Hawthorne explores themes of guilt, retribution, and atonement in a New England family and colors the tale with suggestions of the supernatural and witchcraft. The story was inspired by a gabled house in Salem belonging to Hawthorne's cousin Susanna Ingersoll and by those of Hawthorne's ancestors who played a part in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The House of the Seven Gables begins with a preface that identifies the work as a romance, not a novel. As such, Hawthorne prepares readers for the fluid mixture of realism and fantasy that the romance genre allows. The preface also conveys the major theme of the book, which Hawthorne refers to as a moral: "the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones, and . . . becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief."