Ancestral Influence in Hawthorne’s Writing Can the sins of ancestors pass down upon the next generations? Hawthorne believed that it was possible and he expresses his beliefs through his writings. Hawthorne was well aware of his ancestral consequences of wrongdoings and he held the sense of guilt of his ancestor, so many of his writings were gothic, dark, and dealt with evils. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s historical background of living in Salem and his ancestral connection to Salem Witch Trial influenced him to question the fate of thefamilycarrying the sin of past mistakes in his novel, the House of the Seven Gables.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and he is the descendent of John Hawthorne, a judge of the Salem Witch trial. During the witch trials, hysteria and delusions clouded everyone’s eyes and unjust persecutions spread and killed many of the innocents. Judges at the times had the power to persecute the witches, however, the whole incident was a horrible delusion (Wright). This ancestral wrongdoing has hunted Hawthorne throughout his lives. Hawthorne lost his father from the yellow fever when he was four and his mother obliged to live with her parents because they were financially troubled.
He lived very isolated because his mother kept herself isolated as well. Hawthorne believed that the depressing circumstances of their family were caused by the curse of victims from Salem Witch Trials (Hawthorne xvi). This belief of Hawthorne clearly is reflected in the characters of the House of the Seven Gables. Similar to Hawthorne, a Salem family of Pyncheons has believed and suffered from the curse passed down from Matthew Maule, an innocent victim of Colonel Pyncheon. He was accused of witchcraft and was executed due to the unjust claim of Colonel.
Before Maule’s death, he proclaimed, “ the God will give him blood to drink,” which came true shortly after when Colonel Pyncheon dies in the same manner as described by Maule. In the future generations, the decedents of Pyncheon family that have been living in the house was as if trapped in it, they were bonded with the house surrounded with dark aura. Colonel was a dark, wicked, greedy man and his decedents are haunted with the consequences and the evil deeds of their ancestors. Similar to the Salem Witch trials, greed and lies covered the sins of both crimes and it haunted to future generations. Hawthorne xvii). Both stories closely resemble each other because Hawthorne has been greatly influenced from his cultural background and ancestral histories. Both Hawthorne and Pyncheon were the descendent of the Puritan. Because Hawthorne is influenced greatly with the Puritan beliefs, the novel, The House of Seven Gables, is expressed with full of puritan ideals, curses, and sins (xiii). Hawthorne, from his view of the witch trials, also criticized that Puritans were too self-righteous and lacked of human heart (Hall).
The setting for the novel was taken place at Salem, where the House of the Seven Gables exists, and it was also was where Hawthorne was born and raised. Maule also came from the name, Thomas Maule, a criticizer of the witch trials. The House of the Seven Gables too, was actually molded from his cousin’s, Susannah Ingersoll, house in the Massachusetts. It is also an actual incident that occurred during the witch trial that one of the victims of witch trial, Sarah Good, had told Reverent Noyes, the sinful accuser, that, “ if he took her life away, God would give him blood to drink! Many of the settings and characters were created from Hawthorne’s surrounding influences and people (Hawthorne xiii – xx). Hawthorne uses curses as tosymbolismof his past and present, influencing in many of his writings. In the preface, he stated, “ The wrong-doing of on generation lives into the successive ones, and divesting itself of every temporary advantage, becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief” (Chandler 46). He believed that the sins and evils have passed down from the past and is binding them fromhappiness.
It is said that Hawthorne even changed the spelling of his name, possibly to escape the shameful act of his processors. His novels gives traits of Hawthorne’s will of retribution and search of the remorse for the past mistakes of his ancestors. In The House of Seven Gables, he exploits that the past sins can be transmitted through generations and that just like the physical traits, and how the cursed family struggles to overcome this problem (Hawthorne xv-xvi). Hawthorne, in his novels, describes themes of the psychological moral struggles people go through in their existence.
There was a moment in the book where Hawthorne showed the slight hope in concurring the sinful past. It was when a young man called Holgrave tells Pheobe Pyncheon about a story of Maule who intended to control Alice Pyncheon, a beautiful innocent girl, for the sake of his ancestor’s revenge. Maule hiponized Alice and gained control of her, but in the end, his action led Alice into death, and Maule greatly regretted his action. As he finish telling the story, the atmosphere they had was similar of what was in the story; Holgrave had the power to control Pheobe because she was almost hypnotized situation by his stories.
However, despite his longing and awkward relationship with Pyncheons, Holgrave chose the way to love and care for Pheobe instead of controlling her with his power. This progress, Hawthorne showed that it was possible to break and escape from the bond of the evil doings of their ancestors (Bell). In the end of the novel, Pheobe Pyncheon, a member of Pyncheon family, Holgrave, a descendent of Thomas Maule, falls in love. This was the moment when the curse of the Pyncheon was lifted from all the characters in the book.
They got married and it will be a great progress to get over then coincidence between Matthew Maule and Alice Pyncheon. From this passage, Hawthorne probably believed that the curse of ancestral sins and evils can be cured by the love and forgiving of the people. It is perhaps his marriage with Sophia Peabody and his love for her that led him thinking less of the deception of his ancestor and which led him to write the happy ending for the novel (Hawthorne 263-276). The novel ended with atonement and start of restoring the love that was lacked in the house (Brodhead 70).
In the House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne discusses the influence of ancestral consequences of wrongdoing upon the future generation. Hawthorne felt guilt andresponsibilityfrom the sins of his ancestors, and was haunted by them throughout his life. He believed that the sins will pass on through generations and he wrote this novel with this theme in his mind. However, the novel ended with happy ending where people found love that overcomes the hate and evil of the dark historical sins.