Holgrave is a man who refuses to embrace the past, characterising it as a dead body one is forced to carry around. For him, the past has a haunting presence, which he illustrates with the following example:
Holgrave dislikes the Past because he believes it has undue influence on the Present. This idea is expressed by Hawthorne in his preface when he states that the sins of one generation visit the next. According to Holgrave, man tries to escape his past all the days of his life. For this reason, Holgrave suggests that all public buildings should be torn down and rebuilt every 20 years, as a sign to mankind to grasp new ideas and reexamine one's morals. Additionally, each generation should build its own house, instead of having houses pass down. Holgrave's aim in saying this is to allow each generation to start with a clean slate and not have to face ghosts of the past.
Holgrave himself is haunted by his past and his family's feud with the Pyncheons. His family history with wizardry shows its influence in his experimentation with mesmerism, though unlike his ancestors, he did use the art for evil. Further, Holgrave's personal history of various occupation displays the lack of value he places in lineage; he's determined to make his own way in life and not rely on genealogical connections, placing him in opposition to the customs of the Pyncheon line.