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The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Scipio

Character Analysis

Scipio is Gervayse Pyncheon's black servant and a blatantly racist stereotype. He is the only character in the novel who speaks with a marked accent – he says things like, "Don't know what massa wants [...] The house is a berry good house" (13.3). "Massa"? "Berry?" What? Hawthorne's depiction of Scipio resonates with the racist tradition of American minstrel shows. In these performances, white men in blackface would put on fake accents and dance and sing in front of white audiences. The "Jim Crow" character depicted in Ned Higgins's cookies in Chapter 2 is also an example of a minstrel show standby. Scipio seems to be Mr. Holgrave's idea of comic relief (since this character appears in his short story, "Alice Pyncheon"). But Scipio is definitely proof that not all elements of The House of the Seven Gables have aged well. Hawthorne's racial politics look pretty grim, if Scipio is any example to go by.

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