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Three Women in The House of the Seven Gables

Literature Related to Three Women in The House of the Seven Gables

The Turner-Ingersoll House, 54 Turner St., Salem, aka "The House of the Seven Gables"
The Turner-Ingersoll House, 54 Turner St., Salem, aka "The House of the Seven Gables" (photography by Dan Popp)

Hepzibah Pyncheon
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.

Alice Pyncheon,
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 Lady Eleanor.

Full text of The House of the Seven Gables

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