The House of the Seven Gables | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The House of the Seven Gables | Quotes

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1.

Its whole visible exterior was ornamented with quaint figures, conceived in the grotesqueness of a Gothic fancy, and drawn or stamped in the glittering plaster, composed of lime, pebbles, and bits of glass, with which the woodwork of the walls was overspread.


Narrator, Chapter 1

This passage is the only explicit reference to the Gothic genre, but establishes its architectural and thematic influences on the novel. Readers are not only given a deeper sense of the ominous gloom that dominates the Pyncheon home but are also forewarned about the grotesque events to come.

2.

From father to son, they clung to the ancestral house with singular tenacity of home attachment.


Narrator, Chapter 1

The Pyncheon family does not leave the House of the Seven Gables. Despite their challenges and numerous misfortunes, members of the Pyncheon family have very high self-esteem. The house represents a golden age for the family, and so they cling to it. Even Clifford and Hepzibah feel a sense of entitlement, and it begins with the family name and the house.

3.

Life is made up of marble and mud.


Narrator, Chapter 2

Marble represents possessions such as the House of the Seven Gables. Mud represents work, toil, and effort. The Pyncheon family has been brought up thinking life is all marble. They are destined to be owners and are above the mud. They are aristocrats and are entitled. However, the family has fallen into harder times through the generations, as has the house, and Hepzibah now needs to work. She must get in the mud and earn money, something she dreads.

4.

Angels do not toil, but let their good works grow out of them.


Narrator, Chapter 5

From the moment she arrives at the House of the Seven Gables, Phoebe, who represents the concept of the "angel in the house," makes everything better. Her presence makes everyone happier, and she seems to know intuitively what other people need. Even the animals respond to her. Her selflessness allows her to give, while expecting little in return.

5.

It is late! It is late! I want my happiness!


Clifford Pyncheon, Chapter 10

Clifford Pyncheon has spent 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. When he returns home, he is disoriented and only semilucid. He talks very little and does not always make sense. As his stay at home lengthens, he becomes more cognizant. He feels cheated out of his life and is angry he did not get to enjoy all that life had to offer. He is not content to merely be out of jail and demands more.

6.

For, what other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!


Narrator, Chapter 11

Clifford and Hepzibah are about to leave the House of the Seven Gables. They open the door and are ready to join humanity, but they stop while they are on the doorstep. Clifford's physical imprisonment and Hepzibah's self-imposed jail have left the siblings feeling unable to rejoin society; they are relics from a time gone by. Their upbringing in the house created within them a feeling of superiority. However, they are no longer at this elevated level, and this is hard for them to accept. They are also imbued with a sense of guilt, however undeserved, over Judge Pyncheon's death.

7.

When he is cheerful ... then I venture to peep in, just as far as the light reaches, but no further.


Phoebe Pyncheon, Chapter 12

Phoebe Pyncheon is described as simple multiple times throughout the novel. She herself says her intelligence is not up to that of Holgrave, and she sometimes gets lost in their conversation. However, she has an instinctive understanding of what people need and is happy to give it to them. She recognizes Clifford has suffered and would like to know him better. However, he is not in a condition to have a deep relationship with his cousin. Phoebe recognizes this and sees as much of Clifford as is reasonable.

8.

We read in dead men's books! We laugh at dead men's jokes, and cry at dead men's pathos!


Holgrave, Chapter 12

Holgrave is forward-thinking. He does not want to remain attached to the past. The two families—Pyncheon and Maule—have both suffered from their connections to the past. This is not unique to them. Holgrave's idea about moving forward is common in young people.

9.

Shall we never, never get rid of this Past? ... It lies upon the Present.


Holgrave, Chapter 12

Holgrave feels trapped by the past. Its presence impacts everything and impedes progress. As a Maule, he has heard the stories of his family's past and about the evil Pyncheon family. These stories have affected him, and he clearly holds a grudge against the Pyncheons. He lives in the House of the Seven Gables to better understand it and to hate it. Holgrave wants to live as he wants and not be tied to the past. However, although Holgrave offers a fresh alternative to the stale, declining ways of the past, he can be a bit rash in his easy acceptance of radical ideas without thinking them through. Phoebe Pyncheon acts as a modifying influence, helping him learn to accept a more gradual perspective on societal change.

10.

Might and wrong combined, like iron magnetized, are endowed with irresistible attraction.


Narrator, Chapter 16

Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon is a strong-willed, powerful figure whom others admire and respect. He has done a number of positive things in his life, and he makes sure people know about his good deeds. He also takes his job seriously and works hard at it. He is convinced he is a good and honorable man, and he convinces others of this, too. Therein lies his might. Judge Pyncheon also glosses over his sins, including framing Clifford for the murder of their uncle so he can receive the inheritance. Therein lies his wrong. His need to hide his dark side impels him to act more outwardly "good"; thus, both sides combine to create a powerful force.

11.

A man will commit almost any wrong ... to build a great, gloomy, dark-chambered mansion, for himself to die in.


Clifford Pyncheon, Chapter 17

Clifford Pyncheon has regained his senses and shares his thoughts on possessions. He recognizes the wrongs of his ancestors and condemns them. When people are ruled by their desires, they will do nearly anything and convince themselves what are they doing is acceptable. Colonel Pyncheon never questioned his behavior. He had a goal and would not be denied—whether it was right or wrong. Yet the "dark-chambered mansion" he built—the House of the Seven Gables—is, in the end, nothing but a giant coffin, as Clifford's words indicate.

12.

Of all the events which constitute a person's biography, there is scarcely one ... to which the world so easily reconciles itself as to his death.


Narrator, Chapter 21

Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon lived a full life and had big plans. People looked to him and expected him to accomplish much. He seemed to be essential to the happenings in the town. However, his death had little impact. People simply accepted Judge Pyncheon's death, selected another political candidate, and moved on.

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