The House of the Seven Gables

Overview

In a sleepy little New England village stands a dark, weather-beaten, many-gabled house. This brooding mansion is haunted by a centuries-old curse that casts the shadow of ancestral sin upon the last four members of the distinctive Pyncheon family of Salem.

The greed and haughty pride of the Pyncheon family through the generations is mirrored in the gloomy decay of their seven-gabled mansion, where the family's enfeebled and impoverished relations now live. Mysterious deaths ...

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Overview

In a sleepy little New England village stands a dark, weather-beaten, many-gabled house. This brooding mansion is haunted by a centuries-old curse that casts the shadow of ancestral sin upon the last four members of the distinctive Pyncheon family of Salem.

The greed and haughty pride of the Pyncheon family through the generations is mirrored in the gloomy decay of their seven-gabled mansion, where the family's enfeebled and impoverished relations now live. Mysterious deaths threaten the living. Musty documents nestle behind hidden panels carrying the secret of the family's salvation—or its downfall.

A brilliant intertwining of the popular, the symbolic, and the historical, Hawthorne's gothic Romance is a powerful exploration of personal and national guilt, a work that Henry James declared "the closest approach we are likely to have to the Great American Novel."

A cartoon version of the misfortunes that plague a prominent New England family because of greed and a two-hundred-year-old curse.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 UpHawthorne's tale about the brooding hold of the past over the present is a complex one, twisting and turning its way back through many generations of a venerable New England family, one of whose members was accused of witchcraft in 17th century Salem. More than 200 years later, we meet the family in its decaying, gabled mansion, still haunted by the presence of dead ancestors: Hepzibah, an elderly gentlewoman fallen on had times; her ineffectual brother, Clifford; and young Phoebe, a country maiden who cheerfully takes it upon herself to care for her two doddering relations. There's also Holgrave, a free-spirited daguerreotypist, who makes a surprising transformation into conventional respectability at the story's end. These people seem to be symbols for Hawthorne's theme more than full-bodied characters in their own right. As such, it can only be difficult for today's young adults to identify with them, especially since they are so caught up in a past that is all but unknown to present day sensibilities. Talented Joan Allen, twice nominated for Academy Awards, reads the tale in a clear, luminous voice. Because she has chosen not to do voices, however, it is sometimes difficult to tell which character is speaking. Still, she is more than equal to the task of handling Hawthorne's stately prose in a presentation that will be a good curriculum support for students of Hawthorne or those seeking special insight into this work of fiction.Carol Katz, Harrison Library, NY
From The Critics
"A large and generous production, pervaded with that vague hum, that indefinable echo, of the whole multitudinous life of man, which is the real sign of a great work of fiction."
—Henry James
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781433286797
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/29/2008
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author


Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864) was a novelist and short story writer. He wrote many classic novels including The Scarlet Letter, Tanglewood Tales, Twice-Told Tales, and The House of the Seven Gables.

Donada Peter is an award-winning audiobook narrator with more than five hundred titles to her credit. A professional actress, she has appeared in films, on television, and in the theatre. British by birth, she now lives in California.

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Read an Excerpt

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.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Denis Donoghue Donoghue, Denis

Note on the Text

Chronology of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Life

The House of the Seven Gables

Selected Bibliography

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Reading Group Guide

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?

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