This essay demonstrates that Holgrave's transformation from lowly jack-of-all-trades to landed patriarch in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables is made possible by a specific understanding of confinement that exists in complex relation to forms of confinement experienced by other characters, namely, Clifford, Hepzibah, and Phoebe. Through Holgrave, Hawthorne offers a theory of selfhood that understands flattened and depleted characters (like the Pyncheons) to be necessary for the development of the authentic, autonomous, individuated man at the crux of the Romantic ideal. To show this, Holgrave, who emerges from the Gothic mansion capable of inheriting the promises of a burgeoning social order, is juxtaposed with rest of the Pyncheon family. The novel's various ways of analyzing confinement map onto a host of conspicuous embodiments that turn out to be dialectical: Holgrave's possession of self, of moral agency, and of wealth increases in direct proportion to the dispossession of body, mind, and property experienced by the less fortunate Pyncheons. Though principally concerned with characters in The House of the Seven Gables, this essay takes note of how the novel's logic of unequal personhood resonates within our contemporary condition of quarantine in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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