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MonkeyNotes-The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Chapter 14: "Phoebe's Goodbye"

Holgrave's tale seems to have mesmerized Phoebe, and like her 2ancestor Alice, she too is in a trance. Holgrave is conscious of his power over her, but he refrains from using it. When Phoebe comes out of her trance, she seems very happy and informs Holgrave that she will be leaving soon because she has to work on the farm. Holgrave then tells her that with her departure, whatever positive changes that have taken place in Hepzibah and Clifford will vanish, and they will once more regress. He requests her to return. The same wish is expressed by Hepzibah, Clifford and Uncle Venner. Holgrave also informs Phoebe that he has a premonition of some impending doom. He is certain that there is going to be some calamitous event, but he cannot tell what it will be.


Notes

In the previous chapter, one of the ancient Maules had bewitched a Pyncheon to take revenge for the crime committed by the old Colonel. In this chapter, Holgrave uses the same skill to mesmerize Phoebe, but he resists the temptation to manipulate her because he has the "rare and high quality of reverence for another's individuality." If Holgrave had given into the temptation, he would have approved of the past; by not yielding to the temptation, Holgrave repudiates the past and prepares for the eradication of the curse. As a result, the influence of Phoebe once again becomes rejuvenating and transforming.

In this chapter, Holgrave also foreshadows the future climax of the novel. He says to Phoebe before she leaves, "I cannot help fancying that Destiny is arranging its fifth act for a catastrophe." But it spite of the prediction of doom, all does not seem bleak in the chapter. When Phoebe comes out of the trance, the moon rises "like an ambitious demagogue, who hides his aspiring purpose by assuming the prevalent hue of popular sentiment." The effect of the silver moonbeams even softens and embellishes the dark aspect of the house and makes the garden seem even more picturesque: "The commonplace characteristics--which, at noon- tide, seemed to have taken a century of sordid life to accumulate-- were now transfigured by a charm of romance." Through this imagery, Hawthorne indicates that despite the prophecy of doom, the outcome would not be very calamitous. Phoebe and Holgrave belong to a new generation that has repudiated the past and have helped in bringing about regeneration.

Chapter 15: "The Scowl and Smile"

After Phoebe's departure there is an easterly storm, which casts a gloom on the house and its inhabitants. The house looks more "cheerless than ever before" and "nothing flourishes in the cold moist pitiless atmosphere." Hepzibah too feels the change in the atmosphere. On the fifth day of the storm, Clifford plays Alice's harpsichord, and Hepzibah is reminded of the "ghostly harmonies" that foreshadow death in the family. This harpsichord music seems to foreshadow another Pyncheon family death. Ironically, the next death will bring the end of the old curse.

Judge Pyncheon comes and demands a meeting with Clifford on the pretense that he must get Clifford out of the house to "try society." Hepzibah refuses to let the Judge see her brother and accuses him of harming Clifford. The Judge protests and says that it was because of him that Clifford had been freed from prison and he would be the one to decide whether Clifford would retain his freedom. He then informs her of his real purpose in wanting to meet Clifford.

When Jaffrey Pyncheon died, he had left behind immense wealth, most of which was inherited by Judge Pyncheon; but the Judge believes that his inheritance was really only a fraction of Jaffrey's wealth. It is the Judge's belief that Clifford knows of the secret document that would reveal where the rest of the wealth is hidden. When Hepzibah refutes his claim about Clifford's knowledge of the wealth, the Judge threatens her. He says that since everyone is aware of Clifford's abnormal behavior, he would see to it that he would be clapped into a "public asylum for persons in his unfortunate state of mind." Hepzibah is finally forced to give in to his request.

Notes

This chapter gives a detailed portrait of the Judge as he really is. Until this chapter, he had only been seen displaying his proper, public behaviors; but now, Hawthorne has drawn the veil of illusion aside and allows the reader to have a glimpse of the duality of the Judge's nature. The title of the chapter ("The Scowl and the Smile") shows Hawthorne's concern with the deceptiveness of outward appearance as typified by Hepzibah and the Judge. The people in the town equate Hepzibah's scowl with her inner nature. Although she is really warm and kind, her myopic frown makes her look sour and bitter. In contrast, the Judge seems genial and kind but is a villain of the first order. He has been described as a respectable man, a fact acknowledged by the church and the state: "It was denied by nobody. In all the very extensive sphere of those who knew him, there was not an individual--except Hepzibah and the daguerreotypist--who would have dreamed of seriously disputing his claim to a high and honorable place in the world's regard." He has even been compared to a marvelously well built palace with a "deadly hole under the pavement" that contains unseen from outside, some secret decay. For, "beneath the show of a marble palace is this man's miserable soul."

The conflict between the Judge and Hepzibah reaches a climax in this chapter when the Judge demands to see Clifford. The Judge is convinced that in Clifford's twisted mind he knows the secret of the Pyncheon treasure. The Judge, who should be able to discern illusion from reality, relies on false judgment made from appearance. Clifford has knowledge of only "shadowing gold."

The use of the mirror as a symbol accentuates the theme of appearance versus reality. One sees in the mirror only what one wants to see; therefore, the mirror becomes a shadowy reflection of the Judge's character.

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