The House of the Seven Gables

Pens Without Ink: Authorial Castration and Sterile Sentimentality in Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables and Melville's "The Paradise of Bachelors"

By the 19th-century, according to Hawthorne and Melville, a man's home was no longer his castle, but an effete parlor-room, a locus of stripped and castrated masculinity that hampered the development of classically intellectual and original literature in favor of the mawkish and uniform. While Hawthorne's and Melville's story "The Paradise of Bachelors" both show domestic residences under assault from a sentimentalizing feminine influence, the respective atmospheres emerge from a different set of authorial concerns. Hawthorne's anxiety comes from a defensive standpoint. He causally views the feminization of the house as a symbolic castration of masculine authority and a negation of the strong ethic of writing (assuming we consider the work of writing an "ethic," since it was, and still is, a leisure activity at odds with traditional work). Melville, while addressing in "The Paradise of Bachelors" some of Hawthorne's focus on the origins of this problem, finds more compelling the effects of sentimentality in "The Tartarus of Maids." A subtler version of Hawthorne's castration, writing becomes a mode of mechanical reproduction, a repetitive imprinting of...

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