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The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The House of the Seven Gables Chapter 11 Summary

The Arched Window

  • Clifford would probably have been content to spend the rest of his life sitting in the garden, but Phoebe gets the idea that he should have some variety. So occasionally she brings Clifford to the window at the top of the stairs that looks out on Pyncheon Street.
  • Clifford is quite stunned by the technological advances of the last 30 years – he can't get used to the sound of the railroad, for example.
  • He's actually an incredible conservative: he likes everything that looks old and hates everything new.
  • Still, Clifford does enjoy some new things if they're beautiful.
  • He listens to a barrel-organ player with a tame dancing monkey with great pleasure.
  • One day, a parade marches down Pyncheon Street. Clifford is so fascinated that he suddenly feels the irresistible urge to climb onto the balcony and maybe even join in the parade.
  • He wants to join in with his fellow men for the first time in 30 years.
  • He has a foot on the windowsill, ready to go out onto the balcony, but Hepzibah and Phoebe hold him back, thinking Clifford has gone crazy.
  • Clifford observes that, if he had succeeded, he would have become another man – maybe a dead man, but still, another man.
  • He experiences a similar moment of communal feeling one Sunday morning. He hears the Sunday morning church bells and watches his neighbors walking out to church. They all look their best.
  • Phoebe waves to Clifford and Hepzibah and goes on to church.
  • Clifford tells Hepzibah, "Were I to be there [...] it seems to me that I could pray once more" (11.21).
  • Hepzibah is so impressed by this sudden wish to be among other people that she suggests they both go to church together.
  • They get ready, but once they get to the front door, they lose their nerve.
  • Clifford decides that it's too late – they are both like ghosts and they have "no right among human beings" (11.25). They belong in this cursed House of the Seven Gables.
  • Once they close the door and go back upstairs, the whole house seems ten times darker than before.
  • They are trapped.
  • Still, Clifford isn't completely miserable. He often has delightfully vivid dreams of his younger days, which brings him closer to his childhood happiness.
  • One day he sits at the window blowing soap bubbles and watching them sail out over the street.
  • A stern, well-dressed man stops at the sight of these bubbles.
  • He looks up into the arched window.
  • He comments, "Aha, Cousin Clifford! [...] What! Still blowing soap-bubbles!" (11.31).
  • It's Judge Pyncheon.
  • Clifford starts to shake with terror.

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