Analysis Of The Train Ride In The

House Of Seven G Essay, Research Paper

email: t_street@hotmail.comAnalysis of the train ride in The House Of SEven GablesPaper #1- The Train RideIn the famous nineteenth century Romance novel, The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne centers his entire book on an extremely odd and small seventeenth century country home. The book begins by giving the reader background information on the house and the two families involved-the Pyncheons and the Maules. However, Hawthorne quickly catches the reader up to date by informing the reader of how dull and gloomy the house is at the present time. Finally, to help Hepzibah and Clifford cope with their seemingly horrible lives, Hawthorne introduces a bright new ray of sunshine, Phoebe. It is through his characters’ descriptions of the seven gabled house and how and why the Pyncheons have possession of the house that he delivers his moral, “-the truth, namely, that the wrong-doing of one generation lives into successive ones, and, divesting itself of every temporary advantage, becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief; – and [the author] would feel it a singular gratification, if this Romance might effectually convince mankind of the folly of tumbling down an avalanche of ill-gotten gold, or real estate, on the heads of an unfortunate posterity, thereby to maim and crush them, until the accumulated mass shall be scattered abroad in its original atoms” (2). One of the most significant scenes in the book is when Hepzibah and Clifford take a mysterious train ride, which seems very strange to the reader the first time he reads it. Hawthorne incorporates this train ride to prove several points to the reader, primarily how Clifford’s thoughts are so strikingly similar to Holgrave’s. This scene also brings to light Hepzibah and Clifford’s isolation from the rest of the world, and the differences between Hepzibah and Clifford. The reader’s first impression of the train ride is generally one of confusion and misunderstanding. Hepzibah and Clifford just all of a sudden decide that they are going to leave, and don’t say anything to anyone about it. Looking at the actual plot of the book, the reader believes this train ride bears no significance to the characters. It turns out, however, to be an extremely important section of the story because of all of the underlying meaning that it gives to the reader about the characters.First of all, the reader must understand that the house has put a terrible omen on whoever lives in it ever since it was built, all the way back to the original Pyncheons. Hawthorne gives the reader the impression that the land that the house is built on provides a mystical aura that seems to engulf anyone who lives in and around the house; it engulfs them in such a way that they lead an inescapable lifestyle that is very dull, boring, and monotonous. The train ride shows Hepzibah and Clifford entering the real world away from their seclusion, and demonstrates how the house has actually forced them to become isolated from everyone else. These two have been away from the public for quite a while, Hepzibah even more so than Clifford. Hawthorne demonstrates this by saying,”At last, therefore, and after so long estrangement from everything that the world acted or enjoyed, they had been drawn into the great current of human life, and were swept away with it, as by the suction of faith itself” (256). These two characters are so estranged from the public that they really do not know how to conduct themselves when they enter the train station and board the train. They have no idea where they were going, and Clifford gives the money to the conductor “as he had observed others do,” as if he was not sure what to do (259). They both seem to be somewhat amazed at what all is going on inside the rail car. Although it seems to the reader to be a typical interior of a train, it is “full of novelty for this pair of strangely enfranchised prisoners” (256). They watch the children play and, Clifford especially, soaks in every bit of his surroundings as he possibly can. The train ride brings out each of the characters true feelings about the house, and shows that Clifford and Hepzibah are actually not quite as similar as everyone originally believes. Clifford is really much more positive about life in general than Hepzibah, and he really enjoys being out and about and absorbing all of the joy that life has to offer. Hawthorne pays particular attention to the children playing ball and the boys who sell items at the train stops, almost as if he is reminding the reader about young Phoebe, who is not physically there. To exemplify Clifford’s happiness, Hawthorne states that “he caught the color of what was passing about him, and threw it back more vividly than he received it” (257). However, Hepzibah “felt herself more apart from humankind than even in the seclusion which she had just quitted” (257). The seclusion that Hawthorne is referring to here is that of the old seven gabled house in which they had just left. Hepzibah does not even want anyone to know that she is outside and in public-it EMBARRASSES her to be seen out in the open! Hawthorne proves this by writing that Hepzibah”was fain to shrink deeper into herself, as it were, as if in the hope of making people suppose that here was only a cloak and hood, threadbare and woefully faded, taking an airing in the midst of the storm, without any wearer!” (255).

This entire scene almost saddens the reader, for Clifford acts as though this is the greatest moment in his life when, in fact, it is a fairly regular occurrence in most people’s lives. It is a very depressing moment when Hepzibah asks, “‘Clifford! Clifford! Is this not a dream?’” (256). Hawthorne is showing that she is so unbelievably depressed at the house, that she knows no other world than to simply live in seclusion. Then, to prove to the reader how excited Clifford actually is, Clifford retaliates back with, “‘A dream, Hepzibah! On the contrary, I have never been awake before!’” (256). Here again, Hawthorne shows the reader how much of a damper the old house has put on these two characters’ lives. Also here, the tables have turned with respect to who is guiding who. Before this train scene, Hepzibah has been leading Clifford like a parent would lead a child; then, out of nowhere, Clifford begins guiding Hepzibah. Up until this point, the reader has never seen Clifford act this way before. Finally, after always letting someone else lead his life for him, Clifford is “startled into manhood and intellectual vigor” (258). One of Hawthorne’s main points that he is trying to show is the similarities between Clifford’s thoughts while on the railroad, and Holgrave’s words that he speaks in the garden. They both believe that the present and future is nothing but the past revisited, except with a few extra turns. Clifford expresses this when he is speaking with the stranger on the train. He says to the man,”You are aware, my dear Sir-you must have observed it, in your own experience–that all human progress is in a circle; or, to use a more accurate and beautiful figure, in an ascending spiral curve The past is but a coarse and sensual prophecy of the present and future” (259-260). Here, Hawthorne is providing the reader with proof of his moral that he states in the Preface. That is, that real estate or “ill-gotten gold” is the main reason behind many of the world’s problems (2). It is definitely the cause of a serious problem that is the backbone of this book. Both Clifford and Holgrave believe that if Colonel Pyncheon had gotten the original land from Matthew Maule in a gentlemanly fashion, none of the feuding would have ever taken place. When Holgrave is speaking with Phoebe in the garden, he also expresses his opinion of the present and future relying on the past. He claims, “‘Shall we never, never get rid of this Past! –It lies upon the Present like a giant’s dead body!’” (182). Then, to further prove his point, he goes into a long verse about dead men, and how we rely on them for many things. Using these two scenes, Hawthorne has definitely shown his own belief that the past is the basis for the future. Another similarity between the two characters is how they both express their hatred for the hideous house. Holgrave expresses this, again during his conversation with Phoebe, by saying, “‘The house, in my view, is expressive of that odious and abominable Past, with all its bad influences, against which I have just been disclaiming.’” (184). He also says that he thinks it ought to be burned. Hawthorne allows Clifford to express his hatred for the house when he refers to it as “‘that dismal old house’” and encourages Hepzibah to forget about it for a while (258). Also, both characters DO NOT believe that houses should be built for permanence. Holgrave believes that nothing should be built “of permanent materials as a hint to the people to examine into and reform the institutions which they symbolize” (183-184). Clifford believes that “the greatest possibly stumbling-blocks of human happiness and improvement, are these heaps of bricks, and stones” (261). Finally, at the end of the novel, Holgrave surprises everyone, while speaking about the Judge’s country home, by saying, “‘But I wonder that the late Judge should not have felt the propriety of embodying so excellent a piece of domestic architecture in stone, rather than in wood” (314). This comes as a big surprise because he and Clifford had both believed in not building houses for permanence. He says this because now that the Judge is gone, everyone seems to already have forgotten about him, and since Judge Jaffrey has built such a nice house, Holgrave believes that everyone should be able to enjoy it. Holgrave says this only after seeing the new house. He and Clifford had both believed that houses should not be built out of stone; however, the only house they had to base this opinion on was the horrible house of seven gables. Now that both of them have much more open minds, Holgrave says that he thinks the house should last forever. Hawthorne knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote this highly important train-ride scene, and very meticulously planned out each quote and occurrence. This train ride, although it may seem irrelevant when the reader first reads it, proves to be an extremely important piece of the book.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The House of the Seven Gables. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965.


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