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Thursday, July 30, 2009


Holgrave is a descendant of the Maules, a rival of the Pyncheon family in the beginning of the novel, and a resident in the Pyncheon house with Hepzibah and Clifford. Though only 22 years old, he has already been a schoolmaster, salesman, political editor, and, at the time the novel takes place, daguerrotypist. He has also studied dentistry and mesmerism. Hepzibah suspects him of engaging in the "Black Art" and distrusts his questionable companions but allows such a "lawless person," as Phoebe terms it, to live with her because she "suppose(s) he has a law of his own." (Chapter 5)

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:

"For example, then," continued Holgrave: "a dead man, if he happens tohave made a will, disposes of wealth no longer his own; or, if he die intestate, it is distributed in accordance with the notions of men much longer dead than he. A dead man sits on all our judgment-seats; and living judges do but search out and repeat his decisions. We read in dead men's books! We laugh at dead men's jokes, and cry at dead men's pathos! We are sick of dead men's diseases, physical and moral, and die of the same remedies with which dead doctors killed their patients! We worship the living Deity according to dead men's forms and creeds. Whatever we seek to do, of our own free motion, a dead man's icy hand obstructs us! Turn our eyes to what point we may, a dead man's white, immitigable face encounters them, and freezes our very heart! And we must be dead ourselves before we can begin to have our proper influence on our own world, which will then be no longer our world, but the world of another generation, with which we shall have no shadow of a right to interfere. I ought to have said, too, that we live in dead men's houses; as, for instance, in this of the Seven Gables!"

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.

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