Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Colonel Pyncheon, a stern Massachusetts magistrate who, during the famous witchcraft trials of the seventeenth century, sent to his death a man whose property he coveted for himself. Cursed by his innocent victim, the colonel died on the day his big new house, the House of the Seven Gables, built on his victim’s land, was officially opened to guests.
Matthew Maule, Colonel Pyncheon’s victim, who swore that his unjust accuser should drink blood, as Colonel Pyncheon did when he died.
Thomas Maule, the son of Matthew Maule. As the head carpenter building the House of the Seven Gables, young Maule took an opportunity to build a secret recess in which was hidden the deed by which the Pyncheons hoped to claim a vast domain in Maine.
Jaffrey Pyncheon, one of Colonel Pyncheon’s nineteenth century descendants and a man like his ancestor in many ways. A judge, a member of Congress at one time, a member of many boards of directors, and an aspirant to the governorship of his state, he is a rich man who through his own efforts has multiplied the fortune he inherited from his uncle. Although he tries to present himself in a good light, Jaffrey Pyncheon is a hard man and not entirely honest. He destroys one of his uncle’s wills that names his cousin Clifford as heir, and he stands by while his cousin is...
(The entire section is 810 words.)
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Although a number of characters in The House of the Seven Gables are little more than stereotypes intended to represent contrasting moral values, Hawthorne does invest his principal figures with some depth and complexity. Hepzibah Pyncheon, the aging spinster who inhabits The House of the Seven Gables, is a living representation of the decadence of the Pyncheon family's social standing. A good woman, she is reduced by circumstance to opening a sweet shop to maintain a meager existence. Her love for her brother is extraordinary — even to the point of blinding her to his weaknesses. Certainly not evil, she is nevertheless too weak to break the curse under which the family is suffering. Her brother Clifford is equally ineffective; debilitated by having to spend years in prison for a crime he did not commit, he is dependent on Hepzibah and especially on Phoebe, who protect him from the world. Together Hepzibah and Clifford represent the old Puritan society which, in Hawthorne's view, had to be revitalized.
The novelist contrasts these weak characters with two young people who represent the best hope for the future. Phoebe Pyncheon is portrayed as a source of natural energy. Unaffected by the family curse, she is able to transform the decaying house into a place of comfort, not an ideal refuge but better than it has been under Hepzibah's poor care. She is strong enough to stand up to Judge Pyncheon and to force Hepzibah and Clifford to move...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Ned Higgins, a young boy, is Hepzibah’s first shop customer. He is a repeat customer who enjoys the shop’s gingerbread cookies. When Phoebe returns from her visit home and later discovers that the judge has died in the parlor, Ned warns her that something wicked has happened in the house. As Hepzibah, Clifford, Phoebe, and Holgrave leave to take up residence at the judge’s country estate, Hepzibah gives Ned money.
Holgrave is a resident in one of the gables in the House of the Seven Gables. The narrator describes him as “a slender young man, not more than one or two and twenty years old, with a rather grave and thoughtful expression, for his years, but likewise a springy alacrity and vigor.” He is exceptionally supportive of Hepzibah’s opening of the cent shop. Holgrave falls in love with Phoebe and, in the final chapter, reveals that he is a descendent of Matthew Maule. Toward the end of the story, Holgrave tells Clifford, Hepzibah, and Phoebe where the now worthless deed to the Maine land can be found. Holgrave is a young and passionate character whose politics run contrary to the conservative ideals that the aristocratic Hepzibah embraces. Both professionally and personally, he represents the coming of the modern age and the retiring of past traditions. Although he has dabbled in several occupations, including dentistry and teaching, Holgrave is now a daguerreotypist, or a photographer. His...
(The entire section is 2373 words.)