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The House of the Seven Gables

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Study Help Essay Questions

1. Discuss the concept of guilt that is developed throughout the novel.

2. Flower imagery plays a large part in the meaning of the novel. Consider the references and allusions to flowers in the novel; then discuss whether or not there is a progression of meaning and/or symbolism to them.

3. Discuss the importance of Hawthorne's use of historical sources and allusions to present his central theme in the novel.

4. Analyze Hawthorne's use of isolation in the novel by defining what the "real evil" of isolation is in the novel.

5. Distinguish between sentiment and sentimentality. Discuss whether or not the novel is a sentimental novel.

6. Explain how the dominant colors in the novel contribute to the effectiveness of its plot, characterization, and theme.

7. Discuss the use of mirrors and shadows in the novel.

8. Discuss the dichotomy between intellect and emotion, between "the head and the heart," as a thematic concern of the novel.

9. Show how Hawthorne applies the concept of original sin in the novel.

10. Discuss Hawthorne's use of crowds and crowd imagery in the novel.

11. Describe the use of the supernatural in the novel and explain its function or functions.

12. Analyze Hawthorne's love of and use of paradox in the novel.

13. Define the atmosphere and the changes that occur in the atmosphere of the novel.

14. Discuss the tone of the novel in relation to the point of view expressed in the novel.

15. Analyze the function of one major character in the novel.

16. Make a case for the novel's being an allegory, a parable, and/or a romance.

17. In The House of the Seven Gables, the seven gables could be said to embody the seven deadly sins: for example, the sloth and envy of Hepzibah; the lust, avarice, and anger of Judge Jaffrey; the gluttony of Clifford; and the pride of all the Pyncheons. Define each of the seven deadly sins and discuss how each is manifested in one or more of the characters in the novel. If the house is considered as hell or Hades (a possibility, since the "golden bough" is alluded to), discuss the respective "punishment" of each character in relation to his or her sin.

18. It has been said that this novel is Hawthorne's fictional expression of a belief in the possibility of redemption from evil. Discuss this statement in relation to the novel.

19. Although the novel itself does not dwell on superstition, the "village gossips" hint that the House of the Seven Gables was built over an "unquiet grave." Discuss the use of tradition, legend, and superstition in the tale.

20. Hawthorne projects one of the themes of The House of the Seven Gables in a series of antitheses: Poverty is contrasted with riches, the present with the past, aristocracy with democracy, youth with age, greed with unselfishness, the complex with the simple, appearance with reality, pride with humbleness, and the isolated with the unisolated. Discuss the contrasts in respect to what Holgrave terms "the united struggle of mankind," the necessity of participation by mankind with mankind.

21. In The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne brings together biological, social, and moral forces, and the house itself is the most complex symbol of these forces. Discuss the use of the house as a biological, social, and moral symbol.