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The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Analysis: Writing Style

Wordy, Descriptive

Hawthorne loves words; he rolls around in them like a happy pig in a mud puddle. You can tell how much he enjoys playing with language in nearly every passage of The House of the Seven Gable. Let's take one to start with:

Never had the old house appeared so dismal to poor Hepzibah, as when she departed on that wretched errand. There was a strange aspect in it. As she trode along the foot-worn passages, and opened one crazy door after another, and ascended the creaking staircase, she gazed wistfully and fearfully around. It would have been no marvel, to her excited mind, if, behind or beside her, there had been the rustle of dead people's garments, or pale visages awaiting her on the landing place above. (16.1)

(The "wretched errand," by the way, is to fetch Clifford to meet with Judge Pyncheon.) Check out the verbiage in this passage. Almost every noun gets its own adjective. Almost every verb gets at least an adverb or two. Everything is descriptive: it's not just Hepzibah, it's "poor Hepzibah"; it's not just an errand, it's a "wretched errand"; and it's not just a staircase, it's a "creaking staircase." You get the idea.

All Hepzibah is doing here is walking through the house, but Hawthorne spends sentence after sentence telling you what she sees and how she feels. This level of descriptive detail makes us feel as though we are walking alongside her, past "one crazy door after another" in her creepy old house.

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