Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

House of the Seven Gables

House of the Seven Gables. Colonial house built in the English style of half-timber and half-plaster on Pyncheon Street in an unnamed town in Massachusetts. The house had been built by Colonel Pyncheon, who had wrested the desirable site from Matthew Maule, a poor man executed as a wizard. Colonel Pyncheon was responsible for Maule’s execution and took the doomed man’s land. At the moment of his execution, Maule declared that God would give the Pyncheons blood to drink. Despite this grim prophecy, the colonel had his house, and its builder was Thomas Maule, son of the condemned wizard.

Just as the personality of a character evolves over the course of a story, the personality and appearance of the house change as the narrative unfolds. In the late 1600’s, when Colonel Pyncheon first erects the building, it is the most opulent structure in the town. Located on the outskirts, it reflects the colonel’s wealth, social position, and love of fine things. However, because he swindled Maule out of the land on which the house stands, it is also a symbol of the colonel’s cold, greedy, and dishonest nature.

In the years that follow, Gervayse, the colonel’s grandson, and Gervayse’s beautiful daughter, Alice, occupy the house, and it again reflects the character of its occupants. The narrator points out that, although the dwelling is beginning to show its age, it is still a solid, pleasant mansion, whose interior has been redecorated to reflect Gervayse’s sophisticated European tastes. The presence of the lovely and exotic-looking Alice gives the place a graceful air.

By 1850, when the spinster Hepzibah Pyncheon lives in the house, nature and age have taken their toll on the building. Moss covers its roof and windows, and flowering shrubs known as Alice’s posies grow between two of the house’s gables. The interior of the house is dark and dusty, much like the old woman who inhabits it. Once a public symbol of the Pyncheons’ wealth and power, the mansion now...

(The entire section is 838 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

The United States: The Mid-Nineteenth Century
At the beginning of the second half of the nineteenth century, Americans were...

(The entire section is 552 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Gothic Romance
The House of the Seven Gables is a Gothic novel, which is a type of novel that was popularized in England in...

(The entire section is 577 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In his celebrated Preface to the novel, Hawthorne makes a point of calling The House of the Seven Gables a romance. Intent on...

(The entire section is 334 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Critics and general readers alike agree that most of Hawthorne's fiction has a quality of "density" about it; that is, the surface tale is...

(The entire section is 373 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1850: The population of the United States is 23,191,876.

2000s: In 2000, the population of the United States is...

(The entire section is 82 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Much has been said by critics about the ways in which Hawthorne’s life is evidenced in his fiction. Research Hawthorne’s life and discuss...

(The entire section is 334 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Like The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables relies heavily on techniques developed by Gothic novelists during the...

(The entire section is 275 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A number of Hawthorne's works are set in Puritan New England, and readers will find similar themes treated in stories such as "My Kinsman,...

(The entire section is 81 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The House of the Seven Gables was brought to life on the screen in 1940. Unfortunately, producer Burt Kelly, director Joe May, and...

(The entire section is 151 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

An unabridged reading of The House of Seven Gables read by Roslyn Alexander is available through for purchase....

(The entire section is 264 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

One of Hawthorne’s best-known and respected novels is The Scarlet Letter (1850).

Hawthorne self-published his first...

(The entire section is 159 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Buitenhuis, Peter, “Critical Reception,” in his “The House of the Seven Gables”: Severing Family and Colonial...

(The entire section is 459 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Abel, Darrel. The Moral Picturesque: Studies in Hawthorne’s Fiction. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1988. Sees the novel as an allegory about love versus self-love, tradition versus ambition and pride, and imagination versus preoccupation with the present fact.

Donohue, Agnes McNeill. Hawthorne: Calvin’s Ironic Stepchild. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1985. Calls the novel Hawthorne’s attempt to “gloss over” his basically tragic view that the parents’ sins are visited upon the children. Argues that its dominant symbol, after the house itself, is the garden of Eden, which in turn is connected...

(The entire section is 246 words.)