The Minister’s Black Veil By Nathaniel Hwathorne

1130 words - 5 pages

Nathaniel Hawthorne, a well-known American novelist in the Romantic era, wrote and published the short story, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” in 1836. The story provides an intriguing case of the moral and psychological facet of a religious man and his community during New England and Puritan Age. The tale begins with the villagers gathering on the front porch of the Milford meeting-house to wait for Reverend Hooper. Parson Hooper arrives, and to their astonishment, wearing a black veil obscuring his face. The villagers wonder among themselves and follow him into the meeting-house where he speaks on secret sin. The crowd is greatly affected by the veil, and leave confused of its significance. After the sermon, a funeral is held for a young woman, and his veil now becomes “acceptable”. After a few prayers, the funeral ends and someone mention that it seems “the minister and the maiden’s spirit were walking hand in hand”. He attends and brings gloom into a wedding the same night. His wearing the veil and refusal to remove it leads to the village isolating him, his fiancée leaving after an offer of redemption, and a life as a good clergyman. When it comes time for his death, he once again refuses to take off the veil, and accuses everyone to having a black veil. As Daniel Webster said, “There is nothing so powerful as truth, and often nothing so strange.” Character, symbolism, and solemn tone create a theme of rejection, socially and psychologically.
Firstly, characters function symbolically to create a theme of rejection. The spiritual meaning attached to the black veil has already been widely explored by critics. It publicizes Mr. Hooper’s deep psychological change, the acknowledging and carrying of his secret sin. This is a central idea to the story, however, the black veil serves another purpose to explore, and it shows through the characters of this story. In wearing this piece of cloth, says Elaine Barry, he has created his own isolation and implicates of rejection upon himself and others (16). The first character example is the villagers. Upon wearing the veil, the Reverend receives negative attention through a range of emotions. Some believed he had done something horrible or he had gone mad, but all agree in the inability to accept this change. Their good parson has become unrecognizable and his action seems inconceivable. This immediately creates a distance. The community rejects him. Judith Saunders says, as he hid his eyes and himself from others, the villagers kept from him (422). Hooper, however, acts as he usually does. Nothing he does reflects any wish to isolate him from others until he rejects his fiancée’s approach. The second character is Elizabeth, his fiancée, who pleads with him to remove the black cloth and offers the chance to share his burden, but with his heavy heart, he rejects her proposals. She leaves him believing him to be mad. The third character enforcing the theme of rejection is Parson Hooper, whom lives the rest of...

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