Symbolism in The House of Seven Gables
Literature reflects life, and the struggles that each
of us must face. Great authors incorporate life's
problems into their literature directly and indirectly. The author
bluntly tell us a story, however, he or she may also use symbols
to relay to us a message in a more subtle manner. In Nathaniel
Hawthorne's book The House of Seven Gables symbolism is used
to enhance the story being told, by giving us a deeper insight into the
author's intentions in writing the story.
The book begins by describing the most obvious symbol of the house
itself. The house itself takes on human like ...view middle of the document...
This turns the house into an
interesting, but still depressing place that darkens the book in many
ways. Hawthorne means for the house's gloomy atmosphere to symbolize
many things in his book.
The house also is used to symbolize a prison that has darkened the
lives of its inmates forever. The house is a prison because it prevents
its inhabitants form truly enjoying any freedom. The inhabitants try to
escape from their incarceration twice. Initially, as Phoebe and
Clifford watch the parade of life in the street, Clifford "realizes his
state of isolation from the 'one broad mass of existence-one great life,
- one collected body of mankind,' and he cannot resist the actual
physical attempt to plunge down into the 'surging stream of human
sympathy'" (Rountree 101). Dillingham believes that "Hawthorne clearly
describes Clifford's great need to become reunited with the world and
hints that this reunion can be accomplished only by death" (Rountree
101). However, Clifford inevitably fails to win his freedom, and he
returns to the solace of his prison house. Clifford and Hepzibah
attempt once more to escape their captive prison, but the house has
jaded them too much already (Rountree 102). This is apparent when
Hepzibah and her brother made themselves ready- as ready as they could,
in the best of their old-fashion garments, which had hung on pegs, or
been laid away in trunks, so long that the dampness and mouldy smell of
the past was on them - made themselves ready, in their faded bettermost,
to go to church. They descended the staircase together, ... pulled open
the front door, and stept across the threshold, and felt, both of them,
as if they were standing in the presence of the whole world... Their
hearts quaked within them, at the idea of taking one step further.
Hepzibah and Clifford are completely cut off from the outside world.
They are like prisoners who after being jailed for decades return to
find a world they do not know.(Rountree 101). Clifford is deeply
saddened when he says, " 'We are ghosts! We have no right among human
beings - no right anywhere, but in this old house"(Hawthorne 169). The
house has imprisoned their souls and trapped their lives. Hence, the
house symbolizes a prison for its inhabitants.
The house also symbolizes the history of the of Pyncheon family dating
back to the original Colonel Pyncheon who had been cursed by Matthew
Maule for the evil way in which the Colonel obtained the land for the
house. The house has collected memories upon memories of the people who
have lived there, beginning with its original owners the Colonel and
Alice Pyncheon. This point of symbolism is argued by E. P. Whipple who
thinks that the house's elaborate interior symbolizes the history of the
Pyncheon Family. It has mostly the...