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The Minister’s Black Veil ranks as one of the best short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The story is introduced to an enjoyable scene in Midford, a small Puritan town where everyone refines about enjoying the hope of another Sunday. This peace ceases after Reverend Hooper arrives wearing a black veil which obscured most parts of his face, except his mouth and chin (Hawthorne, 1961). This sparks a stir among the people who starts to wonder about his veil and its meaning.
Mr. Hooper’s sermon is on secret sin, a topic which concerns the audience, who have developed apprehension for the minister’s new look as well as their own secret transgressions. Thereafter, a funeral service is made for a young lady, a resident of the town who had died (Hawthorne, 1961). The minister is still wearing the veil even during the funeral. Later on, there is a wedding event which is full of happiness, only to have this terrific atmosphere change after Mr. Hooper comes into view.
Although people are curious about the minister’s veil, no one is willing to question him directly except for Elizabeth, who is his fiancée. Her attempts to have her fiancée take the veil off do not succeed. As a matter of fact, he does not even explain to her the reason why he wears it. She later on gives up and breaks her engagement to him (Hawthorne, 1961). Mr. Hooper is endorsed as a Father, a position he holds until his death.
Similar to most of the stories by Hawthorne, the minister’s black veil is developed incorporated with use of symbols. The black veil worn by the minister hides his face from the world. Throughout his life, the veil has stood between him and the world, disconnecting him with the joyfulness of accompanying other people and the love of a woman. While in the church, no one can bear the repressive atmosphere inside the church. Instead, they are willing to get outside and feel the warmth of the sunshine (Hawthorne, 1961). The use of cruel early colonial England puritan setting depicts the disturbing behavior of the main character in the story. The further concern in the story deals with the nature of covert sin and man’s fallen nature.
He is the protagonist in the story. The minister is depicted as very calm and quite unremarkable man in Puritan. However, he suddenly starts to wear a black veil that conceals his eyes and nose. The narrator reviews with sympathy how the long period of service of the minister did not end up well. This practice does not receive much acceptance in the strictly Puritan community. As a matter of fact, the residents of the town are frightened of this man whom they used to trust. His reasons are not clear throughout the story and he appears mysterious both to the reader and the other characters (Hawthorne, 1961).
The narrator does not give reasons that made the reverend to take such excessive level of action and its significance. Nevertheless, he feels that the black veil is a representation of sin and as a result, he reminds others that they too are wearing a veil of some kind. The people are shocked by the minister’s new attire which seems to have given the reverend new power as expressed in the sermon on the topic of secret sin (Hawthorne, 1961). The masses feel that Mr. Hooper has entered their minds and known the secrets that are hidden there. When dealing with his fiancée (Elizabeth), the narrator depicts Hooper as a man who has special power over those in moral torment but disconnected from associating with the community. This character believes that he is not supposed to take off his veil. Just before he dies, a young minister requests him to remove it once before he passes away (Hawthorne, 1961). However, Mr. Hooper condemns him and he dies without allowing anyone to remove the veil, even his own fiancée.
She is Reverend Hooper’s fiancée but later on, she breaks up the relationship after he refused to remove the veil in her presence. The narrator depicts her as an aggressive and decisive person. She is the only person in Puritan who was not afraid of Mr. Hooper. Despite her boldness to request him to remove the veil, he would not allow her to see his face ever again. She argues that the veil could be taken as a secret sin and that it required to be taken off for the sake of the office that he held (Hawthorne, 1961). After Hooper denies this request, she suspects that he is suffering from mental illness and she sheds some tears. Elizabeth is depicted as a concerned and caring companion. Although she is not seen in most parts of the story after abandoning him, he shows up again at the end as being an attendant at the minister’s deathbed.
He is a young minister from Westbury who appears during the time when Mr. Hooper is on his deathbed to pray for him. He requests Hooper to remove the veil before he dies, but Hooper rebukes him as well as everyone else who was present (Hawthorne, 1961). Hooper does this with all his strength as he objects to have the veil removed.
The Residents of Puritan
The narrator describes the people of Puritan as highly religious and nervous about the changes they witnessed in their usually quiet and composed man of God. They are very sensitive to this change and they do not accept it. The narrator shows them behaving with superstition about the black veil. They even claim to witness extraordinary events revolving around Hooper. For instance, at the funeral, two mourners suggest that they had an illusion that Mr. Hooper and the lady’s spirit were walking together (Hawthorne, 1961). Despite the fact that he is fearful of God, they put even more speculation into Hooper after his transformation. They go ahead to avoid him due to his unshakable stand. The only person in the area who does not carry herself in such a manner is Elizabeth.
The veil is a representation of the secret sin and darkness that engulfs mankind. It symbolizes the secret sin that everyone bears in his heart. On the other hand, it could also symbolize Minister Hooper specific sin, that of adultery. It can be speculated that the Minister might have had an affair with the lady whose funeral is covered in the story (Hawthorne, 1961). This is because the minister wears the veil for the first time during the day of the funeral. He is also not willing to tell Elizabeth, his fiancée the reason as to why he wears the veil. As a matter of fact, he does not disclose it even at the verge of death (Hawthorne, 1961).
Mr. Hooper wears the black veil so that he can hide his face from other people. The veil limits visibility of particular features on his face. This is a representation of how he does not want to have his particular sins disclosed for everyone to see. Though a minister of the word of God, Mr. Hooper does not set a good example for others to follow. That is the reason why he is unwilling to see his reflection. In other words, the representation of his actions will be evidently seen in the people he ministers to (Hawthorne, 1961). When he distracts himself from visibility, it is a clear illustration of the corruption that is entangled within the community at large and especially in the same faithful that he ministers to. The narrator uses symbolism to drive his intended message home. He depicts how the weak character of human beings and their vulnerability to sin. Even the devout and committed men of God are found to be victims of the same problem.