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The Main Theme of Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables is a romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American novelist of the first half of the XIX century. The romance tells the story of the Pyncheon family and the life of the family members in the mansion in the small town in New England. This dilapidated house is marked with a controversial history linked with land theft, missing documents on possession of land in Maine, curses, betrayals, and deaths. The House of the Seven Gables ends up with the Pyncheon family members’ breakage with the misfortunate past and moving to the countryside to start life with a clean slate (Hawthorne 213). Most importantly, in the preface of the romance, the author states that “the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones” and, hence, ultimately “becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief” (Hawthorne 9). Therefore, the current essay argues that the critical idea that the text communicates to the reader is transgressions of one generation are inherited by the descendants and, thus, everyone should strive to live morally right.

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To begin with, it is necessary to explain how the topic of inheritance of sins of the ancestors is reflected in The House of the Seven Gables. It all starts with the mysterious death of Colonel Pyncheon, who deprived Matthew Maule of his land, where later the famous mansion was built. Colonel Pyncheon is also highly likely to be guilty of the accusation of Matthew Maule in witchcraft for which the latter was executed (Hawthorne 12). Standing at the scaffold, Mr. Maule exclaims to his foe, “God will give him blood to drink!” (Hawthorne 13). A little later, at the housewarming party, Mr. Pyncheon is found dead with blood on his beard and ruff (Hawthorne 17). The death of another member of the Pyncheon family, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, resembles the demise of Colonel Pyncheon (Hawthorne 17). Colonel Pyncheon’s grandson Gervayse and his young great-granddaughter Alice, who by themselves were not guilty of any crimes, also die tragically and prematurely. All these events imply that the entire family bears the burden of Maule’s curse, who was insulted by the founder of the Pyncheon’s kin.

The thesis of the essay that Hawthorne in The House of the Seven Gables teaches the audience the importance of decent and honest behavior could be proven by Kumari’s article. In the paper, Kumari calls the romance “a fine blend of human values and moralities” (252). Hawthorne shows that the faults of the previous generation could only be mitigated through “the healing power of love and care” (Kumari 252). From Kumari’s article, it could be inferred that the following generations severely suffered from the mistakes and sins made by Colonel Pyncheon until they began taking care of the house and the soil on which it was standing.

This means that even though the Pyncheon family was unable to atone to Colonel’s guilt, revive Matthew Maule and return him his land, they could, at least, take care of this land and put love into it to be saved from the burden of their progenitor’s sins. This care is illustrated by Phoebe and Holgrave, who are spending time together feeding chickens (Hawthorne 65). This action is particularly peculiar because it was undertaken “not for any pleasure of their own” but as an attempt not to “lose what had once been so admirable a breed of fowls” (Hawthorne 65). Consequently, it could be concluded that Hawthorne not only warns the audience that children and grandchildren will be answerable for the parents and grandparents iniquities. The author gives a chance for deliverance from this burden through sincere love and care.

Another point worth mentioning about the issue of inheritance of previous generations faults is that the descendants will suffer until they stop making the same mistakes. In the analysis of The House of the Seven Gables, Sweeney emphasizes that Jaffrey Pyncheon, the judge, died because he was as greedy as Colonel Pyncheon and craved to become wealthier via illegal methods (Sweeney 331). More precisely, Jaffrey strived to find the lost document for land in Maine and pay for it with his life just as Colonel.

Having discussed the critical arguments that prove the paper’s thesis, it seems essential to add that the idea proclaimed by Hawthorne and discussed in this essay is nothing new. Hawthorne, for instance, raises the same issue of sinful ancestors in the novel The Scarlet Letter. Still, for the first time, the currently discussed topic was mentioned in the Bible. It says that erring parents “will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (The Bible 210). At this point, it is peculiar to notice that the youngest person of the Pyncheon family, Alice, who died young, belonged precisely to the fourth generation. Hence, The House of the Seven Gables is based on the worldview proposed by the holy wiring. The fact that the romance reflects the Bible is noteworthy because Nathaniel Hawthorne himself was not a deeply religious person and was not a member of any religious community or organization.

In continuation of the discussion of the issue of ancestors sins, it is also possible to notice in daily life that children commonly must pay for the mistakes of their parents and even grandparents. For example, when the older family members die or become incapacitated, in the vast majority of cases, children have to pay off their debts. Undoubtedly, in The House of the Seven Gables, this problem is closely linked with curses and magic. Nevertheless, in general, even in a world where no one believes in witches, this problem remains topical.

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To conclude, the critical goal of the given essay was to discuss the role of the theme of children’s responsibility for the mistakes made by their progenitors in Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables. The Bible is a primary source of this idea. The analysis of the secondary sources revealed that the key message of the romance is that care and true love are the factors that help to alleviate the burden of ancestors faults. Without a doubt, The House of the Seven Gables has many other themes, such as the deceptiveness of appearance, lust for wealth, and the significance of class status in the world of the writer’s times. However, the topic of responsibility for vice remains the most pressing one. The author of the present paper believes that the key message of romance lies in the fact that people should learn from the preceding generation’s mistakes and live a decent and honest life.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The House of the Seven Gables. The Pennsylvania State University, 2004.

Kumari, Kajal. “Exploration of Supernatural Elements in “The House of Seven Gables”.” Research Journal of English Language and Literature, vol. 8, no. 3, 2020, pp. 248-252.

Sweeney, Erin. “Boardinghouse Fiction and the American Family in the Boarding-House of the Seven Gables.” The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, vol. 4, no. 2, 2016, pp. 331-357.

The Bible. The New Oxford Annotated Version, 4th ed. Oxford University Press, 2010.

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