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This article discusses Hawthorne's engagement with discourses of public health, disease, and burial practices in The House of the Seven Gables. The recurring descriptions of the decayed house and its stifling air, coupled with the frequent imagery of bodies/corpses within it, evoke contemporary historical concerns related to “miasma,” disease, and public health, as well as changing burial practices during the first half of the nineteenth century. These issues were made even more pressing, especially in urban centers, by the devastating 1832 and 1849 cholera pandemics, and Hawthorne's experiences with these events make their way into his writing. The fearful public health discourse connected with the cholera pandemics is epitomized in the now-obscure 1850 gothic novel The Cholera-Fiend, and Hawthorne engages in similar but subdued language and rhetoric in The House of the Seven Gables, employing it for his own thematic ends.

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This document was originally published in Nathaniel Hawthorne Review by Penn State University Press. Copyright restrictions may apply.