The Minister's Black Veil - Masks and Intimacy
The Minister's Black Veil begins with a young pastor, Mr. Hooper, arriving at church with an ugly black veil covering his face. The people are all dismayed, and wonder why he is wearing a black veil. They are further dismayed and confused, when he refuses to take it off--ever. There is only one person who is not horrified by his black veil--his wife-to-be, Elizabeth. She comes to him and says, "there is nothing terrible in this piece of crape, except that it hides a face which I am always glad to look upon. Come, good sir, let the sun shine from behind the cloud. First lay aside your black veil: then tell me why you put it on." (Heath 2143) Mr. Hooper smiles and replies, "There is an hour to come when all of us shall cast aside our veils. Take it not amiss, beloved friend, if I wear this piece of crape till then." (Heath 2143)
Elizabeth, again, entreats him to remove the veil, but he replies, "this veil is a type and a symbol, and I am bound to wear it ever, both in light and darkness, in solitude and before the gaze of multitudes, and as with strangers, so with my familiar friends. No mortal eye will see it withdrawn. This dismal shade must separate me from the world: even you, Elizabeth, can never come behind it!" Elizabeth asks him what shall the people think of his veil? Won't it start a scandal? Mr. Hooper then replies, "If I hide my face for sorrow, there is cause enough, and if I cover it for secret sin, what mortal might not do the same?" (Heath 2143)
Elizabeth begins to feel terror at the sight of the veil. She turns to leave the room, and Mr. Hooper cries, "Have patience with me, Elizabeth! Do not desert me, though this veil must be between us here on earth. Be mine, and hereafter there shall be no veil over my face, no darkness between our souls! It is but a mortal veil--it is not for eternity! Oh! you know not how lonely I am, and how frightened to be alone behind my black veil. Do not leave me in this miserable obscurity for ever!" Elizabeth replies, "Lift the veil but once, and look me in the face." "Never! It cannot be!" replies Mr. Hooper. Elizabeth then replies, "Farewell!" (Heath 2143) Their engagement is broken, and Mr. Hooper goes through life with the awful black veil over his face.
Upon Mr. Hooper's deathbed, another minister asks that the veil be removed from Mr. Hooper's face. Mr. Hooper cries, "Never! On earth, never!" "'Dark old man!' exclaimed the affrightened minister, 'with what horrible crime upon your soul are you now passing to the judgment?" Mr. Hooper then replies, "Why do you tremble at me alone? Tremble also at each other! Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil? What, but the mystery which it obscurely typifies, has made this piece of crape so awful? When the friend shows his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his best-beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye...