11-20-2006 12:53 PM
11-20-2006 04:38 PM
11-22-2006 12:01 AM
I can never figure out what she is thinking. "Why did you leave me in this mess?"
Denise, why does she venerate her brother so? She seems to forgive him everything, and regard him as the rightful master, so to speak; yet she's fawning over a flake. I'd go with the Judge when it comes to estate planning.
11-22-2006 12:04 AM
Whatever benefits might be attributed to being “a Pyncheon” did not seem to extend to the women of the Pyncheon clan mentioned thus far. Both the Colonel and the Judge wore out their wives by a “remorseless weight and hardness of character” as well as suggested “transgressions” due to “great animal development”, the likes of which the author refused to elaborate. Sounds pretty darn scary to me. Hepzibah spent her life as a recluse - never to have the experience of a lover or know what love really means, and instead idealizing and devoting all her stunted emotions to a brother who can’t stand to look at her because she is not beautiful. Phoebe escaped much of the Pyncheon misery because she was the product of a union between a male cousin and a woman who had no money or circumstance, so she grew up ignorant of the baser side of the family history and character. And even though she is a “ray of sunshine” in what is left of Clifford’s ruined life, he still acknowledges her only as a representation or idea of the beauty and sensual womanhood that he “had lacked on earth”, rather than a real person. Can you say “objectify”?!
I've been making some of these same comments in a much more offhand way. But you put it all together here--Alice and Phoebe are two of a kind, under the spell of a more powerful man. The key seems to be quite simple: they don't or can't inherit property, so they have no power to give it. It seems like until women in this world gain that right, men have this mystical but also quite prosaic advantage.
11-22-2006 12:07 AM
11-22-2006 12:09 AM
11-22-2006 07:18 AM - edited 11-22-2006 07:18 AM
I hope all our dedicated readers of Hawthorne's family melodrama will join me to discuss some topics that have come up in the middle section in more detail:
1. Is Holgrave good or evil because he's a hypnotist like Matthew Maule?
2. Why does Hawthorne want to preserve some ambiguity of the Judge's character?
3. Is this a world that counts solely on family inheritance and property? You begin to realize why dead white men are so important when you've got no trade, no business, not capital, no talent . . .
4. How did the family get that croak in its voice?
5. Is the family too "close" in that icky sense of the word?
6. I thought this was supposed to be NEW England. Since when did it become the home of "old Adam," Clifford and company?
7. I just wanted to keep the number seven because someone else did before.
1) Is hypnotism necessarily evil? It was thought to be in Hawthorne's day because they were worried about young ladies losing their virtue but in our time we see it used for good purposes, like curing people of phobias.
2) The ambiguity of the Judge's character is a thread drawing us through the novel until the very end. He is like a Victorian villain in a melodrama - someone we love to hate yet are fascinated by. I think Hawthorne did a brilliant job there, especially in the Chapter 'Governor Pyncheon' where the suspense was kept up until the very end.
3) When people did not have the means to travel to find other work, and there were only so many trades in a village or town, it became necessary to rely on inheriting a relative's share in a business or farm etc. It is much the same in third world countries today. Once the railway and automobile opened up the world, this dependence lessened. It is significant, I think, that Clifford told the ticket inspector on the train that he thought that trains would do away with houses because everyone would revert to being a nomad again. (And Holgrave said the same thing to Phoebe.) To some extent this was a prophecy by Hawthorne because many of us are now so mobile that we change our job and our abode at the drop of a hat, especially when we are young and do not have a family to school.
4) Can't remember
5) All village societies were too close in that 'icky' sense of the word before the advent of cheap forms of transport and greater prosperity. When surveys of the Labouring Poor were done in the UK at the turn of the 20C, incest was found to be very common, especially in out of the way villages. Indeed, it was one of the reasons for the great housing drives to clear the slums because social reformers then believed that incest and paedophilia within exended families was caused by overcrowding. It is still a problem in remote, immobile societies today. As you Americans say 'go figure' (if that is the correct turn of phrase).
Message Edited by Choisya on 11-22-200607:21 AM
11-22-2006 11:18 AM
11-22-2006 12:07 PM
Brilliant, Choisya! Thank you. I've been puzzling over inheritance and class for years. And now Clifford's rant makes sense to me.
11-22-2006 01:43 PM
Hawthorne also calls her the epitome of plebianism--whatever that means. I find him so ambivalent about the loss of gentrified values like those of Hepzibah and the arrival of modern life. Only Phoebe could make the end of an era seem so refreshing!
A plebian was a common citizen in Ancient Rome so Hawthorne is designating Phoebe as 'ordinary' whilst giving her some goddess-like characteristics, as we discussed earlier - very ambiguous.
I understand that Hawthorne had ancestors who had a part in the Salem witch trials and this haunted him. It perhaps accounts for his preoccupation with with good and evil in the Biblical sense, the fall of man and so on. He clearly believes in original sin and redemption through good deeds. Does the house have seven gables because of the Seven Deadly Sins and are the misfortunes of the Pyncheon family based upon the theory of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children unto the fourth generation? (Is Hepzibah the fourth generation?) Did Hawthorne feel that the sins of his fathers had been visited upon him?
Does the overhanging bough of the great elm tree outside HOTSG symbolise the Golden Bough which Aeneas and Sybil presented to the keeper of Hades in order to gain admission? It is also symbolic of magic, religion and fertility/new beginnings. Does Clifford represent Aeneas in the Underworld, searching for the secret of the afterlife and a new home. Does Hepzibah and her gloom represent Sybil? Perhaps other readers here familiar with The Aeneid weould like to comment on this possible interpretation?
11-22-2006 02:42 PM
Does the overhanging bough of the great elm tree outside HOTSG symbolise the Golden Bough which Aeneas and Sybil presented to the keeper of Hades in order to gain admission? It is also symbolic of magic, religion and fertility/new beginnings. Does Clifford represent Aeneas in the Underworld, searching for the secret of the afterlife and a new home. Does Hepzibah and her gloom represent Sybil? Perhaps other readers here familiar with The Aeneid weould like to comment on this possible interpretation? --Choisya
Good thinking, again, Choisya. Seven deadly sins is a Catholic concept, I think, and probably not well known to Puritans, but i may be wrong.
Hawthorne certainly knew his mythology, as he shows in his "Twice-Told Tales," but I don't see that sort of symbolism in his writings. Does anyone else?
He definitely is remembering the third commandment, though:
"Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Exo 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." --Exo 20:5-6
In the last paragraph of chapter 2, Hawthorne says his tale is "a history of retribution for the sin of long ago." How this works itself out he shows beautifully by the end of the book. I think Hawthorne knew the true meaning of this commandment, but I don't want to say much about it here because it would spoil the book for those who haven't finished yet. So tune in again.
11-23-2006 08:13 PM
11-23-2006 08:18 PM
11-23-2006 08:20 PM
11-24-2006 10:20 AM
11-24-2006 11:56 AM
11-24-2006 05:52 PM
Ah, but the Bible is filled with good stories. Adam and Eve’s firstborn son Cain was a tiller of the soil, and his brother Abel was a shepherd of flocks. Upon both young men offering sacrifices to Yahweh, he, being the patriarchal (and carnivorous) God that he was, preferred the firstborn of Abel’s flock to Cain’s vegetables. Overcome by shame, jealousy and the desire to be first in Yahweh’s favor, he killed his brother and committed the first “male-driven” sin (Eve was the primary transgressor in the “original”). Hearing Abel’s blood “cry out” to him from the earth, Yahweh condemned Cain and put “a mark” on him. In the Pyncheon history, the Colonel was jealous and desiring of Maule’s modest plot of ground, and felt it was his “right” as a prominent and wealthy personage to have it. He succeeded (over time) in “killing” Maule, and was himself later “marked” with blood at his own death. The curse of his covetousness was marked in future generations by a gurgle in the throat when a Pyncheon was given “Maule’s blood to drink”.
Gruesome, E Lee - as the Bible so often is! As Hawthorne was a descendant of a Puritan involved in the Salem Witch trials he felt the shame and 'mark' of his inheritance, so these 'sins of the fathers' stories are close to his own heart.
On this question of a 'gurgle in the throat' - does it, in fact, signify any particular hereditary medical condition?