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Three Women in The House of the Seven Gables:Hepzibah

Three Women in The House of the Seven Gables: Hepzibah

Illustrator
Illustrator's Depiction of Hepzibah's Shop (courtesy of Facts On File, Inc)
 
Hepzibah Pyncheon of The House of the Seven Gables is "an old maid" caught between the world of gentility and the world of practicality. Her former status is dependent upon wealth (which no longer belongs to her) and a legacy of belonging to a leading family in Salem. Her sojourn into the world of practicality involves becoming a shopkeeper and earning her own way. Because she is proud and because she despises her cousin Judge Pyncheon, she refuses charity and determines to earn the money she and her brother (soon to be released from prison) will need for basic necessities. Hepzibah Pyncheon plays a significant role in The House of the Seven Gables in 10 chapters: 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 17, and 20.

  • In Chapter 2 - "The Little Shop Window," Hepzibah, after trying with pathetic results to 'beautify' herself drags her tired body to open the Cente Shoppe. Hepzibah will be breaking 25 years of relative seclusion in Seven Gables. This traumatic experience forces her to lower herself to the inferior position of working for needed additional income.

    Full text of Chapter 2-"The Little Shop Window"

  • In Chapter 3 - "The First Customer," Hepzibah, lacking confidence and grace, awkwardly interacts with her first day customers.

    Full Text of Chapter 3 - "The First Customer"

    The Shop Bell at the House of the Seven Gables Historic Site
    The Shop Bell at the House of the Seven Gables Historic Site (courtesy of Shakespeare and Company)
     

     

  • In Chapter 5- "May and November," Hepzibah shows remnants of a former gentility. On a tour of the "dusky" Seven Gables, Hepzibah describes to Phoebe some of the darker histories of the house and hints at a treasure to be found within the house. Full text of Chapter 5 - "May and November"

  • In Chapter 7 - "The Guest," childless Hepzibah, in a timid display of emotions, alternately embraces Phoebe, loses her temper, and apologizes. However, when Judge Pyncheon arrives to confront Clifford, Hepzibah guards the entrance of the house like an avenging "dragon." Full text of Chapter 7 -"The Guest"

  • In Chapter 8 - "The Pyncheons of Today," terrified Hepzibah continues to try and block Judge Pyncheon's entrance. Full text of Chapter 8 - "The Pyncheons of Today"

  • In Chapter 9 - "Clifford and Phoebe," Hepzibah attempts to spoil Clifford and to surround him with her selfless love. Ironically, her stern demeanor and unsightly dress repel him, so he can hardly bear to look at her. Full text of Chapter 9 - "Clifford and Phoebe"

  • In Chapter 15 - "The Scowl and Smile," after Phoebe has temporarily returned to the country and during four days of gray, stormy weather, Hepzibah shrinks into passivity, unable to manage the shoppe or cheer her brother. When Judge Pyncheon again tries to force an interview with Clifford, Hepzibah rails against his false claims of affection for his frail cousin. Full text of Chapter 15 - "The Scowl and Smile"

    Portrait of Abigail Gerrish by John Greenwood c. 1750 which resembles Hepzibah Pyncheon
    Portrait of Abigail Gerrish by John Greenwood c. 1750 which resembles Hepzibah Pyncheon (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
     
  • In Chapter 16 - "Clifford's Chamber," unable to withstand Judge Pyncheon's will, Hepzibah sets out to fetch Clifford but delays and delays as she looks out the windows, hoping to make contact with some friendly soul. She is in despair, believing that the Judge's errand will destroy her beloved brother. Full text of Chapter 16 - "Clifford's Chamber"

  • In Chapter 17 - "The Flight of Two Owls," Clifford leads his affrighted sister away from the death chamber of Judge Pyncheon. He guides her to a train in which they seek release and freedom. Clifford's brief burst of strength dwindles, and he pleas with Hepzibah to resume her customary role of protecting him. Full text of Chapter 17 "The Flight of Two Owls"

  • In Chapter 20 - "Flower of Eden," upon the return of the two elderly runaways, Phoebe greets them and takes the burden of responsibility from the old maid. Full text of Chapter 20 - "Flower of Eden"



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