The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hawthorne, portrait Lone Star College-Kingwood Library
Assignment Guide

"The fathers have eaten sour grapes
And the children's teeth are set on edge"

                                                         Ezekiel 18:2

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, as Nathaniel Hathorne, grandson of John Hathorne, one of the judges in the Salem Witchcraft trials.  His father, a sea captain, died when Nathaniel was four. Raised by a doting all-female family, he loved to read and early on decided that he was not fit for a traditional career.  "I do not want to be a doctor and live by men's diseases, nor a minister to live by their sins, nor a lawyer to live by their quarrels. So I don't see that there is anything left for me but to be an author."  He was a compatriot of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry David Thoreau and Herman Melville.

In this Gothic novel of greed and retribution, a curse haunts the impressive House of the Seven Gables.  Colonel Pyncheon wrested the prime lot from Matthew Maule, a poor man unfairly hanged for wizardry. Maule swore that God would give the Pyncheons blood to drink.  Col. Pyncheon never lived in the house he had built there; he died on the night of the housewarming. The Pyncheons, a greedy, grasping family, were cursed with premature, bloody deaths.  At the time of our story, the two surviving Pyncheons are weak,  ineffectual and old.  A distant cousin, Phoebe Pyncheon, brings light and hope into the house, hope that the curse can be lifted.

Possible Themes:
Trans-generational retribution  |  Consequences of wrongdoing  | Social class | Appearance vs. reality  |  Greed  |  Guilt  |  Pride  |  Family  |  Romance  |  Illness 

Librarian talk . . . About Getting Started!

As you begin, narrow your topic to a size that you can manage. Consider keywords that will help you find the information you need. These can be names of people, literary works, events, or broader identifying terms. Use these keywords for locating information in the library catalog, electronic databases, and on the internet.
More about Choosing Keywords (30 sec.)

Librarian Talk . . .About Books!

Your Student ID is also your library card (on the back). If you are a distance learning student, you can apply online for a library card. Use the barcode number from your Lone Star College ID or library card to:
1) Place a Hold on a book and have it sent to the library closest to you
2) Access journal and reference databases from home, and
3) Access e-Books from eBook Collection.

  • The catalog is online.
  • Online or e-Books are available in the eBook Collection.  Use your library card to log in.
    More about...Finding Books (31 sec.)

Reference Books:

REF PN3385 .N68, vol. 20  Novels for Students
Summary of the story, character analyses, and an overview of literary criticism.
Dictionary of Literary Biography
Biographical information about Hawthorne, including background on The House of the Seven Gables.  See vol. 223.
REF PS21 .M34 1991, vol. 3  Magill's Survey of American Literature
Discussion of the theme of The House of the Seven Gables.
REF PN761 .N5, vol. 39 and others  Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism
Literary criticism from many sources.  Check the index volume.  These articles may be excerpted, but the full citation is given to allow you to try to locate the original article.
For circulating books, check the Lone Star College System Library Catalog.  Most books will be in PS1868. You may request books from other campuses.  eBook Collection offers online books. If you are off campus, use your library barcode number to login to this and other databases.  Your instructor may have books on reserve for your research.  These are good sources to review for content supporting your thesis. 
Librarian Talk . . . About Finding Journal and Newspaper Articles!

Electronic databases are purchased by the libraries for your research use. To find articles in newspapers and journals, letters, reference books, illustrations, photographs and more, use your updated library card to login to the following databases. If you find an interesting article that is not full-text, please give the citation to our Reference Librarians and they will help you get the article. They will need full bibliographic information - and your name and address. Send your phone number as well, so they can contact you if they need to. There is some overlap of articles in the following databases. However, we encourage you to use more than one. All are excellent sources for this topic. 

HINT: For a full list of article databases, go to Research Databases and use the barcode number from your Lone Star College ID or library card for login.
More about searching databases (25 sec.)


Search the library databases for scholarly articles on The House of the Seven Gables.  

Includes the full-text of scholarly journals in literature and other academic subjects.  Use the advanced search. Narrow search to articles, and by discipline to "Language and Literature."  Uncheck the box next to "include links to external content" to retrieve only full text articles. 
Literature Resource Center
Articles from scholarly journals and from reference books.  Use the advanced search.
Academic Search Complete
This index to journal articles includes some full text and content from some journals and articles you will not find elsewhere. Limit your search to "Scholarly or Peer Reviewed" and to "Full Text."
Project Muse
Enter The House of the Seven Gables Hawthorne in the search box. This will return a long list of full text articles which can be modified to focus on your thesis. Click on the Modify Search button to add keywords from your thesis.  You can add search boxes by clicking on the + symbol.
Bloom's Literary Reference Online
Critical essays from Bloom's Criticisms and articles from reference books.  Includes some journal articles.   The library owns some of  the Bloom's books in print, check the catalog to locate those books.
Films on Demand
Find short videos or clip from longer films on Hawthorne's life, career, and themes in this streaming video database.


Librarian Talk . . . About the Internet!

The Internet will be a wonderful source of original documents. Browse the sites we have suggested below. Remember, you do want to find reputable sites. Look at:

  1. Accuracy - The information should be researched and show proof that it has been.
  2. Source - Who wrote the information? Look at the domain.  .edu .gov. org .net are valid research sources.
  3. Authority - What are the author's credentials?  (Don't quote from another college freshman's paper.)
  4. Coverage - Does the page have the information you need for your research?
  5. Objectivity - If a work is biased, use it - just make sure your professor knows YOU know. And offer both sides of issues, where applicable.
    More about finding internet sources (25 sec.)


Hawthorne in Salem
Northshore Community College provides background and literary criticism.
House of the Seven Gables 
Full text online from The University of Virginia's e-Book Library.  An online book is great for searching for quotes and events that you remember but can not find. Or, download a digital version for your e-reader or in EPub and other digital formats from Project Gutenberg.
House of the Seven Gables
See the Salem house that may have inspired the story. 

Getting Help for Your Assignment

Citing Sources Using MLA Style | Lone Star College-Kingwood Library guide. Examples of both paper and electronic citations.

Visual Guide to Formatting your Research Paper using MLA style | Lone Star College-Kingwood Library guide. Tips for laying out your paper and formattig it correctly in Microsoft Word.

Avoiding Plagiarism  |   Excellent information and guide on how to avoid plagiarism from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.

University of Texas Copyright Crash Course | This helpful guide on copyright is suggested by Lone Star College-Kingwood Teaching and Learning Center.

The Learning Center | Check the TLC hours for in-house tutoring.

 Page by Sue Goodwin,  Librarian, 2003.  Updated 10/13 MM

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