The House of the Seven Gables

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864)

"The wrongdoing of one generation lives into the successive ones and... becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief." Hawthorne's moral for "The House of the Seven Gables," taken from the Preface, accurately presages his story. The full weight of the gloomy mansion of the title seems to sit on the fortunes of the Pyncheon family. An ancestor took advantage of the Salem witch trials to wrest away the land whereon the house would be raised... but the land's owner, about to be executed as a wizard, cursed the Pyncheon family until such time as they should make restitution.

Now, almost two centuries later, the family is in real distress. Hepzibah, an old maid and resident of the house, is forced by advanced poverty to open a shop in a part of the house. Her brother Clifford has just been released from prison after serving a thirty-year sentence for murder, and his mind struggles to maintain any kind of hold on reality. Cousin Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon is making himself odious by threatening to have Clifford committed to an institution. And after all these years, the deed to a vast tract of land, that would settle great wealth on the family, is still missing.

One bright ray of sunshine enters the house when cousin Phoebe arrives for an extended stay to allow unhappy matters in her end of the family to sort themselves out. While she lightens the lives of Hepzibah and Clifford, she also attracts the attention of a mysterious lodger named Holgrave, who has placed himself near the Pyncheon family for reasons that only come clear at the end of the story.

The real crisis arrives when the Judge, who strongly resembles the Colonel Pyncheon who built the house so many years ago, steps up his demands on Hepzibah and Clifford and unwittingly triggers the curse. (Summary by Mark F. Smith)

Genre(s): General Fiction

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 00 00 - Introductory Note & Preface Mark F. Smith
Play 01 01 - The Old Pyncheon Family Mark F. Smith
Play 02 02 - The Little Shop Window Mark F. Smith
Play 03 03 - The First Customer Mark F. Smith
Play 04 04 - A Day Behind the Counter Mark F. Smith
Play 05 05 - May and November Mark F. Smith
Play 06 06 - Maule’s Well Mark F. Smith
Play 07 07 - The Guest Mark F. Smith
Play 08 08 - The Pyncheon of Today Mark F. Smith
Play 09 09 - Clifford & Phoebe Mark F. Smith
Play 10 10 - The Pyncheon Garden Mark F. Smith
Play 11 11 - The Arched Window Mark F. Smith
Play 12 12 - The Daguerrotypist Mark F. Smith
Play 13 13 - Alice Pyncheon Mark F. Smith
Play 14 14 - Phoebe’s Good-bye Mark F. Smith
Play 15 15 - The Scowl and Smile Mark F. Smith
Play 16 16 - Clifford’s Chamber Mark F. Smith
Play 17 17 - The Flight of Two Owls Mark F. Smith
Play 18 18 - Governor Pyncheon Mark F. Smith
Play 19 19 - Alice’s Posies Mark F. Smith
Play 20 20 - The Flower of Eden Mark F. Smith
Play 21 21 - The Departure Mark F. Smith