Has there been a film version?
A silent film in 1910. One in 1940 starring Vincent Price which covers the back story of Jafford and Clifford Pyncheon. And one in 1967.
Who are the important characters?
Hepzibah Pyncheon – a destitute old spinster who lives in the formerly glorious House of the Seven Gables – once a seat to the noble Pyncheon family – she is gentle and meek but people are afraid of her
Phoebe Pyncheon – a distant niece of Hepzibah’s, she represents innocence, beauty, and purity, she’s beautiful, young, kind, and energetic
Clifford Pyncheon – the brother of Hepzibah, recently returned from prison, he has a thirst for beautiful things
Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon – cousin to Hepzibah and Clifford, a highly respected citizen, involved in a long-standing feud with the residents of The House of the Seven Gables
Holgrave – a daguerrotypist (artist) who boards at the house
What’s it about?
Hepzibah Pyncheon is the sole resident in the once glorious House of the Seven Gables. Ever since the original Mr. Pyncheon acquired the land it is on through less than tasteful means, the house has had some sort of curse settled on it. The original owner of the land, the “wizard” Maule, called down a curse on founder Pyncheon and he was found dead on the day the house was opened to the family. Now Hepzibah is so poor that she’s forced to rent a room out to Holgrave, an artist, and to also open a cent shop in the side of the house to keep herself alive.
Things change when Phoebe, Hepzibah’s cousin, comes from the countryside to stay. Phoebe lightens the entire atmosphere of the dark house and reinvigorates the garden outside. She becomes a necessity when Hepzibah’s brother Clifford returns home from prison, where many believe he was wrongly sent. Upon Clifford’s return, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon begins showing up regularly at the house to settle an old feud with Clifford. Hepzibah is convinced the two meeting will kill Clifford from the weight of his old griefs. But the curse on the house isn’t finished running it’s course yet and the meeting of the two old cousins will have disastrous results no one could have predicted.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
Mainly because Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the founders of the modern horror genre.
Do you recommend I read this book?
Eh…lots of his short stories are better. Although if you are a Lovecraft fan, this was one of his favorite books and he used it as a basis for some of his stories…so you might be interested in reading it.
How did this book make your list?
Mainly because of the answer to the previous question.
Has it won any awards?
“Scarcely any of the items in the above-drawn parallel occurred to Phoebe, whose country-birth and residence, in truth, had left her pitifully ignorant of most of the family traditions, which lingered, like cobwebs and incrustations of smoke, about the room and chimney-corners of the House of the Seven Gables.” – p 111
“Anon, as age came stealing, like a sad twilight, back over his figure, you would have felt tempted to hold an argument with Destiny, and affirm, that either this being should not have been made mortal, or mortal existence should have been tempered to his qualities.” – p 124
There is actually a House of the Seven Gables in Salem, MA. And there actually is a lineage of the Pyncheon family which this story is based on. Also, why Dr. Tennant didn’t use this as an example of Eden in literature, I will always wonder.
I am always so confused by Nathaniel Hawthorne. His stories seem to go nowhere and be pointless up until the last chapter when he suddenly ties things all together so quickly you have to flip back in the book to figure out what happened. I love his short stories, but his novels just can’t seem to impress me. Plus, he uses such enormous words that he makes me feel illiterate. Words such as “obstreperous” and “eleemosynary.” He writes horror and supernatural thriller without you even knowing it, and that just kind of bugs me. He’s creepy, but in such a pretentious way that it doesn’t creep me out one bit. It’s just annoying.