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 wrongly sent to prison for a murder he did not commit. Convinced that his wronged cousin knows of additional family wealth hidden by their uncle, Jaffrey threatens the broken man with confinement in an insane asylum if the hiding place of the remaining wealth is not revealed. Fortunately for his cousin, Jaffrey dies of natural causes induced by emotion while making his threats.
Clifford Pyncheon, Jaffrey’s unfortunate cousin, who serves a thirty-year prison term for allegedly murdering his uncle, who really died of natural causes. A handsome, carefree, beauty-loving man at one time, he emerges from prison three decades later a broken, pale, and emaciated wreck of a human being, content to hide away in the House of the Seven Gables, where he is looked after by his sister Hepzibah and their young cousin Phoebe. Clifford’s mind is weakened, and his spirit so broken by misfortune that he actually does strange, if harmless, acts, so that Jaffrey’s threat to force Clifford into an asylum could be made good. At Jaffrey’s unexpected death, Clifford feels a great release after having been oppressed by his cousin for so long. Clifford, his sister, and Phoebe Pyncheon inherit Jaffrey’s fortune and have the promise of a comfortable life in the future.
Hepzibah Pyncheon, Clifford’s sister, who lives alone for many years in shabby gentility in the House of the Seven Gables while her brother is in prison. She has few friends, for she seldom leaves the house, and she is so near-sighted that she always wears a frown, making people think she is a cross and angry woman. After the return of her brother from prison, she sets up a little shop in her house to try to provide for herself and Clifford, to whom she is devoted. Opening the shop is very difficult for her, as she dislikes meeting people and believes that entering trade is unladylike for a member of the Pyncheon family.
Phoebe Pyncheon, a young, pretty, and lively girl from the country. She comes to live with Hepzibah when her mother, a widow, remarries. Phoebe takes over the little cent-shop and makes it a profitable venture for Hepzibah. Phoebe also brings new life to the House of the Seven Gables by cheering it with her beauty and song, as well as by tending the neglected flowers and doing other homely tasks. She is highly considerate of her elderly cousins and spends much of her time entertaining Clifford.
Mr. Holgrave, a liberal-minded young daguerreotypist who rents a portion of the House of the Seven Gables from Hepzibah. An eager, energetic young man of twenty-two, he...
(The entire section is 3,685 words.)