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Hepzibah Pyncheon is the last in a long line of Pyncheon
aristocrats. Hepzibah personifies the pitfalls of this aristocracy,
both financially, as evidenced by her having to open and tend a
shop, and spiritually, as shown by the permanent scowl on her face.
Her extreme passivity makes it difficult to sympathize with her:
the melodramatic way in which she mourns having to open her shop
is treated with great disdain by the narrator, and her neighbors
seem eager to see her fail. Hepzibah has good intentions and a good
heart; she manages to convey only goodwill toward the children and
customers who frequent her shop. The townspeople’s failure to recognize
her beneficence stands as a rather searing commentary on the shallowness
of New England society. Hepzibah is strongly devoted to her brother, Clifford,
even though he is absent for thirty years and refuses even to look
at her when he returns. By the end of the novel, Clifford comes to
trust Hepzibah. He allows her to care for him. Clifford’s trust
and dependence on Hepzibah serves as a sort of redemption for her.
Clifford has come to recognize and appreciate Hepzibah’s kindness
and devotion, and his trust elevates her to new heights of happiness
and purpose. She even begins giving pocket money to her most loyal
customer, little Ned Higgins.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The House of the Seven Gables!