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MonkeyNotes-The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Chapter 8: "The Pyncheon of Today"

The third major character, Judge Pyncheon, enters the novel in this chapter. He has already been introduced as a dignified and seemingly genial person; but Hawthorne has also hinted that his appearance and bearing are deceptive. In this chapter, Hawthorne reveals how the Judge represents, in his generation, a long line of avaricious ancestors. Like them, he is affected by "the moral diseases which lead to crime and are handed down from one generation to another." The Judge attempts to bestow attention on Phoebe since she is his cousin. He offers to kiss her as a symbol of "acknowledged kindred", but Phoebe draws away and refuses the kiss. Despite the ties of blood between them, she realizes that he is a stranger in her world. In the course of the book, it will be shown that the real character of Judge Pyncheon is a stranger to many.

In the first part of the chapter, there is a comparison of the Judge to his Puritan ancestor. Besides their facial resemblance and ancestral relation, they both have the common desire of great greed, a trait that isolates people from their fellow human beings. The greed of the stern Puritan was earlier shown when he "stole" Maule's property; the Judge is now said to "be close-fisted as if his grip were of iron." Even though he has offered to help Hepzibah and Clifford financially, he is obviously motivated by something deeper than philanthropy. And his insistence on meeting Clifford seems to hint at something suspicious. His determined efforts to meet Hepzipah's brother are thwarted by her intervention and flat refusal.

The Judge departs upsetting both Clifford and Hepzibah. Phoebe, who does not understand the situation, does understand the true nature of the Judge. However, "in order to keep the universe in its old place," Phoebe tries to smother her own intuitions about the Judge and his behavior.


Notes

This chapter takes a closer look at both sides of Judge Pyncheon. Outwardly he is generous and genial, as seen in his behavior towards Phoebe and as contrasted to Hepzibah; inwardly he is driven by a coldness, a "fellness of purpose," and a calculating manipulation, which pushes him to meet with Clifford and isolates him from humankind, much like Hepzibah and Clifford have isolated themselves. The similarities between the Judge and his Puritan ancestor are a foreshadowing that some similar kind of ending will befall Judge Pyncheon. The chapter also establishes that there is a real conflict between the Judge and his relatives.

Chapter 9: "Clifford and Phoebe"

Hepzibah's love for and devotion to Clifford is emphasized. She tries her best to please and amuse him. She reads to him, but her reading displeases Clifford because her voice is harsh. In fact, he finds most things about his sister distasteful, especially her appearance. "She was a grief to Clifford and she knew it." Hepzibah, therefore, calls on Phoebe, who is like sunshine in the old house, to entertain Clifford. With her presence, the "heavy breathless scent of Death" becomes less powerful, and Clifford is "not unmoved by her sunny nature." When Phoebe sits by him, he grows youthful, and his face carries an expression that can only be interpreted as the glow of an exquisite and happy spirit. Their relationship is, without being paternal, "not less chaste than if she had been his daughter." In turn, Phoebe's kindness makes her ignore "whatever was marked in his mind and experience".

Notes

The relationship of Clifford and Phoebe is tenderly described. The two of them share some similar interests, like love of nature and beauty, and he truly enjoys her presence and attention. But their basic natures are different. For Phoebe, nature is a reality to go out and enjoy, while for Clifford, it is a distant and idealized dream. Phoebe is outgoing and bright; long years of isolation have made Clifford something of a recluse. Even though Phoebe does much to bring out his happy side within the domestic scene, the transformation of Clifford is never total and complete. It is as if the sin that his ancestor had committed and Maule's curse on the family compel him to stay inside the house without being able to make real contact with the outside world.

Hawthorne has drawn a psychological portrayal of Clifford as a man who is a weak person living in a dream world. He rejects his sister Hepzibah because she is ugly, and is attracted to Phoebe because she is fresh and young. He fails to discern neither the good qualities that Hepzibah has nor the qualities that make Phoebe's nature so genial and happy. Therefore, Clifford lives in a world of appearances, never understanding the reality underneath.

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