.. it keeps the family from reaching the deed because it is hidden in a recess behind the picture. Similarly, the Pyncheon family has had several past problems because of greed over the deed (Abel 263). The picture has always held the deed which is a way to escape from the house, but the picture instead holds the deed until it is useless. The picture therefore continues to punish the family for their vicious actions against the Maules.
The picture remains with the family, just like the guilt that has been passed on generation from generation over the Colonels immoral treatment of Matthew Maule (Abel 260). Hawthorne has turned the portrait into a lasting symbol of the families torrid past. Another symbol used by Hawthorne in the novel is the deed to the Pyncheon family Indian ground in Maine. The deed symbolizes the freedom of the inhabitants of the house. Like the inhabitants of the house, the deed is locked away in secrecy because of the immoral actions of the Colonel.
The Pyncheon family was once part of the socially elite class, and considered to have much worth. However, over years the family has slowly lost this status, and “The decline of the Pyncheon aristocracy is indicated in terms of Hepzibahs having to open a cent-shop in order to earn a livelihood” (Rountree 97). The deed was also once quite valuable and even fought over by the Pyncheon family members, but it too now has lost its value. This seems to be the fate of almost everything that resides in the cursed Pyncheon house. Hawthorne also uses symbols that are not connected to the house.
The elm tree is an example of how Hawthorne symbolizes nature and life. The elm tree begins small compared to the house, but it slowly grows. Its branches stretch out and eventually it becomes bigger than the house. Also, “the aged tree dangles a golden branch before the main entrance of the seven gables ” (Abel 156). This branch symbolizing the evil in the house, and it is compared to “golden branch, that gained Aeneas and Sybil admittance into Hades” (Abel 156).
However, the rest of the tree remains bustling with life. The tree eventually conquers the house symbolizing that life has finally beaten death. The tree also has continued to go on during the generations of Pyncheons that have passed through the house. This showing that despite bad circumstances life will continue (Abel 258). The tree is one of the ways that Hawthorne symbolized the vivid life that was going on outside the house.
The well outside of the house symbolizes the past and even tells of the future of the Pyncheon family. The well originally owned by the Maule family was a prized possession in the salt water area because the spring contained in it fresh water. The well was “a desired asset in real estate” so the Colonel wanted it (Kaul 144). However, the well became soiled once the Colonel took over the land. The well can also act as the “soul of the house” which is now polluted (Abel 259).
The well stays true to all of Hawthornes symbols of house, because it too becomes tainted and useless after the Pyncheon family takes it. The well also shows the future as some gifted eyes can see images in it. Hawthorne ends his novel with the well “throwing up a succession of kaleidoscopic pictures” about the lives of Hepzibah, Clifford, and others (Hawthorne 319). The well is used in both these ways to add a metaphysical element to the story and another level. Hawthorne uses the railroad to symbolize a “microcosm of society” (Arac 15).
It is through the railroad that Clifford and Hepzibah try to escape into society. Clifford yearns to become part of life, and his transfusion into the life of the train seems to renew him (Arac 15). Upon entering the train Clifford tells Hepzibah, “Let you and I be happy! As happy as that youth, and those pretty girls, at their game of ball!” (Hawthorne 258). For a short time, Clifford tries to be like the others on the train. However, his attempts are in vain, because Clifford cannot join the train while he is still tied to the house. Instead, he holds conversations that continue to return to the topic of the house.
Cliffords mind is fixated on the house which arouses suspicion from his train companions. Eventually after prattling on, Clifford realizes that he can never really leave the house and join society. Thus, he gets Hepzibah, and they separate from the bustling life of the train at a station only to return to the dismal confines of solitude (Arac 16). Clifford once disassociated from life, the train, loses his vivacity and energy, and he no longer leads Hepzibah. Instead, he slumps down and needs help to find his way (Erlich 142). Hawthorne uses the entire railroad excursion to symbolize another attempt and failure by Hepzibah and Clifford to escape into life, but they end up only lonely with no where to turn but back to the dreaded house (Arac 16).
Nathaniel Hawthorne believed that many things in life had meaning. This carries over into his writing and help account for his frequent use of symbolism. Hawthorne is trying to write a good story, and to do this he incorporates many symbols that add depth to his writing. One of the themes that is seen most often by his symbols is that retribution eventually comes for everybody. The house continues to torment all the descendants of Colonel Pyncheon because of his immoral act.
The picture punishes generations of Pyncheons too by hiding the deed. The deed like the family eventually decays, and the family is never allowed to use it. All these symbols show us how Hawthorne is trying to teach us that bad actions will be punished. Hawthorne also tries to show us that descendants carry with them the burdens of their ancestors. Like Adam and Eve passed down original sin, Colonel Pyncheon passed down a cursed life to all his offspring.
The house, well, and portrait. The portrait cannot be moved because of a special clause, and it haunts generation after generation. The well has also been affected by the past, and future generations have to deal with the result of past generations actions. The house continually hurts people until eventually the families make up and flee the cursed house. Hawthorne also uses symbols such as the train and tree to show us life outside of the house is good. Hawthorne is trying to show that there is good and evil in the world competing with each other. All these symbols that Hawthorne uses enhances his writing so that we may look at it on a more thoughtful level.
Through these symbols, he also expresses to us his basic beliefs in life. Hawthorne meant to not only entertain with his writings, but also to inform if possible. This explains the extensive use of symbolism in his work. Overall, Hawthorne did not just write a story, he wrote a classic that has stood the test of time. Works Cited Abel, Darrel. The Moral Picturesque: Studies in Hawthornes Fiction.
Indiana: Purdue UP, 1988. Arac, Jonathan. “The House and the Railroad: Dombey and Son and The House of the Seven Gables.” The New England Quarterly volume LI (1978) : 3 – 22. Colacurcio, Michael. “The Sense of an Author: The Familiar Life and Strange Imaginings of Nathaniel Hawthorne.” ESQ 103 (1981) : 113. Crowley, Donald. Hawthorne: The Critical Heritage.
London: W & J Mackay Co. Ltd., 1970. Erlich, Gloria. Family Themes and Hawthornes Fiction: The Tenacious Web. New Jersey: Rutgers UP, 1984. Hawthorne, Nathaniel.
The House of Seven Gables: An Authoritative Text Backgrounds and Sources Essays in Criticism. Ed. Seymour Gross. New York: W W Norton & Co.,1967. Kaul, A., ed.
Hawthorne: A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey : Prentice – Hall Inc., 1966. Rountree, Thomas, ed. Critics on Hawthorne. Florida: U of Miami P, 1972.