Last night I started House of the Seven Gables. Though not considered entertainment in today’s sense of the word, I have read this work is still masterful psychology. Having seen the home and this being the right month for such a thing, I decided a reading of the work was in order. Besides I have enjoyed Hawthorne’s short stories and anything labeled a dark romance may run against my maleness, but does nonetheless pique my curiosity.
Can love overcome the sins of our fathers? I have surmised this is the question that Hawthorne, a man tormented by his family’s role in the Salem trials, seeks to answer. Certainly it must be a timeless question for the novel was published more than a hundred and fifty years after the trials. That Hawthorne carried with him the guilt of his ancestors may seem peculiar on the surface, but when thought of it does have certain validity. As a white American, every piece of property held by my family has been taken from native peoples who honored the earth. My own inheritance and what I may leave others is built from this reality. That I should know love in the broadest sense and make sure this informs that my benefit be a benefit to others is certainly the only redemption that is to be procured for such sins.
So I start Hawthorne’s novel knowing it will not have the fright of contemporary literature. I know it will be more about repression and redemption as recreation. I know too it will be about what haunts us more than those things that go bump in the night. For any one of us, this makes for relevant reading.
So I start this work not expecting the thrill of entertainment, but the attempt to answer how we handle that sinfulness we inherit and if we can win redemption for the wrongs that we carried in our wombs. Is there any penance for the benefit we inherit won with the wrongs of the past? Such a question certainly deserves to be asked and reading one man’s answer, though perhaps tedious by modern standards, deserves attention.