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MonkeyNotes-The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Chapter 7: "The Guest"

The next morning the mystery of the footsteps is solved when Clifford is introduced. Hepzibah, who loves her brother immensely, seems a changed person because of his presence. Phoebe is surprised to find Hepzibah in the kitchen, pouring over an ancient cookbook. She also notices that the table is set for three, even though Clifford has not entered the kitchen. The elderly gentleman soon appears, however, and greets Phoebe with "undesirable grace

Clifford is a sensualist. He seems to take delight in everything that is beautiful in his surroundings. He is attracted to Phoebe because of her cheery, sunny nature; he ignores Hepzibah because of her scowling countenance. He delights in the old house, and the only object that offends him is the picture of Judge Pyncheon, which he orders Hepzibah to cover. Clifford has been described as a sybarite, a person who is devoted to luxury and pleasure and who refuses to have anything to do with sorrow, strife, or martyrdom.


Clifford soon drops off to sleep, and his face becomes almost "cloddish." The ringing of the shop bell awakens him. When he learns about Hepzibah opening the shore, he seems angry. Hepzibah, who has come to better terms with her own reality, defends the shop and says that there is nothing to be ashamed about because she is doing something which one of their ancestors had already done. Clifford comments: "What shame can befall me now." Clifford dozes off again, and the chapter ends with Hepzibah drawing the curtains to allow Clifford to sleep.

Notes

This chapter endeavors to show the character of Hepzibah's brother, Clifford, and the love that she has for him. Like Hepzibah, but for different reasons, Clifford has always been outside the realm of reality. Clifford's nature isolates him; he cannot feel love for Hepzibah because she does not have the beauty to which his nature aspires. "Beauty would be his life," Hawthorne comments, "his aspirations would all tend towards it."

Again the theme of appearance vs. reality is developed. Clifford lives in an illusory world that cannot accommodate the need for earning a living. Clifford is fond of the good things of life and wants them, but he disparages the honest means by which Hepzibah acquires them. He is unwilling to accept reality and seems to live constantly in the lost world of aristocracy. Hepzibah, in contrast to her brother, emerges as a stronger person. She is no longer ashamed of having opened a shop. In fact, she openly supports it to her brother. She obviously feels that shopkeeping is a more dignified way of having a livelihood than accepting help from Judge Pyncheon.

The recurrent symbol of light is once again used in the chapter. Phoebe, with her brightness, fascinates Clifford, and he thinks of her as "a flower with the dew on it, and sunbeams in the dew drops." This imagery of nature again symbolizes regeneration and rebirth, foreshadowing a more positive future for the Pyncheons.

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