An inventive and classical piece of American literature by author Nathaniel Hawthorne, perhaps best known for the Scarlet Letter. The House of the Seven Gables was published in 1850 and draws upon his own family history for the motivation of the main characters. In the novel we see a just man robbed of his land with an accusation of witchcraft by an affluent man who coveted the land, upon which the accuser wished to erect a magnificent house to outlive the ages. After the completion of the house and the death of its founder, we are witness to his descendants fall from grace to a life of misery and despair at the curse the wronged man uttered before being hanged.
Hawthorne himself is descended from a key inquisitor of the famed Salem Witch Trials, and uses this text to explore some issues related to familial guilt and self-fulfilling prophecy. As is common with fiction of its time, it is shot straight through with allegory while still maintaining a core of gothic romance.
In the House of the Seven Gables Hawthorne makes an effective allegorical use of light and the lack thereof. The sun and bright light are seen to represent the innocent and good. Conversely, the dark interior of the house easily represents the evil of the Pyncheon past. These uses of symbolic dark and light are quite common and certainly not unique to Hawthorne.
The more subtle symbolism is evident in the character of Phoebe, Clifford and the house itself. The light blesses her and she rises to accept it. The house, which has stood dank for so long is pierced to its core by the morning sun that she releases by simply drawing the drapes. Clifford cannot leave the house's interior, but welcomes the light of the garden in Phoebe's company.
Hawthorne presents to us light, as a sign of not only innocence and vitality but also of regeneration. Phoebe is responsible for breathing new life into the tired old house and its sequestered inhabitants. Her presence not only brightens the manor but also touches the garden and the elm tree. Upon the death of the Judge, and the ending of the curse, the sun shines, the flowers bloom and the tree is resplendent.
The decay and stagnation of the Pyncheon line are seen represented by the dark, foreboding interior of the house, and to a lesser degree, the shadow beneath the Judges gaze and the isolationism of Clifford. The Pyncheon are rotting from the inside, being destroyed by their lust for money and the grasp they maintain on their aristocratic heritage. Phoebe and the light that follows her, banishes the old ways of the house and its residents helping them return to the world they locked outside.