The House of the Seven Gables
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Contributed by Marinda Dreiling
Chapter 20
Summary

The Flower of Eden: Holgrave, looking paler than ordinary, grasps Phoebe’s hand. He smiles at her with genuine warmth. He tells her that they are alone in the house: a terrible event has occurred. He shows her a daguerreotype of Judge Pyncheon. He had taken it within the last hour. He tells her that the Judge is dead and the others have vanished. He admits that there are hereditary reasons that connect him strangely with that man’s fate and tells her that he has not opened the doors to call in witnesses because it is better for Clifford and Hepzibah. Holgrave believes that Judge Pyncheon could not have come unfairly to his end: there is a physical predisposition among the Pyncheons to die in this way. However, Clifford’s uncle died in the same manner thirty years ago, and Clifford would automatically come under suspicion again. His escape further distorts the matter. Holgrave feels some joy at that moment, for he realizes that he loves Phoebe and declares his love for her. There is a knock at the door; Clifford and Hepzibah have returned home. Clifford appears to be the stronger of the two. He says that he thought immediately of Phoebe when he saw Alice’s Posies in bloom. He says that the flower of Eden has bloomed likewise in the old house.

Analysis

Holgrave’s behavior toward Phoebe is completely out of character, a romantic overture toward a character to whom he has shown little interest. They fit together primarily because they are the only young characters in the novel. Even the timing of the proposal is strange at best; The pairing of the two characters is a symbolic union, representing a rejuvenation within the House of the Seven Gables and a move to the future instead of the constant obsession with the past.

Holgrave explains more about what happened to the Judge. The death of Jaffrey is caused by the same physical affliction that caused the death of Clifford’s uncle. It was this death for which Clifford was blamed and sentenced to prison. Since it is now clear that Clifford did not murder either Judge Pyncheon or his uncle, the one question that remains is whether he will be implicated in this second death. His return to the house with Hepzibah allows this question to be settled.

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