In old New England, scheming Judge Pyncheon craves a piece of land owned by poor farmer Matthew Maule. When Maule refuses to sell, he is suddenly accused of being a witch and condemned to die. On the scaffold he curses his persecutor, Judge Pyncheon. “‘God,’ said the dying man, pointing his finger, with a ghastly look, at the undismayed countenance of his enemy, ‘God will give him blood to drink!’” So begins the story of the Pyncheon clan and the curse that blights them down through the generations as they live in their house with seven gables built on land wrongly and ruthlessly appropriated from an innocent man.
First published in 1851, Hawthorne’s novella may be off-putting for modern readers with its lack of action and obvious symbolism, but stick with it. The story is intriguing and eventually you come to care about the characters, especially lonely old spinster Hepzibah. As befits a gothic novel, it’s very much a mood piece with the oppressive decay of the house and its dark history overshadowing everything. Hawthorne’s Victorian writing style is also quite interesting because the dense, highly literate prose, emphasizing psychological insight, is so different from modern popular fiction, which focuses on fast-paced plotting and snappy dialogue. The House of Seven Gables will not appeal to everyone, but if you’re tired of low-brow pop culture and looking for a classic good read, give it a try.
Check the WRL catalog for The House of Seven Gables.