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Review of The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

By Edited Oct 11, 2015 0 0

The House of the Seven Gables


1. Tremendous suspense built throughout the book to set the mood and draw the reader in.

2. A study of human nature, told from many different perspectives. Interesting shifts from character to character -- like a 360 view of the story.


1. Wow, so much detail. As a modern reader, it is hard sometimes to understand how the plot is moving forward because of the overwhelming detail.

2.The ending seemed like it belonged to another book.

Full Review

I haven't read anything by Hawthorne since college so it was a bit tough going at first. I've been reading a lot of modern novels of late and so it's hard to get past the enormous detail. But I never start a book and not finish it!

I found it interesting that easily three-quarters of the book was taken up by the setting of the mood (primarily dictated by the house itself and its evil atmosphere) and the detailed character descriptions - their perception of others and others' perceptions of them.

It starts with a description of how the mighty house came to be. The elder Pyncheon accused his neighbor of witchcraft in order to get his land. The House of the Seven Gables was built upon that ill-gotten land. With a curse upon his lips as he was executed, "God will give him blood to drink!" Matthew Maule damned the elder Pyncheon to die of a sudden (what appeared to be) aneursym. His curse lived on…future Pyncheon generations were to experience various misfortunes and mishaps. But the house always remained.

And it is in this sad and dreary atmosphere that we first find Hepzibah, the lonely old maid, sadly isolated in the giant house, just scraping by, opening a pitiful cent-shop, and bemoaning her fate. And then…Clifford enters the household, Hepzibah's beloved brother, a decrepit old man whose mysterious past has left him addle-minded and depressed. Nearly three chapters touch upon his daily activities - looking out the window at the street below, sitting in the garden with the hens, and sleeping in a chair in the afternoons. Oddly detailed, but again setting the tone.

The only bright spot was fair Phoebe Pyncheon, the young cousin who comes to live with Hepzibah, Clifford, and Hargrave, their young boarder. It becomes evident that Phoebe may be the only person capable of breaking the curse that hangs over the family. She brings hope to Clifford and Hepzibah. Her nature begins to change the atmosphere.

Despite the details that were a little overwhelming at times, I must admit, Hawthorne built suspense. I wanted to know - what had happened to Clifford that he was in such a sorry state? What did his cousin, the powerful Judge Pyncheon, do to Clifford that he was so terrified of him?

I thought the ending was quite happy, which seemed odd based on the book's concentrated depressing atmosphere throughout. It almost seemed like it was another ending for another book.

However, I found that Hawthorne's creepy "surprise" at the end was very well done. Almost Poe-like, in its realistic creepiness. I can't think of a better word. I cannot tell exactly what I'm referring to, of course, just in case, whoever you are…decide to pick up the book.

In Closing

Although I had some difficulty plodding through the dense prose, it is a testament to Hawthorne's writing ability that his stories have stood the test of time. He knows how to set the atmosphere, but readers may want to take this book in small doses.


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