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Economic factors that influence characters actions

In her lecture, "Work and Money In Hawthorne's Fiction," Claudia Durst Johnson focuses on the economic factors that influence characters actions and ideas in The House of the Seven Gables. She sees Holgrave as a man controlled by his "narrow" economic circumstances and sees his role as artist as merely one more vocation that he has tried out in an effort to make his way.

Every character is initially described in terms of economic circumstances, just as the plot and characters are put in motion largely by an economic imperative. The Judge's suspicions that his uncle is leaving his money to Clifford leads him to allow Clifford to be imprisoned on a false charge of murder. Hepzibah's need for money to support Clifford causes her to open the cent shop. Phoebe's need for money brings her to the House of the Seven Gables. Holgrave's chronic "narrow circumstances" determine how he lives and the causes he supports. The Judge's greed has made his life comfortable and powerful and motivates him to bedevil Clifford about the deed to more land in Maine. Uncle Venner's poverty directs his self-sufficient but marginal existence and his anticipation of the poor farm.

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. . . even though Holgrave is frequently referred to by his work ("The Daguerreotypist"), he has had many vocations, no one of which is more important to him than another. Holgrave is rootless, not having, wanting or approving of a "place" in the scheme of things. At the novel's conclusion, no mention is made of a vocation as part of his or anyone else's future.




Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/11807/


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