The House of the Seven Gables
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Contributed by Marinda Dreiling
Chapter 19
Summary

Alice’s Posies: Uncle Venner was the first person to stir the day after the storm. He traveled down Pyncheon street, where one mystic branch hung down before the main entrance of the Seven Gables. This golden branch was like the branch that gained Aeneas and the Sibyl admittance into Hades. Uncle Venner observes the posies that remained in the angle between the two front gables, traditionally known as Alice’s Posies. Tradition held that Alice brought the seeds for these flowers from Italy. Uncle Venner goes to the house to inquire about Hepzibah, for he wonders why there was not the pan of scraps for his pig that Hepzibah usually sets out. Holgrave greets Uncle Venner. The two of them wonder where Clifford and Hepzibah are, and Uncle Venner presumes that Jaffrey took them into the country. Mrs. Gubbins, an old maid, comes to the shop to complain about how Hepzibah didn’t have it open that day. The little boy Ned complains that he can’t get gingerbread. Other people wonder why Judge Pyncheon’s affairs were not in order. Various people attempt to communicate with the inhabitants of the mansion. The butcher visits the house to make a delivery and looks in the house; he sees the legs of Judge Pyncheon from the door. The Italian boy plays his music in front of the house, expecting to have Clifford watch him. The Italian boy finds Judge Pyncheon’s schedule near the door, which he had likely lost the day before. The various townsfolk decide to go to the city marshal, and say that there was always something sinister in Hepzibah’s scowl. Not more than a half hour later Phoebe returns to the House of the Seven Gables. Ned Higgins tells her that there is something sinister in the house, but she goes inside with some apprehension.

Analysis

Hawthorne approaches the situations that the Pyncheon family faces from a number of perspectives; in this chapter, he views the Pyncheons from the eyes of the disabled Uncle Venner. Each of the characters selects certain aspects of the Pyncheon family tradition: Jaffrey focused on the lost eastern territory, while Holgrave dwells upon the lurid details of Matthew Maule and the Colonel. Uncle Venner views the Pyncheons from an entirely different perspective; he sees the family history as mythology, as shown by the reference to Aeneas, and remembers the positive stories about Alice Pyncheon. However, most of the townspeople view the Pyncheons in instrumental terms. Even Uncle Venner wonders why Hepzibah has not left scraps for his pig. The other townsfolk have more harsh complaints. Ned Higgins wants only gingerbread from Hepzibah, while Mrs. Gubbins complains that she cannot get good service from Hepzibah. This illustrates the different perspective that the town takes of Hepzibah and Clifford. They live within a commercial, market-oriented society, while Hepzibah and Clifford belong to an altogether different tradition in which dynastic norms apply.

Phoebe’s return to the house is an unexpected yet propitious event. Her return seems to lack a strong motivation; she comes back from the country without any particular reason, just as she left without any concrete motive. However, her return to the house signals an impending sense of closure, as she prepares to face the family legacy.

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