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Change in Holgrave's character as a sign of failure

In her evaluation of the last chapters of the novel, Nina Baym sees the change in Holgrave's character as a sign of failure, his acceptance of the status quo in exchange for the security of marriage and property.

The same cannot be said for Holgrave. The long awaited death of Jaffrey Pyncheon does not mean liberation for him. Something goes wrong. Between the time that he enters the parlor, prepared to face the judge and master him through the last symbolic gesture of taking his daguerreotype, and the tie of Phoebe's return, Holgrave undergoes a striking change of character. His social radicalism is gone; he is prepared to abandon his art and take over the routines of country squire. Instead of finding himself in the darkened parlor, he loses himself, for when he leaves he is prepared to follow in Pyncheon's path. He takes the name of Maule, but the form of Pyncheon. . . . (593-94)


It is generally argued that Holgrave's conversion from radicalism to conservatism has been brought about by love; that his relationship with Phoebe, tying him for the first time to the human world, gives him a new appreciation of things in that world worth preserving. This interpretation, however, takes for granted that Holgrave's conversion is morally desirable an assumption that Hawthorne's depiction of Pyncheon makes completely untenable. This reading also asserts that Holgrave finds a new happiness through love and stability, and Holgrave himself appears to concur when he says that "the world owes all its onward impulse to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within limits" (pp.306-07). But whatever Holgrave's frame of mind before his conversion, he is certainly not happy afterward. In the beginning he brought the sunlight with him; now he has been darkened by the shadows of the house. He has turned to Phoebe for relief from his new misery and despair. . . . (595) (courtesy of University of Illinois Press)

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