The House of Seven Gables
In The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne relates a complex and intriguing tale in which light and dark, good and evil, and past and present are inextricably intertwined. Each character makes a unique contribution to the narrator’s progress in the tale-telling, to be sure. However, the book involves what might be described as an “ensemble cast” in modern terminology. Thus, relationships among all members of the ensemble must be understood for full appreciation of the novel’s complexity. Although Hawthorne himself dismissively referred to the text as a “romance,” which, according to the author’s definition, necessarily operates under more lax standards, The House of Seven Gables is in fact an enormously complex work, in which Hawthorne successfully reconciles American Puritanism with elements of the gothic. These seemingly disparate characteristics are brought together in the novel through the sheer force and skill of Hawthorne’s characterization and plot structuring, resulting in an aesthetic tone that has since been recognized as defining this era in American literature.
This House of Seven Gables research paper will examine the various ways in which Puritanism informs the structure and shape of The House of Seven Gables, and ultimately, the means by which Hawthorne uses elements of the gothic as a means of underscoring and emphasizing the Puritanical core of the novel. First, Hawthorne’s use of sin, guilt, expiation, and retribution as major structuring devices in the novel will be explored. Then, Hawthorne’s use of elements of the gothic in the novel will be examined, with particular attention paid to the way that these gothic elements both contrast and commingle with the Puritan basis of the novel.