© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The House of the Seven Gables Theme of Fate and Free Will

In The House of the Seven Gables, the theme of family is tied to the question of fate. Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon is a greedy, bullying hypocrite. But he's also only the latest in a long line of Pyncheon tyrants, dating all the way back to the first Massachusetts Pyncheon, Colonel Pyncheon. If Judge Pyncheon is inheriting cruel genes from his forefathers, can we blame him for being exactly as nature made him? If the Pyncheon family is rotten to the core, isn't Judge Pyncheon fated to be just like all the other mean Pyncheons in the family line? The problem with that argument is that there are good Pyncheons – Alice, Clifford, Phoebe, and Hepzibah, to name a few. Why haven't they given in to the family evil? Even if the Pyncheon family genes make you more likely to go bad, that doesn't mean you have to.

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. How is the House of the Seven Gables connected to the fate of the Pyncheon family?
  2. Do any of the characters in The House of the Seven Gables exercise free will? If so, who and how? If not, why not?
  3. What is the role of chance in The House of the Seven Gables? How does chance either support or undercut the Pyncheon family fate?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

By depicting three generations of similar Pyncheons (Colonel, Gervayse, and Judge Pyncheon), Hawthorne suggests that destiny is linked to family genetics and inheritance.

The occurrence of chance events and accidents in The House of the Seven Gables makes it impossible to explain everything that happens to the Pyncheon family strictly according to their cursed fates.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...