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[28] to herself. The danger to herself is indicated by the fact that Hester, Zenobia, and probably Miriam, were all married for their beauty, when they were very young, to men who could not appreciate their greatness of soul, and whom therefore they were forced to divorce or to desert.

The House of the seven Gables is so quiet a story that Hawthorne's characteristic criticism of self-reliance or of compensation is not at first disturbing, but in none of his books does he take more essential issue with Alcott and Emerson. On the surface of the romance lies the theme of long-delayed retribution—the curse of old Maule falling on each generation of the usurping Pyncheons. But what punishment does after all overtake the thoroughly bad man who allows his innocent cousin to rest in jail for years? He dies of apoplexy, as he would have died had he been the innocent cousin. And what happens to his victims? It is easy to guess how Emerson might have treated Clifford and Hepzibah; the innocence of the imprisoned brother would somehow have been its own reward, and the loyalty of the devoted sister, waiting for his release, would have ennobled her character. But confinement in prison is not likely to sweeten even innocence; Hawthorne shows Clifford on his return to the old house a broken man, irritable and unappreciative. Hepzibah's long waiting proved for her a solitude almost as complete as prison confinement; Hawthorne shows her as a shrivelled old maid, angular and grim, with hardly a grace remaining. He had no more wish than Emerson would have had to decry the ethical beauty of her patient loyalty, but he could not help seeing that she, like Clifford, was the victim of gross wrong, and that it is disastrous to be even an innocent victim. Similarly he insists on a precise account of self-reliance in Holgrave, the descendant of old Maule. Emerson himself could not have portrayed a more thorough-going critic of the past.

‘Shall we never, never get rid of this Past?’ asks Holgrave. ‘It lies upon the Present like a giant's dead body. In fact, the case is just as if a young giant were compelled to waste all his strength in carrying about the corpse of the old giant; his grandfather, who died a long while ago, and only needs to be decently buried. . . . A dead man, if he happen to have made a will, disposes of wealth no ’

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