The House of the Seven Gables: Novel Summary: Chapter 10

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Summary: Clifford and Phoebe spend time together in the garden, which does wonders for Clifford's spirits. Phoebe reads to him (meeting with more success than did Hepzibah); Clifford delights in the blossoming flowers; the bees and the Pyncheon family chickens prove stimulating to watch. The only hint of trouble is to be seen when Clifford looks into the foul waters of Maule's Well: sometimes he sees "dark faces" gazing at him.
 
Analysis: The return to the House's garden signals a return to the Edenic motif established with Phoebe's entrance into the novel. The narrator explicitly alerts readers to this motif's reappearance: "It was the Eden of a thunder-smitten Adam, who had fled for refuge thither out of the same dreary and perilous wilderness into which the original Adam was expelled." While the identification of youthful Phoebe with Eve may have seemed reasonable and appropriate to readers, the identification of aged Clifford with Adam may seem less so; the narrator does, however, inform readers that, through spending time in the garden with Phoebe, Clifford virtually reverts to childhood and, thus, innocence (which, in the Puritan theology never far from the surface of Hawthorne's work, means freedom from sin, the ineradicable sin we "heard" in Hepzibah's voice in the previous chapter). Readers may well wonder if, like their biblical counterparts, Phoebe and Clifford will experience a "fall from grace."
 
The fact that the narrator tells readers he should not be spending so much time and space describing the behavior of the chickens notifies readers, of course, that the fowl serve a symbolic purpose. The narrator states that the chicken appears "sufficiently old, withered, wizened, and experienced, to have been the founder of the antiquated race"-language surely designed to spark readers' remembrances of Colonel Pyncheon. On the other hand, as Holgrave tells Phoebe, "the chicken [that is, the youngest chicken whom the rooster's "first wife" treats very protectively, just as Phoebe is lovingly tending to Clifford] was a symbol of the life of the old house." The chicken serves, then, to further develop, albeit indirectly, Clifford himself as an ambiguous character. Does he represent (as the Adamic motif might suggest) new and innocent life, or is he a recapitulation of the old and sinful life readers first saw in Colonel Pyncheon?

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