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MonkeyNotes-The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Chapter 5: "May and November"

Phoebe Pyncheon slept in a chamber that looks onto the garden of the old home. Early in the morning the crimson glow of dawn comes flooding into Phoebe's room. After her prayers Phoebe goes into the garden. She notices a beautiful species of white roses. Viewed from the room, they look as if they were brought from Eden. These were Alice's Posies; Alice was Phoebe's great- great-grand aunt.

Phoebe is described as a person who possesses that wonderful quality of spreading sunshine and cheer wherever she goes. Hawthorne says of her that even the room where she stays "had been purified of all former evil and sorrow by her sweet breath and happy thoughts."

Phoebe intends to examine the garden more closely, but she meets Hepzibah. Hepzibah informs her that it would be perhaps difficult for Phoebe to stay on in the house because her personal resources are meager. She herself is a "dismal and lonesome old woman", and Phoebe, being a "nice" girl, would find the atmosphere in the house and its inhabitants "melancholy." At Phoebe's answer that she is a "cheerful little body" and would be able to adjust, Hepzibah tells her that the master is coming. Phoebe innocently mistakes the Judge for the master. Dismissing this notion, Hepzibah shows her the miniature. Phoebe finds that the face has a "child's expression--and yet not childish." Hepzibah informs her that the face belongs to Clifford.


Later Phoebe helps Hepzibah with her housekeeping. Hepzibah is surprised to see her skills and attributes them to Phoebe not being a true Pyncheon. She feels Phoebe has inherited her domesticity from her mother, who was not a "lady." Phoebe even helps her in the shop. She is able to deal with the customers in a genial manner, and again Hepzibah feels that Phoebe is a "nice little body" but not a lady. Hawthorne comments that this was a fair parallel between "new plebeianism and old gentility."

Hepzibah gives Phoebe a tour of the house and shows her the map of Pyncheon territory. She tells her about the legend associated with the map and also that there is a hoard of silver hidden in the house. She gives Phoebe an account of the manner in which Alice Pyncheon died. Now it is said that when one of the Pyncheons dies, the sound of Alice's harpsichord can be heard. Hepzibah then says that she suspects Holgrave of studying the black art. She allows him to stay on in the house because he is a "well meaning and orderly young man." Phoebe, a part of whose essence is to keep within the limits of law, asks whether he is a "lawless person." Hepzibah answers, "I suppose he has a law of his own."

Notes

In chapter 2, it was shown that Hepzibah was afraid of facing the day. By contrast, Phoebe welcomes the morning with a cheerful countenance and with a prayer. She symbolizes the newness of dawn. Hawthorne, in fact, becomes lyrical in describing Phoebe's appearance and comparing it with the freshness of a new day. The positive image of Phoebe and her entry into the old Pyncheon house foreshadows a reversal in the fortunes of the Pyncheons. In contrasting Phoebe with Hepzibah, Hawthorne has taken care to emphasize that Phoebe is not like any other Pyncheon. Hepzibah may consider Phoebe's background as a drawback, but for Hawthorne she is "god's angel."

In this chapter, some of the democratic views held by Hawthorne are presented. He once again pokes fun at the aristocratic ideas of Hepzibah. Even though Hepzibah does not consider Phoebe a true "lady" because her mother was not aristocratic, she is amazed at Phoebe's skills in housekeeping and shop-keeping, which were obviously learned from her "lower class" mother. Hawthorne takes care to point out that Hepzibah's claim to be a lady stems from the fact that she may have learned the steps of a minuet and inherited an old Davenport tea set. Phoebe, on the other hand, has no pretenses. Although she belongs to the Pyncheon family, she is free from arrogance. She is not ashamed of her mother, nor does she think it demeaning to do hard work. It is her sincerity and honesty that draws the reader to Phoebe.

In this chapter, the mysterious Holgrave is also introduced. Hepzibah reveals that he supposedly indulges in black magic and makes his own laws. Such information adds suspense to the story. The reader is eager to know the reality behind Holgrave's appearance

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