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MonkeyNotes-The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Chapter 10: "The Pyncheon Garden"

This chapter describes the interaction between Clifford and Phoebe. It is a kind of Indian summer for the inhabitants of the house. Phoebe loves the garden and so does Clifford. Under her tender care, the garden has flourished. Clifford also seems to flourish under her attention. She often reads to him, and he enjoys hearing her voice. She rekindles his enthusiastic interest for natural beauty, and Clifford becomes a child again.

The two of them often sit by Maule's Well, whose brackish water is greatly "esteemed by the fowls." They also watch the hens that embody "the traditional peculiarities of their whole line of progenitors." Clifford says that Chanticleer and his wives have become a "little crack-brained on account of their solitary way of life and out of sympathy for Hepzibah, their lady patroness." The young chicken (an obvious parallel to Clifford) has been described as "sufficiently old, withered, wizened, and experienced."

It is not just the outside and the presence of Phoebe that help to break Clifford's sense of isolation; he also begins to enjoy human company. On Sundays, Venner, Holgrave and Hepzibah join him in lively conversation in the garden. But Clifford knows he has not reached true happiness. The chapter ends on his note of yearning: "I want my happiness. Many many years have I wanted for it. I want my happiness."


Notes

Hawthorne's love of nature and the belief that nature has a healing touch is reflected in this chapter. In partaking and enjoying the beauty of nature, Clifford may well be healing himself. The presence of Phoebe also seems to lighten his Mood, and he also takes pleasure in the company of Venner and Holgrave. Coming out of the house, which is a symbol of isolation, and coming into the garden, a symbol of the world, seem to indicate that Clifford is indeed on the road to recovery. But at this point in the book, there are still doubts as to whether Clifford is prepared to face reality, for he is unable to separate appearance from reality. When Phoebe reads a melancholy scene to him, Clifford takes it as a token of actual calamity, becomes peevish, and asks her to shut the book. Hawthorne interrupts the narrative and ironically comments: "And wisely too! Is not the world sad enough, in genuine earnest, without making a pastime of past sorrows?" Hawthorne also indicates that the past has laid its sad, inexorable hand on Clifford, it is always hard to escape the past. Even though at times Clifford seems to have changed, it is just a transitory phase, for "All his life, he had been learning how to be wretched."

Chapter 11: "The Arched Window"

The pathos of Clifford's isolation is further highlighted in this chapter. It is Clifford's pastime to watch the street from his arched window above. When the rush of humanity passes, he wants to join in, but he feels a "shivering repugnance at the idea of personal contact with the world." One time when a political parade is passing on the street, it seems to him to be "one broad mass of existences--one great life--one collected body of humankind, with a vast homogenous spirit animating it, a mighty river of life, massive in its tide, and black with mystery and out of its depths, calling to the kindred spirit within him." This urge to join the stream of humankind and be one with them is strong in Clifford, but he is powerless to join in. He suggests to Hepzibah that had he taken the plunge and survived it, it would have made him another man.

He displays "similar yearning to renew the broken links of brotherhood" when he expresses a desire to go to church. He and Hepzibah go out and stand in plain sight of the town, but they are unable to make themselves go forward to the church. Instead, they retreat into their own house, the symbol of isolation and gloom; in reality, they are retreating into the darkness of their own being, for "what other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart. What fails so inexorably as one's self."

Notes

Hawthorne in this chapter has endeavored to show the psychological effect of long periods of isolation on human beings. The past has not lost its hold on Clifford, and even when he desires to join humanity, he is unable to do so. Hawthorne says that Clifford's inability to join the course of humanity is caused by the fact that he "required to take a deep plunge into the ocean of human life and to sink down and be covered by its profoundness, and then to emerge, sobered, invigorated, restored to the world and to himself." Clifford's failure to do so means that he will always be enclosed in the prison house of isolation. Once again the house symbolizes the isolation of Hepzibah and Clifford. Since they find it impossible to really leave the house, it indicates that they cannot face the world or its reality.

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