The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-15

Chapter Thirteen:

Alice Pyncheon: This chapter, narrated by Holgrave, is a flashback to the years following the construction of the House of the Seven Gables. It has been forty years since the house was built. Scipio, the black servant of Gervayse Pyncheon, brings a message to young Matthew Maule, the grandson of the old wizard of the same name, desiring his presence at the House of the Seven Gables. Scipio claims that Colonel Pyncheon still haunts the house, proof that it is a very good one. Matthew Maule refuses, but does tell Scipio to give his respects to Gervayse's daughter, Alice. The grandson supposedly had inherited some of his ancestor's questionable traits, such as a strange power of getting into people's dreams and heretical religious beliefs. Matthew Maule visits the house, and goes to the front door instead of the side or back doors proper for a worker, for his heart was bitter with the sense of hereditary wrong. Maule meets Mr. Pyncheon in the parlor, where two objects appear prominently. One is a large map of a tract of land, the other is a portrait of a stern old man in Puritan garb. Matthew Maule brings up the dispute over ownership of the house, but Mr. Pyncheon does not want to discuss it. He brings up a claim that the Pyncheon family has on an Eastern tract of land. He tells Maule that Colonel Pyncheon had a deed to this land that has since disappeared. Mr. Pyncheon suspects that the disappearance of this deed had something to do with the Maule family, and there is an ordinary saying that Maule took miles and miles of the Pyncheon land to his grave. Mr. Pyncheon theorizes that Maule's father took the deeds when he was working for Colonel Pyncheon on the day before the Colonel died. Mr. Pyncheon offers Matthew Maule monetary compensation for information leading to the discovery of the lost deed, and Matthew Maule inquires whether Pyncheon would give him the old wizard's rightful land (together with the House of the Seven Gables now standing on it). It is rumored that as Mr. Pyncheon and Matthew Maule spoke, the portrait of the Colonel appeared to frown and clench its fists and finally the picture descended bodily from the frame, but such an incredible incident is mere legend. Mr. Pyncheon does consider the offer, since he does not plan to live in the house and considers it inadequate, and consents to the offer. The two men draw up a deed, and Maule asks the favor of talking with Alice Pyncheon. Mr. Pyncheon claims that he is mad for wanting anything to do with his daughter. Still, he calls for his daughter, a lady born and set apart from the vulgar masses by a gentle and cold stateliness, but still retaining a womanly capability of tenderness. Maule believes that Alice looks upon him as a cold brute. With a wave of his hand, by some magic Maule renders Alice incapable of movement, then awakens her. Matthew Maule claims that he now controls her spirit. She describes seeing three figures while in her trance: an aged, stern-looking gentleman with a bloodstain on his richly wrought band, an aged man with a halter about his neck, and a middle-aged man with a carpenter's rule. These three visionary characters possessed a mutual knowledge of the missing document. From this point Matthew Maule could control Alice Pyncheon's actions. He did not use this power to ruin her, but to wreak a low, ungenerous scorn upon her. One night Matthew Maule summons Alice to wait upon his fiancee. She returns home that night in inclement weather; from this she falls sick and eventually dies. Matthew Maule did not mean to kill her, but to humble her.


In this chapter Hawthorne returns to the history of the Pyncheon family in order to bolster the story of the contemporary Pyncheons. This story serves as a bridge between generations. Gervayse Pyncheon is the young grandson of Colonel Pyncheon who found the old man dead, and the Matthew Maule of this chapter is the grandson of the original wizard of the same name. The chapter establishes a continuity among the generations of the Pyncheon family. The Pyncheon line may be directly connected from Colonel Pyncheon to Gervayse to Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, all of whom share identical qualities. Even Matthew Maule the younger seems a replica of his grandfather; both men share heretical beliefs and the ability to possess others' dreams.

The reintroduction of the Maule family into the Pyncheon history demonstrates how closely the two families are connected. They share the same fate even generations after the event that first brought Colonel Pyncheon in contact with Matthew Maule. The Maule family holds a serious grudge against the Pyncheons that has not abated. The sin that has remained as a mark among the Pyncheons also exists as a continued injustice against the Maules. The continuity in both families' histories suggests that there may be a contemporary connection between the Maules and the Pyncheons that has not yet been revealed and may be a critical factor in absolving the family sin.

The chapter, told as legend rather than as direct history, includes a number of supernatural manifestations of the perpetuation of Colonel Pyncheon's misdeeds. Scipio mentions that Colonel Pyncheon haunts the house, and folklore claims that when Matthew Maule argues with Gervayse the Colonel descended from his own portrait. Along with these incidents relating to Colonel Pyncheon is the mysterious fate of Alice Pyncheon, who is subjected by Maule's mystical powers. Since the chapter is narrated by a character with a reputation as a fanatic, the literal events may be dismissed as exaggeration or rumor.

The fate of the eastern lands becomes an even more significant part of the Pyncheon family history upon its mention in this chapter. The eastern province proved an obsession for Colonel Pyncheon and Gervayse; since Hawthorne establishes that events recur, one can safely assume that Judge Pyncheon, the character who shares characteristics similar to these two ancestors, will show an interest in the eastern land. The solution to this, however, requires three disparate characters. The stern-looking gentleman is Judge Pyncheon, while the aged man with a halter about his neck is likely Clifford. The one figure who remains unclear is the middle-aged man with a carpenter's rule.

Hawthorne associates Alice Pyncheon with the elderly Hepzibah. While the young Alice does not have the disadvantage of Hepzibah in her old age, they both share a stately adherence to the codes of conduct for a lady while remaining capable of kindness and generosity. Both characters also serve as the victims among the Pyncheon family, cursed with scorn and humbled by fate. For Hepzibah the indignity comes from a poverty late in life, while Alice suffers humiliation wrought upon her by Matthew Maule.

Chapter Fourteen:

Phoebe's Goodbye: Holgrave finishes his story and finds Phoebe to appear as if she were in a trance. To a person like Holgrave, there is no temptation greater than the opportunity to acquire empire over the human spirit, but he also possesses a high quality of reverence for another's individuality. He makes a gesture with his hand and Phoebe becomes alert. That night is a beautiful one, with a cool atmosphere after a feverish day. Holgrave believes that he has never seen a more beautiful eve, while Phoebe senses a great charm in the moonlight. Phoebe claims that she will never be as merry as before she knew Hepzibah and Clifford. Holgrave tells her that she has lost nothing, for one's first youth is of little value. The departure of shallow gaiety is essential to the soul's development, he says. Phoebe plans to return to the country in a few days. Holgrave tells Phoebe that Hepzibah and Clifford both exist by Phoebe, who tells Holgrave that he talks as if the old house were a theater. Holgrave says that Judge Pyncheon still keeps his eye on Clifford, but his motives remain a mystery. He wonders what Jaffrey has to fear from Clifford. Phoebe wonders how it came to pass that the old mansion had taken such hold of her in so few weeks and how grim Hepzibah contrived to win so much love. Clifford later remarks to Phoebe how she has deepened into beauty. Phoebe departed, bidding farewell to everyone, including Uncle Venner, who compares her to an angel.


The parallels between Holgrave and both Matthew Maules become even more explicit in this chapter. Hawthorne writes that Holgrave has the temptation to acquire domination over the human spirit, a power that Matthew Maule used against Alice Pyncheon in Holgrave's story. The wave of his hand that awakens Phoebe echoes the same action that Matthew Maule used against Alice. Where Holgrave departs from the typical Maule prototype is his democratic ethos. As the one modern character in The House of the Seven Gables, Holgrave embodies contemporary values; his respect for individuality aligns with his liberal ideals to counteract his more fantastical tendencies.

Hawthorne leaves the motive for Phoebe's departure somewhat ambiguous. However, the main reason seems to be the desperation surrounding the house. She is noticeably disturbed by the story that Holgrave tells concerning the Pyncheon history, the event which immediately precedes her decision to depart. Phoebe makes this decision with some regret. She admits to herself that she greatly cares for Hepzibah and Clifford, but still decides to escape from the stifling house. Staying at the House of the Seven Gables has taken a noticeable toll on Phoebe; although she is still as angelic as she was when she first arrived, Phoebe now has the marks of sadness and regret. Holgrave attempts to frame this change in her as a positive attribute that shows new maturity, but this cannot outweigh the feeling that life at the House of the Seven Gables has taken its toll upon her.

Chapter Fifteen:

The Scowl and Smile: Without Phoebe, Clifford is cut off from whatever enjoyment he once had. An easterly storm sets in, preventing him from taking walks in the garden. Hepzibah seems to be possessed by the east wind, grim and disconsolate. The shop loses customers because of a story that she soured her small beer by scowling at it. Both Hepzibah and Clifford hear musical notes from Alice's harpsichord succeeded by a harsher sound, the ringing of the shop bell. Judge Pyncheon visits and offers assistance, which Hepzibah refuses. She tells the Judge that Clifford is bedridden with a minor illness. Jaffrey wonders why Hepzibah protects Clifford from him, for he only wishes to promote his happiness. Hepzibah claims that Jaffrey hates Clifford. Jaffrey's claim that he bears no ill will toward Clifford seems founded, for he is a man of respectable character, but Hepzibah's prejudice may be founded despite his reputation. Men of his character possess vast ability in grasping and appropriating. Hepzibah seems to adopt the belief that it was her Puritan ancestor and not the modern judge on whom she had been wreaking bitterness. Judge Pyncheon demands to see Clifford before he leaves this house. Hepzibah claims that it would drive Clifford mad. Judge Pyncheon claims that Clifford could reveal the location of the deed to the lost land. He says that Clifford once boasted that he possessed the secret of incalculable wealth. Judge Pyncheon says that Clifford has concealed this because he considers him the enemy. Judge Pyncheon warns Hepzibah that he has taken the precaution to have Clifford looked after, and people have noticed his odd behavior. The Judge threatens Hepzibah with the possibility of having Clifford committed. Hepzibah accuses the Judge of committing the same crime as Colonel Pyncheon.


Phoebe's departure from the House of the Seven Gables is a pivotal event for both Clifford and Hepzibah; without the young girl to provide economic assistance to Hepzibah and a sense of emotional stability to Clifford, the two older Pyncheons are now more fragile than ever. Hepzibah continues to suffer because of her unpleasant appearance; her greatest flaw is her scowl, a physical feature that has no correlation to her fragile and kindly demeanor.

In this chapter, Hawthorne leaves behind the studied character description of the inhabitants of the House of the Seven Gables for a melodramatic tone that reflects the Pyncheon mythology. It is here that the feverish and lurid events of the Pyncheon past enter the contemporary setting. Hawthorne adds details appropriate to a ghost story: the chapter occurs in the midst of a dark and stormy evening, while Clifford even hears mysterious music from Alice's harpsichord. When Jaffrey arrives, Judge Pyncheon reveals himself to be the grasping villain that his affinity with Colonel Pyncheon suggests. He, like the Colonel and Gervayse, seeks the deed to the lost land. However, in this chapter of the Pyncheon chronology, the victim is not a Maule, but instead another Pyncheon. Jaffrey's threatening behavior toward Hepzibah and Clifford suggests that the perpetuation of this family sin has caused the Pyncheon family to collapse on itself; Judge Pyncheon is willing to harm his family in order to establish it as a dynasty.

The consequences of Clifford's odd behavior become apparent in this chapter. Although Clifford has attempted to remain confined from the rest of society, he cannot hide his actions from the rest of the world. Even though Clifford believes himself to be safe within the House of the Seven Gables, he must accept that he does exist within the larger world.