The Minister’s Black Veil
The Minister's Black Veil is a short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Much like his other stories, this is set in a 18th century town in Puritan New England. In the story, we find widest array to the themes of sin morality, and repentance. The story is replete with imagery and symbols. Hawthorne has written this story in a very allegorical format employing an instructive tone.
The theme of sin and guilt runs throughout the story. With Hooper's method of preaching is to wear his sin on his face in a literal way. The people of town become unconformable with him because they begin to have awareness of their own sin. Though the motive of veil remains a mystery to the reader but the analysis of the story seeks to explain the symbolic self-veiling.
Edgar Allan Poe argued that the idea of minister’s self-veiling is much like a riddle to be solved or inferred by the reader himself. The motive of Hawthorne is not palpable enough. The veil, being the most powerful symbol is ironic as well. Hooper who uses the veil parable of one sin becomes so obsessed with it that it makes him guilty of unconsciously distorting the entire meaning and purpose of life.
The ambiguity that lies under the surface in the story can be interpreted in many ways. Hooper keeps his face covered but unearths the sin of the world around him at the same time. The people around him become insecure they each they encounter Reverend; they are forced to see through their own sins quite clearly. Some people render unable to face him. Hawthorne’s use of third person narrative makes the story even more ambiguous.
The tone of the narrator is very instructive and compels the townsfolk to reel from the guilt arising out of their hitherto suppressed sins. The never had to face such a situation before.
Hooper’s veil serves as constant reminder of the sins people have committed. The veil makes the people realize that they cannot escape the sins that themselves have committed publicly or in private. The point that Hawthorne emphasizes is that it is up to the people whether they ignore or pay heed to their own sins. Some commentators have noted the possibility of secret sin that was akin to a sermon. In fact, people need not go to church to mull over their sins but the sight of veil is enough for that matter. Hawthorne attempts to bring out the hidden sin through the symbol of veil.
The black veil represents sins and darkness inherent in human nature. It may be referred to sins that each individual keeps in his heart. Another possibility is that the veil represents the sins of Hooper himself, more precisely, adultery. Edgar Allan Poe conjectured that Minister Hooper possibly had an affair with the young lady who died at the beginning of the story, as this is the first day he wears the veil. All in all, Hawthorne highlights the magnitude of sin and guilt in an individual’s life by employing imagery and symbolism in the novel.
Stibitz, E. Earle. (2000) "Ironic Unity in Hawthorne's 'The Minister's Black Veil'" Illinois: Duke University Press
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