1. In Hawthorne's fiction he frequently uses older female characters to examine
connections to the past and the relationship between the past and present. Both
Hepzibah Pyncheon from The House of the Seven Gables and Old Esther Dudley
from "Old Esther Dudley" are characters who reflect this approach by Hawthorne.
To explore this theme more fully, you may consider the following:
a. Look at the excerpts about and images related to Hepzibah Pyncheon and Esther
Dudley listed below and consider the questions that follow:
How do Hawthorne's descriptions of Hepzibah and Esther underscore their connections
to the past? What words does he use to describe their appearance, attire, and
environments to suggest the close ties they feel to the past? How do the illustrations
and images reinforce Hawthorne's ideas?
b. Both Seven Gables and the Province House contain mirrors that seem to reflect
the presence of figures from the past. Examine the passages in which Hawthorne
describes the mirrors. What appears in each? How does Esther feel about the
images she sees? What does the narrative suggest about the images that appear
in Seven Gables?
c. Hepzibah and Esther share certain qualities, but are also different from each other. What differences do you see? How does each woman feel
about the past and its legacy? Is this an important difference?
d. The endings of "Old Esther Dudley" and The House of the Seven Gables present different outcomes for these two women. Look closely at the excerpts
from the endings. How does each work offer a comment on the relationship between
past and present? Which outcome do you prefer and why?