Main Themes of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and The Minister's Black Veil
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works often have parallel themes and similar characters. His approach is quite gloomy and the atmosphere for his stories is many times sad and depressing. Hawthorne concentrates his novel and short stories around the Puritan community, which adds to the tense and unforgiving atmosphere. One of his most renowned novels, The Scarlet Letter and his short story, The Minister’s Black Veil contain many of his typical elements and are many times referred synonymously. Although The Scarlet Letter and The Minister’s Black Veil share the common theme of alienation from society, the purpose behind the symbol both main characters are wearing is different.
One of Hawthorne’s main themes in The Scarlet Letter is isolation from society. Hester, one of the main characters, illustrates this theme very well. Due to her illegitimate child and the scarlet ‘A’ she wears on her chest, Hester is not allowed to assimilate into society. Thus, she decided to reside in a cottage on the outskirts of town. One key reason that Hester is remote from society is because of herself. When the townspeople attempt to ask Hester a question, she merely points to the ‘A’ and does not respond. Hester’s decision not leave Boston is entirely her own as it says, “She reasoned upon her motive for continuing a resident of New England” (Hawthorne 77). This decision was not forced upon her; she chose to wear the scarlet letter and continue living in Boston. Even when there is talk that Hester, after seven years will be able to take off her mark of shame, Hester replies, “It lies not in the pleasure of the magistrates to take off this badge, were I worthy to be quit of it, it would fall away of its own nature, or be transformed into something that should speak a different purport” (Hawthorne 165).
Similar to Hester, Mr. Hooper in The Minister’s Black Veil has isolated himself from his community. Wearing the black veil was his choice and Mr. Hooper had an idea of how society would react. He expected that many people who had first admired and looked up to him, to turn their faces away from him. Children scurry off when they see a glimpse of the black veil and the man who wears it and the adults...