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The House of the Seven Gables: Novel Summary: Chapter 20

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Chapter 20

Summary: Holgrave is the person who let Phoebe into the House. He tells her that Jaffrey is dead. He does not know where Clifford and Hepzibah have gone, although he wishes they had not fled, for he fears it will make Clifford look responsible for the Judge's death. The Judge died, according to Holgrave, from a physical malady common in the Pyncheon family: "This mode of death has been an idiosyncrasy with his family, for generations past; not often occurring, indeed, but-when it does occur-usually attacking individuals about the Judge's time of life, and generally in the tension of some mental crisis, or, perhaps, in an access of wrath." Furthermore, says Holgrave, Old Matthew Maule-a man in whom, Holgrave remarks in passing, he has more than a casual interest- knew about this malady and based his "curse" on his knowledge of it. Holgrave remarks that the circumstances surrounding the Judge's death match those of Clifford's uncle thirty years earlier-circumstances that, it turns out, Jaffrey had at that time arranged so as to make Clifford look responsible for his uncle's death. This presumption of guilt led to the long imprisonment from which Clifford has only recently been released. "His own death," Holgrave concludes, "so like that former one [i.e., the uncle's death], yet attended by none of those suspicious circumstances, seems the stroke of God upon him, at once a punishment for his wickedness, and making plain the innocence of Clifford." Enlivened, it seems, by the knowledge that the truth will at last be known, Holgrave and Phoebe declare their love for one another. It is to this happy scene that Hepzibah and Clifford return.
Analysis: In this chapter, Hawthorne at last reveals much of the elements in his plot that he has been hiding, as the above summary shows. Several pieces now fall into place: what the conflict between Clifford and Jaffrey had been, why Clifford was as he was when he first arrived at the House, the nature of Old Maule's "curse," and how Jaffrey had died the previous day. At a deeper level, however, this chapter seems to begin a happy resolution to this generally dark tale. This resolution can be considered by looking, again, at the Edenic symbolism-symbolism so strong that now even Hepzibah can invoke it: "[T]he flower of Eden has bloomed. in this old, darksome house today." The narrator, likewise, tells readers that Holgrave and Phoebe's love for each other "transfigured the earth, and made it Eden again, and themselves the first two dwellers in it."� Perhaps this Adam and Eve will be able to avoid the fall into sin, the fall from grace, that dogged the first pair; perhaps they, by their love, will be able to maintain a state of blessed innocence in the world. These, at least, are the suggestions the symbolism plants in readers' minds.�


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