Early in the first chapter, the narrator cites the prediction that old Matthew Maule's ghost will haunt the "new apartments" of the Pyncheon house. This prophesy comes true in the person of Holgrave, who lives in "a remote gable" of the house, barred from the main portion. He dwells in the house, but he learns to hate it.
Holgrave is a wayfaring, twenty-two-year-old man, one who has held a variety of jobs. He is now a daguerrotypist, an early-day photographer. He is politically radical, denouncing wealth, tradition, and "the heavy hand of the past." More important, as a Hawthorne character, he is coldly intellectual, disdainful of sentiment, and capable of detached interest in observing the gradual disintegration of Hepzibah and Clifford — a fact which is exemplified in his taking a photograph of the dead Judge.
As a Maule, Holgrave has the gift of mesmerism; but unlike his forefathers, despite his own lust for power, he does not use that power on Phoebe when he has the chance. However, Holgrave is certainly not the hero of the romance who marries the heroine. He does marry Phoebe at the end, it is true, but his stability and integrity are not to-be completely trusted. We remember that he has been a jack-of-all-trades who follows the latest fads, a radical who renounces wealth and old houses; yet at the end of the novel, he is quite willing to live on the inherited money of the Judge, and he is planning to build his own stone house in the country.