The House of the Seven Gables: Character Profiles

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Character Profiles

Colonel Pyncheon: The proud, aristocratic builder of the House of the Seven Gables who died a sudden and mysterious death as soon as the House was completed. Colonel Pyncheon had some part in ensuring Matthew Maule's execution in order to seize Maule's land.

Matthew Maule: The humble, original owner of the land on which the House of the Seven Gables now stands, who was executed as a wizard during the witch-hunts of the early 17th century in colonial America. This character may be based on a historic person, the Quaker architect Thomas Maule, "persecuted by Salem authorities for both his religious beliefs and his criticism of the 1692 witch trials" (Notes, 2001 Modern Library Edition, p. 275).

Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon: The owner of the House at the time of the story. Commonly called simply "the Judge"-for, as the narrator somewhat snidely remarks, "he had attained, many years ago, to a judicial situation in some inferior court, which gave him, for life, the very desirable and imposing title"-he seems to Phoebe Pyncheon, when she first meets him, the virtual reincarnation (not Hawthorne's term) of old Colonel Pyncheon himself. They share the same "hard, stern, relentless look" and the same mostly concealed yet readily observable meanness of spirit.

Hepzibah Pyncheon: The elderly, reclusive sister of Judge Pyncheon, who reopens the in-house store in order to earn money for her family. Hepzibah has lived for many years in virtual self-imprisonment, and believes she can no longer have contact with the outside world:

Mr. Holgrave: The Daguerrotype artist who is a lodger in the House of the Seven Gables, the mansion's only other occupant when the novel begins. He is anti-aristocratic in sentiment, and is interested in social experiments and spiritualism. He seems to personify not only the artistic temperament in the novel but also the individualistic spirit of freedom of the United States.

Uncle Venner: The old man who takes a kindly and caring interest in his neighbors and neighborhood. "Within that circle [of the families whom he helped in various ways], he claimed the same sort of privilege, and probably felt as much warmth of interest, as a clergyman does in the range of his parishioners."

Phoebe Pyncheon: The young Pyncheon whose beauty and freshness stands in stark contrast to the House and to Hepzibah when she arrives. In contrast to Hepzibah, Phoebe is a vibrant, living, "spiritual" personality. It is this quality, no doubt, to which Holgrave is attracted. She is a symbol of innocence and new beginning amidst the inherited, ancestral guilt of the Pyncheon family.

Clifford Pyncheon: Hepzibah's brother, whom Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon framed, thirty years' previously, for the death of their uncle. Clifford has only recently been freed from jail when the novel begins. He returns to the House of the Seven Gables and "haunts" it like a ghost, living the reclusive existence his sister has established, but always yearning to reconnect with the outside world in a way that Hepzibah does not. He is sensitive and appreciative of beauty, but these qualities have been dulled by years of living under the weight of the threat that Jaffrey represents to him.

Gervayse Pyncheon: A former master of the House of the Seven Gables who, as greedy for gain as the Colonel was before him and the Judge was after him, attempted to learn the location of a document entitling the Pyncheons to a large tract of eastern land from a younger Matthew Maule, descended from Matthew Maule the elder.

Alice Pyncheon: The beautiful but haughty daughter of Gervayse Pyncheon, whom the younger Matthew Maule (at least, according to Holgrave's short story) held in a mesmeric thrall.

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