the form of the presence of ghosts, to foreshadow death and adversity, continuing the atmosphere of mystery and misery. The first mention of ghosts occurs when Phoebe Pyncheon inquires about the death of Clifford Pyncheon. Hepzibah responds in a mysterious and haunting tone, which reiterates the atmosphere in the mansion: “in old houses like this, you know, dead people are very apt to come back again!” (Hawthorne 52). Hepzibah uses the gloomy and dark house to explain the presence of ghosts and ghostly images as bad omens of death, which occur in the Pyncheon family. Another example of a bad omen fueling the atmosphere of mystery occurs when Holgrave explains the nature of the bewitched and brackish water in Maule’s well. Maule’s well, springing up from the ground beneath the House of Seven Gables, contains the tainted water as a result of the construction of the House of Seven Gables, and which serves as a symbol of the Pyncheons interfering with the affairs of the Maules: “like an old lady’s cup of tea it is water bewitched!” (Hawthorne 65). The bad omen Maule’s well emits ironically explains the parallel between the Pyncheon mansion interfering with the water of the well, resulting in spoiled water, to the interference of Colonel Pyncheon in the land of Mathew Maule, resulting in the curse of death. Hawthorne also uses a bad omen to explain the continuous cycle of misfortune and death plaguing the Pyncheon family and the House of Seven Gables. As Holgrave explores the deep chambers of the Pyncheon mansion he uncovers a packet of seed which Hawthorne ironically uses as a bad omen to show the curse of death on a Pyncheon who, “meant to sow them the next summer, but was himself first sown in Death’s garden ground” (Hawthorne 102). The bad omen of death again foreshadows the result of the mysterious curse set on the Pyncheon by Mathew Maule. The use of bad omens also adds to the atmosphere of suspense present in The House of Seven Gables by hinting at the deaths to come in the future Pyncheon families. By including the element of bad omens, as a means of foreshadowing, the House of Seven Gables fulfills yet another characteristic to prove it as a Gothic novel.Along with bad omens, visions of death are also present in The House of Seven Gables to foreshadow death, adding another characteristic of a Gothic novel. Just after Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon arrives at the mansion to call on Clifford Pyncheon, Hepzibah ventures through the house to Clifford’s chamber only to find him missing. Upon her return she finds Jaffrey Pyncheon inert in the oak chair as if in a state of carelessness. Soon after Hepzibah Pyncheon and Clifford Pyncheon flee, a vision of death occurs in the parlor containing the seemingly lifeless, Jaffrey Pyncheon. The grimalkin stares into the window of the parlor, stalking a mouse for his taste, resembling the devil, in search of Jaffrey Pyncheon’s soul: “Is it a cat watching for a mouse, or the devil for a human soul?” (Hawthorne 195). By comparing the cat to the devil, Hawthorne implies the death of Jaffrey Pyncheon as his soul waiting for the devil’s harvest. The vision of death Hawthorne uses fulfills the last element needed to finish the atmosphere of mystery, horror, and suspense in The House of Seven Gables, completing the proper atmosphere present in a Gothic novel.Through the rule of the tyrannical Jaffrey Pyncheon over the weak and main female character, Hepzibah Pyncheon, The House of Seven Gables portrays the element of pathos to provoke sadness in the reader. Throughout the novel Jaffrey appears as the dominant force controlling the life of Hepzibah Pyncheon, as she always worries about his approval of her life. After opening the cent shop, Hepzibah Pyncheon observes Jaffrey Pyncheon inspecting the shop and concerns herself with the shop meeting the inspection of her oppressive cousin: “What does he think of it, I wonder? Does it please him?” (Hawthorne 39). Upon noticing Jaffery Pyncheon, Hepzibah Pyncheon immediately concerns herself with whether or not the aristocratic Jaffery Pyncheon accepts the democratic cent shop held up in the family mansion. By displaying the concern for acceptance Hepzibah illustrates the tyrannical male in the novel, Jaffery Pyncheon, dominating her life, providing part of the pathos-provoking element in The House of Seven Gables.As Clifford Pyncheon later arrives to live in the House of Seven Gables, Jaffery arrives, demanding Clifford’s presence from Hepzibah Pyncheon, exhibiting another example of his domination over her. Knowing the emotional attachment Hepzibah develops for her brother Clifford, Jaffrey takes advantage of his position and threatens Hepzibah if she denies the appearance of Clifford Pyncheon: “the alternative is his confinement, probably for the remainder of his life, in a public asylum for persons in his unfortunate state of mind” (Hawthorne 164). By taking advantage of his position, Jaffrey Pyncheon, knowing Hepzibah Pyncheon’s submissiveness to him, threatens to remove the one person she lives for, Clifford Pyncheon. As Jaffery Pyncheon continues to rule over the melancholy and isolated Hepzibah it strikes sympathy in the heart of the reader for the misfortune Hepzibah Pyncheon. The imperious relationship between Jaffery and Hepzibah completes the element of a male tyrant seeking domination over a feeble woman and fulfills the last criteria in presenting the House of Seven Gables as a Gothic novel.The use of the elements of mystery, suspense, and horror in the House of Seven Gables creates the atmosphere common to a Gothic novel. The use of the supernatural and other mysterious events, in the House of Seven Gables, also compose the elements present in Gothic Literature. By presenting the elements through the setting and plot, The House of Seven Gables contains all requirements of a Gothic novel, claiming its spot in dark halls of the Gothic literature genre.Works Cited”Gothic Literature.” Encarta Encyclopedia: Microsoft. 2nd Ed. 1998.Harris, Robert. Vanguard University of Southern California Gothic Literature Page. 20 November 2000.