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The Dark Side Of Moby Dick Essay

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 The Dark Side of Hawthorne

In The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne

exhibits the fate of a family due to a curse by analyzing

the most “disagreeable” secrets of a man’s soul (Great Lives

1077). Hawthorne shows the decay of an aristocratic family

due to the sins of the past. He uses allegory within his

character’s personalities and emotions to expose “the truth

of the human heart” (biography).

Hawthorne’s chosen location for this novel reflects

greatly on his life and specifically his childhood. Salem

is the home of The House of the Seven Gables. Ironically

this is the same town in which he was born in and lived in

through adulthood. He was raised in this town, therefore he

was very aware of the dark side of its past. He was a part

of this past through his ancestors. One of which was a

judge in the infamous Salem witch trials. At this trial

Hawthorne’s uncle is cursed by a so-called witch with the

words, “God will give you blood to drink” (Magill 2736).

This curse is much similar to Matthew Maule’s curse on the

Pyncheon family (Magill 2734). The solitude of his

characters reflects his childhood as well. Growing up, his


mother kept herself away from people which led him to become

a very solitary man for much of his life. As a young child

Hawthorne was lamed. During these years he became well

learned with the writings of Edmund Spenser, John Bunyan,

and William Shakespear(CSLF 1570). From these men he has

gained technique and style.

Having lived in Salem most of his life, Hawthorne is

extremely influenced by Puritanism. His writings greatly

reflect this. Hawthorne deals much with the sins of a man

being pasted down for generations. This is very much a

Puritan belief. Puritans are a very superstitious type of

person. Thus, this explains Hawthorne’s belief that a

curse, such as Maule’s curse, can destroy a well-to-do

family (Walker 1577). Hawthorne’s characters dealt with

guilt forced on by their ancestor, much of which goes back

as far as the Puritans. He commonly plays guilt against

innocence within one character, Hepzibah Pyncheon. She

feels strongly that she must maintain the lifestyle and

tradition of her ancestor Colonel Pyncheon. He shows her

many personalities as a demonstration of the “secret

motivations” of the heart (biography). Hepzibah is chained

to the curse by her Puritan ancestors therefore her efforts

to escape are often doomed. When she no longer has the

money to fight the destruction of her blood line she turns


to the shop of the past for survival.

The style with which Hawthorne portrays this character

among others is very superstitious, and they deal much with

the evil side of a human being. He often uses a man’s

battle with sin and the devil as a source of controversy

(Great Lives 1077). The Puritan background instilled in him

the reality of the devil and the evil of sinning. In

characters such as Hepzibah he uses evil and pain as a game

(Encyclopedia of World Biography 214). She spends her life

trying to escape from the dreaded Maule’s curse which makes

her suffer in the isolation she has received as a

punishment. Hawthorne emphasizes the imperfection of man

often (Encyclopedia of World Biography). None of his

character are completely good. They all have evil thoughts

at one time or another. His characters must deal with the

dividing line between what is real and what is imaginary

(Great Lives 1077). He focuses on the point that the “truth

of the human heart” cannot be found by any earthly source.

Thus, Hepzibah’s changing personalities display this

question of whom a person really is. Are they good or evil?

Are their actions black or white? This leads into

Hawthorne’s Transcendentalist beliefs.

In the time Hawthorne is writing a movement known as

transcendentalism was affecting literature and art.


Hawthorne is known as a dark transcendentalist because he

focuses strongly on the dark and sinful side of human kind.

In The House of the Seven Gables, he focuses on the self-

examination of character which is a significant idea in

transcendentalism (Encarta Encyclopedia). He believes a

human cannot reach the insights of transcendentalism by mere

sensual experience. They must reach a new level of

understanding. This is similar to Hepzibah inability to

understand Clifford reason and state of mind. He has been

alone many years away from daily sin and the darkness of the

evil within the house. It also relates to Hepzibah’s

inability to understand her emotion until Phoebe comes into

the picture. Phoebe helps her to see the light and that not

everything is dark and gloomy. However, Hepzibah still has

to fight a battle with the side of her that wants to remain

hidden and entrapped by the curse of Old Maule.

Transcendentalists speak of the “divine and supernatural

light” (gonzaga 1). The House of the Seven Gables is

haunted with the supernatural and it takes a higher

understanding to break the chains of the curse, Hawthorne

places the light against the dark with Hepzibah the dark,

and Phoebe the light. Hepzibah’s darkness always out powers

Phoebe’s happiness without intension. The darkness

signifies the imperfection of man that transcendentalists


believe in.

Hawthorne’s feelings on life alone create the base of

misfortune whether by curse or desire. His writing is often

allegorical and moralistic when dealing with the life of his

characters. They fight moral issues, many dealing with the

loss and possession of money. His characters live a very

isolated life much like his own. In The House of the Seven

Gables loneliness is the punishment Hepzibah pays for the

sin of the Colonel. The pain in the character’s lives comes

from this isolation, however when they try to live among the

people they retreat back into their holes. (WLC 1597).

Hawthorne was identical to this until he met his wife

Sophia. His characters’ pride is the source of their evil.

They fight to hold the lives they lead without the

consideration to modern times. Their lives come into moral

conflict due to human imperfection.

Hawthorne’s transcendentalist views of humanity and his

belief in the devil result in the evil side to his

characters. The curse put upon them from generations back

plagues them in modern time due to their refusal to move on.

Their personalities portray “the truth of the human heart”



Works Consulted

Clendenning, John “Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The World Book

Encyclopedia. 1995. 114-115.

“The House of the Seven Gables.” Masterplots. Ed. Frank N.

Magill. Vol.5. Englewood Cliffs, 1976, 2734-2738.

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Dictionary of Literary Biography.

Ed. Joel Myerson. Vol. 1. Detroit, 1978, 80-101.

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Britanica. 1998. 765-766.

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” *search.biography.com*.

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Encarta Encyclopedia. (1997)


“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The Critical Temper. Ed. Martin

Tucker. Vol. 4. A Library of Literary Criticism.

Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1979, 509-514.

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” World Literature Criticism.” Ed.

James P. Draper. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale Research Inc.,

1992, 1592-1605.

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Novels and Novelists : A Guide to

the World of Fiction. Ed. Martin Seymour-Smith.

London : Shuckburgh Reynolds Ltd., 1980, 154-155.

Wagenknecht, Edward. “Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Cavalcade of

the American Novel. New York : Henry Holt and Company,

1952, 90, 9, 20, 25, 38-57.


Walker, Ronald G. “Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Critical Survey of

Long Fiction. Vol. 4. Englewood Cliffs : Salem Press,

1983, 1314-1328.

Van Doren, Carl. “Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The American Novel.

Ed. Revised. Vol. 1789-1939. New York : The Macmillian

Company, 1966, 58-83 135-137, 210, 213,


“American Transcendentalism.”



“PAL : Nathaniel Hawthorne.”




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