The House of Seven Gables
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The protagonist in The House of Seven Gables is Hepzibah Pyncheon. She is an
aging gentlewoman who in the past had lived in luxury, but she has recently run into
troubling economic times. She is an ancestor of a patrician Puritan background that goes
all the way back to the colonial days of the United States. One of her earliest relatives
was Colonel Pyncheon who built a house with seven gables on property which was
formerly owned by a man named Matthew Maule who was executed for witchcraft. It is
said that Colonel Pyncheon was one of the main figures in having Maule executed. On the
day of his death Maule put a bad spell on the Pyncheons that would last until the day of
Hepzibah. Hepzibah is a dynamic character in The House of Seven Gables.
As the story begins, Hepzibah is having to open a cent shop to help pay her bills.
She is a tall, gaunt woman who always seems to be in a fowl mood. She finds having to
open the shop extremely demeaning considering her patrician background. She lives
almost completely in the past and never leaves the house to interact with the rest of the
world. When she opens the cent shop she finally begins to make interactions with other
people; however, she keeps her unpleasant mood even to her customers. The woman
lives with the curse that has been handed down through the generations. It is this that
fuels her constant bad mood.
The day after she opens the shop, her cousin Phoebe comes to visit her. Phoebe is
a young country girl who ends up staying with Hepzibah to manage the household.
Phoebe has youthful energetic demeanor which improves Hepzibah's attitude a little.