Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hawthorne, House of Seven Gables, Day #1

--In his preface, Hawthorne sets out famous, but rather confusing terms for his narrative as a "romance," which is differentiated from a novel by its divergence from the "probable" and "ordinary," instead focusing on something less conventional or realistic--more like a legend. Yet, Hawthorne claims that the romance can't be too different or it fails. In what ways do you see the narrative fitting Hawthorne's own strictures for the romance so far?

--Compare the way the narrator describes Hepzibah, the somewhat absurd old New England spinster maid, and Jaffrey, the impressive New England judge. What does this comparison suggest about Hawthorne's vision ofcharacter and personality?

--Clifford Pyncheon has been seen by some critics as a model of the failed artist, reflecting Hawthorne's vision of what the artist must be like (that is, something other than Clifford). What is it that Clifford lacks that makes him a great appreciator of beauty, but not an artist himself?

1 comment:

  1. I'm fascinated with the kind of inheritance Hawthorne (or as he is known in my house, "Nathaniel Hawt-thorne") presents here---not only of accumulated goods or even of physical or personality traits, but also of the inheritance of actions. For the Pyncheons, although their lineage could have undoubtedly been traced back further, the mythology of their family originates with the life and death of Colonel Pyncheon, and most notably the ways in which he caused the Pyncheons' seven-gabled house to come into being. Each new generation of Pyncheons inherits the spoils of the Colonel's successes and the effects of his sins. In turn, they contribute their own accomplishments and failures as the birthright of Pyncheons to come. In my head, I see it as a snowball, with the Colonel's original achievements and wrongdoings as the center---the start---and, as it rolls through the generations, every Pyncheon must navigate it and bear its weight while, intentionally or not, adding layers of their lives to its mass. Like the Pyncheon elm and Alice Pyncheon's long ago haphazard attempts at gardening, the history of this family's grows through the generations and affects each and every Pyncheon born under its shadow.