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Clifford is a complex character whose extended undeserved
prison time makes him both unlikable and pitiable. His frequent
bouts of weeping and his pitiable cries when the Judge approaches
make him seem like a wounded or feeble animal. Clifford is a “sybarite,” someone
who relishes natural beauty, luxury, and pleasure, which makes his
incarceration seem all the more cruel and unbearable. Hawthorne
makes luxuries seem more important to Clifford than food. He is
also temperamental and brash, and despite his nearly imbecilic state,
he still manages to be cruel to his adoring sister, even after three
decades of separation. In the end, however, Clifford’s weaknesses
convey the extent of his degradation. Prison has ruined him. A formerly
beautiful, confident, and life-loving person, Clifford has become
like a broken beast, cringing in fear as his persecutor passes.
Hawthorne doesn’t make a martyr out of Clifford (someone who sacrifices
himself for a cause greater than his own life), but he does not
create a monster either. Instead, Hawthorne presents Clifford as
a tragic victim of fate by balancing what Clifford has become against
what he was before forces beyond his control led him to confinement
Ace your assignments with our guide to The House of the Seven Gables!