Book Review: The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

My father lived in a cursed house as a child. Every night an old hag with a red kerchief wrapped around her head climbed the shingles of the house up to his window and knocked with her boney fingers until he woke with a start. My uncle was hit by a truck in that house. He survived the “accident,” but my grandmother could not get out of that house fast enough. She was certain that it was haunted.

My brother has had dreams of the same hag. In many cultures around the world the NIGHT HAG is associated with sleep paralysis, demonic influences and generational curses. He told me the other day that since he started reciting the Hail Mary prayer before bed the demonic visitors have stayed away.

“Shall we never never get rid of this Past? … It lies upon the Present like a giant’s dead body.”

― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

I used to think that generational curses were more like the bad decisions of one generation naturally affecting the next. But is there a more supernatural element to these curses?

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

The New England house of the seven gables sheltering the Pyncheon family for many tragic generations looks as shabby and destitute of hope as Hepzibah and her forlorn brother when cousin Phoebe arrives. Though she has Pyncheon blood her light is too strong to be touched by whatever this mysterious curse is. In fact, her light pushes out the darkness. A young boarder captures light in his daguerreotypes and the true essence of the people who sit for his portraits, including the man responsible for the latest tragic episode inflicted upon the family.

“Angels do not toil, but let their good works grow out of them.”

― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

There are two types of people: those open to the light and those who are closed to it. Eventually the light redeems those open to redemption. It’s true in real life that some people seem cursed by circumstance or heredity. A chance meeting, a new friendship, an openness to change, even if only timorous, can let that light in sometimes. I’m not naive about it. Many people are under such a spell that it is close to impossible to bring them to healing light, but like Phoebe, if we have even a glimmer of light to share than we must. It may make all the difference for one sad soul.

“In this republican country, amid the fluctuating waves of our social life, somebody is always at the drowning-point.”

― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

I chose a run-down old house to write about in my first book, a house full of secrets and family curses, so I really enjoyed how the Pyncheon house came alive for me in THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES. More than the characters in the book, I liked Hawthorne’s character which shines through in his descriptions and in his wry observations about human nature.

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