So . . . What’s a gable?
If you’re not familiar with architecture, here’s what Wikipedia says: “A gable is the generally triangular portion of a wall between the edges of a sloping roof.”
Nathaniel Hawthorn spends a lot of time describing the magnificent house, which is the sole setting of the entire novel. His inspiration was a home owned by his cousin, Susanna. You can still visit the House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts for a mere $7.00. If that might interest you, they have a website all about it right here.
The history of the house is interesting. “The House of the Seven Gables was built by a Salem sea captain and merchant named John Turner in 1668 and occupied by three generations of the Turner family before being sold to Captain Samuel Ingersoll in 1782. An active captain during the Great Age of Sail, Ingersoll died at sea leaving the property to his daughter Susanna, a cousin of famed author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne’s visits to his cousin’s home are credited with inspiring the setting and title of his 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables.
Caroline Emmerton, a philanthropist and preservationist, founded the present day museum to assist immigrant families who were settling in Salem. Inspired by Jane Addam’s Hull House, she purchased what was the old Turner Mansion in 1908 and worked with architect, Joseph Everett Chandler to restore it to its original seven gables. Chandler was a central figure in the early 20th century historic preservation movement and his philosophy influenced the way the house was preserved.” (http://www.7gables.org/history_property.shtml)
As for the novel itself, it’s like wandering through each of the seven gables themselves, looking at every nook and cranny of not only the setting, but each and every character. For instance, he spends several pages to discuss the lineage and peculiarities of the chickens in the garden. The luxurious narrative has a purpose for Hawthorne’s many morals and commentaries on individuals and society, but as with all luxuries, must be purchased at the expense of one’s labor. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the book. I loved the rich language and the masterful metaphors. Each character made me think of people I knew or ponder the similarities to my own character, and will stay with me for a very long time, if not forever.