The House of the Seven Gables

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Hepzibah Pyncheon Character Analysis

Hepzibah is the member of the Pyncheon family who currently resides in the House of the Seven Gables, having lived as a near-recluse there for the past quarter-century. Hepzibah grew up thinking of herself as a member of the aristocracy even as the family’s fortunes declined. Now an elderly and impoverished woman, she is badly nearsighted and dresses in rustling black silks and a turban. Though her poor vision gives her a perpetually scowling expression, giving her a reputation in her community for being ill-tempered, Hepzibah is actually emotionally sensitive and tender-hearted toward others. She especially devotes her life to caring for her beloved brother, Clifford, after his release from prison. To this end, she opens a cent shop in one of the House’s gables, even though she sees this as a great shame and degradation after her genteel upbringing. Hepzibah lets her cousin Phoebe stay with her and soon comes to appreciate the girl’s youthful presence and superior domestic and business abilities. Because Hepzibah’s aged appearance disturbs Clifford, she also enlists Phoebe in helping to care for him. A perceptive soul, Hepzibah loathes and mistrusts her cousin Judge Pyncheon as few others do; she refuses his monetary assistance and tries to stand up to him when he threatens Clifford. After the Judge’s death, Hepzibah briefly flees with Clifford into the countryside. Later, she, Clifford, and Phoebe inherit the Judge’s properties, moving out of the House of the Seven Gables and into his country estate.

Hepzibah Pyncheon Quotes in The House of the Seven Gables

The The House of the Seven Gables quotes below are all either spoken by Hepzibah Pyncheon or refer to Hepzibah Pyncheon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of The House of the Seven Gables published in 1999.
Chapter 1 Quotes

This impalpable claim, therefore, resulted in nothing more solid than to cherish, from generation to generation, an absurd delusion of family importance, which all along characterized the Pyncheons. It caused the poorest member of the race to feel as if he inherited a kind of nobility, and might yet come into the possession of princely wealth to support it. […] In the baser sort, its effect was to increase the liability to sluggishness and dependence, and induce the victim of a shadowy hope to remit all self-effort, while awaiting the realization of his dreams.

Related Characters: Hepzibah Pyncheon
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Here is one of the truest points of melancholy interest that occur in ordinary life. It was the final throe of what called itself old gentility. A lady—who had fed herself from childhood with the shadowy food of aristocratic reminiscences, and whose religion it was that a lady's hand soils itself irremediably by doing aught for bread—this born lady, after sixty years of narrowing means, is fain to step down from her pedestal of imaginary rank. Poverty, treading closely at her heels for a lifetime, had come up with her at last. She must earn her own food, or starve! And we have stolen upon Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon, too irreverently, at the instant of time when the patrician lady is to be transformed into the plebeian woman.

Related Characters: Hepzibah Pyncheon, Clifford Pyncheon
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Little Phoebe was one of those persons who possess, as their exclusive patrimony, the gift of practical arrangement. It is a kind of natural magic that enables these favored ones to bring out the hidden capabilities of things around them; and particularly to give a look of comfort and habitableness to any place which, for however brief a period, may happen to be their home.

Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Instead of discussing her claim to rank among ladies, it would be preferable to regard Phoebe as the example of feminine grace and availability combined, in a state of society, if there were any such, where ladies did not exist. There it should be woman's office to move in the midst of practical affairs, and to gild them all, the very homeliest—were it even the scouring of pots and kettles—with an atmosphere of loveliness and joy. Such was the sphere of Phoebe.

To find the born and educated lady, on the other hand, we need look no farther than Hepzibah, our forlorn old maid, in her rustling and rusty silks, with her deeply cherished and ridiculous consciousness of long descent, her shadowy claims to princely territory, and, in the way of accomplishment, her recollections, it may be, of having formerly thrummed on a harpsichord, and walked a minuet, and worked an antique tapestry stitch on her sampler.

Related Characters: Phoebe Pyncheon, Hepzibah Pyncheon
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

By the involuntarily effect of a genial temperament, Phoebe soon grew to be absolutely essential to the daily comfort, if not the daily life, of her two forlorn companions. The grime and sordidness of the House of the Seven Gables seemed to have vanished since her appearance there; the gnawing tooth of the dry rot was stayed among the old timbers of its skeleton frame; the dust had ceased to settle down so densely, from the antique ceilings, upon the floors and furniture of the rooms below—or, at any rate, there was a little housewife, as light-footed as the breeze that sweeps a garden walk, gliding hither and thither to brush it all away.

Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Now, Phoebe's presence made a home about her—that very sphere which the outcast, the prisoner […] instinctively pines after—a home! She was real! Holding her hand, you felt something; a tender something; a substance, and a warm one—and so long as you should feel its grasp, soft as it was, you might be certain that your place was good in the whole sympathetic chain of human nature. The world was no longer a delusion.

Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

Clifford would, doubtless, have been glad to share their sports. One afternoon, he was seized with an irresistible desire to blow soap bubbles; an amusement, as Hepzibah told Phoebe apart, that had been a favorite one with her brother when they were both children. Behold him, therefore, at the arched window, with an earthen pipe in his mouth! Behold him, with his gray hair, and a wan, unreal smile over his countenance, […] Behold him, scattering airy spheres abroad, from the window into the street! Little impalpable worlds were those soap bubbles, with the big world depicted, in hues bright as imagination, on the nothing of their surface.

Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

"I shall never be so merry as before I knew Cousin Hepzibah and poor Cousin Clifford. I have grown a great deal older, in this little time. Older, and, I hope, wiser, and—not exactly sadder, but, certainly, with not half so much lightness in my spirits! I have given them my sunshine, and have been glad to give it; but, of course, I cannot both give and keep it. They are welcome, notwithstanding!"

Related Characters: Phoebe Pyncheon (speaker), Holgrave, Hepzibah Pyncheon, Clifford Pyncheon
Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

The Judge, beyond all question, was a man of eminent respectability. The church acknowledged it; the state acknowledged it. It was denied by nobody. […] Nor […] did Judge Pyncheon himself, probably, entertain many or very frequent doubts that his enviable reputation accorded with his deserts. His conscience, therefore […] bore an accordant testimony with the world's laudatory voice.

Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

At last, therefore, and after so long estrangement from everything that the world acted or enjoyed, they had been drawn into the great current of human life, and were swept away with it, as by the suction of fate itself.

Still haunted with the idea that not one of the past incidents, inclusive of Judge Pyncheon’s visit, could be real, the recluse of the Seven Gables murmured in her brother's ear: "Clifford! Clifford! Is not this a dream?"

"A dream, Hepzibah!" repeated he, almost laughing in her face. "On the contrary, I have never been awake before!"

Related Characters: Hepzibah Pyncheon (speaker), Clifford Pyncheon (speaker), Judge Pyncheon (Cousin Jaffrey)
Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:
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The House of the Seven Gables PDF

Hepzibah Pyncheon Character Timeline in The House of the Seven Gables

The timeline below shows where the character Hepzibah Pyncheon appears in The House of the Seven Gables. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: The Little Shopwindow
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Hepzibah Pyncheon wakes before sunrise. She is alone in the House of the Seven Gables, except... (full context)
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Before leaving her chamber, Hepzibah unlocks a drawer in her desk and withdraws a small miniature portrait. It’s a likeness... (full context)
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At last, dressed in rustling black silks and a turban, Hepzibah leaves her chamber and feels her way nearsightedly toward the stairs. She enters a dark-paneled... (full context)
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...beans, and peas. There’s even a variety of candy and gingerbread cookies. Sighing but purposeful, Hepzibah enters the shop and begins rearranging some of the toys and treats, looking ludicrous as... (full context)
Chapter 3: The First Customer
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In her grief, Hepzibah is startled by the tinkling of the shop bell: her first customer has arrived. When... (full context)
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...purposeful. After all, nowadays, gentility is associated more with restriction than with privilege; he thinks Hepzibah is acting heroically by giving it up. Hepzibah says she will never understand these “new... (full context)
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Hepzibah feels ashamed when strangers peek at the goods displayed in her shop window. She also... (full context)
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By this time, Hepzibah is finally calm. Invigorated by novelty and effort, she even permits herself an extra spoonful... (full context)
Chapter 4: A Day Behind the Counter
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...with a gold-headed cane passes by on the opposite side of the street and studies Hepzibah’s shop window through a pair of spectacles. He almost enters the shop, but Ned Higgins... (full context)
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Inside, Hepzibah paces, coming to a stop before Colonel Pyncheon’s portrait. She trembles, imagining that the Colonel’s... (full context)
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Then the shop bell summons Hepzibah again, and she finds a wrinkled, nearly toothless man in a patched-together outfit, a longtime... (full context)
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Uncle Venner speaks kindly to Hepzibah about her new venture, saying that it’s good for young people not to remain idle.... (full context)
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Hepzibah daydreams through the rest of the day, making many blunders and selling her entire stock... (full context)
Chapter 5: May and November
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On Phoebe’s way back downstairs, Hepzibah calls her into her chamber and tells Phoebe that she doesn’t see how Phoebe can... (full context)
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Phoebe cheerfully makes breakfast, breaking into song now and then. Hepzibah gets out an old family tea-set which has seldom been used. Admiring the careful way... (full context)
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Hepzibah watches with genuine admiration as Phoebe successfully barters with an old lady in the shop,... (full context)
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Later that day, Hepzibah gives Phoebe a tour of the House of the Seven Gables, showing her Colonel Pyncheon’s... (full context)
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Hepzibah also speaks of Holgrave and his strange, long-bearded friends, who include reformers, temperance lecturers, and... (full context)
Chapter 6: Maule’s Well
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Inside, Phoebe finds Hepzibah sitting in the darkened parlor. As Phoebe lights a lamp for her, she thinks she... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Guest
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The next morning, Phoebe finds Hepzibah already in the kitchen. Hepzibah is staring at a cookbook, trying to find an idea... (full context)
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Hepzibah, trembling and tearful, tells a puzzled Phoebe that her heart is overflowing. She murmurs about... (full context)
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Hepzibah introduces Phoebe and helps the man into a chair. He struggles to take in his... (full context)
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As Hepzibah pours Clifford coffee, Clifford seems bewildered by Hepzibah’s frowning expression. Hepzibah assures Clifford that she... (full context)
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Clifford is rattled anew when the shop bell rings. Hepzibah explains that they are now poor and that she’s found it necessary to open a... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Pyncheon of Today
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Phoebe finds Ned Higgins in the shop. Ned tells Phoebe that Clifford is Hepzibah’s brother but doesn’t explain where Clifford has been. As Ned leaves, a portly, well-dressed, cheerful-looking... (full context)
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...sets her aside, reminding her that she is the stranger here. He smiles warmly at Hepzibah, who, hearing him approach, blocks the doorway. He tells Hepzibah that he has come to... (full context)
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After the Judge leaves, Hepzibah rests her head on Phoebe’s shoulder, calling the Judge “the horror of [her] life.” She... (full context)
Chapter 9: Clifford and Phoebe
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For years, Hepzibah has looked forward to her present situation—of being able to care for her beloved brother... (full context)
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Hepzibah turns to Phoebe, who quickly establishes herself as indispensable to both Clifford and Hepzibah. The... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Pyncheon Garden
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Arched Window
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...that he puts his foot on the windowsill, as if to step outside. Phoebe and Hepzibah, terrified, hold him back. Even Clifford is unsure whether he was moved by some strange... (full context)
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...of Phoebe walking off to church with a wave and a warm smile. He tells Hepzibah that if he were to go to church, he feels as if he could pray... (full context)
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Hepzibah and Clifford dress in their faded, moldy churchgoing clothes and head out the door. As... (full context)
Chapter 14: Phoebe’s Good-by
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...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. (full context)
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Hepzibah and Clifford, Holgrave says, only appear to be alive. However, his interest in them is... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Scowl and Smile
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...and Clifford is joyless. Meanwhile, business in the shop declines, since customers have heard that Hepzibah is minding the store. Hepzibah’s best efforts to enliven the House fall short. By the... (full context)
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Later that morning, however, Hepzibah hears brief music coming from Alice Pyncheon’s harpsichord—Clifford had practiced the instrument in his youth.... (full context)
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...Pyncheon asks after Clifford while smiling brightly. He suggests that company would do Clifford good. Hepzibah defers him, explaining that Clifford is in bed and that the Judge’s presence can only... (full context)
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...In fact, even the Judge himself does not doubt that his reputation is just. Yet Hepzibah’s lone dislike should not be too quickly dismissed—evil might lurk too deeply in the Judge’s... (full context)
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Hepzibah, meanwhile, is shocked at having said what she has been thinking for 30 years. Hearing... (full context)
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Hepzibah mocks such an idea, but the Judge insists that before Jaffrey’s death, Clifford taunted him... (full context)
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Hepzibah tries to reason with Judge Pyncheon. He is old and already possesses great wealth—what more... (full context)
Chapter 16: Clifford’s Chamber
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With trepidation, Hepzibah makes her way toward Clifford’s chamber, the House feeling ghostlier than ever. The stories of... (full context)
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Hepzibah believes that the coming encounter between the Judge and Clifford will lead to the latter’s... (full context)
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Hepzibah thinks how strange it is to feel so helpless with a bustling world around her.... (full context)
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Hepzibah decides to seek out Holgrave for help, but he is in his public studio, not... (full context)
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At last, Hepzibah creeps to Clifford’s chamber door and knocks. There is no reply. She knocks several more... (full context)
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Hepzibah is terrified. She pictures Clifford wandering the streets of town, subject to ridicule—or worse, wandering... (full context)
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...is deadly pale and wears a wild, scornful expression. He is pointing at something, and Hepzibah fears he has already gone mad. She urges him to be still. Clifford begins to... (full context)
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Clifford tells Hepzibah that they must leave. Hepzibah sees that Clifford is wearing a cloak. Hepzibah is so... (full context)
Chapter 17: The Flight of Two Owls
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Shivering and feeling adrift, Hepzibah follows Clifford toward the center of town. Clifford, she sees, is excited, almost drunkenly so,... (full context)
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...gray building. A train is puffing on the track, almost ready for departure. Clifford guides Hepzibah into one of the cars, and moments later, the train pulls away, drawing the two... (full context)
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...at brief stops. Some sleep. The atmosphere is, in short, “life itself.” Clifford sees that Hepzibah is feeling bemused by her surroundings and urges her to set aside the past and... (full context)
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Hepzibah, for her part, cannot focus on her changing surroundings. In her mind, the House of... (full context)
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...[him] strangely,” for he now feels youthful, as if his best days lie ahead. Ignoring Hepzibah’s attempts to hush him, he continues chatting to the old man about a future in... (full context)
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...murder? At this point, the old man is eyeing Clifford with great suspicion. Clifford tells Hepzibah they have gone far enough and should exit at the next station. (full context)
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The train stops at a remote station, and Hepzibah and Clifford get off. They take in their surroundings: a decaying church, an abandoned farmhouse,... (full context)
Chapter 18: Governor Pyncheon
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...the Seven Gables would pass down not to the Judge’s descendants, but to Clifford and Hepzibah and Phoebe. (full context)
Chapter 19: Alice’s Posies
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 20: The Flower of Eden
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...she has arrived at a strange time. He does not know what has become of Hepzibah and Clifford. (full context)
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Soon, however, they hear someone at the door, and weary footsteps enter. Clifford and Hepzibah are home. Hepzibah bursts into tears of relief when Phoebe runs to embrace her. Clifford... (full context)
Chapter 21: The Departure
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...them. That means that the entire property passes into the hands of Clifford, Phoebe, and Hepzibah. Though Clifford could be vindicated at this point, it is no longer worth the trouble... (full context)
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After the Judge’s death, however, Clifford is able to be happy. He, Hepzibah, and Phoebe decide to move out of the House of the Seven Gables and establish... (full context)
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...does. Then a carriage draws up to convey them all to the country. Clifford and Hepzibah say an unemotional farewell to the House of the Seven Gables. When Ned Higgins runs... (full context)