The House of the Seven Gables
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The House of the Seven Gables Justice and Judgment Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Amid the disorder of such various ruin, it is not strange that a man of inconsiderable note, like Maule, should have trodden the martyr's path to the hill of execution almost unremarked in the throng of his fellow sufferers. But, in after days, when the frenzy of that hideous epoch had subsided, it was remembered how loudly Colonel Pyncheon had joined in the general cry, to purge the land from witchcraft; nor did it fail to be whispered, that there was an invidious acrimony in the zeal with which he had sought the condemnation of Matthew Maule. It was well known that the victim had recognized the bitterness of personal enmity in his persecutor's conduct towards him, and that he declared himself hunted to death for his spoil. At the moment of execution—with the halter about his neck, and while Colonel Pyncheon sat on horseback, grimly gazing at the scene Maule had addressed him from the scaffold, and uttered a prophecy, of which history, as well as fireside tradition, has preserved the very words. "God," said the dying man, pointing his finger, with a ghastly look, at the undismayed countenance of his enemy, – "God will give him blood to drink!" (1.4)
Hawthorne doesn't try to explain the witchcraft trials as a whole (beyond calling them madness). He takes care to point out that it wasn't just a case of strong people bullying the weak, and it wasn't all crafty hypocrites like Colonel Pyncheon. Even good people became so frightened that they began making accusations and convicting their friends, neighbors, and even relatives. In the middle of this mass hysteria, can we be surprised that hard-hearted and ambitious men took advantage of the climate of suspicion to get eliminate people they didn't like? Also, we find it interesting that Matthew Maule is being convicted in the name of God but he still calls upon God to give his enemy "blood to drink!"
Without absolutely expressing a doubt whether the stalwart Puritan had acted as a man of conscience and integrity throughout the proceedings which have been sketched, they, nevertheless, hinted that he was about to build his house over an unquiet grave. His home would include the home of the dead and buried wizard, and would thus afford the ghost of the latter a kind of privilege to haunt its new apartments, and the chambers into which future bridegrooms were to lead their brides, and where children of the Pyncheon blood were to be born. (1.5)
If you've ever seen horror movies like The Shining, The Amityville Horror (and its 2005 remake), or Poltergeist, you know that (a) you really shouldn't disturb the dead, and (b) once something terrible happens, it leaves a mark on a place. That place can't get clean again – unless you bring in an exorcist. And if you're stupid enough to visit a house built on cursed ground, you're going to have to deal with ghosts, zombies, blood running down walls, and what-have-you. It's a shame the Pyncheon family started out long before movies, because this would have been a useful lesson for them. By building their house on Maule's land after his unjust execution for witchcraft, the Pyncheon family is asking for trouble. And they get it, of course.
Efforts, it is true, were made by the Pyncheons, not only then, but at various periods for nearly a hundred years afterwards, to obtain what they stubbornly persisted in deeming their right. But, in course of time, the territory was partly regranted to more favored individuals, and partly cleared and occupied by actual settlers. These last, if they ever heard of the Pyncheon title, would have laughed at the idea of any man's asserting a right—on the strength of mouldy parchments, signed with the faded autographs of governors and legislators long dead and forgotten—to the lands which they or their fathers had wrested from the wild hand of nature by their own sturdy toil. (1.25)
There is some justice to the way that the Pyncheons lose their claim to this land in Maine. After all, this is exactly what Colonel Pyncheon did to Matthew Maule: he used his power and influence to try to cancel out Matthew Maule's legitimate claim to his own property. Now, as his own descendants try to use the law courts to reestablish their property rights, the settlers who actually live there laugh at the Pyncheons' claims. Since the settlers have been exerting "sturdy toil," they obviously have a more direct claim over the land than the distant Pyncheons. The Pyncheons are no longer in a position of power, so they can't just bully the world into letting them get their way.