The House of the Seven Gables

How does the narrator use the House of the Seven Gables to introduce the story of the Old Pyncheon family?


Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

Colonel Pyncheon builds the House of the Seven Gables as a means to ensure the continued domination of his descendants, and the house even becomes an enclosed kingdom for the Colonel. The house becomes a separate country in which Colonel Pyncheon has final and absolute authority, even above the representatives of the English king. This aristocratic character of the Colonel continues among his descendants; the family sides with the royalists during the American Revolution, and retains an "absurd delusion of family importance" even after the accolades of Colonel Pyncheon have long passed. This monarchical tendency within the Pyncheon family is most apparent in the Colonel's desire for the vast tract of Eastern lands. This land that he desired would have made him the equal of a European prince.

With few exceptions, Hawthorne allows few extraneous details in describing the history of the Pyncheon family. Many of the events that Hawthorne tells in this history recur in the event of the story, including mysterious and unexpected deaths and a preoccupation with gaining title to the eastern lands. Even characters mentioned in passing during the description return at later points in the novel; both Alice Pyncheon, the woman for whom the posies in the nook between the gables are named, and the grandchild who discovered the dead Colonel will be featured as characters at a later point. That each detail has some relation to the novel's main story contributes to the novel's focus on recurring events; every event that occurs happens for a reason and relates to the Pyncheon family history. Eventually every major development that occurs among the Pyncheons finally traces its ancestry to the Colonel's avarice for both Matthew Maule's land and for the eastern settlement. The most recent of these major events is the murder of a Pyncheon who believed that Matthew Maule had been wronged. Both the convicted murderer and the man who inherited the victim's estate will play central roles in the story.