The House of the Seven Gables Questions and Answers
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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How can I apply feminist theory to The House of the Seven Gables, and what should I be paying attention to in the story?

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Mellisa Sawyer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The best way we can look at The House of the Seven Gables through a feminist theory lens is by paying close attention to the female characters in Hawthorne's story. There are three crucial characters we should be aware of: Phoebe, Hepzibah, and Alice Pyncheon. When reading this story, you should pay close attention to how these characters interact with their male counterparts. What are their roles? How are they reliant, either financially, societally or subconsciously, on the male characters?

A good example for some of these questions would be Alice Pyncheon. Alice was hypnotized against her will by the young Matthew Maule. Matthew then forced her to serve him and torments her. Instead of thinking about the text itself, let's think about the atmosphere in which the author wrote the book. What does this say about American culture for women in the nineteenth century? Would these physical violations against Alice be tolerated today? These are essential questions to ask when applying feminist theory to any work.

You should also pay close attention to Phoebe and her relationship to Holgrave. How is it different, and similar, to Alice's connection with Matthew Maule?

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