The House of the Seven Gables

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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House Symbol Icon

The titular House of the Seven Gables symbolizes the rise and fall of the Pyncheon family. Built on land wrested from a poor cottager, who then curses Colonel Pyncheon, the House stands for the greed for greater wealth that characterizes generations of Pyncheons and contributes to much strife, struggle, and death within the family. More broadly, houses in general (especially in the opinions of characters like Holgrave and eventually Clifford) stand for the selfish desire to establish dynasties, which can do harm to the founders’ posterity and to society in general.

House Quotes in The House of the Seven Gables

The The House of the Seven Gables quotes below all refer to the symbol of House. 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

At the moment of execution—with the halter about his neck, and while Colonel Pyncheon sat on horseback, grimly gazing at the scene—Maule had addressed him from the scaffold, and uttered a prophecy, of which history, as well as fireside tradition, has preserved the very words. "God," said the dying man, pointing his finger, with a ghastly look, at the undismayed countenance of his enemy, "God will give him blood to drink!"

Related Characters: Matthew Maule (speaker), Colonel Pyncheon
Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

To all appearance, they were a quiet, honest, well-meaning race of people, cherishing no malice against individuals or the public for the wrong which had been done them; or if, at their own fireside, they transmitted, from father to child, any hostile recollection of the wizard’s fate and their lost patrimony, it was never acted upon, nor openly expressed. Nor would it have been singular had they ceased to remember that the House of the Seven Gables was resting its heavy framework on a foundation that was rightfully their own. There is something so massive, stable, and almost irresistibly imposing in the exterior presentment of established rank and great possessions that their very existence seems to give them a right to exist; at least, so excellent a counterfeit of right, that few poor and humble men have moral force enough to question it, even in their secret minds.

Related Characters: Matthew Maule
Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 15
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:
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 12 Quotes

[Holgrave] could talk sagely about the world's old age, but never actually believed what he said; he was a young man still, and therefore looked upon the world—that gray-bearded and wrinkled profligate, decrepit without being venerable—as a tender stripling, capable of being improved into all that it ought to be, but scarcely yet had shown the remotest promise of becoming. […] It seemed to Holgrave—as doubtless it has seemed to the hopeful of every century since the epoch of Adam's grandchildren—that in this age, more than ever before, the moss-grown and rotten Past is to be torn down, and lifeless institutions to be thrust out of the way, and their dead corpses buried, and everything to begin anew.

Related Characters: Holgrave
Related Symbols: Portrait and Daguerreotype, House
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

[U]nder those seven gables, at which we now look up—and which old Colonel Pyncheon meant to be the house of his descendants, in prosperity and happiness, down to an epoch far beyond the present—under that roof, through a portion of three centuries, there has been perpetual remorse of conscience, a constantly defeated hope, strife amongst kindred, various misery, a strange form of death, dark suspicion, unspeakable disgrace—all or most of which calamity I have the means of tracing to the old Puritan's inordinate desire to plant and endow a family. To plant a family! This idea is at the bottom of most of the wrong and mischief which men do. The truth is, that, once in every half century, at longest, a family should be merged into the great, obscure mass of humanity, and forget all about its ancestors.

Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

[The legend] here gives an account of some very strange behavior on the part of Colonel Pyncheon's portrait. This picture, it must be understood, was supposed to be so intimately connected with the fate of the house, and so magically built into its walls, that, if once it should be removed, that very instant the whole edifice would come thundering down in a heap of dusty ruin. All through the foregoing conversation between Mr. Pyncheon and the carpenter, the portrait had been frowning, clenching its fist, and giving many such proofs of excessive discomposure, but without attracting the notice of either of the two colloquists. And finally, at Matthew Maule's audacious suggestion of a transfer of the seven-gabled structure, the ghostly portrait is averred to have lost all patience, and to have shown itself on the point of descending bodily from its frame. But such incredible incidents are merely to be mentioned aside.

Related Symbols: House, Portrait and Daguerreotype
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

But, alas for the beautiful, the gentle, yet too haughty Alice! A power that she little dreamed of had laid its grasp upon her maiden soul. A will, most unlike her own, constrained her do its grotesque and fantastic bidding. Her father, as it proved, had martyred his poor child to an inordinate desire for measuring his land by miles instead of acres. And, therefore, while Alice Pyncheon lived, she was Maule's slave, in a bondage more humiliating, a thousandfold, than that which binds its chain around the body. Seated by his humble fireside, Maule had but to wave his hand; and, wherever the proud lady chanced to be—whether in her chamber, or entertaining her father’s stately guests, or worshipping at church—whatever her place of occupation, her spirit passed from beneath her own control, and bowed itself to Maule.

Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 145
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 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:

You are aware, my dear sir […] that all human progress is in a circle; or, to use a more accurate and beautiful figure, in an ascending spiral curve. While we fancy ourselves going straight forward, and attaining, at every step, an entirely new position of affairs, we do actually return to something long ago hied and abandoned, but which we now find etherealized, refined, and perfected to its ideal. […] [Railroads] give us wings; they annihilate the toil and dust of pilgrimage; they spiritualize travel! […] Why, therefore, should [man] build a more cumbrous habitation than can readily be carried off with him?

Related Characters: Clifford Pyncheon (speaker)
Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

And it was in this hour, so full of doubt and awe, that the one miracle was wrought without which every human existence is a blank. The bliss which makes all things true, beautiful, and holy shone around this youth and maiden. They were conscious of nothing sad nor old. They transfigured the earth, and made it Eden again, and themselves the two first dwellers in it. The dead man, so close beside them, was forgotten. At such a crisis, there is no death; for immortality is revealed anew, and embraces everything in its hallowed atmosphere.

Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

“My dearest Phoebe,” said Holgrave, "how will it please you to assume the name of Maule? As for the secret, it is the only inheritance that has come down to me from my ancestors. You should have known sooner (only that I was afraid of frightening you away) that, in this long drama of wrong and retribution, I represent the old wizard, and am probably as much a wizard as ever he was. The son of the executed Matthew Maule, while building this house, took the opportunity to construct that recess, and hide away the Indian deed, on which depended the immense land claim of the Pyncheons. Thus they bartered their Eastern territory for Maule's garden ground.

Related Characters: Holgrave (speaker), Phoebe Pyncheon, Matthew Maule, Thomas Maule
Related Symbols: House, Portrait and Daguerreotype
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:
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House Symbol Timeline in The House of the Seven Gables

The timeline below shows where the symbol House appears in The House of the Seven Gables. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Old Pyncheon Family
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Time, Change, and Progress Theme Icon
In a New England town stands a wooden house with seven peaked gables and a clustered chimney. It is the Pyncheon house, which stands... (full context)
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Wealth, Power, and Status Theme Icon
The House of the Seven Gables wasn’t the first dwelling to be built on this ground. Originally,... (full context)
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After the House of the Seven Gables is built, a festival and dedication is held. The Rev. Mr.... (full context)
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...it does appear that the Pyncheon family is destined for prosperity. In addition to the House of the Seven Gables, the Pyncheons possess a grant for a large tract in the... (full context)
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Subsequent generations of Pyncheons continue to cling to the House of the Seven Gables, but some seem doubtful about their rights to the property. Legally,... (full context)
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After his death, the uncle’s property, including the House of the Seven Gables, passes into the hands of his nephew, Judge Pyncheon, a cousin... (full context)
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...the imprisoned cousin, there is also the cousin’s sister who lives in seclusion in the House of the Seven Gables, Uncle Jaffrey having granted her a life estate. She is very... (full context)
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Surrounding the House of the Seven Gables, a modest neighborhood has grown up. The house itself continues to... (full context)
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 for a young man, a daguerreotypist, who has been lodging... (full context)
Chapter 5: May and November
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...Phoebe can stay with her for any length of time. She explains that neither the house nor her own temperament are suitable for a young girl, and she can’t even be... (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 portrait and the map of the fabled... (full context)
Chapter 9: Clifford and Phoebe
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...simply perceives that Clifford needs care and affection, and she freely gives these things. The House’s atmosphere nevertheless takes a toll on Phoebe, making her more pensive as she wonders about... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Arched Window
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...beings; they do not have the right to go anywhere except for this cursed old house. They retreat back into the gloomy house. (full context)
Chapter 12: The Daguerreotypist
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...or to a lecture. Still, Phoebe grows a bit quieter in the atmosphere of the House, and her eyes grow darker and deeper. (full context)
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...patterns of generations dead and gone. He even suggests that it would be better if houses, public buildings, and churches weren’t built out of brick or stone—then, their crumbling would prompt... (full context)
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Holgrave points out that the atmosphere in the House of the Seven Gables isn’t wholesome, either. Annoyed, Phoebe asks why he chooses to live... (full context)
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...the story is factual, not superstitious, and that it’s an example of a theory. The House, he claims, symbolizes Colonel Pyncheon’s “inordinate desire to plant […] a family.” Holgrave believes that... (full context)
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...the topic has seized him “with the strangest tenacity of clutch” since moving into the House. To cope with that, he has written an episode from Pyncheon history into a fictionalized... (full context)
Chapter 13: Alice Pyncheon
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...carpenter, Matthew Maule, grandson of the executed Maule. Gervayse Pyncheon has summoned Maule to the House of the Seven Gables. Scipio mentions that Colonel Pyncheon haunts the house and frightens him.... (full context)
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Matthew Maule the carpenter is not well liked. His grandfather is believed to haunt the House of the Seven Gables, insisting he’s the property’s rightful tenant, and that he will torment... (full context)
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...the little boy who’d discovered the man’s dead body. Though Gervayse has never loved the House since that time and even spent some years in Europe, the House is now bustling... (full context)
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...refuses him at first, but then he asks whether his grandfather’s land, and indeed the House of the Seven Gables, might be made over to him if he can provide the... (full context)
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Gervayse Pyncheon is surprisingly open to the carpenter’s terms. He’s not attached to the House and would prefer to return to Europe—something the recovered Eastern territory would make easier. So... (full context)
Chapter 14: Phoebe’s Good-by
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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.... (full context)
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...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.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Scowl and Smile
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In Phoebe’s absence, things at the House of the Seven Gables are dreary: a storm sets in, and Clifford is joyless. Meanwhile,... (full context)
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...of this, such men are able to build up “a tall and stately edifice” (or house) which they see as equivalent to their own character. Thus, inevitably, such men picture their... (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 Pyncheon history run through her mind, seeming like... (full context)
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...dream and will surely wake up at any moment. She follows Clifford out of the House of the Seven Gables. (full context)
Chapter 17: The Flight of Two Owls
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Hepzibah, for her part, cannot focus on her changing surroundings. In her mind, the House of the Seven Gables looms everywhere, seeming to set itself down wherever she looks. Her... (full context)
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...longer any need to build homes. Clifford glows youthfully at the prospect. He adds that houses actually hinder human happiness. Souls need change; a stagnant old house becomes “unwholesome” to those... (full context)
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Clifford exults that the farther he gets from the House, the younger he becomes. But now, his external age “belies [him] strangely,” for he now... (full context)
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...even excusable motives. He returns to the scene of the dead man sitting in the House—if another man fled that scene by train, wouldn’t his rights be infringed if he arrived... (full context)
Chapter 18: Governor Pyncheon
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Judge Pyncheon, meanwhile, still sits in the House of the Seven Gables. He hasn’t moved for a long time. He still clutches his... (full context)
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...whiteness of the Judge’s face, the only sound the ticking of his watch. Then, the house begins to creak and groan in the rising wind. Eventually, the city clock chimes midnight.... (full context)
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...only son! How could this be? If it’s true that both are dead, then the House of the Seven Gables would pass down not to the Judge’s descendants, but to Clifford... (full context)
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...once-forbidding face. The shop bell rings, a reminder that life continues outside of this deathly House. (full context)
Chapter 19: Alice’s Posies
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 20: The Flower of Eden
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In contrast to the brightness outside, the interior of the House is so shadowy that Phoebe cannot tell at first who has opened the door. A... (full context)
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...change—“the happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.” Perhaps he will even build a house for future generations. Finally, Phoebe admits that she loves him, too. For a few moments,... (full context)
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...noticed Alice’s Posies blooming on the roof—like “the flower of Eden” which blooms in the House now. (full context)
Chapter 21: The Departure
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...is able to be happy. He, Hepzibah, and Phoebe decide to move out of the House of the Seven Gables and establish themselves in the Judge’s country estate. They, along with... (full context)
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...He already knew about the secret spring. His ancestor, Thomas, the carpenter who built the House of the Seven Gables, built this recess and hid the Indian deed therein. (full context)
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...convey them all to the country. Clifford and Hepzibah say an unemotional farewell to the House of the Seven Gables. When Ned Higgins runs up, Hepzibah gives him a handful of... (full context)