Use of Symbolism in Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables
In the novel The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne portrays Alice Pyncheon as a unique and compelling character, placing her in contrast with a story full of greed, lies and betrayal. Hawthorne reveals her fantastic character to us in numerous uses of symbolism throughout the novel. By painting a picture of a gentle yet proud woman, Hawthorne chooses to represent Alice's impressive characteristics using images that come up repeatedly in his novel such as the nature and flowers in the garden as well as Alice's Posies. Hawthorne also makes reference to the Maule "mastery" and its power over Alice and the playing of the harpsichord during a Pyncheon death. All the symbols culminated above, lead to an in depth analysis of Alice Pyncheon's character, her innocence, pride, beauty and mournful sorrow.
According to Hawthorne, Alice had an uncanny resemblance to the flowers of the Pyncheon garden represented by her beauty and presence. Just as flowers hold a purity and freedom in their appearance, Alice was described as a "lady that was born and set apart from the world's vulgar mass by a certain gentle and cold stateliness" (178). Her strong appearance, as Hawthorne states, was "combined of beauty, high, unsullied purity, and the preservative force of womanhood" (180). Hawthorne shows that Alice represents the beauty of a flower as well as its scent when he says "the fragrance of her rich and delightful character still lingered . . . as a dried rosebud scents the drawer where it has withered and perished" (79). Even after her death, the "scent" of Alice's character still haunts the House of the Seven Gables with its beauty and tenderness like that of the flowers in the Pyncheon garden.
Another aspect of the Pyncheon garden that symbolizes Alice's character is the rosebush that she planted herself over two hundred years earlier. Hawthorne describes the bush as "literally covered with a rare and very beautiful species of white rose" (68). The white hue of the roses could no doubt represent the purity of Alice's character and spirit. The rosebush radiant in full bloom mirrors the fact that Alice's spirit is very much alive and vibrant despite her unfair death two centuries earlier. Also, when Hawthorne states that "the whole rosebush looked as if it had been brought from Eden that very summer," he shows the innocence of Alice's spirit through his reference to the garden of Eden and her character's place among the heavens above. This rosebush in the Pyncheon garden symbolizes Alice's innocence and purity as well as her connection to nature and the flowers that God himself created.
Besides Alice's connection to the nature in full bloom within the Pyncheon garden, Hawthorne makes several references to "Alice's Posies" which bloom every summer on the roof of the House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne notes that these flowers did their "best to gladden it [the house]...