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This all-new edition of Hawthorne’s celebrated 1851 novel is based on The Ohio State University Press’s Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
It is accompanied by thorough explanatory annotations and an insightful introduction to the novel and antebellum culture by Robert S. Levine.
"Contexts" brings together a generous selection of primary materials intended to provide readers with background on the novel’s central themes. Historical documents include accounts of Salem’s history by Thomas Maule, Robert Calef, Joseph B. Felt, and Charles W. Upham, which Hawthorne drew on for The House of the Seven Gables. The importance of the house in antebellum America—as a manifestation of the body, a site of genealogical history, and a symbol of the republic’s middle class—is explored through the diverse writings of William Andrus Alcott, Edgar Allan Poe, and J. H. Agnew, among others. The impact of technological developments on the novel, especially of daguerreotypy, is considered through the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gustave de Beaumont, and Alexis de Tocqueville, among others. Also included are two of Hawthorne’s literary sketches—"Alice Doane’s Appeal" and "The Old Apple Dealer"—that demonstrate the continuity of Hawthorne’s style, from his earlier periodical writing to his later career as a novelist.
"Criticism" provides a comprehensive overview of the critical commentary on the novel from its publication to the present. Among the twenty-seven critics represented are Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry James, Nina Baym, Eric Sundquist, Richard H. Millington, Alan Trachtenberg, Amy Schrager Lang, and Christopher Castiglia.
A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.
A cartoon version of the misfortunes that plague a prominent New England family because of greed and a two-hundred-year-old curse.
Half-way down a by-street of one of our New England towns, stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. The street is Pyncheon-street; the house is the old Pyncheon-house; and an elm-tree, of wide circumference, rooted before the door, is familiar to every town-born child by the title of the Pyncheon-elm. On my occasional visits to the town aforesaid, I seldom failed to turn down Pyncheon-street, for the sake of passing through the shadow of these two antiquities; the great elm-tree and the weather-beaten edifice.
The aspect of the venerable mansion has always affected me like a human countenance, bearing the traces not merely of outward storm and sunshine, but expressive also of the long lapse of mortal life, and accompanying vicissitudes that have passed within. Were these to be worthily recounted, they would form a narrative of no small interest and instruction, and possessing, moreover, a certain remarkable unity, which might almost seem the result of artistic arrangement. But the story would include a chain of events extending over the better part of two centuries, and, written out with reasonable amplitude, would fill a bigger folio volume, or a longer series of duodecimos, than could prudently be appropriated to the annals of all New England during a similar period. It consequently becomes imperative to make short work with most of the traditionary lore of which the old Pyncheon-house, otherwise known as the House of the Seven Gables, has been the theme. With a brief sketch, therefore, of the circumstances amid which the foundation of the house was laid, and arapid glimpse at its quaint exterior, as it grew black in the prevalent east wind pointing, too, here and there, at some spot of more verdant mossiness on its roof and walls, we shall commence the real action of our tale at an epoch not very remote from the present day. Still, there will be a connection with the long past; a reference to forgotten events and personages, and to manners, feelings, and opinions, almost or wholly obsolete; which, if adequately translated to the reader, would serve to illustrate how much of old material goes to make up the freshest novelty of human life. Hence, too, might be drawn a weighty lesson from the little-regarded truth, that the act of the passing generation is the germ which may and must produce good or evil fruit, in a far-distant time; that, together with the seed of the merely temporary crop, which mortals term expediency, they inevitably sow the acorns of a more enduring growth, which may darkly overshadow their posterity.
The House of the Seven Gables, antique as it now looks, was not the first habitation erected by civilized man on precisely the same spot of ground. Pyncheon-street formerly bore the humbler appellation of Maule's Lane, from the name of the original occupant of the soil, before whose cottage-door it was a cow-path.
|Suggestions for Further Reading||xxxv|
|A Note on the Text||xxxix|
|The House of the Seven Gables||1|
1. Hawthorne considered this novel to be a romance, which in literary terms refers to a narrative, allegorical treatment of heroic, fantastic, or supernatural events. Do you think this term accurately describes the book? Why or why not?
2. What do you make of the relationship between interior consciousness and external appearance in the novel? How does this conflict, as experienced by each of the central characters, inform the novel? And how does the house serve as a metaphor for this struggle?
3. Discuss the theme of class and social structure in the novel. What do you think Hawthorne intends in his depiction of Hepzibah's and Clifford's slow decline, and the curse on the Pyncheons' house? Are these related in any way? What about the role of the Maules?
4. Is the house a kingdom or a prison? Neither, or both? What is the curse that afflicts the Pyncheons? Discuss.
5. Discuss the role played by Holgrave in the novel. How does his nomadic, rootless existence stand in contrast to the Pyncheons? How does his marriage to Phoebe complicate this?
6. Discuss the scene in which Clifford attempts to join the procession. How does this illuminate the fundamental struggle of the Pyncheon family?
Posted December 12, 2010
read this book years a go great book, you do no understand the book until you travel there and see the house in real life .. the house is something to see,to see how he lived hundred years ago is some to see. loved the hiding stair case .. they dont build houses and counting house like that any more.. any one who doesnt like the book needs to go see the house ..
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Posted February 28, 2001
'The House of the Seven Gables' is a more difficult but potentially more rewarding book than the more popular 'Scarlet Letter.' In 'The House of the Seven Gables' Hawthorne is, in effect, arguing with himself about man's nature--are we all subject to original sin? He sets the novel inside a mansion that has been cursed from its very beginning because its owner stole part of the house's land from someone who didn't have as much legal influence. Thus cursed, the house became a gloomy haven for a decayed and decadent aristocracy for the following 180 years, roughly 1665-1845. Like the house, are we cursed by original sin, condemned to repeat the patterns of our ancestors? (There are other interpretations of this book; I'm just leading with the most common one.) Hawthorne would best be described as a romantic realist. His narrative style is free of the supernatural but it is rife with symbolism--and often he will interpret the symbolism for you! There is not much 'action' in the conventional sense; a person could describe the goings-on in the book in ten minutes, including flashbacks. The novel's resolution will surprise you--but there still are some fundamental questions that haven't been answered! Hawthorne depends on descriptions for much of his work--e.g., how a particular rose looks on a particular morning, and that ties in with all the symbolism. As was common in Victorian times, sentence length was 2-3 times longer than today, with compound/ complex sentences the norm. If you can read Dickens without difficulty, though, you can read this book too. I'd recommend 'The House of the Seven Gables' for anyone interested in quality American literature, especially the early realist period, for people interested in how the Puritan strain haunted (haunts?) Americans, or indeed just for an interesting tale that is told with very little action, mostly mood and symbolism.
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One of those books I never got around to, so it is a must read. Yes there is buried philosophy that is worthwhile, but tedious to the modern reader. Nevertheless, it is one of those books one should plow through. At least it was a free book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 24, 2007
This was the worst book that I've ever attempted to read. It is so boring that reading a text book is more intresting. Hawthorne is way to wordy, I just couldn't get into this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.