The House of the Seven Gables | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The House of the Seven Gables | Chapter 14 : Phoebe's Good-Bye | Summary

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Summary

Holgrave, who told the story in a dramatic fashion, finds Phoebe Pyncheon half-asleep. His movements mesmerized Phoebe, and with a "wave of his hand and a corresponding effort of his will, he could" hypnotize her. However, Holgrave restrains himself and, instead, wakes Phoebe up, though she insists she was awake the whole time.

The two of them see the sun set and the moon take its place. Holgrave says it is the most beautiful moon he has ever seen, and he has never felt so happy. Phoebe sees a great charm in the moonlight. She says she is not as merry as she was prior to knowing Hepzibah and Clifford Pyncheon. She has grown older and wiser, and says, "I have given them my sunshine, and have been glad to give it; but, of course, I cannot both give and keep it." Holgrave tells her she has lost her first youth, which is of no value. The second youth is much deeper and richer.

Phoebe and Holgrave then talk about her trip back home, and yet she has grown more accustomed to her current life. Holgrave says she brings life to the house, and tells her that Hepzibah and Clifford "exist by you." Phoebe asks Holgrave to speak more plainly, and is unsure if he wishes Hepzibah and Clifford "well or ill." He attempts to reassure her, but it does not work.

Hepzibah, Clifford, and Phoebe gather before she leaves. Hepzibah says Phoebe does not smile like she once did, and the gloomy house has taken a toll on her. Clifford stares at her face and says she has passed into womanhood. On her way out, Phoebe passes Uncle Venner. He says she will be missed, she is needed around here, and she is like an angel.

Analysis

With the completion of the story, Holgrave nearly has Phoebe Pyncheon under his spell—an indication of his alliance with the narrator (or Nathaniel Hawthorne) who similarly wishes to keep readers spellbound with a mesmerizing tale of Gothic proportions. But Holgrave's apparent hypnosis of Phoebe invites comparisons between Matthew Maule (the younger) and young Holgrave, anticipating our later discovery of their family ties. Unlike Holgrave, Matthew Maule (the younger) set out to cast a spell, and did so with malicious intent. Maule used Alice Pyncheon and felt it was his role to teach her a lesson. He did not know the strength of his own powers, as he brought about Alice's death.

Unlike this younger Matthew Maule, Holgrave shows restraint. He will not take advantage of Phoebe nor is he interested in teaching her a lesson; he wants to "speak true thoughts to a true mind!" and both his story and his manner reflect a maturity, which should go some way in dispelling readers' doubts about Holgrave's intentions. While he is growing interested in Phoebe on a personal level, he does not want a relationship based on hypnotism. The degree to which the story and Holgrave's possible maturity affect Phoebe remains to be seen.

Her exodus from the House of the Seven Gables is one of the author's tools. She has grown accustomed to the place and is essential to the care of her cousins; her domestic skills have gone toward improving the lives of Hepzibah and Clifford, but readers cannot help but feel that the siblings are destined to have troubles. They are dependent on Phoebe in every way, reinforcing her position as the novel's key protagonist. While Phoebe is happy to be of assistance to her cousins, their dependence has come with a price. In a remarkably short time she has grown, and a certain bloom she once had has worn off. Both Clifford Pyncheon and Holgrave view this bloom as youth. Phoebe has left her childhood behind and has become a woman. Despite her newfound independence and the growing influence of middle-class values on the household, her departure from the House of the Seven Gables is ominous.

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