The House of the Seven Gables

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The House of the Seven Gables: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Clifford tends to spend all day drowsing in his chair, but Phoebe often coaxes him into the garden, where Uncle Venner and Holgrave have made repairs to the arbor, providing a shady place to sit. Phoebe reads to Clifford and talks to him about the garden blooms. Clifford grows childlike at the sight of hummingbirds that flock to the garden’s blossoms. Hepzibah recalls that Clifford delighted in hummingbirds even as a baby. This remembrance always moves her to tears, comparing his present childlike happiness to his stolen past and uncertain future. They also enjoy watching the chickens—who, on Clifford’s request, have been set free from their coop—and admiring the shifting sunlight reflecting in Maule’s Well. However, sometimes Clifford becomes frightened, believing that he sees a “dark face” in the well.
Being outside the confines of the House itself, among living things, does its inhabitants good. Like Phoebe, flowers and hummingbirds possess a simplicity that delights Clifford and restores a sense of youth. However, there’s a grief attached to this, since Clifford can never actually regain the years he lost in prison; he can be so fully healed. Clifford is more sensitive than most people to the House’s haunted secrets as well.
Themes
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Progress Theme Icon
Related Quotes
After Phoebe goes to church on Sundays, she, Clifford, Hepzibah, Holgrave, and Uncle Venner gather in the Pyncheon garden. Clifford especially enjoys Uncle Venner’s company because the latter, besides being cheerful, helps him feel comparatively youthful for a brief time. They all enjoy fresh garden-picked currants and conversation. Clifford grows especially animated and fanciful during these gatherings. As evening draws near, however, his mood generally darkens as he murmurs, “I want my happiness!”
Phoebe and the family friends create a kind of miniature society for Clifford which helps cheer him and further ground him in reality. However, despite a measure of genuine happiness, he inevitably pines for what he has lost.
Themes
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Progress Theme Icon