Literature Related to Three Women in The House of the Seven
The Turner-Ingersoll House, 54 Turner St., Salem, aka "The House of the Seven Gables"(photography by Dan Popp)
of The House of the Seven Gables is "an old maid" caught between the
world of gentility and the world of practicality. She hopes to remain a "lady,"
but this status depends upon wealth (which she no longer has) as well as being
a descendent of 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 his charity
and determines to earn the money she and her brother (soon to be released from
prison) will need for basic necessities. To outsiders Hepzibah's scowl makes
her seem haughty and bitter, although she proves to be shy and kind-hearted.
At crucial points in the novel, she calls upon reserves of inner strength to
protect her brother, but relies upon Phoebe for emotional support.
Hepzibah's young cousin from the country, offers contrasts to Hepzibah. Hepzibah
is timid, reclusive, uncomfortable with shoppers at the cent-shop, and fixed
with a perpetually sour expression. Phoebe, on the other hand, is curious, socially
at ease, charmed by the shoppers, and in the bloom of youth. However, the two
form a close relationship as Hepzibah provides a home for Phoebe and Phoebe
provides companionship to Hepzibah and cheerfully takes over the shop-keeping
duties. Together they care for the tired, much maligned Clifford Pyncheon who
has spent 30 years in jail falsely accused for the murder of his uncle. Phoebe's
presence transforms Seven Gables as she exercises the domestic artistry associated
with a "true woman." Her redemptive powers also transform the lives of Clifford,
Hepzibah and Holgrave, who are drawn out of their shadowy existences by the
light of Phoebe's character.
an ancestor of Hepzibah and Phoebe who lived for a time in Seven Gables, is
described in Holgrave's story to Phoebe. He presents a proud, disdainful woman
who is hypnotized, becoming enslaved to the carpenter Maule's will. Hepzibah
offers a more sympathetic view of Alice and makes reference to her ghostly presence
in the Seven Gables. Alice's self-confidence and independent thinking link her
to other Hawthorne characters, such as Hester Prynne and Zenobia, but her fate
at the hands of the carpenter Maule also links her to Beatrice Rappaccini and