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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An Instance of Verisimilitude: The House of the Seven Gables

"But, besides these cold, formal, and empty words of the chisel that inscribes, the voice that speaks, and the pen that writes, for the public eye and for distant time, - and which inevitably lose much of their truth and freedom by the fatal consciousness of so doing, - there were traditions about the ancestor, and private diurnal gossip about the Judge, remarkably accordant in their testimony" (Hawthorne 123).

     In analyzing this novel, I have noticed many passages hinting at an inner reality extending beyond just what can be read in the text. However, up until now, I had not found a true instance of verisimilitude that I could tie in to the work's inner theme. This passage, however, connects right to a certain suspected theme. There is a common thematic idea throughout this novel of letting one's superstition and ancestry reflect the lives of a family's descendants. A lot of this novel's inner passages hint at past history, family traditions, and fear of superstition. The previous passage cited takes these ideas and connects them to reality, going almost unnoticed as Hawthorne slips it in with Judge Pyncheon's character description. 
     The passage occurs in a chapter almost wholly comparing Judge Pyncheon to the accursed ancestor, Colonel Pyncheon, who was just as greedy and corrupt. As the narrator begins to discuss the Judge's past, this passage occurs, as if transitioning from an overall successful outlook into the bitter reality of his stature. In modern English, the passage says no matter what people say about someone, how many achievements that someone earned, or even what's engraved on that someone's tombstone, it's what people gossip about and establish as true that really matters. In reality, if someone has a great number of achievements but have bad stories spread about them, people will listen to the stories first. For example, Michael Jackson was one of the world's greatest entertainers, but people now pay more attention to his acquitted court charges than his success. 
     One of the biggest possible themes for this novel is the fact that superstition supersedes reality always, as revealed by this verisimilitude. People can achieve great success destined to sink by rumors, as the Judge's superstitious stories suggest about himself. 

Word Count: 300

Journal Entry 12/30/2015: The House of the Seven Gables

"The sick in mind, and, perhaps, in body, are rendered more darkly and hopelessly so by the manifold reflection of their disease, mirrored back from all quarters in the deportment of those about them; they are compelled to inhale the poison of their own breath, in infinite repetition" (Hawthorne 144). 

     This passage, as it appears in the novel, is extremely powerful, hinting at more than just the current situation. It strikes one of my soft spots as a reader due to Hawthorne's elegant use of language and its inner reality. Hawthorne crafts his language so precisely, making this passage sound as beautifully dark as it is real. It's easy to extend this passage beyond just how it appears in the text, especially if one were to have experienced what I have. 
     Prior to the passage's appearance, Phoebe had been taking care of recent ex-con, Clifford Pyncheon, with stressed detail on the bond that the two had developed. This passage occurs almost suddenly, breaking away from the main characters for the first time in a long stretch, feeling as if Hawthorne meant for this particular part to stick out. Its reality is much deeper to me than can be connected through text. Modernized, this means people who are ill are made worse by people's perception of their illness, as if cursed. In my hometown, people were guilty of this, making troubled minds feel even worse. After reading this, I can verify the sensitive reality: people conditioned into retardation. Sound familiar, followers?
Word Count: 200

Monday, December 21, 2015

Close-Reading Passage 1: The House of the Seven Gables

"There were curtains to Phoebe's bed; a dark antique of canopy . . . which now brooded over the girl like a cloud, making a night in that one corner, while elsewhere it was beginning to be day. The morning light, however, soon stole into the aperture at the foot of the bed . . . Finding the new guest there - with a bloom on her cheeks like the morning's own, and a gentle stir of departing slumber in her limbs, as when an early breeze moves the foliage - the dawn kissed her brow. It was the caress which a dewy maiden - such as the Dawn is, immortally - gives to her sleeping sister, partly from the impulse of irresistible fondness, and partly as a pretty hint that it is time now to unclose her eyes" (Hawthorne 70). 

     The reader is presented with this passage when the house's only living descendant besides its scowling, depressed resident comes to stay for a while unexpectedly. Up to this moment, the reader has only been presented with grim imagery of the House and its prime resident, Hepizbah Pyncheon. This passage appears almost out of surprise, shifting the tone from dark and grim to light and gentle, using many literary devices stacked on top of one another to convey the author's purpose.
    In beginning to dissect this wisely-written passage, one would notice almost immediately that the whole passage uses an extended form of imagery. The reader's presented with an image of an old bed with a canopy, shading Phoebe, and the sun's first light breaking the darkness through the canopy. Up until this moment, the imagery has been dark, grim, and serious in speaking about the House, its legend, and its atmosphere. Phoebe's light and cheerful entrance into the House first brings about this change of tone from grim to giddy, almost symbolic in conveying Phoebe as a bringer of light and delight to this House of lingering depression.
     The novel's narrator continues to describe this scene of a bright morning, personifying the approaching daylight and giving it a name: Dawn. Dawn, almost daintily, figuratively comes down to Phoebe, "with a bloom on her cheeks like the morning's own", and kisses her brow. This playful tone reinforces the assumption that Phoebe is this House's bringer of light. presenting delicate diction such as "gentle stir", "caress", "sleeping sister", and "irresistible fondness". The author uses both personification and simile to convey an even larger extended metaphor. All of this figurative language comes together in comparing Phoebe to a gentle bringer of light, like the personified Dawn.
     The passage is simply a gentle presentation and comparison of Phoebe as a gentle force of light coming into the House's presence. Even in the use of nature-like and feminine words such as "foliage", "breeze", "maiden", and "sister", the author conveys Phoebe as a kind controller like that of Mother Nature. By reading this, one could conclude that Hawthorne is suggesting Phoebe is the cheerful hope of the depressed House of Seven Gables.

Word Count: 365

Journal Entry 12/21/2015: The House of the Seven Gables

"Still, there will be a connection with the long past - a reference to forgotten events and personages, and to manners, feelings, and opinions almost wholly obsolete - which, if adequately translated to the reader, would serve to illustrate how much of old material goes to make up the freshest novelty of human life. Hence, too, might be drawn a weighty lesson from the little-regarded truth that the act of the passing generation is the germ which may and must produce good or evil fruit in a far-distant time; that together with the seed of the merely temporary crop, which mortals term expediency, they inevidently sow the acorns of a more enduring growth, which may darkly overshadow their posterity" (Hawthorne 2).

     Nathaniel Hawthorne is an author well-worthy of praise for his wisdom in crafting language, as shown in the passage above. Hawthorne has a distinct style of crafting long, weighty sentences containing metaphorical cannonballs of meaning. This passage occurs within the first few pages of the novel, in a way signifying that this style of writing is what the reader is going to experience throughout the novel. The reader is about to witness but a tale of tragedy told in the language of an educated philosopher.
     The reader encounters this passage in the beginning chapter, when the narrator begins to explain the purpose of his story to the reader. The narrator even addresses the reader, saying that if the reader "adequately" translates his words right, he should draw a lesson out of this story. This goes on to reveal the tone, which is almost advisory, like the introduction to a Shakespearean tragedy or a metaphorical parable. Hawthorne doesn't subject us to his traditional iceberg style (more beneath than visible) in content, but more in form, as one could get lost in Hawthorne's complex use of syntax. Hawthorne both captures and confuses the reader with his philosophical writing style, as probably intended.

Word Count: 200

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Plot Synopsis: The House of the Seven Gables

     Hawthorne's novel takes place in the mid-19th century in a seven-gabled house built upon land cursed by a wizard, the households' first owner. After the superstitious death of the second owner, the house falls to ruin. Presently, descendant Hepzibah Pyncheon must fend off Judge Pyncheon, a descendant seeking abundant greed. 

Word Count: 50

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Second Title: The House of the Seven Gables

     After a decently-casual read such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, I decide to move to a more difficult, intellectual, and aged piece of literature. For my next novel to pick apart, I chose Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables. Hawthorne wrote this way back in 1851 with the idea of superstition and family honor in mind. This novel, though rather dated, already seems to be one of the most intelligent books I've read, as I've found myself getting lost in the beauty of the Victorian-era language. Currently, I'm approaching the novel's third chapter.
      A film was also made based off this novel in 1940 of the same name, starring horror icon, Vincent Price as Clifford Pyncheon, the former inmate of the family. Though the film adaptation seems to greatly differ from the novel, critics say the film did have some potential, even for its time.
     I chose this novel specifically to challenge myself and broaden my spectrum of literature, as I have not practiced in analyzing the text of many novels written before the 1900s. Casually, I have read many. Analytically, I have read few. Stay tuned in, for I'll be picking everything I can out of this diffucult yet beautiful piece of literature.

Also, here are a few relevant links to help amplify our reading and analytical experience:

Complete plot summary from SparkNotes: 

Critical review of the novel by Jane Smiley (she didn't like it much):