By Nathaniel Hawthorne The House of the Seven Gables is a romantic novel set in a grand and rustic, old house with sevengables in New England town. The story opens with its history, beginning in the 1690’s, whenwitch-hunting was rampant. Afterwards, it revolves around the course of one summer in the 1850’s.
At his housewarming party, Colonel Pyncheon, the socially noted owner of the house wasmysteriously found dead in one of the rooms. Although he was highly esteemed for his wealth andhigh position, legend has it that he usurped the land on which his house stood from a poor fellownamed Matthew Maule. Maule was a nobody. Furthermore, he was rumored to be practicingwitchcraft. For this, he was hanged and it was rumored that Pyncheon was responsible for it becausehe wanted the land for himself. However, his social prominence and Maule’s infamy allowed him toget away with the crime smoothly.
Before Maule died though, cursed him saying, God will give himblood to drink. For years, the Pyncheon-Maule dispute carried on. The long line of Pyncheons struggled to keepthe land from their rivals. Though they succeeded in this, their greed became their own undoing. Alice Pyncheon dies because her father, Gervayse, allowed her to be hypnotized by a Maule alsonamed Matthew, because he believed him when he said that he needed Alice’s mind to find a thehidden Pyncheon treasure.
Clifford Pyncheon was another victim of the greed of his cousin JudgeJaffrey Pyncheon. He framed him and sent him to prison for killing their uncle so that he could havethe Pyncheon fortune to himself. However, after many years, the once talked-about mansion was eventually forgotten, and the storyfocuses on the time when Hepzibah Pyncheon, an old and lonely spinster inhabited it. She was oftenfeared for the scowl on her face that was actually only the result of a chronic squint due to her pooreyesight. Proud and without talent for practical matters, she is a symbol of decaying aristocracy.
She grieves for her beloved brother, Clifford, who was framed and imprisoned. She had a boardernamed Holgrave. He is an attractive and imtellectual young man with modern views and notions. He preaches about social reform to Hepzibah and Phoebe.
When her money was running out, Hepzibah was forced to open little bakeshop in the front gable ofthe house and abandon her illusion of aristocracy. This only adds to her misery until her young niece,Phoebe, comes from the country to live with her in the house. Like a ray of sunshine, she lights upthe house with her beauty, simplicity, and free-spiritedness After 30 years in prison, Hepzibah’s brother, Clifford, is released and comes home to the house ofseven gables. He has a love for beauty but the years of seclusion had drawn out the life from himand he became bitter and spiritless. Then he develops a special bond with Phoebe.
Despite thecomplexity of his personality, she understood him. A frequent visitor was Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon. He resembled his ancestor, the colonel physicallyand in his greed and pretentiousness as well. Yet, he pretends to be good-natured and amiable. Heinsists that Clifford possessed the knowledge about a hidden Pyncheon fortune.
However, the truthof the matter is that Clifford has long since forgotten the secret. One day , Judge Jaffrey comes again, looking for Clifford. He manages to force Hepzibah to lethim see her brother and she goes up to fetch him. He is not in his room and when she comes backto tell the judge, she finds him dead.
And Clifford is standing beside him. Afraid that he would beaccused of murder again, Clifford flees, bringing Hepzibah along. In their absence, Holgrave andPhoebe fall in love. Eventually, it was discovered that Jaffrey’s death was a result of a stroke, and everything is clearedand resolved. Clifford and Hepzibah return and Holgrave asks Phoebe to marry him. She agreesand he discloses that he is a descendant of Matthew Maule.
The secret treasure turned out to bethe deed of the territory, which was now useless. It was hidden inside a vault concealed by thepainting of the colonel which hung on the wall of the house eversince it was built. Hepzibah, Clifford, Phoebe, and Holgrave all decide to leave the house and live in the country,where they inherited an estate from Judge Jaffrey. And that was the end of the Pyncheon – Mauledispute.
The story presents us with several themes. Firstly, that the sins of the forefathers are passed on tothe next generations, and they become branded for life. Although one cannot undo what havealready been done, he can still strive to break the curse, and free himself from the spiral of sin. Secondly, man cannot live alone. Isolation can draw out life from a being.
Clifford and Hepzibahwho had been living n seclusion for many years had become bitter and lifeless, but when they werere-united and Phoebe came into their lives, they became alive again. Third, man should not bedivided by social classes. Hawthorne was obviously against aristocracy for he preaches throughHolgrave that wanting to be above the rest leads to isolation and division. Lastly, Hawthorne tellsus not to be deceived by appearances.
Do not judge a book by its cover, as it is commonly said. The judge’s beatific smile is as misleading as Hepzibah’s scowl. The themes of the story present valuable lessons relevant even today. Hawthorne’s style ofwriting is very relaxed and personal. By using the present tense, one feels as if he were within thestory as it unfolds before him. With this, one particularly feels the relevance of the irony of his noveltoday.
He plays up the novel by embellishing it with mischief like the disappearing skeleton hand and ghostwho plays the harpsichord. He also filled with symbolism. For instance, the withered with oddmarkings symbolize the fading eminence and odd traits of the Pyncheon family. The organ grinderand the little figures in his box represent the concept of individualism — each figure, dancing to thesame tune accomplish nothing.
The image of the cracked porcelain vase hurled at the granite columnrepresents Clifford, in all his frailty versus Jaffrey, to whom he does not stand a chance against. Thehouse itself symbolizes the human heart. It may be stone-cold but when warmed with love(Phoebe), it will blossom.