The House of the Seven Gables

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The House of the Seven Gables: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The morning is pleasant, as if nature is making up for the preceding days of storm. In the sunlight, even the House of the Seven Gables looks surprisingly welcoming. A careful observer might even spot crimson flowers blooming in the crevice between two of the front gables. These are called Alice’s Posies, having grown from seeds Alice had brought from Italy and tossed skyward. Their blooming suggests “that something within the house was consummated.”
The sunshine and blooming flowers suggest that the curse has come to an end, as if something sinister has been purged from the house forever.
Themes
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
A little after sunrise, Uncle Venner makes his way down the street, collecting scraps for his pet pig. He is surprised not to find the expected pan of scraps waiting for him on the Seven Gables’ back doorstep—Hepzibah isn’t usually so forgetful. Holgrave leans out of his gable and greets Uncle Venner. Uncle Venner tells Holgrave that the back of the house has a lonely look, in contrast to Alice’s Posies in the front. Holgrave mentions that last night’s stormy winds might have convinced him that all the Pyncheon ghosts were congregating in the house, but of course he doesn’t believe in ghosts. Uncle Venner mentions having seen Judge Pyncheon enter the house yesterday, and he encourages Holgrave to pick one of Alice’s Posies for Phoebe.
Life carries on as normal outside the house, as Uncle Venner and Holgrave chat amicably—though Hepzibah’s absence is quite unusual. Both of them are oblivious to any sinister happenings within the house, or at least attribute such signs to rational explanations.
Themes
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
For the next little while, not much happens at the House, except that an indignant neighborhood lady demands entrance to the shop. Another neighbor tells her that she thinks the Pyncheons traveled to the Judge’s estate in the country yesterday; she saw them leaving. A bit later, Ned Higgins stops by on his way to school and cries when no one is there to sell him his desired gingerbread cookie. Dixey and his companion pass by and gossip about the Pyncheons’ whereabouts. Various other merchants and customers stop by the shop and are disappointed.
The shop closure begins to spark discontentment and speculation within the neighborhood, building suspense for the other characters as well as for the reader. Curiously, it seems that people are more concerned with the shop’s closure than with the Pyncheons’ wellbeing.
Themes
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
The Italian boy with his monkey and barrel organ stop by with a mob of children in tow, accustomed to drawing Phoebe’s kind face to the window. In an “intermingling of tragedy with mirth,” the Italian boy plays through his cycle of songs, not knowing that his only audience is the dead Judge. The narrator remarks that this is “the emblem of many a human heart.”
The mix of morbidity and humor is characteristic of Hawthorne’s approach to Gothic imagery. The dead Judge, in the narrator’s view, symbolizes a deadened heart that’s unresponsive to the joy of the outside world.
Themes
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
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As the crowd of children finally disperses, scared of what might lurk in the House, Dixey and his companion happen by once again and discover that Judge Pyncheon’s card, with yesterday’s schedule written on it, had been dropped on the doorstep. Suspecting wrongdoing, they take the card to the city authorities. Not long after, a cab pulls up, and Phoebe steps out. Unsuspecting, she tries various doors, with no success. Ned Higgins shouts a warning from down the street, but he won’t come close enough to explain himself.
As the House’s ominous silence persists, an increasingly dark mood builds. As Dixey and his friend find suspicious evidence outside, there’s also a growing sense that something terrible could come of all this. It’s telling that Phoebe, the novel’s symbol of innocence, is the one who steps into this scene of looming horror, as it suggests that such seemingly disparate things tend to exist right alongside each other.
Themes
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
Phoebe lets herself into the garden, where she finds only the chickens and a strange cat. Apprehensively, she knocks on the door that opens into the garden. Immediately, it opens inward. Phoebe steps across the threshold.
The cat, the mysteriously opened door, and Phoebe’s entrance into a death-haunted house create an expectation of horrors to come.
Themes
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon