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In The House of the Seven Gables, the author tells his reader the story is a romance. What he means by this terminology is not a cheap paperback that involves swooning hearts with Fabio on the cover, but a legend prolonging itself, from an epoch now gray in the distance, down into our own broad daylight. Hawthornes specific goal is to show that the bad behavior of one generation devolves on future descendents. He accomplishes this by examining the Pyncheon family, a clan founded on Americas shores by the stern Puritan Colonel Pyncheon, who used his considerable influence to inveigle prime real estate from one Matthew Maule in the 17th century. Pyncheon carried out this task by using the Salem witchcraft scare to secure Maules execution. In his last moments, Maule laid a curse on the good Colonel and all of his descendents, telling him that God would give them blood to drink as a punishment for this evil injustice. Shortly after the Colonel builds his house with seven gables on Maules property, he dies in a way that makes Maules curse seem to be a reality. Rather than trace this terrible evil down through the ages in minute detail, Hawthorne only touches on a few important points before beginning his story in the middle of the 19th century.

The Pyncheon family is slowly moldering into extinction when Hawthorne introduces us to poor old Hepzibah Pyncheon. She lives alone in the ancient estate, reduced to near starvation because her brother Clifford is in prison and Jaffrey Pyncheon, a rich judge who lives in his own manor in the country, refuses to offer her assistance. The only way to survive for Hepzibah is to open a penny store in an old part of the decaying house. Just when things reach a nadir, another Pyncheon turns up to save the day. This is Phoebe, a vivacious young lady who lives in the country. This fetching lass is a blessing for Hepzibah; she runs the penny store, helps to lift the gloomy atmosphere in the house, and when Clifford returns from his long imprisonment, Phoebe entertains the doddering man with her multitude of charms. She even strikes up an acquaintance with Holgrave, a young boarder in the house. Things start to look up when yet another tragedy strikes the Pyncheon family, leading to the momentary evacuation of the ancestral estate by Hepzibah and Clifford before Hawthorne settles all accounts in an ending that is both quick and highly implausible.

Hawthornes command of the English language is impressive and, at times, as precise as a cruise missile. One need only read the chapter about Judge Jaffrey Pyncheons unfortunate incident in the house to grasp the beauty of this authors style.

With The House of the Seven Gables, someone might enjoy the eerie curse that united the Maules with the Pyncheons for two centuries. Nothing stacks up against ghosts, a disembodied hand, and mysterious deaths.

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