The Minister’s Black Veil By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1762 words - 8 pages

Witchcraft and a Black Veil
The setting of “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne occurs in Milford, Massachusetts which is less than 60 miles from Salem, a small town famous for putting hundreds of people on trial and sentencing several to death as a result of accusing them of witchcraft. The thematic historical similarities between the Salem Witch Trials and Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil” is apparent through the use of gothic imagery, supernatural effects on the funeral and wedding, and hysterical emotion elicit on the townspeople by Mr. Hooper’s veil.
The use of gothic imagery is subtly present throughout the tale of Mr. Hooper, a minister who one day begins to hide ...view middle of the document...

According to Rebecca Brooks’ “The Salem Witch Trials,” the Puritans of Salem accused hundreds of people of participating in witchcraft between the years of 1692 and 1693. The accusations began flying when a group of girls, later to be known as the afflicted girls suffered bouts of strange behavior such as convulsions and hallucinations (Brooks). When the local doctor performed examinations and was unable to determine a cause of the affliction, many turned to blame a slave from Barbados named Tituba. She was of low social standing as a slave and many believed that she was aligned with the devil, due to widespread participation in voodoo throughout the Caribbean (Brooks). This exemplifies the idea that human nature dictates a bias against those who are different from what is considered the social norm. Those who deviate are not tolerated and therefore, rumors and stereotypes are easily assumed. This ideal is equally present in the case of Mr. Hooper, who becomes an immediate outcast once he separates himself from the mass by wearing the black veil.
Another notable theme throughout the duration of the Witch Trials is the occurrence of unusual, yet, unfounded events. For example, when put on trial, Tituba claimed that she and several others were met by the Devil and signed a pact, agreeing to perform witchcraft. As was the case of Rebecca Nurse, when the court read her innocent verdict, the accusers immediately began to convulse and appear to be under a spell (Brooks). There is no evidence to support the claim that these women were actually under the influence of withcraft. They simply needed a scapegoat in order to confirm the outrageous speculation that their were witches plotting against the pious inhabitants of Salem. Similarly, once the minister dons the black veil, his processions are suddenly affected by supernatural elements. The first occurrence takes place when Mr. Hooper presides over the funeral of a young woman after a Sunday service. Hawthorne describes the funeral, “A person who watched the interview between the dead and living scrupled not to affirm that the instant when the clergyman’s features were disclosed the corpse had slightly shuddered, rustling the shroud, though the countenance retained the composure of death” (Hawthorne 1043). The corpse appears to awaken from the grave and is disturbed by the presence of the black veil. Strangely, only an elder lady from the town witnessed the corpse move. She must have spread word of the supernatural occurrence, which results in the townspeople joining together in the delusions against Hooper’s veil. Another ceremony affected by the veil is a wedding between a couple of Milford. Hawthorne describes the event, “The bridal pair stood up before the minister, but the bride’s cold fingers quivered in the tremulous hand of the bridegroom, and her death-like paleness cause a whisper that the maiden who had been buried a few hours before was come from her grave to be married” (Hawthorne 1044)....

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