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MonkeyNotes-The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Chapter 20: "The Flower of Eden"

Holgrave finds Phoebe after she enters the house and tells her that the Judge is dead and suspicion may fall on Clifford because he has run away. Even though he had found the body some time ago, he had not informed anyone, for he is waiting for Clifford to arrive.

Holgrave then reveals his full identity and his connection to the Pyncheons to Phoebe. He gives a rational explanation for the manner of the Judge's death. The Pyncheon family was prone to apoplectic fits, brought on by tension or wrath in their later years, and the Judge probably suffered from this idiosyncrasy. Old Maule's prophecy was probably founded on the knowledge of this physical disposition. Phoebe is, however, shocked by the "calmness of Holgrave's demeanor" in the face of this unannounced death. In fact, both of them feel the strangeness of their situation. "The image of awful death," writes Hawthorne, "which filled the house, held them united by his stiffened grasp. These influences hastened the development of emotions."


Holgrave soon proposes to Phoebe. For a moment she is surprised but quickly tells him she reciprocates his love. Hawthorne comments that a miracle has been wrought: "They transfigured the earth and made it Eden again, and themselves the first dwellers in it." Hepzibah and Clifford arrive and are happy to see Phoebe.

The title of the chapter is taken from the last sentence: "And so the flower of Eden has bloomed, likewise, in this old dark house today."

Notes

In bringing Holgrave and Phoebe together, Hawthorne follows the tradition of the Sentimental and Gothic novel. He brings history to a full circle and signifies fresh beginnings. When Phoebe returns to Pyncheon Street, it is obvious that she has changed because of her experience there and her stay in the house. She has matured into womanhood. Holgrave has also undergone a metamorphosis due to the influence of Phoebe who brought "hope, warmth and joy" to him. He now wants to settle down and believes that "it will be my lot to set out trees to make fences even in due time to build a house for another generation--in a word to conform myself to laws, and the peaceful practice of society."

The novel is about sin and the effects of sin; it is about isolation and contact with humanity. Phoebe, descendant of the sinner (Pyncheon) and Holgrave, descendant of the victim (Maule) are brought together. Appropriately, they pledge their love and intentions in the old house, the cause of the original Pyncheon sin; and Judge Pyncheon's corpse is close by, signifying the death of the past and the beginning of new life. In this sense, Holgrave and Phoebe are reflective of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.

Chapter 21: "The Departure"

In this chapter, Hawthorne drives the last nail in the coffin of the Judge (literally and figuratively) by saying that his death did not have much effect on the community. He also explains Clifford's crime. Holgrave, as previously indicated, has some sort of ability to see the past. Hawthorne uses this aspect of his character to unravel the mystery behind Clifford's imprisonment for the murder of his uncle, the old bachelor. Judge Pyncheon, in his younger days, was wild and invoked the wrath of the old bachelor when the older man caught the young Pyncheon searching among his personal papers without permission. The elder Pyncheon promptly changed his will and hid it. Clifford, a dreamy young man, discovered the hiding place and unwittingly mentioned it to the Judge.

The Judge helped to pin the death of the uncle, who really died of apoplexy, on Clifford, who happened to be inside of the house when the old bachelor passed away. Judge Pyncheon promptly substituted another will that gave everything to him and usurped Clifford's rightful position as heir. Ironically, the Judge on his death had no rightful heir, so that which should have been Clifford's for a long time, finally comes to him when the Judge's fortune is split between Clifford and Hepzibah, his closest living relatives.

Clifford, Hepzibah, Phoebe and Holgrave decide to leave the old house and go to the country estate of the Judge. Uncle Venner is also invited, and he readily agrees to go with them. At the end, Venner hears the sweet notes of Alice Pyncheon's harpsichord, and she herself, "floated heavenward from the House of the Seven Gables."

Notes

The last chapter shows the effect of the changes on the major characters of the novel. It also unravels the Pyncheon-Maule mystery and brings together all the symbols that have been used throughout the book, including the house, the street, and the garden.

Hepzibah has changed as a result of running her shop and re- establishing contact with the outside world. Phoebe has changed as she matured into womanhood. There has also been a significant transformation in Holgrave who now talks of "permanence" and appears much more conservative. Clifford has also changed, but to a much lesser degree due to his long years of isolation in prison. Still, his interaction with Phoebe and his contact with the outside world show that he has improved. His invitation to Uncle Venner is symbolic of his desire to end his isolation, since Uncle Venner belongs to the world and "the street."

The plot of the book and the moral growth of the characters depend upon the subtle interaction between reality and environment, between the house (the symbol of fallen aristocracy) and the street (the symbol of the outside democratic life). These two elements, introduced in the first part of the book, are masterfully brought together in the last chapter when Hepzibah and Clifford (the last Pyncheon aristocratic relics) choose to leave the house (and the past) with Phoebe and Holgrave (representatives of the new democratic order). Hawthorne, through the House of the Seven Gables and its inhabitants, has made a commentary on the biological, social, and moral of life.

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