The House of the Seven Gables Study Guide

The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The House of Seven Gables is an novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne dealing with themes of retribution and forgiveness through suggestions of the supernatural and a Gothic aesthetic style. The story follows the history of an old New England house with a dark history, connected to the witch trials. A depressed Clifford returns home from thirty years in prison and is forced to flee after a judge who threatened him mysteriously dies. Upon returning home again, grudges are forgiven and the characters move to the countryside, redeeming themselves of their past.

The House of the Seven Gables Characters

  • Hepzibah Pyncheon – Hepzibah is an unmarried older woman. Though a member of the upper class, she is destitute. At the beginning of the novel, she opens a shop in the first floor of the house to support herself and her brother.
  • Holgrave – A daguerreotypist who boards at the house. He is secretly a descendant of Matthew Maule, who had been hung as a witch. He falls in love with Phoebe.
  • Phoebe Pyncheon – She is from the country and not a member of the Salem aristocracy. She moves in with her cousin Hepzibah and takes over the shop. Her cheerfulness and beauty make the shop a success, and charm the reclusive Clifford, to whom she serves as a kind of caretaker. Phoebe shows a willingness to work that is absent in Hepzibah and Clifford. She falls in love with Holgrave.
  • Alice Pyncheon – Alice was a haughty beauty whose ghost haunts the House of the Seven Gables. Holgrave writes a story about Alice, which he reads to Phoebe. In Holgrave's story, Matthew Maule, grandson of the accused witch, is recruited by Alice's greedy father to assist in finding documents that will make him rich. Maule hypnotizes Alice, supposedly to help locate the documents. In reality, Maule intends revenge on the Pyncheons by making Alice permanently susceptible to his commands. He uses this to force her to publicly embarrass herself and her family. Alice dies when her humiliation becomes too great.Maule is mortified that he has caused the death of a beautiful and refined young woman.
  • Colonel Pyncheon - The founder of the Pyncheon family, the colonel was cursed by Matthew Maule. He died on the day that the House was completed, built on the site where Maule’s house had been.
  • Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon – A jurist and political aspirant who lives on a comfortable estate out of town. In appearance and character he so strongly resembles Colonel Pyncheon that some people mistake portraits of the ancestor for the descendant. He is just as ruthless as his ancestor in his hunt for a lost land deed, theintended source of new wealth for the dissolute Pyncheon clan.
  • Matthew Maule - Original owner of the land where the House of Seven Gables is built. Colonel Pyncheon had him hung as a wizard so that Pyncheon could seize his property.
  • Clifford Pyncheon – Clifford is Hepzibah's elderly, unwell brother who lives in the house after serving a sentence for the murder of his uncle; he was framed by his cousin, Jaffrey.
  • Uncle Venner – A jovial old man (older than Hepzibah) who is the only neighbor still friendly with the Pyncheons.
  • Ned Higgins – A precocious boy who visits Hepzibah's shop periodically to deplete her supply of gingerbread cookies.

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