The House of the Seven Gables

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The House of the Seven Gables: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Holgrave finishes reading the story, he discovers that, in response to his gesticulations, Phoebe has fallen into a drowsy state. He realizes that if he chose, he could attain mastery over Phoebe’s spirit much as Maule the carpenter did over Alice’s. But he forbids himself this temptation, waking her with a slight gesture and joking about the dullness of his tale. Phoebe denies having been asleep and can’t remember the particulars of the story.
Holgrave shows that he’s different from Matthew Maule—when he realizes he could control Phoebe, he chooses instead to avoid the temptation by waking her up. Holgrave has a mysteriously strong power of mesmerism, but the narrator suggests that the power itself isn’t evil—rather, people’s choices about how they use that power might be.
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By this time, evening is falling, giving both the House and garden a romantic aspect that touches even Holgrave’s heart, renewing his feeling of youth. He says he has seldom felt happier than he does right now. Phoebe admits that she is no longer as merry as she used to be. Since she came to live with Clifford and Hepzibah, her spirits are no longer light, and she feels she has aged.
The House of the Seven Gables has a dark pull on those who live there. It’s fed Holgrave’s obsessions with his theories, as his short story about Alice Pyncheon showed; it also has a dampening effect even on Phoebe’s youthful spirits.
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Related Quotes
Holgrave argues that Phoebe has not lost anything that was worth keeping. He says that one’s first youth is of limited value. However, a “second youth” sometimes comes in response to some deeper joy, like falling in love, and this youth is much profounder. Phoebe doesn’t understand.
Holgrave suggests that youth is often deceptively shallow. In response to life experiences, it develops into something deeper and stronger. In other words, aging and other forms of change aren’t linear, straightforward processes.
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Phoebe explains that he is returning to the country for a few days in order to settle some arrangements and say a proper good-bye to her friends. She considers the House of the Seven Gables to be her real home, and she enjoys being useful here. Holgrave agrees that Phoebe is the source of all health and comfort within the house; when she leaves, it will vanish.
Holgrave predicts that because Phoebe is the invigorating force within the house, it will once again be subject to darkness and decay after she leaves.
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Hepzibah and Clifford, Holgrave says, only appear to be alive. However, his interest in them is more analytical than compassionate: he also perceives that their family drama is drawing to an end. Phoebe is distressed by this—it seems to her that for Holgrave, her relatives’ sufferings are like a play performed for his amusement. Holgrave feels the truth of her words. He also tells Phoebe that he has an inherited mystic tendency, but he doesn’t actually know what will befall her family. He does, however, have a morbid suspicion of Judge Pyncheon. He hears Maule’s well murmuring strangely.
Holgrave has the attitude of a journalistic observer toward Phoebe’s family, which contrasts with her heartfelt concern. His detachment offends her, and he himself also feels that his approach isn’t quite as it should be. He also hints again at his inherited “mysticism” and seems to have a connection to the murmurings of the place itself despite not being part of the Pyncheon family.
Themes
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Two days later, Phoebe tearfully says goodbye to Hepzibah and Clifford. Within just a few weeks, the House of the Seven Gables has become dearest of all places to her, and Hepzibah and Clifford, in their strange ways, have won her love. Sadly, Hepzibah observes that Phoebe’s smile is now sometimes forced. Clifford looks into Phoebe’s eyes and says that she has passed from girlhood into womanhood. Phoebe also bids goodbye to Ned Higgins, who stops by for gingerbread, and Uncle Venner, who calls her an “angel” whom the old Pyncheons cannot live without.
Phoebe’s genuine love for the House of the Seven Gables and its people shows how strong and pure her innocence is—it withstands and changes the decaying effects of the House. However, the House has also taken a toll on her within just a few weeks.
Themes
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Time, Change, and Progress Theme Icon