What are some of the characteristics of Romanticism found in The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the key features of Romanticism was a fascination with nature. The Romantics tended to accord the natural world a life of its own: one possessed of a powerful inner vitality. Nature wasn't simply a collection of objects—mountains, trees, rocks, and stones—but a living, breathing force in its own...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

One of the key features of Romanticism was a fascination with nature. The Romantics tended to accord the natural world a life of its own: one possessed of a powerful inner vitality. Nature wasn't simply a collection of objects—mountains, trees, rocks, and stones—but a living, breathing force in its own right.

For the most part, Romantics portrayed nature in a positive light, but in The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne departs from the norm, giving us a picture of nature that has been degraded by its contact with human civilization. The water, for example, has lost the "deliciousness of its pristine quality" due to the decay of the Pyncheon family home. This rotting old house could be said to symbolize the separation of Colonel Pyncheon from the natural world due to his selfishness and greed. Instead of recognizing himself—like a good Romantic—to be joined with nature in an organic unity, Colonel Pyncheon has imposed himself upon the natural world, debasing and polluting it by his very presence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Romantics were fascinated by connections between the past and present, and The House of the Seven Gables revolves around history as a central plot device. The curse that Matthew Maule pronounces on Colonel Pyncheon is, arguably, passed down through the generations. According to one line of thinking, they inherited the sins of their ancestor. Struggling against forces that are beyond one's control is a frequent Romantic theme.

The curse itself reflects the Romantics' interest in the supernatural, as well as the macabre. Indeed, The House of the Seven Gables is essentially a "Gothic Romance," a genre that delights in horror. The House with the Seven Gables, we see throughout, has seen its share of horror and allegedly supernatural goings-on, including murders, violent deaths reminiscent of Maule's curse that Pyncheon would "drink blood," bewitched fountains, and the supposed mesmerization of Alice Gervayse.

Finally, throughout the book, Hawthorne uses imagery of light and dark, as well as blood reds and nature to give the house a forbidding feel. This is very typical of Romantic literature as well as art, especially the Gothic romances. Literary critic Richard Harter Fogle argues that light (and sunshine) are used to represent "general good fortune, for material prosperity, and for harmonious kinship with society" while dark (and stormy imagery) connote "misfortune and the isolation of the original Pyncheon sin."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team