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The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Looking-Glass

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

This is a passing detail in the first chapter, but we find it interesting nonetheless. The story goes that there used to be a mirror in the House of the Seven Gables that showed all the shapes of the Pyncheon family. But this mirror didn't just show the Pyncheons as they appeared in real life; it also showed "the departed Pyncheons [...] doing over again some deed of sin, or in the crisis of life's bitterest sorrow" (1.27). This device of the magic mirror that shows the truth is one Hawthorne uses in his short story "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment." As this mirror, Maule's Well, and the daguerreotype of Judge Pyncheon all show, Hawthorne loves supernatural ways of piercing through appearances to the hidden heart of a person. It's his favorite symbolic device. Maybe because this is what he thinks his fiction is doing?

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